Through our Amplify Montana Initiative, we hope to both engage low-income Montanans in conversation around challenges they and their communities face, while also identifying individuals who want to become advocates. We believe that individuals should have the skills and opportunity to speak on their own behalf about the issues they face; peoples’ collective voices have the power to challenge stereotypes, change the narrative around poverty, and educate community members and elected officials about who experiences poverty and why. The stories and expertise of people with lived experience should also inform both programmatic and policy solutions, in hopes of improving the effectiveness of our system and making it easier to attain upward mobility out of poverty. We work to achieve this through:
- Focus Groups: We facilitate community conversations through focus groups at various non-profit and social service organizations. At our focus groups, we meet community members and ask them about their experiences with the programs and services at the organization, along with challenges they see in the community and how they are personally affected by them. We brainstorm gaps and solutions and hope that the focus groups are a space for people to have a voice while we all build connections with one another.
- Speakers Bureau: Focus group participants then have the option of signing up to learn more about our Speakers Bureau, which is a free 9-week training on public speaking, leadership, storytelling, and advocacy. People who are interested in the program must apply and also commit to attending 9 weeks of classes. Our goal is that Speakers Bureau graduates are equipped to share their stories, illuminate the root causes of hunger and poverty, and be participatory advocates and leaders in their community.
- Continued Engagement: Participation in the Speakers Bureau does not end with the graduation! In fact – we hope this is just the beginning. We want members to stay engaged with us and continue to develop their skills. Current Speakers Bureau members have spoken to numerous community groups, educated elected officials, and lobbied at the Montana State Legislature.