Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Can you donate people out of poverty?

On The Hour tonight one of the guests is Paul Polak, founder of IDE. He is leading advocate of what some people call Market Driven Development. The basic idea is that traditional charity efforts are doomed in part simply because they are based around giving things to needy people for free.
Polak and others argue that this creates dependency, devalues what is provided, and treats the poor as inherently inferior. On the other hand, charging people for goods and services invites them into an exchange with some degree of mutuality, draws on their own intelligence and ingenuity, and increases the overall quality of both the provision and application of relief.
Obviously this is somewhat controversial. The immediate reaction is something like: "How can you expect people who have nothing to pay for things they need to survive?". What we may not realize is that our reaction itself betrays an attitude and assumption about poverty that may not be fully true. People in the field are discovering that the poor often have great resources in many ways. Effective strategies are being developed that draw on the innovative capacity, diligence, and sense of community that have commonly been ignored or merely romanticized.
IDE, our partners at Medical Ministry International, and some others are finding that there are remarkable benefits to be found in these kinds of innovations.
I am fascinated by this. It has enormous appeal to the entrepreneurial spirit that the Catalyst founders share.

1 comment:

markpetersen said...

Thanks Chris. You inspired me today!!

I agree with Paul's approach completely. In constrast, church groups often do more harm than good through their well-meaning charitable intent.