Bridges Out of Poverty began as a book by Ruby Payne and has developed into an organization that consults with and conducts training in communities seeking to build sustainability by working with the impoverished to help them rise up out of their circumstances and stay out . The process is owned by aha! Process, and can be reviewed at http://www.ahaprocess.com/.
Bridges suggests all of us need access to eleven essential resources including: financial, emotional, mental (cognitive), spiritual, physical, relationships (role models), hidden rules of class, language, social structure (support systems), integrity/trust, and motivation/persistence. Each of us has specific attitudes and perspectives about those relationships that are characteristic of our class (poverty, middle class, or wealth). While those attitudes serve to identify us within a class, they also restrict movement from class to class. To the degree any person is lacking in one or more of the eleven resources (not just financial), that person is impoverished. Traditional methods of class movement have been ineffective and are unsustainable because they do not address our attitudes. When people are “moved” from one class to another without a corresponding transformation in their attitudes, reversion to their previous state is the most likely result over time.
A Bridging Community is one that recognizes the need to promote transformation of attitudes first, before encouraging upward class movement. Developing such a community begins with a Community Discussion that took place for Beckham County on February 20th. The next step is an all-day training workshop that took place on May 13th at First Baptist Church of Elk City. Workshop attendees were surveyed to determine our interest in developing a Bridges Community by establishing a Steering Committee that will recruit mentors and subject matter experts as well as conduct follow-on training required for development of a Getting Ahead Program. Getting Ahead is the end-game that works with the impoverished (investigators) to help them (a) learn new attitudes, and then (b) elevate themselves out of poverty. The new attitudes are learned in a 16-20 week course led by a trained facilitator, while self-elevation takes place during the next 18 months assisted by mentors and subject matter experts.
The Steering Committee was formed and began to meet in July 2014. Meetings typically take place on the third Tuesday of each month and are held at noon in the Community Care Center conference room at 609 West Avenue E in Elk City. Minutes of each meeting are available upon request. The Committee is currently planning another Community Discussion and subsequent workshop in Sayre. Flyers and invitations for both events will be forthcoming.
The central pillar of Bridges is ownership. Bridges Communities are owned/operated by their respective community through their Steering Committee, not a lead agency supported by the community. Steering Committees are composed of individuals from every community segment (market sector) including: law enforcement, emergency services, local government, education, health and mental health services, social services including OKDHS, business (retail and manufacturing), financial services, civic organizations, and the faith community. Training and mentoring is offered to those in poverty in such a way as to build ownership into their hearts, minds, and lives. In both cases ownership is the foundation that produces sustainability, and the missing link in traditional “safety net” social services. For a Bridges Community to succeed, its community must take ownership for their plan to reduce poverty and its impact on their lives. For the impoverished to rise up and stay up, they must take ownership for their own attitudes and make their own effort to move up.