Wednesday, April 9, 2014

F*** the Poor

The abrasive and shocking statement is just what the Savvas Panas was going for. The Pilion Trust is a London-based charity that works to help discriminated and socially-excluded people. Their CEO came up with an interesting social experiment. Faced with a nationwide donation decrease of 20% and governmental cuts of 60%, Savvas Panas thought to hire an actor to play the part of a street activist.

The actor wore a sign that read "fuck the poor". Multiple people stopped to voice their disgust. One person told the actor he "would become bitter inside." A police officer even stopped to tell him the sign was offensive. One man asked if it was a joke. But the point is that everyone paid attention to him. They read his sign and stopped to see what he was saying. They were outraged. They stopped to defend the poor and advocate for them.

When the actor flipped his sign over, it read "help the poor". No one stopped; no one took a pamphlet.  It's sad and it's frustrating, but I'm guilty of the same thing. When I see people on the street handing out pamphlets or looking to talk to people, I usually smile but try to avoid eye contact. I hate that I do that, but I do.

The Pilion Trust and Savvas Panas' point is that clearly people care about the poor to a point that they get extremely angry when someone is coldly disrespecting them. Panas argues that people need to care enough to give.

Savvas Panas came up with this idea in part out of his own interest in how people think. He knew people cared about those less fortunate, but he couldn't understand the disconnect between caring and not giving. In many ways he was influenced by Collins and Amabile's ideas on motivation. Panas' creative idea came out of his enjoyment and satisfaction he gets from his job and helping people. Like Collins and Amabile say, Pavas' creativity came from a desire for self-evaluation rather than evaluation from others. While he clearly wants more donations for his charity, his creative experiment was more about understanding for himself. He is very clearly intrinsically motivated.

Savvas Panas' idea is so creative in that he tries to shake up traditional donation techniques. He wants to market his charity and spread awareness, but overall he wants to understand people. He didn't understand how people could care so deeply about the poor without reaching out to help them. Savvas Panas' social experience taught me that those advocates on the street deserve attention. Stopping to hear what they have to say is not difficult, and really, how hard is that?

You can watch Pilion Trust's full video here.


  1. I think that is a really creative way to see people's attitudes about how the poor should be treated. It would be interesting to see how those who were upset would react were he to flip the sign and ask them to donate after they yelled at him. This strategy may be somewhat of a guilt trip though. I think the next step is to find a creative way that would enhance people's willingness to give money when put in that situation... or at least find out why they get outraged by the "f*** the poor" sign but still don't donate when the see the "help the poor" sign.

  2. This experiment was a unique way to force people to voice their opinions on the poor, and I applaud the Savvas Panas for coming up with it. Though the sign was a sneaky way to bring attention to the poor, it worked! This experiment proved that the public does, indeed care for the poor, or else there would not have been such an outrage at the sign. To be honest I too wondered what the disconnect between caring for the poor verses actually helping the poor was. It is good to know there are people out there that are passionate enough about helping the poor that they would voice their opinion to a complete stranger wearing a so called “offensive” sign.
    I am currently in a social work class and we recently learned that people are not educated about the poor and they tend to use the “blame the victim” mentality and do not see that it could be a bigger issue, something that is beyond a person’s control. After all, no one chooses to be poor.


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