Guiding Principles of the Think Tanks on Poverty
The Think Tanks on Poverty seek to give voice and to empower working and poor people to challenge the systemic issues that keep them in poverty. While doing this, we attempt to address the hunger, employment, transportation, housing, injustice, and other basic needs of our organizers so that they may continue their community work. Systemic change is of two kinds. We may change a policy or law, but the most important and long-lasting systemic change is where we change how decisions are made, to include working and poor people.
Our Think Tanks are guided by principles. Every point is essential to who we are, and how we function in the community.
1. Inclusion - Our work includes everyone who wants to address systemic issues of poverty, including people who have or are experiencing poverty and committed members of the middle class. We do NOT discriminate on the basis of age, class, race, marital status, citizenship, political party, or sexual orientation.
2. Leadership - We try in every way to ensure people who directly experience the problems lead the way in addressing them.
3. Problem Solving - We are involved in solving very real problems of hunger, homelessness, poverty, discrimination, injustice, and more. Much of the divisive political rhetoric is not problem-solving.
4. Respect / No Judgement - We treat each other with respect at all times. There is no judgment. Think Tank meetings are a safe place to tell your story. What is said at a Think Tank meeting stays here.
5. Public Education - Broad sectors of the public are ignorant of the lies of people in poverty, believing instead the untrue "dominant narrative" that casts people in poverty as less than human, liars, lazy, welfare cheats, irresponsible and wholly to blame for their own situation. We use our stories and our researched data to educate the misinformed public. The dominant narrative is a set of beliefs that dominate our culture. These beliefs may not be true, or accurate, but are used to justify the current distribution of wealth, opportunity, and power which denies those things to some. When we want to empower the marginalized, we have to challenge the dominant narrative that "justifies" their exclusion.
6. Strategies and Tactics - We use all tactics available to us in appropriate ways. When we can, we build relationships with social service agencies, elected officials, other community organizations. But we are also willing to take on agencies whose policies we disagree with. We vote. We bring our voices, our needs, and demands to the city council, the state legislature or the federal government. We exercise our first amendment rights to demonstrate, rally, petition and other forms of direct action where appropriate.