Arya Iranpour, is the Communications Officer for Trickle Up
Last week’s Cashless Conversations panel on the meaning of financial inclusion briefly touched on hope, a concept often overlooked and underrepresented, but nonetheless important in breaking the cycle of poverty and especially true when working with the poorest and most vulnerable. As Ester Duflo explains, we need to understand the incredible psychological strain the poorest face on a daily basis. They must forgo even the most basic of opportunities with potentially large benefits for fear of losing the little they already possess. They live on the margin, and make decisions based on the day-to-day rather than thinking of the long-term implications. Ms. Duflo goes on to show that if provided “…with the mental space to think about more than just scraping by” their mental health dramatically improves and the rates of depression are cut sharply.
Is that a good enough reason to work with those who live in conditions of ultrapoverty? As Trickle Up’s Jo Sanson suggests, though working with this population requires more effort from the development community (both in terms of resources, but also the true commitment to finding the poorest of the poor), when change does happen it tends to be more significant. And this change is not just seen in the metrics surrounding health, nutrition and starting viable businesses. “It might sound corny, but the importance of hope and motivation cannot be underestimated for people whose circumstances have long beaten down these attributes.”
So, when we talk about financial inclusion, hope shouldn’t get lost in the numbers. After all, having hope enables you to know where you want to go. It is the first step to planning how exactly you are going to get there, regardless of the money in your pocket.
The Economist, “Hope Springs a Trap” May 12th, 2012 http://www.economist.com/node/21554506
Sanson, Jo. “The Poverty Paradox,” Monthly Developments. September 2012 / Vol 30 / Issue 9 http://www.trickleup.org/media/publications/povertyparadox/The-Poverty-Paradox.cfm