What would you do if encountered a tiger? Not in zoo behind a fence, but in the wild in front of you? Chances are you would either run or freeze. Some might choose to fight. These are our natural ways to respond to a threat. Living in poverty is like looking a tiger in the eye every day, or often multiple times per day. Stress and trauma are omnipresent, taking up vital headspace and energy to navigate life. Coaching might offer those on low income another way of dealing with the tigers in their life and help to disrupt the cycle of poverty.
In this episode, we speak with Elisabeth Babcock, President and CEO of EMPath. EMPath is a nonprofit based in Boston in the US that aims to help its participants achieve economic independence using an approach called brain science-based mentoring. Using insights from behavioural, neurological, and social sciences, EMPath pioneered this new approach – also called mobility mentoring – in 2009. Through their network of partners, the approach has been adapted and is implemented in many countries around the world.
Beth shares how mobility mentoring works and how it is different from other social interventions. We also discuss the behavioural science underpinning EMPath’s approach – with Beth coining the tiger metaphor – and how it fits within the broader picture of structural barriers and injustice. Mobility mentoring can’t make the tigers go away, but it is focused on helping people to find better ways of responding to them. Evidence shows that punitive policies don’t work and simply add to people’s stress. Instead, individualised support, trust, and a change in mindset of the mentors themselves can a long way in breaking the vicious cycle.