Describe Bridging Teams in one sentence:  Todd John

Five individuals living in poverty in Peterborough (who’ve named themselves “the Awesome People”) journey with mentors towards a more stable life.

What is the goal of this project?

Bridging Teams address the 11 Essential Resources required to overcome Poverty’s Tyranny of day-to-day crises. By creating a social network of middle-class mentors, the Awesome people have expanded their resources and supports to deal with poverty’s complex challenges. 

What strategies does the project use?

Using the “Bridges Out of Poverty”[1]*  framework, two separate learning streams orient under-resourced Leaders and middle class Mentors.

Then, the five Awesome People and ten Mentors come together to meet weekly for three hours in a Bridging Team to cross cultural barriers, build community, and fight poverty.

Once the team has built trust and bonded, support circles for each of the Awesome people are formed. Two mentors were assigned to walk with each of the Awesome participants.

The Team was facilitated by staff for the first nine months of weekly meetings.

Describe the most positive aspects of the project and anything that you would do differently if you did it again.

By far the most positive aspect of the work was the success in creating a safe, non-judgmental, space for mutual learning among people from different socio-economic cultures (or classes).  Our focus on Team-building included three key elements:

  • Food: every session included a meal first provided by staff, then shifting to a pot-luck sharing.
  • Fun: The use of trust-building, adventure-based, activities created a common ground and bonded the team.
  • Storytelling: Midway evaluations scored storytelling from each participant as a highlight. Every person answered five interview questions. The group passed a talking stick reflecting on what they valued in each person’s story.

Each of the fifteen participants has created 18 new relationships including staff (15 x 18 = 270 new relationships).  This new social network has the potential of affecting the lives of every participant in significant ways. For the Awesome People, they now have positive relationships with retired teachers, lawyers, therapists, journalists, social workers, parenting experts, and clergy. In addition, they will benefit in all kinds of ways from a new access into the social networks of these new intentional friendships.

Here is a sample of what the Awesome participants had to say:

“…allowed me to find a career direction after many years of uncertainty. Now I can move toward a new goal”

“…wonderful sense of belonging”

“…feeling very good about myself and my life”

“…helped me see the strength in myself…more self-confidence with speaking in pubic, self-esteem, leadership roles, and having fun”

Mentors were challenged to learn (through training and extensive practice) how to become allies beyond their habitual desires to help/fix/advise:

“…greater awareness of real-life challenges of people in poverty”

“…the possibility of a world where everyone is heard, everyone is part of what we’re creating, and no one is left out”

“…one of the best processes I’ve ever encountered for building solidarity across economic class”

“I am less judgmental, and I am in awe of how resourceful these awesome people are.”

“…helped me build deep connections and trust relationships across class lines”

“Bedford House is uniquely suited as a catalyst to engage, train, and equip diverse groups of people.”

What has made this project a success?

Community support for this slow, costly process has been outstanding. The Awesome participant’s dedication and energy drives us forward to believe “Whatever the problem – Community is the answer.” 

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