Addressing Poverty with the aha! Process

Marianne Eichelberger, director of the Newton Public Library in Newton, Kansas, recently contacted the HHPTF about poverty-focused training programs created by aha! Process Inc. She writes:

Our community held the “Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals & Communities” seminar in March [2005], which was a definite aha! for most who attended. One board member and two Newton Public Library staff attended the seminar and [afterward] shared the concepts with NPL board and staff. The NPL board has encouraged NPL staff to continue “Bridges” coalition efforts with others in the community.

aha! Process was founded by Ruby K. Payne, best known for her book A Framework for Understanding Poverty. The “Bridges” workshop is one of many products and services the organization offers, which it describes as

giv[ing] both the social service provider and the community member key lessons in dealing with individuals from poverty. Topics include increasing awareness of the differences in economic cultures, how those differences affect opportunities for success, developing an action plan to improve services to clients and improving retention rates for new hires from poverty.

Eichelberger has started discussions with other librarians in Kansas, and a flurry of activity followed the March workshop:

  • Two local residents were sponsored to attend an aha! Process “Train the Trainer” event.
  • NPL staff and a board rep attend monthly coalition meetings held to share ways of implementing “Bridges Out of Poverty” concepts and discussing what to do next.
  • A task force including alternative ed, United Way, SRS, mental health centers, and NPL reps worked with one of the local trainers to develop a pilot project based on “Getting Ahead in a Just-Gettin’-By World: Building Your Resources for a Better Life” workbook with the class session’s help at NPL during fall 2005.
  • Newton Unified School District held a two day “Bridges” in-service with every USD employee required to attend the first day. NPL staff and two board members also attended.
  • At least one more local resident is scheduled to attend another aha! “Train the Trainer” workshop this spring and plans are underway for another “Getting Ahead” class at NPL.

For more details about these programs, including contact info, visit and