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The Economics and Psychology of Poverty

Linda Gibbs speaking at podium

Click here to view photos from the event.

Social Enterprise Leadership Forum:
The Economics and Psychology of Poverty

Presented By:

The Robin Hood Foundation

The Social Enterprise Program

Sponsored By:

The Laurie M Tisch Illumination Fund

For well over a century, economists, policymakers, and idealists have talked about an end to poverty. Yet hunger, destitution, and homelessness continue to afflict even the wealthiest communities, including New York City.

We find ourselves today, however, with many promising developments on the horizon. We are in the midst of what has been described as a social enterprise revolution: From mobile health to microfinance to new approaches to educating and training those born or living in poverty, there are innovative efforts afoot to bring us closer to actually ending poverty. At the same time, a new generation of researchers is applying the latest ideas and techniques from the social sciences to better understand why poverty has been so persistent. How does poverty shape the way individuals view the world, and make decisions? What are the particular challenges they face in managing their households and savings? What can we learn from recent developments in economics, psychology, and the emerging field of behavioral economics to help the poor manage their lives better?

In this half-day meeting, we will bring together leaders from a range of social service sectors to exchange ideas on how best to work together to bring an end to poverty. We will focus on themes relevant to organizations working in urban settings, guided by presentations from leading thinkers from academia and practice.

Friday, May 18, 2012
8:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Venue: Columbia University
Attendance at this forum is by invitation only.

8:00–8:25 a.m.
8:25–8:35 a.m.

Welcome and Introduction

Ray Fisman
Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise
Co-director, Social Enterprise Program
Columbia Business School

Laurie Tisch
Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund

8:35–9:35 a.m.

Keynote Presentation: "In Praise of Failure: The need for organizational experimentation"
See video.

Linda Gibbs
Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services
New York City

9:35–10:35 a.m.

Behaviorally informed anti-poverty programs
See video.

Dean Karlan
Professor of Economics
Yale University;
Innovations for Poverty Action
Download presentation.

Justine Zinkin ’02
Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners
Download presentation.

10:35–11:00 a.m.Coffee Break
11:00 –12:00 p.m.

Decision making under conditions of poverty
See video.

Sendhil Mullainathan

Professor of Economics
Harvard University;
Poverty Action Lab
Co-founder and Co-director
Download presentation.

Eldar Shafir
William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs
Princeton University
Co-founder and Co-director
Download presentation.

12:00–1:00 p.m.

Closing Keynote: "Research Meets Reality in Microfinance"
See video.

Diana Taylor ’80
Managing Director
Wolfensohn Fund Management

1:15–1:30 p.m.

Closing Remarks

Ray Fisman
Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise
Co-director, Social Enterprise Program
Columbia Business School

1:30–2:30 p.m.

Working lunch

Executive Directors who would like to attend future Social Enterprise Leadership Forums can contact:


2014 Social Enterprise Conference

Millennials Rising: What's Next for Sustainability?

When: October 31, 2014,
8:30 am-6:00pm

The Marriott Marquis
1535 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
Between 45th and 46th Streets
New York, NY 10036

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The annual Social Enterprise Conference at Columbia Business School brings together thought leaders from across private, nonprofit, public, and academic sectors to share best practices, debate critical issues, and collaborate on innovative concepts to inspire change. Through interactive sessions, keynote speakers, workshops, a pitch competition, and networking opportunities, the conference presents guests with the opportunity to partake in the most important business and societal conversation of this new era. For updates on speakers and sessions, please visit the conference website.

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