Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Eliminating Poverty? Stream of Consciousness


My favorite magnet on our fridge says “Belief + Doubt = Sanity,” which I think sums up both the following word vomit and my general attitude in life and work.


The aforementioned magnet.

Kinda similar to my first blog post, but this blog post will be more stream of consciousness – writing questions/doubts that have been swirling around my brain this past week.

For the VISTAs weekly group discussion this past Friday, we were all asked, “What are you and/or your organization doing personally to eliminate poverty?” Here are my thoughts in response to that question:

  1. Why does AmeriCorps frame the VISTA year’s goal as eliminating poverty? Why not achieving equity? Or justice? Or the redistribution of wealth? Or people with power and money sharing/giving up some of their money and power to people who don’t have as much? <– This analysis from two other VISTAs that I thought was very insightful.
  2. What IS Small Center doing to eliminate poverty, or what I am doing within Small Center to eliminate poverty?
  3. Is it even possible to eliminate poverty?

Going to question #3:

-Initial hypothesis: No, we can only make the extent of poverty less worse over time i.e. providing a remedy not a permanent solution. Which, granted, is a depressing/cynical view of the world, but seems pretty realistic for any kind of public policy strategy.

Going to question #2: What IS the Small Center doing to eliminate poverty?

-Mission: using design (both graphic and built) to build the capacity of other non-profits that that treat symptoms and/or causes of poverty. Examples of symptoms: lack of education, food injustice/food deserts, homelessness, chronic lead exposure in drinking water, lack of affordable housing. Examples of causes: white supremacy, mental illness, sexism, capitalism, etc.

-To fight a problem as “tangle-y” (a word that came up in a smaller group discussion on Friday’s Professional Development) as poverty requires different strategies, or as one of my friends put it, “a thousand pronged approach.” Some prongs target roots, some prongs target effects,  on multiple scales, with multiple techniques. Seems like the Small Center itself is attempting a multi-pronged strategy; is a broad and shallow strategy, like the Small Center’s, better/more effective than a narrow deep strategy?

-How, if at all, do these small, short-term interventions cause significant impact?

-What does “significant” mean? Does “significant” have to mean systemic or change on a global level?

-Other thoughts: I also think that with a broad and shallow approach, as with any other kind of campaign or strategy, an important way to measure impact or the effectiveness of what you’re doing, is to interview or check back with previous project partners. Right now, it seems like we’re so busy rushing ahead, trying to DO, that we’re not reflecting on what worked and didn’t work over this past year. I get that it’s hard to devote time to reflection when deadlines are stacking up, but I also think thoughtful reflection is necessary for an organization to improve and grow.

Alright, til next time.








This entry was posted on September 11, 2016 by in VISTA Field Reports.


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