A reflection on our first year as members of the Addressing Poverty with Lived Experience (APLE) collective – by Hartlepool Action Lab.

It was the end of September 2019, scrolling through our social media notifications, when we found a post from a local advertising page about the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP) 2019. Until then, we were unaware of the day and of the APLE collective also.

We, the Hartlepool Action Lab, being a group of local organisations, services and people working together to solve poverty in Hartlepool. Had already established several projects, working with people with lived experiences of poverty and the IDEP sounded like a great way to connect with more people in our town.

As such, we made some enquiries to the Collective. We wanted to run an event on the day and have it lit up on the UK map as APLE do each year. For our event, we managed to book some space in Hartlepool’s Central HUB. And we asked people who were passing through, what does “Poverty” mean to you? This led us to a conversation with a gentleman who shared his experiences with us:

“I feel like I have fallen into a milk bottle. I try to push myself up against the walls but the shape of the bottle means I can’t escape. I need someone to reach in and help me out.”

This conversation reinforced with us the power of listening to real lived experiences of poverty. The event was great, we had some insightful conversations with people and fed this back to APLE. We were then invited to become members after meeting some of the other members in Leeds.

Being a member of APLE has given us a greater scope and insight into the difficulties those living in the effects of poverty face every day. Membership has provided us opportunities to link the voices of lived experience to those in a position to create lasting change. We are building a relationship with our local authority, our combined authority and even with central government.  These relationships will provide the foundation for us, as a collective, to begin addressing the injustices of the digital divide and right the wrongs of poverty, together.

We are looking forward to growing the membership of APLE. Building back better in a participatory and inclusive manner. We are still early into our journey together, but we firmly believe that we will be able to achieve great things with people living in poverty. We have the chance, post-pandemic, to reset the dials and create a truly included society.