Knack alleviating poverty

More than one billion kids under the age of 15 live in poverty today, despite their inherent talent and potential for education and vocational success. These individuals are not only poor in the standard economic sense; they are also opportunity-poor.

Poverty is a structural barrier that dampens people’s likelihood of moving out of poverty. The experience of poverty makes economic hardship determine their future socioeconomic prospects. Scientific research shows that people facing scarcity are burdened by higher mental load compared to those who don’t face scarcity, and that that additional load depletes their mental resources and results in flawed responses and poor decision-making.

Research also shows that people facing scarcity tend to underperform their own true ability in standardized psychometric tests, a finding that amplifies the “trapping effect” of being poor on one’s future chances and outcomes in a market bent on using traditional and formal measures of talent and potential.

Data-driven research into poverty also shows that the absence of optimism and hopefulness about one’s future plays a large role in keeping people trapped in poverty; and that interventions that increase people’s level of hope can negate counter-productive habits and result in a whole range of productive behaviors that increase a person’s chance of success.

We envision a fundamentally different approach to solving poverty that plays to the increasing ubiquity of mobile phones to help people discover their own talent “assets” and signal their potential to the market. Helping people identify their “assets” will increase their sense of hope about the future, and can trigger a virtuous cycle of productive behaviors that increase their chance of success. At the same time, employers, schools, and credit providers should use Knack signals as a true measure of one potential and make data-driven decisions about skilling, hiring, micro-lending, and more.

We are committed to using our science and technology to break down sticky cycles of poverty, to create cycles of hope, and to increase intergenerational and socioeconomic mobility. In fact, we think that Knack’s mobile games, science, and technology present a most compelling opportunity to make unprecedented impact—reaching the most people at the lowest imaginable unit cost and removing structural barriers to moving out of poverty.

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Carlos belo da Silva, Favela Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo courtesy Jason Baffa.