Elon senior Lindsey Jordan’s research focuses on an alternative leadership model in eliminating poverty.
Senior Lindsey Jordan presented her research on leadership in the new Poor People’s Campaign at “Posters on the Hill”, an annual poster session on Capitol Hill that showcases undergraduate student research from across the country.
Hosted by the Council of Undergraduate Research, “Posters on the Hill” is highly competitive. 60 undergraduate students from different institutions are invited to share their research with members and staff in congress, government official and academics, among others. Students are selected to participate in “Posters on the Hill” by a national panel of specialists in their field of research. The poster session is supported by the American Chemical Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Jordan, an Honors Fellow and Odyssey Scholar, showcased her Lumen Project research at the event. Her research focused on the new Poor People’s campaign, a revival of Martin Luther King’s original movement. The new Poor People’s campaign seeks to address many of King’s original goals such as systemic racism and poverty. Rebecca Todd Peters, professor of religious studies, served as Jordan’s mentor for her Lumen Prize research.
She looked into how the campaign follows a leadership model where the people most affected by the issues they are tackling take the lead. She followed the new Poor People’s campaign last summer for their 40 days of peaceful civil disobedience, traveling to a new state each week and talking to people and organizations taking part in the campaign.
Through her research, Jordan aimed to connect scholarship and activism as two forces that can work together. Movements being led by those most affected by social issues has not always been addressed in academia, and her research seeks to provide more insight into a different model of leadership.
Historically, the most successful social movements have been led by those most affected by the problems they are working to resolve. However, the impact of this democratization of power in movements that acknowledge the agency of the poor in abolishing poverty has been virtually ignored by scholarship. In 2018, the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is seeking to revive the work of Martin Luther King Jr.’s final campaign in 1968. Although King’s assassination obstructed the work of the original campaign, King’s vision to identify and develop the leadership of poor people is recognized still today. The Poor People’s Campaign of 2018 roots itself in the empowerment, mobilization, and leadership of the poor as a social class and provides a cogent example of a shared power model of leadership that counters dominant hierarchical models of leadership. Through a multiyear ethnographic study, this project documents and examines the new Poor People’s Campaign in its inaugural year. Interviews and extended participant-observation research during the campaign provide insight into the efficacy and possibilities of a shared power model of leadership that champions the agency and expertise of poor and marginalized communities. This research fills a significant gap in the current social movement literature and provides unique insight into an understudied model of poverty alleviation and social change.