I’m taking a course entitled ‘How to Change the World‘ through Coursera, which offers university courses for free online. The course delves into pressing global issues and what we can do about them so I thought I’d share some of my newly acquired knowledge.
During the ‘Poverty and Development’ week I’ve been encouraged by the recurring sentiments from renowned speakers and lecturers who believe we are making progress toward ending extreme poverty. In this TED talk (love, love, love TED!) given by Esther Duflo, founder and director of MIT’s Poverty Action Lab, Duflo speaks about 3 things found to be effective in poverty reduction which were tested through Randomized Controlled Trials: distributing treated mosquito nets for free, providing incentives (such as a bag of lentils!) for parents to take children to be immunised and deworming school children. Duflo suggests, “We cannot eradicate poverty just yet but we can get started. And maybe we get started small with the things we know are effective.” Her position reinforces the idea behind this blog; we can all do something to bring about change, no matter how small it may seem.
Another recurring theme during the week has been the link between poverty and conflict. The issue is raised by Dr Jeffrey Sachs in his book Common Wealth and in a speech by Dr Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, given at the Social Good Summit 2013. In the news today the three-year anniversary of South Sudan’s independence features but rather than celebrate, the big story is that more than a million people have been displaced due to fighting. Oxfam says that 4.9 million people are now in need of urgent support as a result of the ongoing conflict. I know these numbers are just too big to grasp but take a moment when you read this to put yourself in those people’s place. What would you want the global community to do? I know I would be hoping with all my heart that people might see my plight and take action. Why not forego a meal out in a restaurant this month and donate to the South Sudan appeal? While I am a huge advocate for preventative measures, sometimes we are called to collectively respond to a crisis in our global community.
I conclude with confronting words from economist Amartya Sen: “The persistence of poverty is also the robbing of human potential. Poverty is not just a lack of money – it is not having the capability to realise one’s full potential as a human being.”
How different the news reports would be in a world where we were all given the opportunity to reach our full potential. How will you exercise yours today?