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Leaders are Readers: "Poverty, By America"

After taking a six-book detour to read some Dune books (only 17 left to go), I decided to get back into some nonfiction reads (thanks to a trip to the Tacoma Public Library).


I started off with Poverty, By America by Matthew Desmond. Poverty was added to my reading list based partly on the author (I had previously read Evicted by Desmond) and as part of my effort to increase my knowledge around community-centric fundraising.


This was - and I mean this in the best possible way - a tough read. Not because it was difficult to understand, but because it was so clear. Desmond casts poverty in America not as a result of poorly-constructed systems - but the natural and expected byproduct of systems.


In other words, it's not a bug - it's a feature.


The book calls into question not just the systems that keep poor communities from gaining traction, but our collective complicity in benefiting from these systems.


Like I said, a tough read (but that's a good thing).


From a nonprofit perspective, Desmond brings up the scarcity mindset -- a thorn in the side of most nonprofits -- as one of the tools used to derail or stop possible anti-poverty solutions:


"Or consider how a scarcity mindset frames so much of our politics, crippling our imaginations and stunting our moral ambitions. How many times have we heard legislators and academics and pundits begin their remarks with the phrase 'in a world of scarce resources ...,' as if that state of affairs were self-evident, obvious, and unassailable as natural law, instead of something we've fashioned?"


There's a lot to unpack and to consider here - about how we organize to fight poverty and how we talk about this fight with our colleagues and donors.

Have you read this book? What did you think?




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