by: Deb Smith

Deb Smith is the Manager of Conferences for St. Vincent de Paul Dayton. This post is part 1 of 2 in a series exploring certain SVDP initiatives.

Systemic Change initiatives enable our neighbors themselves to engage in the identification of root causes of their poverty and to create strategies to change them.

Systemic Change is not anything new to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. In fact, it is rooted within the work of the Society’s founder, Blessed Frederic Ozanam. The term “systemic change” has different applications across many fields. To those living in poverty, Systemic Change, “aims beyond providing food, clothing, shelter and alleviating immediate needs. It enables people themselves to engage in the identification of the root causes of their poverty and to create strategies, including advocacy, to change those structures which keep them in poverty. Systemic Change requires transforming attitudes.” (Vincentian Family Definition, 2011)

Although Vincentians may not always use that term to describe their work, it is the underlying theme of many encounters with their neighbors. And all you have to do to understand this is to spend a little time with a few Vincentians—whether at a Conference meeting at a parish, a Dayton Area Council meeting, a workshop or training, or even a gathering of friends. Simply put, Vincentians go beyond the alleviation of immediate needs.

To help our neighbors make systemic changes in their lives, the Dayton District Council offers Getting Ahead classes. Participants, called investigators, meet weekly for 16 weeks to examine their poverty experience, assess their own resources and ways to build them as they move toward self-sufficiency, and write goals designed to help them move toward a more prosperous life for themselves and their families. We look forward to reporting on the Getting Ahead classes now in progress in our area in next Monday’s blog.

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