Thursday, 24 October 2013

Making the links: poverty, ethnicity and social networks JRF have published a piece of research on the links between poverty and ethnicity, which examines how social networks help or hinder people in moving out of poverty. I was involved in the study in a partnership led by the Third Sector Research Centre. Among the key findings: People’s social networks were shaped by factors including ethnicity, class and gender, but personal characteristics, such as confidence, were also important in developing useful connections. Family and friends were seen as the basis for most relationships but there were low levels of awareness about wider social networks and how they might be used for moving on from poverty. People’s links beyond their own ethnic community were important, but the added dimension of racism could prevent access to ‘mainstream’ influential networks. Social networks tended to be ‘like with like’, so while they were used to access employment, this was often into low-paid jobs which relied on informal recruitment processes. Strong bonds with family and friends helped mitigate the effects of poverty. However, developing bridging and linking ties with networks that could move people on from poverty involved risks and scarce energy and resources. Voluntary, community and faith based organisations were seen as important for facilitating access to cross-cultural networks. There were examples of good practice in agencies encouraging people to consider how their social networks could help them move out of poverty. However, there was no consistency in practice between agencies. There’s a four-page summary here. The full report is here, and if I may say so, well worth a read. The other members of the team were Alison Gilchrist, Angus McCabe, Asif Afridi and Paul Kyprianou. This is the place for me to record that, taking into account all the consortia and partnership work I’ve been involved in over the past thirty years – where relationships with co-conspirators have meant a great deal to me and almost invariably been rewarding - it’s been an outstanding privilege to work with such a genial and inspiring group of people. I hope our work has some impact and leads onto other things.

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