In honor of today’s Blog Action Day on poverty, here is a background on poverty and how social marketing can be applied, as I saw broken down by Philip Kotler himself at the World Social Marketing Conference.

Additionally, join over 40 of DC’s influential changemakers at Buffalo Billiards at DC’s 1st Changeblogger meetup. We will recognize and commemorate Blog Action Day, connect with Alex Steed’s social change tour, mingle and share re: living and working for positive change.

What is poverty?

In researching the answer to this question, I couldn’t escape the purpose behind a campaign by the Association of Public Health Schools and the Pfizer Foundation recently created called “What is public health?” This campaign works to better brand ‘public health’ to the public, while also raising awareness, education and encouraging participation in the public health conversation. Participants are asked to put red “This is public health stickers” on items that they feel represent public health. My challenge: What would this look like if the question: “What is poverty?” was asked?

Early Solutions to Poverty

Kotler listed 4 early solutions to poverty: alms programs, workhouses for the poor, deficit financing and economic development. With these solutions, four major strategies reveal themselves to reduce poverty:

  • Economic Growth Strategy
  • Redistribution Strategy
  • Massive Foreign Aid
  • Population Control

As Kotler continued to outline, he stated the “Two Main Thrusts” used to alleviate poverty are population control (from contraceptive campaigns, to abortions, education of women, industrialization to passing laws restricting the number of children) and improving the support of povert-escaping behavior. This umbrellas micro finance and empowerment, education and health programs.

The Goal

As part of the Millennium Goals, the World Bank and the United Nations have 8 goals and 17 targets to alleviate poverty (Kotler). One goal is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by:

  • Cutting in half the proportion of people whose income is less than a $1 a day.
  • Halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Why Care?

Everyone hears we need to solve poverty, but my eyes were widened as to WHY we need to solve hunger. And, this goes beyond the humanity of reasons, but puts some more solid evidence to the issue. Kotler spoke of these 6 reasons:

  1. Sympathy and compassion about wasted lives.
  2. Poverty drives some poor people into crime and terrorism.
  3. Poor are more prone to health problems and spreading of disease.
  4. Poor are more likely to follow demogogues.
  5. Poor nations can collapse into “failed states” that cannot pay their foreign debt.
  6. The poor are an untapped trillion dollar market opportunity.

Why Social Marketing?

Kotler, along with social marketing expert Nancy Lee, both are literally writing the book answering this part of the poverty question. I personally can’t wait for the book to come out because I truly believe that social marketing provides the right tools for us to solve global issues such as poverty. In the presentation, Kotler identified a 6-part framework as to how social marketing can be applied to the poverty issue. However, in the book, a larger and more developed framework is offered, as well as further context of the issue.

So, back to the challenge. How would you answer this question: What is poverty?

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