Learning to Thrive - Beyond Inequality & Poverty
From a talk by Barry Wright, Principal, Webb Memorial Trust
Barry is Principal of the Webb Memorial Trust, which aims to create a better-informed debate about poverty, its causes and solutions. Barry has spent his career passionately researching and campaigning about inequality and poverty. In a short talk at a recent conference, Barry draws on the Trust’s work into how to create a good society and makes the case for a new narrative and set of actions on poverty. Here is a shortened, edited version:
"I'm really pleased to be on a platform with somebody who's talking about a thriving society because the biggest problem we face about rethinking poverty is actually the poverty lobby because they keep on reporting the same problem year after year after year and never give us any kinds of solution. The big problem with the way they think is that they think we must end poverty rather than thinking about the society, the societal processes that actually lead to poverty in the first place.
"Actually poverty is simply a symptom of what is going wrong. Rather than fixing what is going wrong, we have to imagine what we would want. The social policy departments up and down the country are still locked into a social administration approach, which derives from Beatrice Webb, works through William Beverage, goes on through Richard Titmus and on through Peter Townsend. Their work is 30 or 40 years out of date because the state can no longer deliver a good society on its own. Even in the great times of 2005, the bottom quintile of the population was living in poverty.
"Neither will the private sector deliver a good society because the job market is now increasingly producing rubbish jobs. The rising, largest single group in poverty in the population are actually people in work.
"We need to reimagine our societies and we've been trying to do that, and through an empirical lens, and a normative lens, which is, "What do people want?"
"Our findings are that the greatest thing that people value is their relationships. They do not want to be rich. They want to have enough so they can thrive in their relationships with other people. Their greatest desire is for security and freedom. A lens of having enough so you can be more.
"We cast poor people as recipients of aid. The poor need to actually be given the dignity of being involved in their own solutions.
"The big message of our work is that our society will not be fixed by transactional policies. It will be fixed through transformative relationships."
As Christians, with our transformative role in society, we are well placed to help constantly improve and change systems through prayer, blessing and the relationships we have with our communities and leaders in public office.
Here are some examples; Transformation Cuidad Juarez, Sir Titus Salt, Paranaque City transformation, Quaker values and innovation, How a community becomes trauma-informed.
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