June 17: Thinking about Poverty as an Innovation Problem

Tomorrow, join a real-time conversation on re-imagining the social safety net. It’s a live “ask me anything” with Dr. Lenore Ealy. To participate, you must sign in to Polyplexus.com and go to the Discussion Tab of the Re-imagining the Social Safety Net as an Innovation Commons Incubator.

Sustainability scientist Ted Pavlic shares: In this incubator, we want to foster interdisciplinary conversation and ideation that culminate in research proposals that re-frame poverty as an innovation problem. Poverty is statistically defined as a shortage of income, whether on absolute or relative measures. The modern welfare state comprises programs of social insurance, income subsidies, and in-kind transfers of goods and services that were largely developed and have been managed in the context of addressing perceived market failures in the distribution of income.

The conventional welfare state solution to poverty has thus been a combination of redistribution and regulation aimed at redressing inefficiencies or inequalities, or a combination thereof. But what if poverty is thought of more as a symptom of an innovation problem — a problem of finding ways to better use knowledge, promote coordination, and foster exchange that helps those with low incomes more quickly find pathways to flourish? Can we imagine an innovation commons that can promote social and economic innovations to fuel human betterment and make poverty a temporary condition rather than a lifelong dependency? Our goal is to promote an interdisciplinary conversation that elicits research and development to radically change our approach to addressing poverty.