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Why Live Below the Line Matters

Why Live Below the Line Matters

So I've been working on this campaign for two years now, and I wanted to write a note to touch on why I think Live Below the Line matters. 

It's a platform to engage meaningfully with extreme poverty.

Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Some 300 million children go to bed hungry every day.* We hear facts like these every day. So much so, that it's easy to feel disconnected from the issue, or that it's simply too overwhelming to do something about. No wonder we're hearing of "charity fatigue"!

Extreme poverty is such a big, global issue that for most people, it's impossible to connect with. Let alone actually understanding what it would be like to live without the basic needs we often take for granted. But Live Below the Line breaks it down a little. Eat on $2 a day for five days, and contribute to part of the solution? Sure, it's tough, but it's simpler and more tangible than having to solve the whole issue of poverty by yourself.

In a world with such far-reaching problems, Living Below the Line is a way for Australians to focus on their personal impact and engage with an issue that's sometimes too overwhelming to do something about.

The transformative experience.

That moment, on day 3, when you're struggling with bland lentils and the odd coffee withdrawals: it's tough. But at that moment, two things are happening that I think are pretty special.

I'm not going to pretend that when you Live Below the Line, you know what it means to live in extreme poverty. How could anyone understand that over five days! No, you don't get it completely, but for a few days, you can gain a small window into the restrictions that come with living below the line poverty line. The lack of taste, the difficulty socialising and an inability to concentrate, to name a few. Taking the challenge is an eye-opening experience - not the full picture - but a small insight into the challenges faced by 1.3 billion people in the world.

But at the same time as gaining a better understanding of the issue, there's a handy way for you to do something about it. By fundraising! Raising funds, whether small or large, provides a way for participants to make a direct impact on an issue they have spent a few days thinking and caring about. It's empowering, and real.

The Theory of Change.

A bit of not-for-profit speak here, but Theory of Change simply refers to how a campaign/organisation/individual believes they create social change. With extreme poverty, there is no silver bullet. There are complexities and problems that surround the issue that I have no idea about how to approach. While Live Below the Line is never going to be the single solution to this wicked problem, it does make a difference in two powerful ways.

The experiential nature of Live Below the Line makes it a great conversation starter, online and offline. The challenge is a really effective way to raise awareness about extreme poverty, without it being the usual facts, figures or intangible information. It's personal, as you're personally involved in the campaign! This type of awareness raising is important in Australia and across the world. It's never been harder for your cause/issue to achieve cut-through, but by bringing the issue to light in a personal way, it's more likely to stick.

Secondly, funds raised through Live Below the Line are truly helping to break the poverty cycle in an effective way: by supporting the Oaktree Foundation's overseas development in places like Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. I was lucky enough to travel to Cambodia last December and meet the local organisations and people on the ground that have benefited from funds raised through Live Below the Line. It was amazing to hear how we helped create the first ever year 8 class, and now have the opportunity to support years 9, 10, 11 and 12 over the coming years.

This dual approach inherent in Live Below the Line's Theory of Change as a real strength of the campaign, and something we should look to treasure and maximise over the next few years.

So they are the three major reasons why I think Live Below the Line matters! Congratulations if you've read down this far - I think I'll go back and edit this down a bit

Dan Lewis-Toakley led Live Below the Line in 2012 and 2013.