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More than 1.6 billion people around the world rely on kerosene lamps as a source of light. Kerosene is a toxic fuel oil that can irritate the skin and adversely affect the central nervous system, contributing to the nearly 2 million premature deaths caused by indoor pollution related illnesses. Kerosene fuel also adversely impacts the environment. A recent report shows that 7-9 percent of the kerosene used in lamps is converted into black carbon, a powerful climate change pollutant, and that limiting the use of kerosene lamps could significantly mitigate the rise in global temperatures over the next 50 years.

MPOWERD, a social enterprise with a vision to eradicate energy poverty with clean energy solutions, develops and manufactures lightweight, inflatable, waterproof lanterns that are emission free. These lanterns are called Luci Lights. In 2013, MPOWERD teamed up with the GlobeScan Foundation to assess the social, economic and environmental impact of Luci Lights on hundreds of Haitian families (click to see the report and press release). The results were astounding. Life with Luci was cheaper, safer, healthier and more productive.

To see how the solar lanterns influenced the life of Haitians, use the interactive chart below:

These quantitative measures were supported by qualitative reports. When asked how the Luci Light had impacted the quality of his life, a 60 year old male said, “The kids study better, we can see when bugs come in and get rid of them now. It’s actually pleasant to be indoors at night because of the light,” and a 24 year old female said that the lanterns had “made [her] family’s environment healthier and safer.” When asked what he liked about the Luci Light, one male responded by saying “[I like] that it protects me and I save money. My clothes don’t get black stains [and] my house is safe from catching fire from candles and gas lamps.”

The collaboration between MPOWERD and GlobeScan shows how solar lanterns to provide economic growth, positive social impact and a sustainable lifestyle to those afflicted by energy poverty. But Luci Lights are not only for those in poverty. Results from GlobeScan’s 2013 Radar survey shows an average 4.8% increase in the purchase of energy efficient light bulbs since 2009, suggesting that consumers are trying to move toward more efficient sources of light. Through the Give Luci Light program, you can purchase a Luci Light for your home and provide a solar light for energy poor communities around the world. As a 20 year old surveyed male from the town of Mirebalais says, “Life is better with Luci."

In light of the recent global debate on the morality of mass surveillance programmes, GlobeScan has teamed up with the BBC World Service to ask over 17,000 people what their perspectives are on freedom and the right to privacy. In previous blog posts, we have used this data to show that Peru, Australia and Canada represent the freest democratic states (as indicated by our Perceived Freedom Index), and that an individual’s sense of freedom is not determined by socioeconomic or demographic variables such as social class or gender, but rather by national political structure.  We have also shown that perceived freedom of the media has dramatically declined since 2007 (59% to 40%). In this post, we explore another dimension that is related to the right to freedom of speech.

The right to free speech originally appeared in the first amendment of the United States Constitution in 1791. This sentiment, which has become a key dimension on which the efficacy of democratic governance is measured, has been echoed in the drafting of constitutional law for centuries since. In the fallout of the Second World War, member states of the United Nations included free speech as a central component of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Canadian equivalent, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, was signed into law by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982.

Data from the BBC World Service poll suggests that across the 17 surveyed countries, 75% of respondents report feeling free to discuss any issue in public. This finding suggests that the governance structures of these countries are generally ensuring that their citizens are able to speak freely. Further analyses reveal however, that this sense of freedom seems to be intimately tied to the degree to which an individual trusts their national government. Citizens that trust their government tend to feel liberated to speak their mind. Those who do not trust their government on the other hand, tend not to feel as liberated.

Social science literature suggests that institutional trust reflects the expectation of the institution to perform in a way that benefits society. Trust in national government is therefore the consequence (rather than the cause) of the government’s performance in the eyes of its citizens. Data from our 2014 GlobeScan Radar, a global research programme that tracks business and societal issues, shows a decline in citizen’s trust in national government since 2013 (see chart below).

But fret not for those who do not trust their government, as our analyses also show that the internet provides this group with the opportunity to engage in free speech. Differences between those with low levels of trust in their national government and those with high levels of trust disappear when self-expression is considered within the context of the internet. This data can be seen in the interactive chart below. 

 

The proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) legislation and the recent Edward Snowden revelations of mass surveillance have sparked a public debate over net neutrality and freedom of speech. With perceptions of free speech linked to governmental trust, and with this trust tenuous, it seems even more imperative that we work to secure the Internet as a space where citizens feel they can speak freely.

In public debates over environmental, economic and social issues around the world, some of the most important voices have yet to be heard: the voices of our youth. For over a century, Boys and Girls Clubs have been helping young Canadians discover, develop and achieve their best potential as they grow to become the nation’s adults, citizens and leaders. In 2013, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC) and GlobeScan joined forces to better understand global issues of concern to young Canadians, and what differences the future generation would make if given the chance.

This initiative, called “The World According to Us”, was an astounding success. Of the 3,000 Canadian children and youth surveyed, the environment (45%), violence, crime and war (35%), and the economy (32%) emerged as the top issues of concern.

The youngest cohort surveyed (between the ages of 8 and 12) believe that the environment is the most important issue facing the global society and said global warming and pollution worry them the most. When asked how they would solve these challenges, the children reported that they would raise awareness of the effect of global warming and pollution on people's and the planet’s well-being. They would raise awareness about the importance of green living; start initiatives that promote a reduction in both waste and pollution; institute new policies that align with environmental initiatives (e.g., Kyoto); enforce monetary penalties for corporate pollution; and re-invest capital toward renewable and alternative energy sources.

The middle cohort, between the ages of 13 and 17, believes the most pressing issue facing our global society is violence and war. When asked what measures they would take to stop war, Canadian teenagers said that providing help and guidance to those at risk of waging war, working together with other nations to find peaceful solutions, and implementing a stronger police presence in areas at risk for war will prevent and/or reduce the number of wars waged in this world.

The oldest cohort (between the ages of 18 and 24) is poised to become the nation’s leaders. This group believes that the strength of the economy is the most important issue facing our world, specifically with regards to the effect on poverty and unemployment. To tackle poverty, young adults believe in a more balanced distribution of wealth and that more effort should be allocated toward sharing resources between the rich and the poor. Young adults also believe that the government should invest in social security and job creation, that programs should be created to provide help and guidance to those affected by poverty and students should be educated about the social and economic effects of poverty in the classroom (see below chart). To tackle the unemployment rate, young adults believe that the government should modify public policy to encourage older workers to retire.

Findings from the survey also reveal that young Canadians who believe adults listen to their worries are more excited for the future believe they can make a difference in the world. These youth are inspired to help solve the problems facing the next generation.

International Youth Day was created by the United Nations to raise awareness of the issues that affect young people around the world. This year, be sure to let the youth in your life know that they are heard and that they can help make our tomorrow a better future for all of us.

Each year, donors around the world spend over US$200 billion in aid for emergency response and global development. They do this with the intention of improving the lives of individuals and communities suffering from abject poverty, food insecurity, poor health, violations of their human rights, violent conflict, or natural disaster. Yet despite the commendable efforts of the global community, there are still millions of people around the world that remain vulnerable.

In a recent blog called Managing Confirmation Bias in Stakeholder Engagement, I discussed how consultation with various stakeholder groups can inject energy into a corporate strategy and help members of the organization realize opportunities for growth. A similar approach can be applied to improve how developmental programs are crafted and monitored. The development of a tool by which we can authoritatively and regularly assess the views of the poor would allow us to co-innovate funding programs that align with the needs of the intended beneficiaries of developmental aid.

Born from the guiding values of the GlobeScan Foundation to Let Everyone Speak, the Survey of the Poor aims to let the poorest of the poor use their voice and be heard. Our goal is to help an often silent population tell their fellow countrymen and the international community what they need, what they want, and what interventions have made the largest impact on their lives. We have (and continue to) consult experts from various institutions around the world to help us with our instrument, and in order to make sure that we are not vulnerable to a narrow frame of mind before rolling out the project on a global scale, we have initiated an exploratory pilot phase of the project in India.

So, I packed my bag and travelled to India to conduct focus groups with the poor.

We traveled from the slums of New Delhi to the once prosperous and regal Kolkata, from the Jharkhand capital city of Ranchi to the remote and tribal village of Gumla. As a convoy of curious researchers, we travelled east to west along the Golden Quadrilateral Highway from one of the oldest inhabited cities, Patna, to the even more ancient city of Varanasi. We spoke to slum dwellers, tribal elders, activists, social workers, professors, economists, journalists and government councilors about the definition of poverty and the life of those that reside within its borders.

One of our biggest learnings when speaking to those working and living within impoverished communities is that the conceptualization of poverty is referential in nature, and very much dependent on what people believe it means to “be without”. A tribal woman from outside Kolkata, who was jailed for six months in retaliation for advocacy, spoke of poverty as the lack of understanding of basic human rights. A man who emerged from life in a slum outside of Ranchi spoke of poverty as an excess of shame and a lack of dignity. A young man who provides a free tutoring service in the rural villages outside of Patna, who himself had to forgo a proper education in order to provide for his family, spoke of poverty as a lack of access to high quality education. A former slum dwelling man from outside of Delhi spoke fervently of poverty as a lack of food, while a woman in the red corridor jungle spoke of poverty as a lack of nutrition. A man from Varanasi, who lost substantial wealth in a very short period of time, spoke of poverty as the lack of choice.

The breadth of views on the definition of poverty alone was overwhelming. The diversity of perspectives we encountered when discussing the lives of those living within its borders were even more so. It was an incredibly humbling experience.

Importantly, the conversations challenged the way we think about poverty and our approach to the design and implementation of the Survey of the Poor. Much like how consultation with key stakeholders can free an organization from a narrow (and often biased) thinking process, our consultation with some of India’s poor pushed us to reorient our thinking and develop a stronger, more relevant framework for the project. We have a better foundational understanding for the project and more importantly, realize how important the Survey of the Poor is to those who are vulnerable. We are empowered and inspired to maintain a dedicated and unwavering focus on the project.

Please enjoy some photos from my trip below, with our partners at Cvoter India. 

 

 

September 29, 2014

Why We Need a Hope Index

Whether it is the triumph of an underdog, the toppling of an oppressive force or the achievement of the seemingly impossible, stories of hope tug at our sentimental heartstrings and engender a sense of empowerment within our own lives. This feeling of empowerment is not purely superficial. Hope fundamentally alters our cognitive architecture to breed productivity and progress.

Just as the Consumer Confidence Index operates as a predictor of our economic future, the GlobeScan Foundation believes that hope can act as a predictor of progress and creative potential to overcome global society’s pressing challenges. It is with this belief that we are pleased to release the first Hope Index. The Index, which is based on perspectives from 12,000 citizens across the United States, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Pakistan, Nigeria, Russia, Poland, Panama, India, Turkey, Kenya and Indonesia, reflects the degree of hope that respondents have for our future. Our analyses reveal that Indonesia and Kenya are the most hopeful countries while the UK and the US are the least hopeful of the countries included this year (See the Press Release for topline findings, individual country index scores, and full methodology).

Individuals with a hopeful mindset are especially effective in reaching their desired goals in the face of adversity1. This success, which can permeate all facets of life, is attained by a willingness to learn2 and a proactive approach to conflict or problem resolution1. Within the psychological literature, hope is conceived to be composed of three primary components: the expectation for a bright future, the perceived self-efficacy to achieve that expected future, and the motivation to achieve the expected future1. Hope provides the pathway to an elevated self-esteem and ultimately, an elevated sense of well-being and confidence3.

Our index aligns with each of these factors. Indeed, respondents with high hope were more likely to report that our children and grandchildren will have a higher quality of life than we do today (“Expectation of a Bright Future” chart, 1st below), believe that humanity will find a way to overcome the challenges we face today (“Perceived Efficacy to Achieve a Bright Future” chart, 2nd below), and are doing their part to help solve humanity’s challenges (“Motivation to Achieve a Bright Future” chart, 3rd below).





Social science research has shown that in addition to creating a sense of well-being and confidence, hopeful thinking can buffer against the stress of future obstacles in life4. Hopeful thinking therefore not only decreases the chance of future negative outcomes by facilitating positive behaviour, but can also provide the psychological armour that is required to achieve progress in the face of adversity1. Environments that encourage the establishment and achievement of goals can therefore establish small pockets of hope. And the more pockets of hope, the more mentally prepared we are as a global society to overcome the environmental, economic and social challenges that we face.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously proclaimed that “[a]ll that is done in the world is done by Hope.” It is with this belief that we plan to continue measuring citizens’ hope around the world. We would like to hear how you react to our work and what things you would change about our current Hope Index. Please engage with us by leaving your commentary below.


References:

1 Synder, C. R., Feldman, D. B., Taylor, J. D., Schroeder, L. L. & Adams III, V. H. (2000). The roles of hopeful thinking in preventing problems and enhancing strengths. Applied & Preventative Psychology, 9, 249-270.

2 French, T.M. (1952). The Integration of behavior; Vol. 1. Basic postulates. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

3 Curry, L. A., & Snyder, C. R (2000). Hope takes the field: Mind matters in athletic performances. In C. R. Snyder (Ed.), Handbook of Hope: Theory, measures and applications (pp. 243-260). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

4 Snyder, C. R. & Pulvars, K. (2001). Dr. Seuss, the coping machine, and “Oh, the places you’ll go.” In Snyder, C. R (Eds.) Coping with stress: Effective people and processes. New York: Oxford University Press.