The one question we need to ask in the fight against poverty
The struggle against poverty is global in scale. Annually, vast resources are deployed to help alleviate suffering for those who live in poverty.
There is also a lack of understanding about which interventions are most effective in fighting poverty. Funders don’t know where best to invest their resources, while individual poverty-fighting organizations must compete for limited funds. This climate is neither sustainable nor effective, especially for our under-resourced neighbors.
How do we reconcile the amount of resources devoted to fighting poverty with the lack of evidence about what works best at doing so? The Paris Peace Forum, by promoting effective global governance, can advance this critical agenda.
The solution to this problem is straightforward. The poverty-fighting community needs an accurate, cost-effective, and scalable means to discover what works. This solution must isolate impact and provide a way to ask the right questions. It must be a tool for understanding what really works.
That is what Slingshot Memphis, Inc. has developed with its Slingshot Universal Algorithm (SUA).
This is key to our methodology: asking what if not?
Since 2016, Slingshot has worked to reduce poverty by promoting a results-driven poverty-fighting ecosystem. We accomplish this by identifying which organizations have the evidence or potential to be most effective.
We are forging a data-driven roadmap, attracting and directing more resources toward solutions with the greatest impact — the change that a given program creates that could not occur otherwise.
This is key to our methodology: asking what if not? Answering this question requires that we move beyond outputs and outcomes and focus on counterfactuals. That is what the SUA accomplishes. It isolates that which actually fights poverty. This is what we want to share at the Paris Peace Forum.
We must promote a results-driven poverty-fighting ecosystem by going beyond outputs and outcomes and instead focusing on impact.
Of course, the SUA is not a silver bullet. There isn’t one. Slingshot continues to develop and test this tool. In the meantime, it is helping us achieve impressive results while reducing our margin of error.
Our work is inseparable from our community, Memphis, Tennessee, which faces a paradox: having been recently named as one of the most generous cities in America, Memphis continues to face some of the highest poverty rates in the country.
How do we reconcile such generosity with the persistence of crippling poverty? Are we not investing enough? Are we not investing effectively? Likely it is both.
Slingshot is inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., prominent leader of the civil rights movement and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Fifty-one years after his assassination, Dr. King’s call to fight injustice continues to ring true. His insights are crucial to understanding the scope of the problem and the nature of the solution. Poverty is both local and global. To better fight poverty, Slingshot requires local and global partnerships. This is where you are needed most.
We invite you to review the SUA and our methodology. Use it and help us make it better. Together, we can help promote a results-driven poverty-fighting ecosystem and, in Dr. King’s words, “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.”
When we identify what works, we must celebrate it. When we discover what isn’t working, or what could work better, we must collaborate on solutions. Over time, this will help improve the quality of life for countless people.
We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves and create more justice. We must do so faster and with more impact. This demands urgency, transparency, and an understanding of what our world will be if we don’t try.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Justin Miller, CEO of Slingshot Memphis
Justin joined Slingshot Memphis in September 2016 and currently serves as its CEO. Prior to launching Slingshot Memphis, Justin worked as a Giving Strategist, where he helped individuals, families, and businesses develop, target and maximize charitable investments. Preceding this work, Justin was a member of the Fixed Income Division at Morgan Keegan/Raymond James. Servicing financial institutions and municipalities, Justin specialized in developing portfolio strategies and executing trades in fixed income securities. Earlier in his career, Justin was an educator at St. George’s Independent School, where he served as Dean of Students, Associate Director of Counseling, Teacher, Coach and Chaplain. Justin holds a Master of Divinity from Emory University and a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Memphis.