Guardian journalist and Peckham Councillor Rowenna Davis sees herself as a community organizer. When her constituents come to her with complaints, she looks for ways to help them join forces with their neighbours. So when a tenant complained about a private landlord overcharging her for a damp and unsafe flat:
It turns out the Landlord owns all the properties on her block. An angry letter from one tenant won’t do much, but a letter signed by ten tenants, who are prepared to collectively withdraw their rent, is a lot harder to ignore.
But the real advantage of doing things this way isn’t just that the damp gets fixed faster. It’s that it builds leadership and develops power in a way that relying on your middle class councillor can never do.
That is, it breaks what Davis calls “relational poverty“: “Poverty understood as the absence of meaningful relationships. As isolation“. She sees this isolation in the August riots, as well as generally in the powerlessness of her constituents. So she’s setting out to change it:
My job as a councillor is to do what I can to carry on deepening and spreading those relationships, so that none of us have to feel the loneliness that we felt in August, and the powerlessness that it breeds.
Because it’s the relationships that are transformational, not just for overcoming poverty, but for fulfilling who we are and how we should live together, flourishing, as human beings.