Reading The Life You Can Save I got pretty excited and with good reason I think too. Last year at Carleton University our group, Students To End Extreme Poverty, worked to get a question to referendum where students voted on whether or not they would all have to automatically pay an additional $6 in tuition fees ($5352 instead of $5346) to help support a Millennium Village. It worked. Carleton students now contribute over $110,000 annually.
Here is our hope: By getting enough universities and organizations to support Millennium Villages (aside from helping a couple communities help themselves out of extreme poverty) it would raise enough awareness, get enough media attention, engage enough people, foster enough cooperation, and generate enough civil society will to see policy changes: more and better aid, fairer trade, and debt cancellation.
Worst case scenario: thousands of people, many of whom would otherwise be dead, will have the basic tools they need to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
Just like professor Singer pointed out, if we remove the barriers to involvement and giving – people can always opt out if they don’t like it – the great majority of people will stay involved in alleviating global poverty and be happy they did with ”the right kind of nudge”. Facilitating institutionalized giving of 1% of people’s incomes could easily generate enough money to make a massive impact on some of the worst effects of extreme poverty and send a clear message to our governments: act now to end world poverty. Norway even gives 1% as a country.
Institutions and their employees don’t usually do this for global poverty. They can; it’s just that oodles of people haven’t leapt at the opportunity to make it happen. Efforts like these can be going on in a variety of fashions across the world. In Canada alone there are 18 million people in the labor force with nearly 4.5 million people in unions. Over two million of those unionized workers are in nine unions. That’s not a logistical nightmare to try and make happen. Want to make a difference? Opportunities like this abound.
What have we got to lose in going for it? Especially if it’s benefiting a stellar organization like Millennium Promise or Oxfam where the money is spent transparently, where there are monitorable objectives and where it is making a demonstrable difference in people’s lives one person or one community at a time.
This is something that we as a global community can run with. There are numerous ideas like these that with little time produce results thousands of times the size of the effort they take. There are a number of us working on similar initiatives so please get in touch if you want to help. James Grant said “the problem is not that we have tried to eradicate global poverty and failed; the problem is that no serious and concerted attempt has ever been made”. Sadly it’s true; however on the plus side, there really has never been a better time to make poverty history.
Youth Engagement Coordinator
Make Poverty History Canada