Winning the Fight

Six Steps Toward More Leadership on Childhood Poverty                                                     

Step 1: Work to more deeply understand the issue.

Step 2: Build relationships with those in need and immerse yourself in their perspectives.

Step 3: Explore challenging viewpoints on the issue and look for new allies.

Step 4: Think carefully about something more you can personally do.

Step 5: Take action, even smaller steps, with others and learn from the experience.

Step 6: Innovate and broaden your efforts for a bigger impact.

The problem feels daunting. The number of children in poverty is growing in Kansas. Easy, quick-fix solutions are hard to come by.

Childhood poverty in Kansas is, by all accounts, an incredibly challenging and complex problem. It can make your head spin trying to unravel all the layers that surround it. It is an incredibly difficult problem. But it is most certainly not an insurmountable one.

We already know something about how to fight childhood poverty in Kansas. Experts tell us it takes social programs that help provide adequate relief. Faith communities, charities and nonprofits meeting unmet needs and helping people set their lives on a better path. Early-childhood development that gives young people the best start possible in life. Education that provides skills for a lifetime of success. Good jobs that pay enough for parents to live on. Stable and supportive families and communities. And hope that we live in an environment where it’s possible for anyone to create a better future for themselves.

Despite the challenges, we see small victories against poverty every day in Kansas. But we clearly need many, many more, and for those wins to add up to something greater. The question isn’t about whether we can make progress. It’s if we can muster the will – the leadership – to do it on a much bigger scale. And it’s whether more people in Kansas are willing to care more, engage more and risk more on behalf of paving a path to prosperity for our state’s children over the long haul.

That’s where you, the reader, come in. This edition of The Journal isn’t just a collection of compelling stories. It’s a road map of sorts. We’ve set out six leadership steps that anyone can take to help our state make progress on addressing childhood poverty. Each story in the issue illustrates one of the steps.

Whether you’re a full-time advocate with decades of experience or someone wishing to help for the first time on the issue, this Journal is designed to inspire you to think about how to lead more effectively.

The responsibility of making Kansas a healthier place for all children doesn’t belong to any one person, any one organization. Or government official. Or government entity. It ultimately belongs to all of us. And when our state’s children are denied the opportunity to fully develop their human potential because of circumstances far behind their control, we all end up losing in the long run.

But if more of us were able to stretch ourselves to do a bit more –  to tackle something that’s just on the edge of what we can do – we might be surprised at the extent to which we can turn the tide on childhood poverty in Kansas. We’ll never know unless we try.