Swansea Poverty Truth Commission logo graphicPoverty Truth Commissions (PTCs) bring together those living at the sharp end of poverty with key decision makers to work together towards:

  • Understanding the nature of poverty in their area

  • Identifying some of the underlying issues that create poverty

  • Exploring creative ways to address these issues

This participatory approach ensures that those affected by poverty are central to decision-making about poverty.

The origins of the approach are based on learning from post-apartheid peace building in South Africa with the theme “Nothing about us, without us, is for us”.  PTCs give a face to the facts by creating safe spaces for people with lived experience of poverty to tell their stories, build relationships with each other and with influential decision makers in the local area. 

For a quick 5 minute overview, click here to watch a short film produced by the Poverty Truth Network

All Poverty Truth Commissions are independent and not owned or directed by any one single organisation. To be successful they need private, public and not for profit organisations to work together.

Commissions have a set lifespan, usually between 18 months to 2 years, and follow a series of steps from beginning to end:

Step 1

Organisations and individuals who are interested in establishing a local commission work with the Poverty Truth Network to discern whether setting one up is right for the area. A key factor within this discernment process is whether there is sufficient interest and commitment by people with a direct experience of poverty as well as organisations and institutions in the local area for a Poverty Truth Commission.

A start up group is established of interested parties to help set up the commission.

Step 2

Commissioners who have a direct experience of poverty are identified and invited to become Community Commissioners. They meet regularly for a set period of time (usually about 6 to 8 months) to get to know each other. They explore their experiences and decide what they would like to communicate about poverty to their area.

Civic and business commissioners are recruited to form the other half of the commission.

Phase 2 ends with a public event in which the first group of commissioners share their experiences of poverty.

Step 3

All the commissioners start meeting regularly for full commission conversations to build relationships with each other and identify issues that they would like to address.

Issue groups are formed to explore the issues the commission wants to address.

One-to-One meetings enable commissioners to encounter and understand each other’s world.

Step 4

A closing event is held to communicate the findings of the commission with the wider public. This will include the work done in the themed groups and the effect that the being involved in the whole process has had on commissioners.

Work continues to help commissioners to embed what they have learnt into their communities, organisations and institutions.

Poverty Truth Commissions are unique in their emphasis on the building of human relationships and trust through really listening to each other and being valued as individuals. In this safe environment poverty can be truly addressed and opportunities are provided for those making and influencing decisions to listen deeply and effectively. PTC’s increase understanding of the emotive and difficult experiences of poverty, challenge perceptions and can lead to better decision making across business, public and third sectors. 

Within the safe space created. power imbalances, along with deep-seated beliefs based on stereotypes around poverty, can be identified and addressed in a safe and positive manner, forming the foundations for effective conversations and change.  PTC’s offer an opportunity for more meaningful participation, this is more than just having a conversation with people. They are framed around an “action-based” structure.  The approaches used can build individuals confidence in their capacity to control their own circumstances and have the potential to improve health and wellbeing and life prospects.

People can just become ‘a story’ that then gets passed around and heard all over the show. With a PTC, it is different because it is people sharing their story in a way that empowers them - it is not tokenistic for us to get airtime in the media, it is their agenda, their experience - whatever part of it that they want to share. It is up to them to decide what they want to share, how they want to share it, where they want to.

Our most transformative moments have nearly always centred on the sharing of someone’s experience of struggle. It has made the problem real, encouraged empathy and created tangible passion for change.

JRF PTC’s Learning Report, August 2019

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