Prosperity is a double edged sword when it is dispersed inequitably. Prosperity as defined by Dictionary.com relates to a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune. From the Middle English prosperite < Old French < Latin prosperitās. Inequity by its impact reduces the ability to thrive for some/many. Where I live, in one of the most prosperous jurisdictions in North America, more than 10 % of the population (about 130,000 people) live below our national Low Income Cut Off (LICO). While LICO is a better measure of wealth distribution than poverty it does serve as a range proxy. For the 130,000 the impact of inequity is poverty, social exclusion and an eroding hope. Not having enough to meet your expenses limits any consideration of flourishing. The good fortune of a prosperous condition is bound in opportunity and as margin to make decisions diminishes so does the opportunity.
For the past 60 years we have been attempting to ‘level the playing field’ using the principles of universality, equality and privacy but what if those are now barriers rather than solutions? What if we need to disregard the sacred 3 in favor of equity; the quality of being fair or impartial and ensuring that everyone is getting what they need rather than what everyone is getting. Some might receive a bit more (of whatever resource we are discussing) and others might only need a tiny amount to get over the hurdle and on their way. In the universal and equal allocation of resources waste is created and dis-empowerment happens. If a virtuous circle of equity is created we can all assume that when or if we are in need that the system will have resources to accommodate. By using assets differently we can begin to empower recipients to take charge and control of their own lives and circumstances rather than becoming beholding to outside authorities.
I have worked on poverty reduction for 15 years and realize that some of what we planned and executed was immediately useful but generally limiting. We had x resources so we divided them by the number of registered recipients and then gave them their share that in almost every case wasn’t enough. If we had courageously chosen to divide the resources differently; equitably some may have gotten double and some nothing. But if that meant that some got over a hurdle and on to a different path that meant they required less or nothing in the future, we may have moved the needle. Rather than poverty reduction maybe I should have been working on prosperity creation.
In an imperfect world, we do the best that we can today and if we are sincere we evaluate and acknowledge our shortcomings and adapt.
Make Today Remarkable, by practicing equity and adapting,