One would hope that the fact that poverty means human suffering and lack of dignity should spark significant enough change in social behavior that a solution could be found and executed. Unfortunately, the reality is that poverty is an issue that has not been solved to this point.
Creating a change in direction socially is difficult … especially when you’re only focusing on the negativesThis implies that our attention is focused wrong and that simple awareness of poverty is not sufficient to elicit widespread social changeaimed at alleviating poverty.
Fortunately for the world’s poor, poverty is an issue with myriad social and health effects that directly touch those in more economically fortunate situations. The diversity of these effects is such that some create universal negative consequences…..->
while some offer opportunities to benefit from easing the problems of poverty. Using social marketing to focus on these effects may provide a better result than simply trying to pull the heartstrings of compassion or guilt.The traditional method of pulling people in
to encourage action is through images and statistical portrayals of the horrors of poverty.While these images are accurate, making people feel really bad is generally not the most effective way to create action. In fact, it can cause alienation.
This picture certainly causes an emotional response, but how long and how often does an audience want to look at this? I feel more helpless looking at this than called to action. So, emotional pleas are one way.
Another way is addressing harms in a way that makes them personal to an audience that possesses the means to create change. Poverty can create regional instabilities or civil wars that require money or intervention. It can also spawn global health crises.
Framing in this way can cause people to think: Poverty puts my health, the taxes that I pay and the soldiers that I identify with at risk. This method leverages loss aversion. The risk of loss is more likely to create action than feelings of guilt.
Alternatively, creating excitement and enthusiasm around an issue or idea inspires self-direction and action. In the case of poverty, this third way would create a vision of positive outcomes for impoverished communities based on the actions taken by an audience.
We know that a negative times a negative equals a positive. Well, a positive times a positive also equals a positive. We can leverage the ambition of creative and energetic people by exposing them to innovate and effective solutions to poverty.
We already have a lot of buy-in through use of the compassion method. Which is an excellent thing and should be celebrated. Compassion does not reach everyone though. We need to spread passion to those that are not so driven by compassion. Personal wellbeing and ambition are both strong motivators.
Poverty can cause civil unrest, warfare and even the tendency for desperate people to turn to demagogues or fanaticism. Though this is terrible for the poor, it is not good for anyone. Military intervention in a trouble state is incredibly costly.
Much more costly than establishing the infrastructure to feed, clothe and keep itself healthy before violence breaks out. Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
If you allow his fishing boat to get blown up, not only is he hungry but also angry at you. The US has spent many lives and billions of dollars in the middle east on problems that probably could have been prevented by funding education in Afghanistan in the 80’s.
Education and public health cost far less than armed conflict. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Solving poverty is not only the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do financially.
Reductions in financial risk are not the only benefits to solving poverty. There are enormous economic opportunities involved as well. If everyone in the world living on under $2 a day suddenly had disposable income then the world would have a lot more potential customers.
The continent of Africa is home to a billion people, about 200 million more than the US and EU combined. Unfortunately, the combined GDP at PPP is only $2 trillion in Africa, while it is $29 trillion in the US and EU combined.
If Africa caught up to the level of economic activity in the US and EU, then they would have an almost $34 trillion economy, a $32 trillion increase. $32 trillion dollars is a pretty attractive pie to get a piece of. China and India are catching up.
They are predicted to catch up to us and level out at by around 2030 and 2050 respectively. Any person or company should be able to recognize the huge opportunities in encouraging the creation of new middle classes when presented this way.
Action and real behavior change come from emotional states like enthusiasm and excitement. My hope is that people can begin to be excited about solving poverty because it is both ethically and financially right.