I often see Getting Ahead investigators go from feeling like they’re victims of a system they cannot control to believing they can impact change.
Too often we use extrinsic motivation to try to get people to make a change, but they intrinsically may not believe they’re capable of that change because they haven’t had a chance to examine their lives.
One thing I had to begin to understand was my own background. This to me is an essential part of the Bridges and Getting Ahead work, because there are so many people I meet who are coming from middle class and even wealthy backgrounds who really, genuinely want to help. And the mindset is “I’ve been so blessed, I’ve been given so much, I should share with others who don’t have.”
“In Getting Ahead, people stop feeling like victims of a system they can’t control and see they can impact change.”
There’s kind of a deficit model that goes with that, with our intentions, but it doesn’t recognize our own gaps. This is the way I’ve come to put it: middle class people often approach poverty thinking “I have so much to give.”
What I’ve come to understand is I need to approach working with generational poverty in my community with an attitude of “I have so much to learn. There’s so much I don’t know.”
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Jim Ott of Dubuque, Iowa, is a school psychologist and consultant for aha! Process. Jim is active in his home community promoting Bridges concepts through presentations, workshops, and facilitating Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World groups. Jim’s energy and storytelling have made him a popular, sought after speaker.