WHAT a busy few weeks it has been! Church Action on Poverty’s Poverty Media Coordinator Gavin Aitchison reflects on how we’ve listened to Voices from the Margins – and what comes next.
It’s hard to believe it’s less than two months since the Prime Minister called the General Election.
Political parties, journalists, and charities were all caught by surprise, but we knew immediately that we wanted to help shape the debate – not by taking sides, but by ensuring that the people we work with were given a chance to speak up.
So within a few days of the election being called, Church Action on Poverty teamed up with The Poverty Alliance and The Joseph Rowntree Foundation to launch Voices From The Margins, to help to capture the views of people who might otherwise be overlooked, and to share their thoughts as widely as possible.
What happened next was fascinating. Word spread quickly, thanks to other like-minded organisations and thanks to many of you, our supporters, sharing the online links and spreading the word.
Between 26 April and polling day, we published the views of 73 people in 11 places around the UK. The Poverty Alliance held an event in Scotland, and Church Action on Poverty sent our media coordinator Gavin Aitchison or freelance journalist Helen Clifton to Birmingham; Cornwall; Hull; North Shields; Rhyl; Salford; South London; Sowerby Bridge; Stockton and Tottenham.
The events took different forms, but most often we encouraged people to just sit down together and chat, loosely about the election but more generally about society: What matters to you? What would make life better in this community? If you were to stand for Parliament, what would your priority be?
People talked about all manner of issues: the NHS, education, Brexit, mental health care and many more – but there were a few issues that cropped up again and again, notably food poverty, the sanctions system, and zero-hours contracts.
Some people shared their stories in videos, others were reported in writing. All were published online and reached a wide audience. In the week before polling day, our posts reached 33,217 different people, and some of the videos were viewed nearly 6,000 times each.
We were delighted also when Channel 4 News followed up one of our videos, and sent a team to the Meadow Well estate in North Shields. They broadcast this powerful report on the eve of the election, and posted the video below to Facebook, where it has been watched more than 140,000 times. The Press newspaper in York also published the views we had gathered from homeless people in the city.
Social media offers fantastic ways to ensure that the voices of people with first-hand experience of poverty are heard loud and clear.