‘Problems cannot be solved with the same mind-set that created them.’ (Albert Einstein).   

‘Every story I have heard since being involved with the Poverty Truth Commission has been different.’ This senior officer in a public sector organisation wonders how he can shape its services to be able to more imaginatively respond to the reality and complexity of poverty in its many guises, rather than have a ‘one size fits all’ approach. What better way than to do this than to bring some of his team into a training setting where they can work with some Commissioners’ real life experiences and where people on both sides of the counter can be honest and learn from each other?

The Poverty Truth Bus was an idea Commissioners had at our last session before the Christmas break. Not getting on it, (and not a real bus), but getting off it in the places where poverty is not the everyday reality. Everyone agrees the power and value of both telling and hearing real life stories in the Commission conversations so how can we get more people to have similar experiences? Plans are afoot to visit an organisation in one of the more affluent suburbs to see what happens when Commissioners share both their stories of lived experience of poverty and the effect on them and their organisations of hearing those stories.

Couldn’t there be a smart phone app to create links between education, volunteering, jobs and the private and 3rdsector? This question from two of the younger Commissioners led to a meeting with a web developer whose company is working on something very similar but currently tailored only to use in schools. Commissioners have now been invited to work with this company to carry out some research to see if their platform could be extended for use by people who are not in education or training. This research will start with people and organisations involved with the Commission.

These are the three experiments currently taking place in this phase of the Commission. After spending several months getting to see the city through the wider angle lens of each other’s different perspectives, the exploration phase, Commissioners identified various areas they wanted to work on. Recognising that poverty is complex and so requires a kind of engagement different from simple or even complicated issues, Commissioners have been encouraged to experiment or prototype. In complex situations you don’t know what’s going to happen when you try something out – if it works, great, let’s try more of that; if it fails, great – we can learn from that if we make sure everyone involved is in the feedback loop. And so the principle we are working with is ‘risk small, fail early – fail early to learn quickly’.

To avoid analysis paralysis Commissioners were given very little time to come up with the first three experiments.  The time taken to do the spadework of deep listening and getting to know each other in the exploration phase means the experiments they have come up with have a stronger chance of bringing about some real change. These experiments are about seeing, thinking and then acting differently.

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