There must be many terrific internet apps I have yet to discover, but I’m proud of my normally luddite self for taking the plunge and starting to use del.icio.us.
With a subscription to the “poverty” tag on del.icio.us, I can see what anti-poverty do-gooders like me are bookmarking on all corners of the web. Most of the interest in poverty seems to be focused on international development: the Make Poverty History campaigns; Bono’s ONE Campaign; a variety of great microcredit initiatives like the brilliantly conceived Kiva.
I’m extremely encouraged by this enthusiasm for international anti-poverty efforts (I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Ivory Coast, and was fortunate enough to be in Abidjan for the 1999 Microcredit Summit, where I managed to get my picture taken with the very deserving Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus of Grameen Bank). While the momentum in favor of reducing poverty around the world is welcome and long overdue, I’d like to see a similarly sweeping enthusiasm and spirit of innovation be brought to the fight against poverty in America. Not that there aren’t people doing great work; as I’ve said previously, the focus on asset-building strategies strikes me as offering great potential for transforming our anti-poverty efforts at home. But the same Americans who are coming out in droves to be involved in the fight against poverty in Africa often lack a sense of urgency and outrage at the tragic persistence of poverty in our own country.
However, every once in a while I’ll get a link through the poverty tag on del.icio.us that points me to an unlikely group of people focused on addressing poverty here in America. Today it was the Hunger, Homelessness and Poverty Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. This is a group of librarians who work “to ensure that libraries are accessible and useful to low-income citizens and to encourage a deeper understanding of poverty’s dimensions, its causes, and ways it can be ended.” Book-lovers battling poverty: these are my kind of folks. Recent posts on their site have included comments on William T. Vollman’s Poor People, information about phone service discounts for low-income people, and one post titled “How Can Librarians Repond to Poverty?”
Maybe I should get in touch with them and suggest that every poverty-minded librarian in the ALA should read Michael Sherraden’s Assets and the Poor and keep a copy on hand to be able to steer more readers to it, and they could be promoting the growth (or launch) of asset-building programs in each of their communities. Why not? It may take little coalition-building steps like that, one after another, to gradually turn a ripple of interest into a wave that sweeps skepticism and indifference out of the way.