How can we ensure policies and programs reflect the real life experiences of people most affected by a problem? And how can we make sure the voices and stories of low income women are valued when policymakers develop new programs? These questions are a core part of our work at Springboard to Opportunities and a focus of a recent policy brief released by Springboard, in collaboration with New America and Ascend at the Aspen Institute. The policy brief, “Becoming Visible: Race, Economic Security, and Political Voice in Jackson, Mississippi,” is the result of conversations with over 80 women who live in Springboard communities. National, state, and local partners gathered in Jackson, Mississippi, this month to develop strategies and tools to more effectively include the lives of affected women and their families in the policymaking process.
Too often the voices of people most affected by a problem are left out, resulting in programs and policies based on false assumptions and stereotypes that lead to punitive regulations and unequal access, particularly for poor, Black women. The dominant narrative about poor people is that they are in poverty due to their own moral failings. This inaccurate narrative has resulted in a separate, unequal set of policies for poor people vs. people aren’t poor. Quite simply, false narratives create faulty public policy. The policy brief provides historical context for these false narratives and a bold, new vision of public policy, with specific, actionable solutions.
“I think that is kind of like keeping us where we are, basically. We try to come up, and when we start to climb out, it’s like the hole is getting deeper. Reaching the top is getting harder.”—Tracee