The views expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of APLE as a collective.
The 17th of October is United Nations International Day to End Poverty. It is a globally recognised day to commemorate the impact that the lived experience of poverty has on the life chances and livelihoods of those who live on a low income. There will be events across the world held to remember the lives lost to poverty and to campaign for dignity for all.
As Nelson Mandela said, poverty was created by humanity and can be solved by humanity, indeed poverty is not a societal given. Taking action on poverty needs to begin by taking the voices of people who live in poverty seriously, to recognise, value and address poverty with lived experience. To do this knowledge needs to be shared, those in power need to listen, collaborate and act on the wisdom of those who live in poverty. However, equality needs to exist for this to happen. When books entitled ‘Action on Poverty in the UK’ are priced at over one hundred pounds then equality of knowledge sharing does not exist. The knowledge shared within the pages of Action on Poverty in the UK becomes the preserve of the rich or the academic. When it costs hundreds of pounds to attend upcoming party political conferences, then those on a low income are excluded from both knowledge sharing and democracy.
Engaging lived experience expertise meaningfully means offering opportunities for growth, through training or taking on leadership roles. Experts with lived experience should be supported to participate, this could be working directly with a coordinator to prepare for sessions as well as having transport and accommodation booked in advance to avoid out-of-pocket expenses. Ensuring that front-line staff as well as senior management are trauma informed and trauma skilled is important to offering good quality approaches to taking voice seriously. Lived experience cannot become another policy buzz word, we have a moral obligation to recognise the power of lived expertise and to create spaces where policy makers, voluntary sector organisations and businesses can listen and take action on poverty together.
Our recent book, Action on Poverty in the UK, begins with chapters that offer a theoretical discussion of the history, political background, and ethics of taking action on poverty. To begin to address what Miranda Fricker calls “epistemic justice”, we need a world where more books are economically accessible for example as open access, where democratic party conferences are affordable to attend on a low income and where politicians, businesses and the voluntary and community sector listen, collaborate and address poverty with people who have lived experience.
Action on Poverty in the UK as a book offers a range of political perspectives on poverty and its causes, as well as offering a range of perspectives and discussion of particular aspects of poverty experienced as urban and rural food poverty, poverty experienced by people experiencing multiple disadvantage and people seeking asylum. Within its pages experiences and learning are shared which offer an eclectic range of perspectives that draw together theoretical and practical solutions to take action on poverty in the UK. The book concludes with a call to action to co-create a better world. A better world requires equality. The recent Action on Poverty Conference linked to the book, hosted at Staffordshire University, sought to address the need for equitable knowledge sharing, as a free conference, welcoming both local and national anti-poverty groups to build a collective voice for change.
I conclude with the wording from the stone to commemorate International Day to End Poverty that is in George Square in Glasgow which quotes Joseph Wresinski: “Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated.” This year’s International Day to End Poverty is framed around dignity for all, dignity means knowledge sharing, collaboration and a commitment to epistemic and economic equality.
Written by Katy Goldstraw.