About The Facing Project
The Facing Project was originally launched in Muncie, Indiana, in the winter of 2011-2012, under the title, Facing Poverty. It was developed by author and journalist Kelsey Timmerman as a storytelling project to raise awareness about poverty in the Muncie community. Kelsey teamed up with TEAMWork for Quality Living, a local nonprofit focused on empowering people in poverty toward self-sufficiency, which featured the project during Muncie’s first annual Poverty Awareness Week in February 2012. By the end of the project, seventeen nonprofit organizations, businesses, the local newspaper, and a community foundation came on board to partner.
Twenty-one stories were told and compiled into a book to share with the community at large. Twenty local actors, from Muncie Civic Theatre and Ball State University, performed two nights of monologues, reading the stories to crowds of hundreds of community members.
Together, through the stories shared and dialogues created, Facing Poverty helped bring the face of poverty to the forefront, breakdown stereotypes, and open the door for those in poverty, and those who work with those in poverty, to have their voices added to the conversation. In addition, the book was mailed to every elected official within the county so that those who are involved in deciding policy could see what life was like for those in their voting districts who live in poverty each day.
One of the writers on the original project was J.R. Jamison. J.R. had met Kelsey at a conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the early fall of 2011, where J.R. was scouting speakers for an upcoming statewide Summit on higher education and nonprofit collaboration for community engagement. Through casual conversation, Kelsey and J.R. realized they were neighbors in Muncie.
Through what J.R. calls serendipitous intervention, the two became friends and Kelsey re-engaged J.R. in the Muncie community. J.R. joined Kelsey as a volunteer with TEAMWork for Quality Living. For seven years, J.R. lived between two cities and had all but lost his ground-level engagement with his home base community. Once a writer himself and one who often volunteered, those passions were left behind as life and career happened.
One way Kelsey re-engaged J.R. back into the Muncie community was through having him be a writer on the Facing Poverty project. The opportunity to sit down with, learn from, and tell the story of another local resident was something that impacted J.R. in immeasurable ways. J.R. attended the theatrical monologues with the person for whom he wrote about, and side-by-side the two shared an intimate moment; the story he had written but the life she had lived. Around the theatre, others were having the same experience—writer and subject. Tears and understanding. Hope and moving forward.
This isn’t a story about J.R. or a story about Kelsey; this is the story of those who have been silenced. Ignored. Misunderstood.
This is why The Facing Project was born.
In April of 2012, Kelsey and J.R. decided that this was beyond Muncie, Indiana, and together the two would help other communities share their stories through a movement, a network of communities, and through the lives of everyday citizens and the words of writers. The summer of 2012 was spent developing the original Informational Guide and the Toolkit, and outreach was done with various outlets to recruit pilot communities.
During the fall of 2012, spring of 2013 and continuing into the fall of 2013, five cities across the U.S. piloted The Facing Project. Those included:
- Atlanta, Georgia, Facing Sex Trafficking – FEATURED ON NPR!
- Fort Wayne, Indiana, Facing Homelessness – FEATURED ON NPR!
- Rome, Georgia, Facing HOPE
- South Bend, Indiana, Facing the Future through the Stories of Inner-City Girls
- Muncie, Indiana, Facing Autism (second project)
These projects helped inform the next two iterations of the Toolkit, and they have provided ideas for ways in which communities involved in Facing can interconnect. But the most amazing thing is that the pilot communities created partnerships that spanned K-16 education, nonprofit, business, and government. All coming together to tell their communities’ stories.
Now it’s your turn.
In June of 2013, The Facing Project launched full scale and has become an international movement, and you have become part of the process to share your community’s story with the world.