We are... The Company of Conversation Changers

In the Fall of 2019, Bridges Peterborough supported the assembly of a group of six consultants with lived experience in poverty to provide advice and support for the Bridging Team Facilitation Training process. This group (us) known as Storyteller Catalysts, met weekly capturing our own stories of bridging poverty and privilege to help Change the Conversation about poverty in Peterborough. Our strong bonding became increasingly palpable as our collective skill level and confidence grew. In 2020, we took on training to facilitate the Bridging program. In the Fall of 2020, we began a discussion about formalizing our structure and in December, The Company of Conversation Changers (CCC) came into existence.

We, CCC, are a group of passionate storytellers with lived experience in poverty who want to change the conversation from “fixing poverty to discovering opportunities for sharing abundance”. Over the course of 2020, we gained increasing responsibility within the partnering organizations, including supporting monthly Neighbourhood Network meetings and facilitating weekly Storyteller Catalyst meetings.

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We all collaborated and developed a social enterprise plan on self-governing practices, created formal company policies and procedures, and secured funding to move forward with our goal of sharing our messages about poverty through education, storytelling, and facilitation. These actions supported our ability to plan, implement, and facilitate a new Bridging Team, which started in February 2021.

Before starting CCC, we had a desire to spread the message about the effect poverty has on those who experience it firsthand with stories that humanize the issue of poverty. The passion, enthusiasm, and cohesive structure of the group members made this a reality with the formation of the Conversation Changers Podcast. There are currently 6 episodes available, with more on the way.

The podcast team has also filmed a National Edge Broadcast interview focusing on Changing the Narrative of Poverty. This can be found on the Bridges Peterborough YouTube channel. The podcast has become a valuable tool to not only share our stories with the world, but develop our comradeship, learn new skills, and demonstrate adaptability, flexibility, and creativity when presented with the challenges the team, and the world at large experienced in 2020.

We value connection, friendship and support. When faced with the challenges presented when unable to meet and connect in person, each of us recognized that the relationships we had formed were too strong not to continue moving forward. Everyone quickly became “Zoom Experts” and adapted to the changing circumstances. We also recognized the impact participating in Bridging Teams would have on those without access to the necessary equipment and secured a lending library of Chromebooks and electronic accessories.

Being a part of this team has provided us with many opportunities, including to learn new skills, grow as a person, gain increased self-confidence, return to university, offer a voice to a political campaign advocating for those with lived experiences in poverty, and participate in a social enterprise that allows us to contribute meaningful stories that can impact others’ understanding of poverty. In just over a year, one story turned into a conversation and the formation of a company driven by each member’s desire to share their truths and change the conversation about poverty: The Company of Conversation Changers.