Several years ago I read that if you aren’t working on a problem that can’t be solved in less than a hundred years, you aren’t working on a big enough problem.
Today there is one problem that is so big it is felt in every corner of the world. That problem is Inequality. Awareness of the impact of inequality on every aspect of our lives is growing and as a result an increasing number of people are working to solve some aspect of it either locally or on a global scale. The 2016 issue of TIME that listed The 100 Most Influential People included three inspiring vignettes about four people who are working to do just that.
Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is using her role as the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Advocate to lobby for economic empowerment. She has recognized the need of poor families in developing countries to have access to financial services to “lower their vulnerability and increase their opportunities.” TIME reported that when she first began working on financial inclusion, “more than half of working-age adults globally were excluded from the formal financial system.” She is using her considerable skills to reduce that statistic on the ground in rural villages and in the boardrooms of financial-standard-setting bodies.
Darren Walker was described by TIME as “The Equalizer” an apt title for this man, who as president of the Ford Foundation has adopted a radical goal for the organization: conquering Inequality. His passion for equalizing opportunity comes from experience: he was born in a charity hospital to a single mother. Elton John, who wrote the vignette about Walker said, “His life story gives us hope, and his life’s work is changing the language of philanthropy, from ‘them’ and ‘they’ to ‘us’ and ‘we.’”
While statistics on inequality differ on the percentage of the world’s income that goes to the top 1%, the fact the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is an undeniable fact. It is also clear that some of that 1% are using their financial resources to make a substantial difference in the world.
The coverage on Priscilla Chan and her husband Mark Zuckerberg in the TIME 100 issue said that they “care deeply about fixing the inequities they see in the world.” To that end they created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and have committed 99% of their wealth to doing that by “taking on challenges like improving education, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.”
Ending Inequality is a battle we are all in together. Only a few of us will ever have the resources or positions of power for tackling the aspects of the problem that Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg, Queen Maxima and Darren Walker have taken on, but all of us can find some way to work on eliminating some aspect of Inequality. Our next column will highlight some of the work the rest of us are doing. In the meantime, ask yourself, “Am I working on a big enough problem?” If not, what aspect of Inequality would you like to tackle?