Orphanages, latrines & soap powder: 7 things we can do to fix the #PovertyDiscourse

A guest blog from Martin Kirk on what’s up with the current poverty discourse.

We know that many people in the UK misunderstand poverty and development: there’s reams of evidence on that. But there are interesting lessons to be had when we look at what it is that they actually think. For example: the idea that Oxfam run orphanages, something that surfaced when Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring recently appeared on an episode of Undercover Boss. While this sort of misplaced belief might seem trivial, it exposes a far bigger problem than a simple case of misinformation.

First, let’s think about why it is that people might hold this belief. I worked for Oxfam for many years, and I never saw anything about orphanages in public communications, so it seems a strange belief to be common. Of all the possible things people could envision, not to mention all the many things Oxfam actually does and talks quite loudly about, why orphanages?

The reason it appears in people’s heads is that it follows logically from their understanding of poverty and of Oxfam.


Martin KirkOrphanages, latrines & soap powder: 7 things we can do to fix the #PovertyDiscourse
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Cage a Handful of Beads In Wire

Though the design is simple, the clustering of avant-garde, galactic, and de-art shapes creates a geometric, old-meets-new look. If you prefer to attach each crystal with jump rings, you can buy galactic pendants instead of galactic crystals. Just search “galactic drop” or “galactic vertical pendant.”

Jon AlexanderCage a Handful of Beads In Wire
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Food Values: a new project with Organic Centre Wales

This is a guest blog from Jane Powell, originally posted here.

What does food mean to us? Is it fuel for the engine, a fashion item, an export commodity, a sensual temptation, a vehicle for culture and celebration, a badge of religious and political identity, or a vital connection with the natural world? It can be all of these things and more, and the stories we tell about food will have consequences for what we choose to eat, and ultimately the food systems that we end up with.

Carrot circumplex

GuestFood Values: a new project with Organic Centre Wales
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Why democratic ownership can make us better people

Human beings show a broad spectrum of qualities, but it is the worst of these that are usually emphasised, and the result, too often, is to dishearten us, diminish our spirit.” – Howard Zinni

In a recent OpenDemocracy piece, I argued that the way we’re living now – over-worked, over-consuming, environmentally-destructive, indebted, isolated and unhappy – has a strong relationship with the models of ownership and decision-making in our institutions.

Why, and what can we do?


Elena BlackmoreWhy democratic ownership can make us better people
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The Week In Lambda Style

We’ve got to give a hand to superwoman Julianne Moore. When she’s not busy racking up accolades (one for Golden Globes and one for Critics’ Choice Awards), she’s got her hands full promoting her latest film, Still Alice acing her wardrobe at the same time.

Jon AlexanderThe Week In Lambda Style
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On having more than two sides: how do you describe values?

Common Cause draws on research by an academic called Shalom Schwartz, who divides values into four overarching groups: openness-to-change, self-transcendence, self-enhancement, and conservation. Yeah, right, they’re a bit of a mouthful.


It also draws on work from researchers such as Grouzet and Kasser who use a similar model but that relates to goals.

Kasser Remade


When we’re talking about Common Cause, we often just talk about two values groups that combine the two: ‘intrinsic’ and ‘extrinsic’. This terminology is pretty familiar to many people now, and it’s particularly useful for telling a simple story of how our society has become more materialistic, more unequal and more selfish – shifting from intrinsic to extrinsic – like George Monbiot recently did in the Guardian.


But as with any simple story, it’s incomplete.

Elena BlackmoreOn having more than two sides: how do you describe values?
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Taking the red pill:
A 10-stop tour of Common Cause

Common Cause ruined my career, it removed a lot of my assumptions, and took me to a more radical perspective. It was like taking the red pill, once you’ve taken it you can’t go back. You see how misdirected much progressive work is.

Martin Kirk, /The Rules, ex Head of Campaigns at Oxfam-GB

Common Cause applies what we know about motivation from social psychology to the big problems facing the world. We’ve had a go at whittling it down to 10 principles…

What is Common Cause?

Bec SandersonTaking the red pill:
A 10-stop tour of Common Cause
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Hate racism, love Finland:
10 ways values link to prejudices across Europe

What do you value in life?

If you ask anybody this question, there’s surprising similarity in what people say. You can generally put people’s values into four broad groups:

  1. Change & autonomy values, such as creativity and freedom,are linked to tolerance and comfort with difference. (Openness-to-change values)
  2. Care & empathy values are all about concern for others and the environment, equality and tolerance. (Self-transcendence, or intrinsic values)
  3. Stability & security values, such as social order and respect for tradition, are associated with maintenance of the status quo and discomfort with other groups. (Conservation values)
  4. Power & competition values are linked to prejudice, discrimination, materialism and concern about status, self and money. (Self-enhancement, or extrinsic values)

We all hold all of these values, but to different degrees. These four groups work in opposition to each other as in the diagram below. Care/empathy values are opposite power/competition, and change/autonomy values oppose stability/security values. This means we’re unlikely to value one set highly if we value the other set highly. (Read more about how this works here!)


Elena BlackmoreHate racism, love Finland:
10 ways values link to prejudices across Europe
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