The October 2011 India launch of Academics Stand Against Poverty (ASAP) was one of six ASAP meetings staged in various countries over the past year, each designed to better mobilize the potential of area researchers, teachers, and students to effect positive change. In this essay, we discuss some specific contributions that can be made. The argument is mainly addressed to those researchers and teachers whose work focuses on aspects of poverty, but we believe that academics from virtually all disciplines can make distinct contributions.
We begin with some general remarks on reasons why academics should feel compelled to become more directly engaged—in both practical and political terms—in efforts to eradicate severe poverty. We then offer more specific examples of such engagement, including some existing intervention projects. We also respond to critics who say that “naive do-gooders” should not insert themselves into debates, that too much may be demanded of individual academics, or that duties to relatively poor compatriots should take priority over the needs of absolutely poor people elsewhere. The concerns raised by each criticism, we argue, are less compelling than the gains that could be realized through more direct engagement. We close by discussing in more detail the efforts of Academics Stand Against Poverty, especially how it seeks to help academics engage in the ways detailed in this essay. We also discuss the opportunities ASAP provides for the sharing of insight and expertise by those academics already taking their ideas to broader audiences, or who are advising government aid agencies or NGOs, corporations, or international agencies. Finally, we demonstrate ways in which such an organization can promote fruitful collaboration across existing academic associations and research centers focused on issues of global poverty.
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