While at Barnes and Nobel this evening, I picked up a book by sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh called Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets. The book chronicles Venaketsh’s experience researching a gang operated in a housing project in Chicago. Venkatesh has received a lot of attention for his work in large part because of his willingness to move outside of his social class, an academic delving into a drug dealing world of violence and poverty.
His book is testament to the power of moving outside of one’s class and highlighting the realities of poverty through first hand accounts. Venkatesh got me thinking about my own experience working in social services with low-income and homeless individuals and families. My experience as a service provider, volunteer, and agency executive has shaped my understanding of what works and what doesn’t in helping people lift themselves out of poverty.
I have not been a gang leader for a day, nor do I plan to be. But I have been a contributor to the social service sector for eight years, and have some stories worth recounting and insights worth sharing. I plan to do so in coming blog posts.