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PSO Facilitator Guide Personal Perspectives of Poverty

Personal Perspectives of Poverty

10:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (105 minutes)

Session set-up:
• Butcher paper for “poverty wall”; markers for participants
• Set chairs in a circle for “Poverty Wall Activity”

By the end of this session, participants will be able to:

• Articulate their perspectives of and relationship to poverty
• Identify stereotypes and assumptions about poverty to gain a broader
understanding of it
• Identify personal skills and life experiences they will bring to addressing
poverty as part of their service

Time Steps Resources/

2 1. Introduce the session and its outcomes. Training
minutes Materials &

2 2. Refer to the VISTA History and Legacy video to

minutes remind participants about the anti-poverty mission
of VISTA. Share with participants that before
they look closely at their assignments and the
service they will contribute to their sponsoring
organizations, they need to examine their own
understanding and assumptions about poverty.
Note that this session will tap into our personal
experiences with poverty. This afternoon’s session
will examine the research on poverty.
Poverty Wall Activity
1 1. Introduce the wall chart. “What Is Poverty?” is Butcher paper
minute written on the top half of the chart, and “Causes on wall
of Poverty” is on the bottom, with a line drawn
between them.

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PSO Facilitator Guide Personal Perspectives of Poverty

Time Steps Resources/

8 2. Ask participants to spend a few minutes writing or VISTA PSO
minutes drawing their view of poverty and its causes in their Notebooks
VISTA PSO Notebooks. Explain that we want them
Markers on
to think about these questions in relation to poverty
in the US. Participants’ responses can include what
they think as well as what they have heard others Butcher paper
say about poverty. Once they are done, have them on the wall
go to the wall and write or draw their responses.
Advise participants that everyone should contribute
to the wall. If they find that someone else has
already written what they wanted to write, it is
okay; they should still add their ideas.
5 3. After they complete the wall chart, have
minutes participants do a silent walkabout. In this activity,
the entire group silently reads the chart and
considers the various definitions and perspectives
of poverty that are represented.
5 4. Before starting the group discussion, ask VISTA PSO
minutes participants to record their observations in their Notebooks
VISTA PSO Notebooks: What stood out, surprised
them, or influenced their thinking in a new way?

1 Note to Facilitator:
If it's not already done, have the group rearrange the
chairs in a circle for the discussion.
20 5. Ask participants to share some of their most
minutes significant observations.
Note to Facilitator:

Processing this discussion well is the most important

part of the activity. Participants should be invited to
have a deep discussion about poverty and their per-
ceptions of it.

This discussion may elicit strong responses. Realize

that confusion, chaos, and contradictions are inher-
ent in a group’s varied perceptions. You don’t want
to reconcile these perceptions through agreement or
avoidance; rather, it is important to acknowledge the
paradoxes and confusions. We want to make it harder
for people to embrace the misconception that one per-
son holds the truth about the cause of poverty. There
are many causes and many different truths, depending
on the individual.

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PSO Facilitator Guide Personal Perspectives of Poverty

Time Steps Resources/

25 6. Get the conversation moving to a deeper level by
minutes asking questions such as:

• What are some of the assumptions implicit in the

pictures and definitions of poverty and its causes?

• Where do you think these beliefs and assumptions

come from?

• How do your personal experiences with poverty or

the lack of experiences influence you and create a
filter through which you see poverty and the world?

Note to Facilitator:

1) Dealing with an Uncomfortable Discussion

Some participants might be uncomfortable with this

topic. That’s okay. It’s not going to be an easy discus-
sion which provides participants with a set idea of
what poverty is. Instead, this activity is meant to make
people think about and reevaluate their conception
of poverty. It’s all right if participants leave with more
questions than they came with; we will address these
questions in the next session.

If the group does feel uncomfortable, there are several

ways to address this. One way is to openly validate
the group’s feelings. Also acknowledge that some par-
ticipants may have experienced poverty themselves.
What does that mean for them as they embark on this
work to address poverty?

2) Dealing with a Dominant Speaker(s) or Quiet


Some participants may seem to dominate the discus-

sion while others remain silent throughout. Here are
two “tried-and-true” ways to address the imbalance:

To encourage silent participants to contribute to the

discussion, tell the group that it is okay not to say any-
thing...but if you are going to leave the session and
regret not speaking your thoughts, then you may want
to consider sharing them now.

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PSO Facilitator Guide Personal Perspectives of Poverty

Time Steps Resources/

If you find that a few people are dominating the dis-
cussion, change the processing mode. Tell the group
that this is a time for all of them to contribute their
experiences and to reach this end, we will now go
around the room and let people speak in order. If you
do not have anything to say, or if you feel you have
already expressed your views, you can pass, but if
there is something you have not had a chance to say,
this will give you that opportunity.

2 7. Emphasize that addressing poverty is the “heart” of

minutes VISTA. Knowing what poverty means to a variety of
people will help each participant to identify some of
his or her own assumptions and stereotypes about

3 8. Underscore the importance of checking one’s

minutes assumptions regarding poverty, and consciously
realizing what is attitude and what is fact.
Assumptions influence attitudes; attitudes influence
perceptions; and perceptions have an impact on
one’s effectiveness or ability to carry out a VISTA
Note to Facilitator:

It is vital that participants bring to the surface and

understand their own attitudes toward poverty and
how these attitudes might influence their view of the
community they will serve.

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PSO Facilitator Guide Personal Perspectives of Poverty

Time Steps Resources/

10 Key Points To Make: Orientation
minutes Materials:
• It is easy to make assumptions and not be aware of Personal
them. on Poverty...
Key Points
• Often our perceptions are based on feelings, judg-
ments, stereotypes, and underlying beliefs.

• It is important to examine our assumptions and

judgments so we can make informed choices about
what we believe.

• It is important to gather evidence to support how

we see and perceive different aspects of life.

• The truth is that none of us has the truth about


Poverty Wall Debrief
1. Debrief: Ask the group…

• Why did we do this activity?

• How has this experience influenced our thinking

about poverty?

• How can we deal with our assumptions about pov-

erty? How might this experience inform how we
interact with people in our communities?

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