One of my assignments for my Poverty in the Global Economy course was to take some sort of action, at the end of the course, to effect change in the global economy. The goal was to show that local initiative can, indeed, have global impact. I basically made the assignment up, because the master syllabus was all pretty theoretical, and I really felt that students needed to be able to answer, at least in part, the ‘so what now?’ question that, for me, follows any presentation about the often-disastrous consequences of our current economic order. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, though, so I was really excited by what they came up with.
All of the projects were fairly different, and all reflected pretty well the students’ own interests and aptitudes. Some of the highlights: a bilingual student helped some immigrant acquaintances who had been recently laid off access food and other emergency assistance and talked with them about the origins of the current economic downturn; an economic-minded and fairly conservative student read an article from a prominent conservative-leaning publication and crafted a response based on what he had learned in class, that pointed out some of the fallacies in the author’s arguments; a student who works with young children created a lesson plan about global poverty designed for preschoolers and helped them raise money for a global anti-poverty organization; a student interested in urban poverty screened “Slumdog Millionaire” for a small group and then led a discussion about the realities of urban poverty in the developing world; another student made a loan through Kiva to an aspiring entrepreneur in Bangladesh; one volunteered with a community garden program that serves refugees.
It was pretty awesome, really, to see how students could scan their own environments and their own resources to find tangible ways to make changes that support the pursuit of global justice. It was inspiring to see that they could look past the apparent intractability of global poverty to find solace and hope in their only authentic sources–work effort and solidarity. And it was exciting to see how academics can be used as a part of a strategy for social change, planting seeds of praxis that will, hopefully, continue to bear fruit.