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Psychologist leads global task force on poverty

Monday, September 22, 2008
Psychologist leads global task force to tackle poverty

Psychologists throughout the world have responded to an initiative by a Massey academic who wants organisational psychologists to do more to combat poverty.

Professor Stuart Carr, based at the School of Psychology in Åuckland, launched a global task force earlier this year to encourage organisational psychologists worldwide to become involved in a United Nations lobby group. One of the UN's millennium development goals is to halve human poverty by 2015.

Professor Carr (pictured) says the group has become truly international, with representatives from low- and high-income economies, diverse cultures and regions of the globe. “Our argument is that organisational psychology can incorporate both a humanistic dimension and promote greater effectiveness and efficiency in a range of approaches designed to tackle poverty – from direct foreign investment to business partnerships and community,” he says.

Although poverty reduction tactics commonly revolve around economic development to overcome material deprivation, he says organisational and industrial psychologists have an important role to play in working with aid organisations by highlighting human factors that determine how effectively they reduce poverty.

The global taskforce would bring the benefits of work/industrial/organisational psychology to bear on the reduction of human poverty, by “playing a key role in the consultation, design, delivery and evaluation of international aid”, he says in a paper on the venture shortly to be published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour.

Psychologists can also assist in strengthening partnerships on which aid development depends as well as providing “essential human services to health, education and industry”.

Organisational psychologists’ contribution to poverty reduction could include ensuring “harmonisation” between donor agencies and “alignment” of agencies with local priorities.

The taskforce, which includes members from Uganda, the United States, Italy, Hong Kong, Ireland and New Zealand, arose from the Poverty Resarch Group Professor Carr founded in 2006. The group's multi-disciplinary team collaborates with leading researchers and policy analysts worldwide to help make a difference in human development and social justice. The group has researched issues such as the impact of salary discrepancies between aid workers from developed nations and those of the donor country they work with.

Prior to coming to Massey, Professor Carr spent four years working at the University of Malaŵi. He says the experience of witnessing first-hand the tragedy of children dying of preventable diseases such as malaria, or from and lack of access to health care services, haunted him and strongly influenced his subsequent academic focus.

To harness support for the taskforce, Professor Carr is co-editing a Global Special Issue on Psychology and Poverty Reduction, incorporating contributions from 11 international psychology journals on the shared theme of the relationship between psychology and poverty reduction, to be published in 2010.

See link: Poverty Research Group (


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