Last year at Back Bay Mission, we started our first Bridges Out of Poverty class. Now, we’re part way through our second cohort of participants, and we wanted to let you know more about this powerful new program.
You probably already know the basics. Up to 12 participants (called ‘investigators’, because they’re investigating how to improve their ability to be self-sustaining) go through a 16 week course where they learn about poverty, set personal goals, and begin researching how they can begin their journeys out of poverty. Over the next two years, they’ll also work with a mentor from the community. This mentor won’t do things for the them, but when an investigator hits a bump in the road, she’ll have someone who can guide her.
And, of course, because this is work, investigators receive $25 for each class session they participate in.
Most of the class sessions are based on Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World by Philip DeVol. In the sessions that use this framework, investigators work through modules about the mental model of poverty, theories of change, the causes of poverty, the hidden rules of different economic classes, assessing and building resources, and so on.
At Back Bay Mission, we’ve built on this model. While investigators spend time on the modules from Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World, we also bring in experts who can help investigators with specific things. These experts include staff from the Mission and our affiliates, like Everett Lewis (Executive Director of Gulf Coast Housing Initiative) and Mary Tell (the Mission’s Community Health Worker). They also include friends from other organizations on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, like Mel Arsenault (Director of External Affairs and the Port of Biloxi) and Angel Greer (Chief Executive Officer at Coastal Family Health Center). Everett, Mary, Mel, Angel, and others help investigators understand finances, job searches, nutrition, health, and other important topics.
Together, these two strands — Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World and the experts we bring in — prepare investigators to change their outlooks and their lives. Meanwhile, in the background, we’re developing tools that will help us continuously improve this program and others at Back Bay Mission. All of this will help our client sustainability programs meet their singular goal: to help the people we serve make their journeys out of poverty to self-sustainability.