I recently added to a discussion started in the opinion section of USAToday.com by Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel. At the urging of some colleagues, I repost those comments here, and encourage you to read the original post by Thomas and Beckel. Feel free to chime in and add your own comments!

There are many “Bridges” organizations and communities across the U.S. and Canada. They organize their work to address all the causes of poverty. The research on the causes of poverty falls into four clusters: choices and circumstances of the individual, human and social capital in the community, exploitation of people in poverty, and political economic structures. As pointed out in your conversation, we tend to see the causes from the two political ends of this continuum, but that just traps us in either/or thinking. We understand that there is good research in all four clusters. It is really a both/and proposition. Poverty is caused both by the choices of the poor and by political/economic structures—and everything in between. This allows people of all political persuasions to be at the planning table.

Bridges organizations and communities base their work on the book Bridges Out of Poverty and workshops by that name. In Bridges communities, the poor are not left out of the planning, as is so often the case, even when it comes to designing programs and policies about poverty! In Bridges we bring people together from all classes, races, and sectors. Our work is used by conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. And it’s used in urban and rural communities; in communities that are largely white, African American, Native American, Hispanic/Latino, and Appalachian. It’s used by the education, social services, healthcare, criminal justice, and business sectors.

Check out Bridges Out of Poverty at www.ahaprocess.com