April 17, 2024

Deep listening is key to solving our problems

By Joanna Young, Poverty Truth Network

My name is Joanna Young and I’ve had the immense privilege to be a part of the Poverty Truth Network in 2023, including the Carnegie UK / Poverty Truth Network (PTN) partnership. I became a trustee of the PTN in December and enjoyed two meetings with the Carnegie UK / PTN Network in late 2023 in Manchester and Glasgow. 

Locally, I am a Civic Commissioner in Morecambe Bay and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know all the people involved in our commission. It’s been fantastic to see the ideas and initiatives coming out of our time together, some of which are already having an impact on our community and our organisation. I so value the friendships I’ve made with people who have utterly different experiences from me, both civic and community. It’s the bringing together of people for quality time that makes this work so special. 

So, as I enter 2024 I’m really hopeful that this way of working, involving deep listening, will continue to inspire leaders in all sorts of different sectors. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but like many simple things, deep listening is difficult – it presents a real challenge to the ways that many people work and is certainly not a box ticking exercise! It’s a challenge for us at Citizens Advice, where I work in Morecambe, as it is for so many organisations working in communities across the country. 

It’s been inspiring to see Carnegie UK working with the PTN – there is clearly a deep desire to hear from people who might not always get heard, and from my perspective as an advice worker, that’s really exciting, because we know that many people don’t get heard, especially those experiencing the kind of deep poverty and discrimination that many others don’t even believe exists in the UK. Our democratic deficit is real and troubling, and I am so impressed that Carnegie has been willing to invest time and money to listen to those seldom heard voices, face to face and in person. 

The work that we did together in Manchester and Glasgow was interesting, challenging and quite emotional at times. There is a discomfort in sitting with people and listening to their stories of hardship. Acknowledging and genuinely hearing people’s lived reality is powerful, and it is humbling to hear about the resilience forced on so many people who have, and continue to endure, hard times. The eloquence and honesty that people brought to the meetings was very moving and it’s a privilege to hear the stories of those who participated.  

The question for Carnegie UK now is how they take these testimonies and insights and what they do with them. Carnegie UK has a respected voice in the UK and I am hopeful that by engaging with the PTN, they will bring to the fore this power, of really hearing the experience of people who live in poverty and make sure that these voices are included when researching wellbeing in the UK. From my perspective, huge swathes of our population are anything but well, and it’s the ever increasing gap between rich and poor that is driving the distance and lack of understanding between the two. 

So, thank you, Carnegie UK, for listening.