Poverty. It’s Not What You Think.

Narrative change campaign around poverty in Flushing, Queens

Chinese American Planning Council, Asian Americans for Equality. The Child Center of NY, MinKwon Center for Community Action, Queens Public Library, RIVER FUND, with support from the Robin Hood Foundation

Creative + Strategy, PSA Network, Media Planning + Buying

Nestled in the eastern part of New York City, Flushing, Queens is a dynamic neighborhood where immigrants make up 56% of the population. The neighborhood is renowned for its diversity and vibrancy. Boasting several strong cultural enclaves, including being home of the city’s largest Chinatown, Flushing stands as an essential hub in our city’s rich tapestry.

Nevertheless, poverty poses a significant issue; the area grapples with a cost of living 49% higher than the national average (and 25% higher than the New York average), and a notable 24% of its population lives below the poverty line. Compounding this, cultural stigmas surrounding poverty often deter many residents from recognizing their socioeconomic conditions and seeking the necessary resources and assistance available to them.

our approach

In 2022, F.Y. Eye developed a multilingual narrative change campaign with community members and a coalition of six local social service organizations to (1) advance a community-centered movement that works to reframe the poverty narrative in Flushing, (2) humanize poverty and shed light on unconscious biases that perpetuate misconceptions about cyclical poverty, and (3) acknowledge the realities of an economic system that is stacked against marginalized communities.

Using research and the coalition's community listening sessions as a launchpad, the campaign unpacked the cultural connotations of poverty amongst the diverse communities in Flushing. Building on the lessons learned from the previous multilingual narrative change advertising campaign, the team identified the crucial need to amplify authentic stories, leading to the decision to create a short documentary film in 2023. In collaboration with the creative vision of Flushing residents and Impact Artists Daniel and Helena Nalladurai, F.Y. Eye and Undo Poverty: Flushing developed a short documentary film – THE COST OF LIVING – delving into the challenges of poverty in Flushing, and celebrating the unwavering resilience of the community. 

The documentary film offers an intimate look into the lives of three individuals and families in Flushing, Queens showing how so many in poverty struggle to live day-to-day in the landscape of our great city. By sharing their stories, we worked to evoke empathy, compassion, and understanding, transcending boundaries to foster a greater sense of community. THE COST OF LIVING is a testament to the human spirit and serves as a poignant reflection of life in the midst of an escalating cost of living.  

The film development concluded with a premiere screening at Flushing Town Hall, featuring a dynamic panel discussion between filmmakers and local organization representatives. The documentary serves as a powerful call to action, inviting viewers to step into the shoes of their neighbors and work collectively toward a more just future.


Together, our work not only challenged existing stigmas and started conversations, but the work of Undo Poverty: Flushing continues to shape the narrative around poverty, highlighting the crucial work of local nonprofits, and bringing about positive change for Flushing residents. Campaign art spread far and wide, appearing across subway lines, the LIRR, a prominent building billboard in Flushing, sidewalk chalk near partner sites, lamp post banners, and wheat-pasted posters in six languages to ensure accessibility to the messaging in the multicultural neighborhood. The slogan "Poverty: It's not what you think" encapsulates the coalition’s work to confront and dispel common cultural stigmas.

The first media awareness campaign alone garnered an impressive 9.4 million impressions.Undo Poverty: Flushing continues to uplift the film, holding screenings and community listening sessions to create more opportunities for engagement. The documentary film was accepted into the New York Independent Film Festival (Summer, 2024). In January 2024, the campaign's achievements were further underscored with a presentation of the work at the Opportunity Agenda's Narrative Research Lab.

Around the Boroughs: Documentary on "The Cost of Living" | Spectrum News NY1
"Cost of Living" Documentary Features the Tragedy of Immigrant Poverty | World Journal

Ad Campaign Launches in Flushing, Queens to Break the Stigma of Poverty | Yahoo

Ad Campaign Launches in Flushing, Queens to Break the Stigma of Poverty | CSRwire

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