On the 18th and 19th of May I had the chance to attend an annual residential gathering in Chester of facilitators from Poverty Truth Commissions all over the country. This gathering is part of a programme of events that the Poverty Truth Network puts on to train and mentor people, as well as a chance for commissions to get together to truly be part of a network and share the wisdom that’s in the room.
The central question of this year's gathering was:
What does good facilitation look like?
A vital question for us, considering we’re about to start the process of bringing the community commission together.
We did have a bit of homework, but it wasn’t too bad: we had to bring along an object that represented our area. The range of items was incredible. There were football shirts, stones, bits of sea glass, pottery, even a diorama! The object I took to represent Peterborough was my library card. I feel like Peterborough’s Library service is the best of what Peterborough has to offer and is a strong part of its community and is also a place that has played a part in helping people with the kinds of issues that our PTC could look at, such as digital exclusion and benefits systems.
While sharing our objects, we were also invited to talk about what is going well with our projects, and what challenges we are facing. It was great to hear about all the successes that PTCs across the country have experienced and really energized everybody in the room, and as for the challenges, a problem shared is a problem halved. So many of the difficulties we’ve had getting our PTCs going are not challenges we’ve faced alone, and we got to build connections with each other based on sharing our stories about what we’ve found hard...
Wait a minute, that’s how a Poverty Truth Commission is supposed to work, isn’t it?
To get to be a part of the same process that we are bringing to Peterborough totally opened my eyes to the possibilities of a Poverty Truth Commission.
The conversations continued through further sessions on the first day, as well as lunch and dinner, and at the end of the day we had the opportunity to vote on what topics we’d like to have more detailed workshops on the next day, before leaving.
Those workshops focused on some more detailed questions and were smaller, a bit like task groups might function in the second year of a PTC, once people have had the general conversation and know what they want to focus on.
The values of the Poverty Truth Network ran through the gathering like writing through a stick of rock. The team didn’t just tell us what good facilitation looked like; they showed us.
Overall, it was a great experience. It was heartening to hear about how successful other commissions had been, and it was good to learn that the network continues to expand. Peterborough no longer has the youngest commission, and we all had something to share and teach each other. I’ve come away refreshed and full of hope for what our Poverty Truth Commission can be.