Bridges Peterborough is a series of emerging social innovations that have been and are being created to enhance opportunities for broader community engagement, connection and awareness.
Their story over the past two years has been full of these opportunities, but also full of challenges to the ways they work within their organization and the wider community, as they negotiate the intersections between poverty and privilege that have been spotlighted by the COVID pandemic.
While middle-class lives changed dramatically during the pandemic, the lives of under-resourced people did not; the challenges of living in poverty existed before and during COVID and continue to exist without much change as the world goes “back to normal.” Bridges Peterborough is focused on changing the way people think about the systems of wealth distribution, rather than conforming to them, in order to change the culture.
A central part of their work is developing a network of individuals and groups—Bridging Teams—who are interested in reducing poverty and isolation and increasing social capital. What the Bridging Teams have learned and continue to learn is expected to expand to the community—and beyond.
In 2021, Bridges Peterborough brought together a group of people with lived experience in poverty, to provide advice and support for Bridging Team facilitation training. Called The Company of Conversation Changers (CCC), this group works to change the conversation from “fixing poverty” to “discovering opportunities for sharing abundance.”
Suddenly lightbulbs went on for me and I began to understand the challenges of bridging or navigating from a culture of poverty to a middle-class culture.
In 2022, Bridges Peterborough focused on learning how to keep connections and relationships growing online. A “Bridging Poverty & Privilege” online series was one way they developed to connect with people across Canada and share the basic orientation to the Bridging Team model.
Being a part of a Bridging Team has been an amazing experience. Being around people who are not only going to listen to your story and value your experience and perspective…but also grow and learn with you.
—Matt, Bridging Team Catalyst and Member of The Company of Conversation Changers
Bridges Peterborough’s report concludes with some conclusions about their learnings in 2022 and early 2023, and where they are headed in the near future. One of their final statements sums up their work as neatly as the one at the beginning of the report:
"Normal" has been a "middle-class" way of doing things, and the CCC and Bridges Peterborough do things a little differently.
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