Perception is powerful. What do you see?
Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO of Acumen, writes in Forbes magazine article entitled, “Needed Not Needy: Why Changing The World’s Perception Is Critical To How We Tackle Poverty”
How the poor are perceived is critical to how we, as a world, tackle poverty. Too many today characterize people living in poverty as lazy, undeserving, hungry mouths to feed or people to be feared — whether in Africa, Asia, or the United States. That doesn’t serve anyone, neither the poor nor the rich. We are short-changing the world of immeasurable human potential. If there is one lesson I have learned through my work at Acumen and beyond it is that we won’t have dignity as a human race until every one of us has dignity.
Poverty must not be seen as someone else’s problem, nor can the poor be seen as unvalued dependents of society. We need to use this divided moment in history to commit to using the best of ourselves to solve the toughest problems of our times. It will take patient investing in long-term solutions designed with, not for, the poor. And, most importantly, it will take character and conscience, and a new definition of success, whether as individuals or nations, based not only on how the rich and fortunate fare but on how the poor and vulnerable are treated.
Changing our own perceptions
The article offers some suggestions for changing our own systems of perception:
- May each of us take a moment today, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to recognize our shared humanity .
- May we look into the eyes of a stranger with kindness and curiosity.
- May we remember that our lives are entwined, that everything we use and consume during our days are built by people we may never know or meet, people who share similar dreams but too often are cut off from possibility.
- May we pause to ask whether our actions are bringing dignity to others.
Novogratz concludes, “For within today’s interconnected world lies the seed of our mutual sense of dignity—and, ultimately, our best chance to end impoverishment, material and spiritual.”