Social psychology of Making Poverty History: Motivating anti-poverty action in Australia


Australian National University, Regulatory Institutions Network, Coombs Extension, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia,


The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) represent the first global, tractable effort to combat world poverty and preventable disease. The success of the MDGs, however, depends critically upon the support of the people who do not themselves experience the disadvantage: That is, the people and governments of developed countries. In this paper it is argued that the solution to combating poverty and preventable disease in developing nations lies in creating sufficient political will among people in developed countries such as Australia. The authors draw on social psychological insights to explore ways to inspire social and political action in support of the anti-poverty cause. Taking a social identity perspective, the role is reviewed of three key variables in promoting anti-poverty action: (a) the presence of meaningful social identities that prescribe action, (b) motivating group emotions, and (c) group efficacy beliefs. A method is described that crystallises these three elements to boost commitment to the anti-poverty cause. The paper concludes by arguing for the importance of meaningful group memberships in motivating social and political action to make poverty history for people in developing countries.