Theory and Application
Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth
Chapter 16: Rethinking Urban Poverty: Forms of Capital, Information Technology and Enterprise Development
Lynette Kvasny and Lakshman Yapa Introduction In this chapter, we introduce a social theory that incorporates IT-based projects aimed at empowering inner-city communities. This social theory, called ‘rethinking urban poverty’, challenges the economic determinism that informs much of the prevailing discourse surrounding urban poverty in the United States. We posit that poverty is not entirely an economic condition, and thus has no purely economic solution. Instead, we offer a social theory that provides insights into using social and cultural capital to address issues of poverty. While so-called ‘poor neighbourhoods’ have relatively few economic resources, they possess other material and symbolic resources such as indigenous knowledge, public spaces, local products, community organizations, and social networks. A more hopeful and pragmatic discourse enables us to discover and harness the untapped resources that exist within inner-cities to improve the quality of life of their inhabitants. Instead of passively waiting for the infusion of jobs and funds from external entities, residents can proactively engage in highly tangible projects that leverage their skills and knowledge. The ‘rethinking urban poverty’ framework emerged from a sustained programme of research and outreach that brings together Penn State University faculty and students, and local business owners, non-proﬁt organizations and residents to address community concerns. This research and outreach programme has developed over a seven-year period through sustained relationships and partnerships with the people and organizations in the Belmont neighbourhood in West Philadelphia. The project was initiated by Lakshman Yapa in 1998 under the title, ‘Rethinking Urban Poverty: Philadelphia...
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