10 good reasons why people who are poor should be in charge of ending poverty

People who are poor never get to be in charge of ending poverty Even though they know more about poverty than anyone. Here are ten good reasons why they should be.

  1. Every percentage point of the Canadian population represents 360,000 people.  Since 9 to 12 % of Canadians are poor (depending on which poverty measure is used) that’s too many people.
  2. Poverty “reduction” plans reflect a timid mindset at odds with bold intentions.
  3. Statistics don’t tell the personal stories of hunger, hardship, dashed hopes and lost contributions.
  4. There is a big gap between best laid plans and the capacity of government and their non-profit agencies to implement them.
  5. They have ideas that challenge the service delivery system to rethink the programs they offer.
  6. They have solutions that exist outside the service delivery system.
  7. Adversity is a better source of innovation than the intellect.
  8. You wouldn’t like it if someone undermined your  ingenuity, resilience and capability.
  9. Someone has to make sure that the various poverty solutions are in alignment. Ex: minimum wage, living wage, welfare reform, affordable housing, basic income.
  10. Professionals would learn how and whether they can be of help.

People who are poor should be given a chance to define poverty and its causes on their terms, determine solutions based on their experience and choose the partners they want to implement with.

A good place to start would be to provide funds to support people who are poor to:

  • Test, develop and grow their solutions to poverty and its prevention
  • Own their own “prosperity” innovation lab
  • Design and run their own conferences – their agenda, their invitations, their chance to strengthen their grass roots connections and to mobilize community resources.

Previous efforts have fallen short. There is no guarantee that a fresh injection of professional energy no matter how enlightened will be any different. It’s time for people who are poor to be in the driver’s seat.


 I have never been able to tolerate others telling me how we are, and I do not believe anyone but us knows who we are. ~ Lee Maracle

Musical accompaniment this post is “What You Do With What You’ve Got” by brother sister duo Qristina & Quinn Bachand. Based in Victoria they’ve won a ton of awards for obvious reasons.  Check them out and do support their music.


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Making Political Love

The World Needs More Peace Makers not Social Innovators

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Adversity Makes you Wiser

Visit socialchangequotes.com to browse Canada’s largest collection of quotes about social change, curated by Al Etmanski.

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One Comment

  1. April Doner

    My favorite: “Adversity is a better source of innovation than the intellect.”
    Great stuff, thank you Al.

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