The annual Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference wrapped up Tuesday, September 27, with a closing address from aha! Process founder Ruby Payne. Focusing on the community infrastructure necessary to move from getting by to prosperity and philanthropy, Payne outlined ways for communities to survive in the global, knowledge-based economy and explained the files provided on the flash drive each participant received.
The theme of this year’s conference was “The International Community of Tomorrow,” and participants from five countries plus 37 U.S. states were present. Emcees Sonia Holycross and Jim Ott explored the past, present, and future of poverty reduction internationally in their opening address. They highlighted work being done across the world and strategies being used to stabilize at the individual, organizational, community, and policy levels. In the 20 years since aha! Process was founded, the work has expanded to Australia, Canada, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, Uganda, and elsewhere around the world. Several books from aha! Process have been translated into other languages, including Puentes para Salir de la Pobreza.
At the pre-conference Bridges Out of Poverty Trainer Recertification, Phil DeVol distributed the first annual report on the progress of Getting Ahead graduates nationwide. The report is based on data from CharityTracker’s Getting Ahead module. Other conference highlights included a presentation on facilitating reentry from prison using Getting Ahead While Getting Out and the MyVoice app from Beacon Voice. Another session detailed the early adoption of MPOWR case management tools in Schenectady, New York.
Gary Eagleton addressed the first general session on Tuesday with a talk titled “Poverty, Social Justice, and Wellness: A New Commitment.” Eagleton called for a recognition of healthcare, particularly mental health care, as a fundamental right that must be protected, especially among the poor and indigent.
Attendees from organizations in Muskogee, Oklahoma, presented a number of breakout sessions at the conference. Muskogee Bridges Out of Poverty was presented with the first ever Bridges Out of Poverty Community Award in a general session. Muskogee is notable for bringing nearly every sector of the community to the table to effect change at the organizational, community, and policy levels, creating a community where all can live well.
In addition to networking with colleagues from nonprofits, criminal justice, healthcare, and more, attendees were invited to meet their favorite aha! Process authors. Ruth Weirich was on hand to sign her new book and training supplement Workplace Stability, and Getting Ahead While Getting Out authors DeVol, Mitch Libster, and Michelle Wood signed their book on reentry. Payne signed her seminal book A Framework for Understanding Poverty and joined DeVol and Terie Dreussi-Smith to sign Bridges Out of Poverty. Other authors signing their works included Betti Souther, Jan Young, Lucy Shaw, Karla Krodel, and Bethanie Tucker.
In an effort to raise awareness and build on momentum from previous years, a group from the Together Initiative in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, rode bicycles to the conference for the third year running. All told the group has ridden more than 2,500 miles to attend the Addressing the Challenges of Poverty conference each year.
Planning for Addressing the Challenges of Poverty 2017 in St. Louis is already underway, so be ready to join us next year. You can find out more about the 2016 conference on aha! Process’s social media. Just search #AddressPoverty to see more pictures of authors, consultants, breakout presenters, and pictures from the audience submitted for the scavenger hunt. We hope to see you in 2017!