Acton Institute's Poverty, Inc. doc named finalist for prestigious Templeton Freedom Award

Poverty inc

The West has positioned itself as the driving force of international development, giving rise to a vast, multi-billion dollar poverty industry. Yet the results have been mixed — catastrophic, in some cases — and leaders in the developing world are growing increasingly vocal in calling for change. Atlas Network partner Acton Institute, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., has been named one of six finalists for this year’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for its documentary film addressing this problem, Poverty, Inc.

“On issues of international development and foreign aid, our country is at a tipping point,” said Kris Mauren, executive director of Acton Institute. “While entrenched interests remain, mounting evidence is causing people of all political stripes to question whether their actions are really helping the poor. This is where Poverty, Inc. comes in. Operating under the conviction that thoughtful documentaries change culture, we designed Poverty, Inc. to spearhead a broad reconsideration of poverty that is nonpartisan but pro-market. Already we’ve seen strong evidence of success, including a big victory at the Anthem Film Festival, kind words from Michael Moore, and screening requests from NGOs around the world.”

Poverty, Inc. is changing the culture of aid. Drawing from more than 200 interviews filmed in 20 countries, this feature-length documentary unearths an uncomfortable side of charity that we can no longer ignore. By tracing paternalism from the colonial era to contemporary times, Poverty, Inc. helps viewers to abandon the tired paradigm of aid in favor of proven reform centered on free enterprise and human dignity. It makes a persuasive case that the most effective solutions to poverty lie in unleashing entrepreneurs to find new, innovative, and efficient ways to meet people’s needs.

Poverty, Inc. grapples with the neo-colonialism, the paternalism, the geopolitical big government/big business cronyism that characterizes so much of our modern day global poverty industry,” wrote Jonathan Witt, Acton Institute research fellow and lead writer for the PovertyCure initiative. “But in the end the film is about men and women breaking through all of the bad thinking and bad policy to make a positive difference in the communities they live and work in.”

Poverty, Inc. provides a comprehensive perspective on the issue, giving voice to charity workers, local micro-entrepreneurs, politicians, and leading development experts such as Paul Collier of Oxford University, Marcela Escobari of Harvard University’s Center for International Development, and Hernando de Soto of Atlas Network partner the Institute for Liberty and Democracy. This film is part of Acton Institute’s multi-year educational initiative, PovertyCure, which also includes a dedicated website, a group study curriculum, a mentorship program, and a “ReThink Missions” toolkit.

“This film is unlike anything else in Acton’s history, and we’re gratified by the impact it continues to make,” said Kris Mauren, executive director of Acton Institute.

Poverty, Inc., which covers topics such as international orphanages, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the 2010 Haiti earthquake, TOMS shoes, Bono, and U.S. agricultural subsidies, has already been screened on more than 100 occasions to nearly 10,000 people in 16 countries and 22 U.S. states. The film has earned official selection honors at nearly 40 domestic and international film festivals, collecting 12 awards in the process. And recently, it earned an endorsement from Michael Moore. “Once you watch it, you’ll never see poverty and the Third World the same again,” Moore noted. To find out how to organize a screening of Poverty, Inc. in your community, click here.

“At their best, think tanks are unafraid to think big and challenge the conventional wisdom,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “Acton Institute is doing this on the critical subject of how to uplift the poor, and this makes them a very deserving finalist for the Templeton Freedom Award.”

Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize and the runners-up will receive $5,000.

The 2015 Templeton Freedom Award finalists are:

What: Acton Institute’s Poverty, Inc. named one of six finalists for Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award

When: Nov. 12, 2015, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Liberty Forum and Freedom Dinner closing ceremony — Capitale, 130 Bowery, NYC (Bowery and Grand St.)

Press Contact: or (202) 449-8441

About Acton Institute
Acton Institute is based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Its mission is to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

About Atlas Network
Washington-based, Atlas Network is a nonprofit organization which strengthens the worldwide freedom movement by connecting 470 independent partners in 96 countries that share the vision of a free, prosperous, and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property, and free markets.