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As part of the cultural transformation to becoming a social change organisation JRF have been developing our approach to working in partnership with people with lived experience of poverty. We have developed this spectrum for internal use to help us a) understand what counts as participatory (genuine partnership)and what doesn’t and b)map out where current activity sits and how we might continually work on shifting it over to the right.

Here’s a brief explainer:

The Spectrum of participation is based on a spectrum of inclusion — how inclusive is our activity with people? …

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Last Saturday was the International Day for Overcoming Poverty. A day with people with lived experience of poverty at it’s heart and founding. This day calls for the recognition that people with experience are the first to resist poverty and for civil society to stand in solidarity with them in solving poverty.

The APLE collective mobilised groups around the country led by people with experience — what was their ask to government, to services, to the organisations that are working to solve poverty on their behalf? It was to be listened to and to be heard.

At first glance, it seems a vague and intangible ask but I urge us all to deeply listen and listen hard. …

Hugh Douglas is working on a collaborative project with JRF to explore issues related to in-work poverty and look at potential solutions. Here he describes his own journey and talks about the benefits of good co-production for participants and for society.

Group of people sat facing an individual leading a workshop, placing post-its on the wall
Group of people sat facing an individual leading a workshop, placing post-its on the wall

At the end of his book Lost Connections, Johann Hari talks about his experience of coming to understand his poor mental health as a symptom of a wider societal malaise. He suggests that when we understand this we can be motivated to engage with action aimed at a societal solution.

My own journey from long-term disconnection through addiction at every stage has involved a deliberate engagement and connection with other people. In the various groups and communities I have been a member of, the group finds meaning in looking out for each other. A constant in these group processes, which have for me moved from personal development to community development, is a shared realisation that there is a wisdom and power in the experiences we have (whatever those experiences might be), and that this wisdom and power can not only be useful to others but contribute to a collective wisdom of diverse experience from which truly informed action can come. …

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The Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience (APLE) Collective.

I remember leaving the office, taking equipment home and saying goodbye to colleagues, not knowing when I would see them again. The next few days were a whirlwind of emotions, figuring out how to work remotely and what we should do to respond to this crisis that none of us had ever seen the likes of before.

Our first instinct, like many others, was to immediately touch base with our existing partners.

Phone calls were made in the first few days to:

1) See how they were doing; we work very closely with our lived experience partners so there was checking in to be done on a personal level, making sure people were OK and sharing some of our experiences together. …

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One of the key pillars of JRF’s transformation to a new way of working is designing new ways to develop policy solutions — ones that involve people with experience of the issues we are tackling as an equal partner.

Over the past year we have been exploring how to do this in the area of in-work poverty.

So why this area? Well, there is a lot of discussion about in-work poverty and numbers of people affected but very little of the debate is led by or even includes those who are directly affected by it. …

A hand-drawn collection of images representing the range of activity the APLE Collective have carried out in 2018
A hand-drawn collection of images representing the range of activity the APLE Collective have carried out in 2018

When it comes to working alongside people in poverty to co-design solutions, we have come a long way in just a few years! In just a short period of time we’ve managed to achieve:

  • A strategic focus that clearly reflects the issues most important to people in poverty
  • A commitment to co-designing solutions to those issues
  • A cross-organisational approach to becoming more grounded and present with groups and individuals affected by poverty
  • A funder plus, responsive model that shares more power than simply resource.

But how did we end up here?

I joined JRF at the end of 2016 — just after the launch of our Solve UK Poverty strategy. We were redefining and honing our new mission, and ‘Working alongside people in poverty’ was an aspiration within that, but at that time it was unclear what this meant or looked like. …

When it comes to working alongside people in poverty to co-design solutions, we have come a long way in just a few years! In just a short period of time we’ve managed to achieve:

· A strategic focus that clearly reflects the issues most important to people in poverty

· A commitment to co-designing solutions to those issues

· A cross organisational approach to becoming more grounded and present with groups and individuals affected by poverty;

· A funder plus, responsive model that shares more power than simply resource.

But how did we end up here?

I joined JRF at the end of 2016 — just after the launch of our Solve UK Poverty strategy. We were redefining and honing our new mission, and ‘Working alongside people in poverty’ was an aspiration within that, but at that time it was unclear what this meant or looked like. …

About

Sarah Campbell

Head of Participation and Advocacy for JRF. I lead our work on participation and co-design approaches to policy development and influencing.

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