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A History of Poverty
in 100 Objects

The Client

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is an independent social change organisation working to solve UK poverty.

The Challenge

To develop community and connection across teams in a way that would connect people to the cause and encourage an out of the box approach to tackling poverty.



The Project

Inspired by BBC Radio 4's radio series, A History of Poverty in 100 Objects was a creative 3-month project that asked JRF’s people to reflect on what poverty means to them through objects and storytelling.

The idea of this project was to physically bring representations of the cause into the place of work, whilst creating an unusual learning experience and points of connection across teams. The end product was a pop-up exhibition in JRF’s offices and a catalog of the stories. Together, they tell a shared narrative of the cause through the lens of the organisation. Applying principles of interdisciplinarity to encourage fresh perspectives on the work, the project was threefold. Two immersive workshops, a discovery phase, and an exhibition.

“It’s made me stop and think about the workplace and the cause”



    1. In Workshop 1 we created a collective organisational story through the Koreo Timeline Exercise. We introduced the concept of object-based learning in collaboration with Sue McAlpine, Curator of the Migration Museum, and we took a historical perspective Poverty and JRF’s origins with Dr. Oli Betts from the National Railway Museum.
    2. In the Discovery Phase, participants researched and choose their object with 1-2-1 support from the Koreo team. We also shared weekly ‘inspiration lists’ and examples of successful storytelling practices to shape their contribution.
    3. Workshop 2 was all about co-curating the collection. We shared reflections, objects, and stories in small groups. We co-curated the exhibition and we shared themes, impact and take away actions as a whole project community.

 

“I feel as though people have taken a step closer”

As a collection, the narrative highlights the immense human cost of poverty. The emotional, social, and physical damage it causes are often hard to recover from. Throughout the collection, there are many references to the restriction of choice, to stigma and shame, family, and general uncertainty about the future and employment. There are issues of pride, social pressures, the importance of education, and the badges of exclusion that certain objects become. In the face of these very real challenges, the power these objects can bring as windows into an emotional culture is one of human connection, of storytelling, and empathy to create change.

 

“I’m thinking about how I could infuse objects and stories in my work in influencing decision-makers, it would be great if they made a personal connection like we have today with the causes that they are affecting”

 

The Catalog.

This catalog is a presentation of the objects that were contributed to the physical pop-up exhibition that was co-curated in the offices of JRF in April-May 2018.

This collection of objects has been chosen by the people at JRF as representations of the cause they have dedicated their work to. It presents the shared experience and understanding of poverty in the UK by their people. The objects span every decade since 1904, when the foundation was established, and are accompanied by stories of personal and public significance.

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