Psychologists join forces to reduce poverty


 Professor Stuart Carr leads a
task force of organisational
psychologists working to
reduce poverty.

Psychologists commonly help individuals cope with personal and emotional problems. But they can also use their understanding of human behaviour altruistically to address humanitarian issues and the economic inequities underlying them, says Massey organisational psychology Professor Stuart Carr.

Professor Carr, at the University's School of Psychology in Albany, is co-leading a task force of 20 top-level industrial and organisational psychologists from high and low economies around the world to reduce poverty in developing countries. He has just returned from Britain, where he co-convened the inaugural meeting of the Global Task Force on Humanitarian Work Psychology at University College London. The task force grew from Professor Carr's his Poverty Research Group at Massey's Albany campus.

Organisational psychologists can help to reduce poverty whilst addressing climate change and sustainability, Professor Carr says, as well as advocating for better organisational and workplace practice to ensure justice, pay equity and decent working conditions. They can advise aid and development organisations on how to “harmonise” resources to avoid inefficiency, waste and fragmentation.

The task force aims to carry out a list of specific tasks over the next year, including working with a major global non-government organisation and initiating a study of what organisational practices enable greater efficiency and poverty reduction.

“We are a group of individuals with great ambitions to move organisational psychology to the next level in its evolution,” Professor Carr says. “We hope to usher in a new era of greater practical application of our expertise, with a focus on key issues like poverty reduction. Organisational psychology has largely been absent from the humanitarian arena - until now.”

Professor Carr and his colleagues first explored the idea of a Global Task Force a year ago to encourage more organisational psychologists to become involved in a global lobby group to help fulfil one of the United Nation's millennium development goals of halving poverty by 2015.

Professor Carr spent four years working at the University of Malawi before he came to Massey. He says the experience of witnessing firsthand the tragedy of children dying of preventable diseases such as malaria and malnutrition, or from lack of access to health care services, haunted him and strongly influenced his subsequent academic path.

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