In 2020, the Think Tanks on Poverty became independent entities operating in their local communities. Current information about the groups should be sought locally.
In 2014, community members in Newark, including local leaders active with St. Vincent de Paul, gathered together to discuss what is keeping members of the community stuck in poverty. They knew that one more food pantry or one more clothing drive would not change the circumstances of people struggling to pay their bills each month.
The residents decided to form an organization that would respond to poverty in the community not through charity, but through community organizing. Together, we could work to make structural and policy changes that could impact the whole community, not just help people one at a time. The Newark Think Tank on Poverty was formed.
Since then, a 501c3 was formed called the Vincentian Ohio Action Network (VOAN) focused on ending poverty through systemic change. VOAN helped establish, launch, fund, and support various community programs and initiatives, including the Think Tanks on Poverty and Accompanying Returning Citizens with Hope. The Think Tanks on Poverty expanded from Newark to Perry County, Zanesville, and Fairfield County The Think Tanks on Poverty have been featured in dozens of local and national news stories. Members have led the charge to help pass various local and statewide policies. They've worked with community leaders, government leaders, and faith-based communities, holding numerous community meetings and events. They have spoken out about various federal and state-level issues through statements and communications with policymakers.
In 2020, the Think Tanks on Poverty chapters became independent entities operating in their local communities.
The Think Tank Mission
The Think Tanks on Poverty work on community education, leadership development, coalition building, storytelling, strategy, and developing the power needed in the community to make the changes we seek -- one step at a time. They have obtained seats at the table and worked on various issues across Central Ohio, including addiction and recovery, housing and homelessness, criminal justice and reentry, broadband internet, and mental health stigma reduction.
The Think Tanks on Poverty seek to give voice to working and poor people to challenge the systemic issues that keep them in poverty. Systemic change is of two kinds -- one may change a policy or law, but the most important and long-lasting systemic change is when we change how decisions are made so they include working and poor people.