Monday, February 25, 2008

Poverty: What are the solutions?

Dear Colleagues

It is really a pleasure having Dr. Muhammad Yunus actively engaged in working on solving the problem of poverty. He is very well known among people active in the international relief and development community, but much less well known in the mainstream of corporate business and social life ... which is a great shame.

Dr. Yunus would like to see poverty relegated to being only in museums ... a place where future children can visit and see what poverty used to be like.

Dr. Yunus sees people as the solution ... sees people as assets that should have opportunity to work and progress. Like Dr. Deming, famous for his work on quality over a period of half a century or more, Dr. Yunus believes that the system is the problem more than the individual person.

This is similar to the conclusions of Tr-Ac-Net. Most poor places are not poor because the people do not work, they work hard and as a community, they do not progress. Something is wrong with the system. There has to be something wrong with the system when resource rich places are home to some of the poorest people on the planet ... and they remain poor even when the local resources are being exploited aggressively.

It appears therefore that the solution to poverty is a systemic solution ... and this is exactly how Dr. Yunus approached the problem starting some 30 plus years ago. To get to a systemic solution it appears that he tried many things, and let the successes develop and discarded the others. In 30 plus years the Grameen Bank has not left the village in search of more profit, merely grown in the village and in other villages in Bangladesh, and increasingly in other countries around the world to get more people who had access to credit and a path out of poverty and one important step towards more prosperity.

In the process Dr. Yunus has been very careful not to make the system worse. He has taken local culture into consideration, but not allowed local culture to be a constraint on the big goal of reducing poverty.

The Grameen approach to microcredit is a critical part of the solution ... it addresses a systemic problem of lack of financial services for the very poor. But Dr. Yunus and Grameen have not stopped with this single solution because more is needed. Every part of the "system" needs to function well, and Dr. Yunus is anxious that everyone, especially the youth, become part of the solution and work in some way to ensure that the system works and poverty is, in fact, and soon, relegated to being in museums.

Dr. Yunus makes one optimistic ... but there is work to be done.


Peter Burgess

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