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Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail

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Based on his 25 years of experience, Polak explodes what he calls the "Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths": that we can donate people out of poverty, that national economic growth will end poverty, and that Big Business, operating as it does now, will end poverty. Polak shows that programs based on these ideas have utterly failed--in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa poverty Based on his 25 years of experience, Polak explodes what he calls the "Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths": that we can donate people out of poverty, that national economic growth will end poverty, and that Big Business, operating as it does now, will end poverty. Polak shows that programs based on these ideas have utterly failed--in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa poverty rates have actually gone up.These failed top-down efforts contrast sharply with the grassroots approach Polak and IDE have championed: helping the dollar-a-day poor earn more money through their own efforts. Amazingly enough, unexploited market opportunities do exist for the desperately poor. Polak describes how he and others have identified these opportunities and have developed innovative, low-cost tools that have helped in lifting 17 million people out of poverty.


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Based on his 25 years of experience, Polak explodes what he calls the "Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths": that we can donate people out of poverty, that national economic growth will end poverty, and that Big Business, operating as it does now, will end poverty. Polak shows that programs based on these ideas have utterly failed--in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa poverty Based on his 25 years of experience, Polak explodes what he calls the "Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths": that we can donate people out of poverty, that national economic growth will end poverty, and that Big Business, operating as it does now, will end poverty. Polak shows that programs based on these ideas have utterly failed--in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa poverty rates have actually gone up.These failed top-down efforts contrast sharply with the grassroots approach Polak and IDE have championed: helping the dollar-a-day poor earn more money through their own efforts. Amazingly enough, unexploited market opportunities do exist for the desperately poor. Polak describes how he and others have identified these opportunities and have developed innovative, low-cost tools that have helped in lifting 17 million people out of poverty.

30 review for Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nathaniel

    “Out of Poverty” is a workshop; it’s an evangelical seminar and an infomercial. It’s subdivided ruthlessly. It’s full of lists. It’s incredibly repetitive. There is absolutely no way to read it at an academic remove because Paul Polak is beating his readers over the head with the urgent simplicity of his thinking and with the exasperation of a pragmatist who is regularly accused of idealism. Polak wants to encourage a modest paradigm shift in development. He’s convinced that donations will not a “Out of Poverty” is a workshop; it’s an evangelical seminar and an infomercial. It’s subdivided ruthlessly. It’s full of lists. It’s incredibly repetitive. There is absolutely no way to read it at an academic remove because Paul Polak is beating his readers over the head with the urgent simplicity of his thinking and with the exasperation of a pragmatist who is regularly accused of idealism. Polak wants to encourage a modest paradigm shift in development. He’s convinced that donations will not alleviate poverty; that a country’s economic growth will not necessarily help the poor and that big businesses cannot be trusted to do so either. He champions design for the other 90%--the increasingly popular effort to engineer products for the billions of people making do with about $1 a day. And he is a powerful advocate of small-scale thinking: the one-acre farm is great: grow pumpkins on your roof and a raspberry patch! He wants to create wafer thin profit margins; but to spread those margins across a billion people. Why not? Polak is giving it away. “Out of Poverty” repeatedly challenges entrepreneurs to take his ideas and to profit by them. Why isn’t anyone making cheap eye glasses like he proposes? How about his treadle pumps and low-cost drip irrigation systems? Or his lockers for homeless people? He’s convincing. Whenever my own professional work overlaps with what he discusses, I’ll pick up his book and make sure I’m paying attention to his advice. Others in the development community will do their jobs better if they do the same—especially those people involved in agriculture and subsistence farming. And if you are far removed from the developing world and from development work in general, this is still a useful book for orienting yourself in such matters. Polak makes sure that his readers all know what he would like for them to do upon completing “Out of Poverty.” Such clarity of purpose makes for a rather graceless and pushy book; but the man’s got rock solid ideas.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christina Brady

    The author has interesting ideas about how to get out of poverty. However, he is incredibly redundant and the only support that he has for his theory is his own NGO and their experiences. It provides a different way of approaching poverty elimination, but it comes across as propaganda for his own NGO. The redundancy and only citing his own org and its work cast doubt about his techniques.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Stan Lee

    Paul Polak makes his argument for ending poverty through empowering the impoverished to increase their income. While the book at times reads like an ad for IDE, the organization he founded, it's insights into poverty gained through direct observation and interaction makes this book a great read. Polak is not shy of criticizing the work of development firms nor any large establishment. He advocates for a purely private market solution to end poverty. The book follows the structure of an individua Paul Polak makes his argument for ending poverty through empowering the impoverished to increase their income. While the book at times reads like an ad for IDE, the organization he founded, it's insights into poverty gained through direct observation and interaction makes this book a great read. Polak is not shy of criticizing the work of development firms nor any large establishment. He advocates for a purely private market solution to end poverty. The book follows the structure of an individual's story interjected with Polak's commentary.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    Paul Polak is brilliant. His philosophy is simple about how to help most of the world out of poverty - and proven. He's helped 17 million people move out of extreme poverty with his ideas and intervention. That's ONE man. He's like Norman Borlaug - one of the most effective humanitarians in modern time and yet almost completely unknown. The world will ultimately be saved by people with great ideas, effectively applied. Paul Polak is one of those people. Paul Polak is brilliant. His philosophy is simple about how to help most of the world out of poverty - and proven. He's helped 17 million people move out of extreme poverty with his ideas and intervention. That's ONE man. He's like Norman Borlaug - one of the most effective humanitarians in modern time and yet almost completely unknown. The world will ultimately be saved by people with great ideas, effectively applied. Paul Polak is one of those people.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell

    This book focuses on one very specific idea, which is that rural people living on less than a dollar a day should use low-cost drip irrigation to grow labor intensive produce out of season. According to Polak, if we can just help them get started with that, all the problems associated with poverty will solve themselves.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bojan Tunguz

    I am not really someone who gets excited about books on poverty, poverty alleviation, and “social” work in general. Not out of callousness or unconcern with those affected by these issues. I just find most writing on this subject very intellectually shallow, and filled with do-good rhetoric without any concrete realizable effects. In fact, the total lack of success of all well-meaning and over bloated poverty reduction programs, both in the West and the Third World, have made me a bit cynical ab I am not really someone who gets excited about books on poverty, poverty alleviation, and “social” work in general. Not out of callousness or unconcern with those affected by these issues. I just find most writing on this subject very intellectually shallow, and filled with do-good rhetoric without any concrete realizable effects. In fact, the total lack of success of all well-meaning and over bloated poverty reduction programs, both in the West and the Third World, have made me a bit cynical about the prospects of investing any measure of intellectual effort into trying to understand these problems and appreciate the solutions that really work. So with all that in mind, I was quite amazed with how interesting, educational and inspiring “Out of Poverty” turned out to be. There are two main features of the book “Out of Poverty” that make it stand out compared to all the other poverty and poverty relief accounts that I’ve come across. The first one is that this is a very hands-on down-to-earth approach to understanding and working with poor people. The author is not a first-world think tank wonk who spends most of his time immersed in the library of some ivory tower institution. He spent a considerable amount of time talking to, and most importantly listening to poor people from around the world. Every page of this book exudes the sense of trust that people who are most affected by poverty are the ones who understand their predicament the best and are able to provide the best insight for the possible solutions to their problems. Which brings me to the second distinguishing feature of this book: its unwavering belief in the enterprising spirit of every human being. There is no stronger antidote to the patronizing cynicism that permeates thinking and discussion of the global poverty than reading this book. The author gives examples, in page after page, of the ingenuity and willingness to try new things exhibited by the small farm owners from all corners of the world. This is a welcome and refreshing alternative to the often bleak outlook that many of the World organizations and institutions often exhibit when it comes to actually believing in ability of the poor to uplift themselves out of poverty by the dint of their own efforts. The book is not without its shortcomings. It feels repetitive and overly focused on just a few topics and products that the author is intimately familiar with (treadle pumps and drip irrigation). There are a few attempts to extend insights from these very successful programs to dealing with poverty in other settings, but they seem naive and not well thought out. (Most of the poorest of the poor in the West have some social and psychological issues that would make them inadequate candidates for an enterprising approach to wealth creation.) Nonetheless, I still think that the insights gleaned from this book are very valuable and an important step in the right direction even for those situations.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Juan Pablo

    I found this book irritating. Not only the lack of solid numbers or peer reviews to back his claims, that he uses anecdotal evidence or numbers obtained through his own NGO, but the fact that it completely ignores how making some poor farmers better off that others in their communities through market practices might, at first, throw awesome results but at the end might just cause more inequalities and tensions in their original communities. That today it’s been proven that not only poverty (or l I found this book irritating. Not only the lack of solid numbers or peer reviews to back his claims, that he uses anecdotal evidence or numbers obtained through his own NGO, but the fact that it completely ignores how making some poor farmers better off that others in their communities through market practices might, at first, throw awesome results but at the end might just cause more inequalities and tensions in their original communities. That today it’s been proven that not only poverty (or lack of wealth generation) is the problem, but also the inequalities that have risen in market economies. That when one successful person begins accumulating more it makes it harder for others to succeed. That “free” markets don’t exist and that there is no evidence whatsoever that they can exist or that a “free” market will create perfect and fair competition. What we DO have is evidence that highly competitive and highly un equal societies also tend to be more violent and criminal (the numbers are extensive). The author,s approach might work if it involved WHOLE communities and comunal profits instead of working with few private owners. It also doesn’t mention what happens with the ones that don’t own land in the first place. His approach might at first look good, but I’m sure in the long run it will end with the same problems that inequalities have caused in other countries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Based on writing ability alone, this book would rate three stars, maybe two and 1/2. It's difficult to get through at times because of how many, many times Polak repeats himself. Sure, perhaps he is really trying to drive a point home - but perhaps he should take for granted that he drove that point home when he mentioned it 5 times ago and he can now mention something without re-iterating every detail. That aside, this book is very informative, compelling, and provides some definitely controvers Based on writing ability alone, this book would rate three stars, maybe two and 1/2. It's difficult to get through at times because of how many, many times Polak repeats himself. Sure, perhaps he is really trying to drive a point home - but perhaps he should take for granted that he drove that point home when he mentioned it 5 times ago and he can now mention something without re-iterating every detail. That aside, this book is very informative, compelling, and provides some definitely controversial (to some) opinions that are certainly worth considering.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Robert Irish

    I really like this book conceptually--he's talking about important ideas, even 13 years after publication. As a book, I found it kind of repetitive, and his tone is more than a little self-righteous, which is annoying (especially because he seems to be right). It fits in with a few other books of this ilk: it is in direct opposition to Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty because Sachs promotes the need for aid. It is more akin to Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Fai I really like this book conceptually--he's talking about important ideas, even 13 years after publication. As a book, I found it kind of repetitive, and his tone is more than a little self-righteous, which is annoying (especially because he seems to be right). It fits in with a few other books of this ilk: it is in direct opposition to Jeffrey Sachs' The End of Poverty because Sachs promotes the need for aid. It is more akin to Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It and Dhambisa Moyo's Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. All three of those people are economists with experience at World Bank or IMF. Polak, on the other hand, is a doctor turned entrepreneur. What is unique about Polak's book is that he is focused on--one might even say obsessed with--the farmer who has only one or two acres on which to farm. He is looking for solutions that will work at that scale to bring those millions and millions out of poverty by tools and techniques that they can afford and can understand. So, not "aid." One of Polak's "myths" to bust is "you can donate people out of poverty." He looks at the history of "Aid" and its dismal track record of actually making a difference in the lives of people and then looks at the solutions that come from a $25 treadle pump or a $20 drip irrigation system, and some training in how to market one's produce. The results he reports (undoubtedly cherry-picked) show an impressive success. There's also something profoundly sensible in saying that he starts by speaking to the people he's aiming to work with on their one and two-acre plots, rather than those who are "trained" in such things as crop irrigation (who are inevitably trained in the US where the average farm is >400 acres or Europe where the farms are >60 acres) and cannot even see the small farms that make up most of the farm land in Africa, India, and China. His company, D-Rev is one I've been hearing about for a while, so I know it has a track record of innovation within the budget of extreme affordability.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ann Mclaughlin

    I found Paul's book, Out of Poverty, to be one of the most inspiring and important books that I have read in international development in years. I direct NGOabroad: International Careers & Volunteering (http://ngoabroad.com/) so send skilled volunteers to Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the MENA region ... and do career counseling to help people enter international development work. In this way, I have had my hand in international development for the last 20 years. What others saw as I found Paul's book, Out of Poverty, to be one of the most inspiring and important books that I have read in international development in years. I direct NGOabroad: International Careers & Volunteering (http://ngoabroad.com/) so send skilled volunteers to Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the MENA region ... and do career counseling to help people enter international development work. In this way, I have had my hand in international development for the last 20 years. What others saw as redundant or simplistic, I saw as instructive. I see far too many books that are academic or talk about issues, without proposing a solution. I found it refreshing that Paul placed so much emphasis on HOW his approach evolved and how they do things so that others can follow in their tracks. Thus, I believe the lists are very helpful in a practical way. Part of why I am so impressed is that I have seen other approaches fail. I was impressed both with Paul's humanity/ compassion... the way he does things as an equal, respectful partner in empowering "one acre farmers".... and his incredible problem solving ability... his inventiveness. Paul reminds me of Paul Farmer who is also really willing to wade out into the world, and listen carefully to what is going on in people's lives. From that listening, Paul Polak developed the interventions and later the innovations. I was surprised to read the reviews that had such a different opinion, but for me, this was a fascinating, well written book.

  11. 5 out of 5

    CTEP

    Inspired by a recent field trip to the Walker exhibit Design for the other 90% (in the sculpture garden, it’s free), I read Out of Poverty: What works when traditional approaches fail. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve read about international development and it went down smoothly. It’s not too academic and the author has over 25 years of experience in designing and marketing products for international development so there are many personal stories from the field. Polak doesn’t hold back wh Inspired by a recent field trip to the Walker exhibit Design for the other 90% (in the sculpture garden, it’s free), I read Out of Poverty: What works when traditional approaches fail. This is the first non-fiction book I’ve read about international development and it went down smoothly. It’s not too academic and the author has over 25 years of experience in designing and marketing products for international development so there are many personal stories from the field. Polak doesn’t hold back when he criticizes today’s non-profit management and provides a very (and likely successful) business approach to non-government organizations. The book is so repetitive that chapters could probably be read separately and you’d get the point. Out of Poverty is directly related to working with the Design Team at the science museum because we regularly use the design process (Polak has outlined a design process called practical design for the other 90%) and think of design as a way to help other people. The book is also related to the CTEP AmeriCorps experience because technology literacy is a part of coming out of poverty in overdeveloped countries. While Polak’s work deals mostly with rural, international, poverty, his method is applicable to poverty at any level in any setting. I would suggest reading it at least until statistics and stories about dollar-a-day one-acre farmers bores you. But more than that I would suggest seeing Paul Polak’s work with International Development Enterprises at the Walker exhibit.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Merrill Clark

    I could read anti-poverty books all day. Lots of great ideas. The author started the IDE organization. IDE believes in bottom-up economics, help the small farmer with an acre or less, rather than top-down, massive payments to governments and NGOs and rather than help the larger farmer. The author does not like government handouts and makes a good case for cutting them down/out. I remember being in Uganda for two weeks and seeing the many white UN Range Rovers amidst the Uganda poverty. The auth I could read anti-poverty books all day. Lots of great ideas. The author started the IDE organization. IDE believes in bottom-up economics, help the small farmer with an acre or less, rather than top-down, massive payments to governments and NGOs and rather than help the larger farmer. The author does not like government handouts and makes a good case for cutting them down/out. I remember being in Uganda for two weeks and seeing the many white UN Range Rovers amidst the Uganda poverty. The author repeatedly repeats himself, as I just did, with his solutions. IDE has propagated the inexpensive "treadle" pump, accessing water at will and "drip" irrigation, slowly irrigating crops. The author also encourages knowing the local market, what is selling and for how much and encouraging through drip irrigation the sale of out of season products at higher prices. And the author encourages talking to poor people, to see what motivates and concerns them. As I write this, the thought comes to mind that the author makes a good case for "counciling" among the many players to solve the problems of the world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nanette

    This book is inspiring, but objectively the book could be written better. I wished the examples are more diverse, rather than hyper-specific and over-elaborated examples on treadle pumps and small-plot farming. Still, I would refer to the book again to gain the high level principles.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katelyn

    Fairly easy read - doesn't feel like a textbook. I wish there was a newer edition of this book as some of the information is 10+ years old. Big plus-> some humor thrown in to keep the reader interested. Fairly easy read - doesn't feel like a textbook. I wish there was a newer edition of this book as some of the information is 10+ years old. Big plus-> some humor thrown in to keep the reader interested.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    Somewhat interesting but super repetitive. The only thing he argues for is that there are economic opportunities to cater to those in poverty. He also doesn't seem to have many positive examples outside of his own company. Somewhat interesting but super repetitive. The only thing he argues for is that there are economic opportunities to cater to those in poverty. He also doesn't seem to have many positive examples outside of his own company.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I found myself constantly wondering if this book actually had an editor because the repetition of ideas, anecdotes, etc. was wild.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kim Van

    Interesting book and view but a lot of repetition in the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rohan Monteiro

    very practical solutions to dealing with poverty

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mal Warwick

    A brilliant rural development specialist shares his ideas for ending poverty in the world Paul Polak is an extraordinary man. A Czech Holocaust refugee as a child and a practicing psychiatrist throughout the 1960s and 70s, Dr. Polak turned his attention to the challenge of ending global poverty in 1981. In that year, he founded the International Development Enterprises (IDE), a Colorado-based nonprofit organization distinguished by its successful launch of the treadle pump that enables farmers to A brilliant rural development specialist shares his ideas for ending poverty in the world Paul Polak is an extraordinary man. A Czech Holocaust refugee as a child and a practicing psychiatrist throughout the 1960s and 70s, Dr. Polak turned his attention to the challenge of ending global poverty in 1981. In that year, he founded the International Development Enterprises (IDE), a Colorado-based nonprofit organization distinguished by its successful launch of the treadle pump that enables farmers to irrigate very small plots of land at minimal cost. IDE’s mission more generally is to fashion and develop new tools to help poor farmers and other “dollar-a-day” families in developing countries work their way out of poverty. Now nearing 80, Dr. Polak has relentlessly pursued this mission for the past three decades. In Out of Poverty, Dr. Polak interweaves the IDE story and the principles that guide it with that of one Nepalese family who moved from poverty into the middle class. The fundamental precepts of Dr. Polak’s work are clearly laid out in the introduction: “1. The biggest reason most poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money. “2. Most of the extremely poor people in the world earn their living now from one-acre farms. “3. They can earn much more money by finding ways to grow and sell high-value labor-intensive crops such as off-season fruits and vegetables. “4. To do that, they need access to very cheap small-farm irrigation, good seeds and fertilizer, and markets where they can sell their crops at a profit.” Much of Out of Poverty deals in detail with the challenges entailed in implementing these principles. Irrigation, including the story of the treadle pump, gets the most attention. Dr. Polak describes himself and the staff of IDE as what might be called catalysts rather than experts: from his perspective, the first step in any venture in rural development must be to talk to the people who will be affected by whatever is done — and listen to them. The IDE approach is resolutely bottoms-up, because “To move out of poverty, poor people have to invest their own time and money. The path out of poverty lies in releasing the energy of Third World entrepreneurs.” IDE’s work over the years has tightly focused on farmers. As he notes, “most of the poor people in the world live in remote rural areas that will likely continue to be bypassed by successive waves of urban-centered industrial growth.” However, in the concluding chapters of Out of Poverty, Dr. Polak also shares a number of ideas for helping slum-dwellers (“43 percent of the urban populatioin in developing regions”) move out of poverty, too. The book is chock full of great ideas for small-scale entrepreneurs. Dr. Polak and IDE were pioneers in the bottoms-up development model that is fast emerging as the only approach likely to make a dent in the endemic poverty in so many poor countries. Regrettably, Out of Poverty is not well written. It is endlessly repetitive, with the same phrases and anecdotes appearing in chapters throughout the book, and it fails to deliver on its promise of sharing many examples of families that have moved into the middle class through IDE’s work, since the only story told in any detail is that of one Nepalese farm family. That’s a great pity, since this is a message that needs to be disseminated far more widely among policymakers around the world. A second edition, reorganized and with additional examples, would be a boon to the development community. (From www.malwarwickonbooks.com)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christy Horton

    Lots of great ideas in this book. I would recommend knowing a bit about farming before reading. I did not and some of the ideas were lost on me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rosalind

    I found this book to be a fairly easy read. I loved Polak’s storytelling writing style in discussing poverty and the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries. He focused on the organization he founded, International Development Enterprises and one of their main accomplishments in bringing drip-irrigation to farmers in rural areas. Polak also discussed his other organization, D-Rev (Design for the Other 90%). One of the main lessons I garnered from this book was to think simple (but criticall I found this book to be a fairly easy read. I loved Polak’s storytelling writing style in discussing poverty and the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries. He focused on the organization he founded, International Development Enterprises and one of their main accomplishments in bringing drip-irrigation to farmers in rural areas. Polak also discussed his other organization, D-Rev (Design for the Other 90%). One of the main lessons I garnered from this book was to think simple (but critically and creatively). He stresses that the poor want products that are AFFORDABLE. He also emphasizes that subsidies and government aid do not get to the root of poverty; instead, they can exacerbate the problems because giving out free products not only undermines market forces (and thus companies that sell such products face the threat of going out of business), but also can make a problem worse when the free/subsidized products are lacking in follow-up services and/or quality. Lastly, I learned that increasing income for the poor is one of the most important things social enterprises and organizations should aim to do; the poor know what they need best, and when their income rises, they tend to spend on education, medical care, and other needs as they prioritize them. I definitely recommend this read for those who are interested in social enterprise and poverty. I finished this book in just a few days, but I’m sure if you sat down for an evening/night, that you’d be able to finish it within one night.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    "Out of Poverty" by Paul Polak was an eye-opening book for me. The focus is on people around the globe making a dollar a day or less and also farms that were less than 5 acres. The statistics in the book floored me. 85% of farms in the world, 445 million, are less than 5 acres. In China that percentage grows to 98%. My son-in-law and daughter are organic farmers with 8 acres of land they lease, but are currently using just a couple of acres. Helping out a little there has helped me see the tremen "Out of Poverty" by Paul Polak was an eye-opening book for me. The focus is on people around the globe making a dollar a day or less and also farms that were less than 5 acres. The statistics in the book floored me. 85% of farms in the world, 445 million, are less than 5 acres. In China that percentage grows to 98%. My son-in-law and daughter are organic farmers with 8 acres of land they lease, but are currently using just a couple of acres. Helping out a little there has helped me see the tremendous amount of work they put in to get a few crops to sell. Mr. Polak's idea to help the poor is simple: Help them make more money. Not by a hand out, but by a hand up. Produce inexpensive products that are designed specifically for small enterprises and farms. Sell them tools that are affordable for their dollar a day income that will triple or quadruple their income quickly. His company "International Development Enterprises" (IDE) has been doing this for twenty-five years. His methods are not in line with the international community trying to solve poverty in the world, but they work. From one acre farms to sidewalk dwellers in the poorest slums, IDE is finding ways to help people work smarter and bring themselves and their families out of extreme poverty. For anyone who is interested in the eradication of poverty and hunger around the world, this is a must read book to see solutions in a much different light. Simply, Tim

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zahedul

    Paul Polak, founder of iDE, a renowned INGO, shares his philosophy for alleviating poverty. The book champions the market development approach, as opposed to charitable and philanthropic initiatives. Based on his wealth of experience implementing myriad initiatives over the last 25 years, Paul dissects the current status quo and way forward for increasing living standards of people at the BOP segment. His main proposition for solving development challenges is to adopt business solutions, which a Paul Polak, founder of iDE, a renowned INGO, shares his philosophy for alleviating poverty. The book champions the market development approach, as opposed to charitable and philanthropic initiatives. Based on his wealth of experience implementing myriad initiatives over the last 25 years, Paul dissects the current status quo and way forward for increasing living standards of people at the BOP segment. His main proposition for solving development challenges is to adopt business solutions, which are profitable, sustainable, scalable, replicable and adhering to the ‘triple bottom line’. He advocates the concept of zero design, whereby, no assumptions are made beforehand while designing a business model. A customer feedback loop plays an integral role in designing the desired solution. He strongly believes in a hands-off approach where private sector plays a dominant role, encompassing BOP population in different parts of the value chain. The book is littered with interesting cases, mostly those implemented by iDE. Bangladesh features prominently in the book with a number of cases studies. Overall, an interesting read for social entrepreneurs and development consultants/ practitioners. At times, the book got a bit repetitive with some concepts regurgitated again and again.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Padilla

    Paul Polak is an atypical poverty expert and free market advocate. In this book, he argues that handouts and stamps do not help poverty and might in fact make it worse off. He believes that the poor is capable of more than everyone thinks. Rather, he insists, the better solution to poverty is to unleash the poor’s “entrepreneurial power”. Paul thinks that small companies can help the homeless. His company designs cheap water pumps and irrigation systems that sell for a profit while helping farme Paul Polak is an atypical poverty expert and free market advocate. In this book, he argues that handouts and stamps do not help poverty and might in fact make it worse off. He believes that the poor is capable of more than everyone thinks. Rather, he insists, the better solution to poverty is to unleash the poor’s “entrepreneurial power”. Paul thinks that small companies can help the homeless. His company designs cheap water pumps and irrigation systems that sell for a profit while helping farmers make more money. Paul shares the affects his products had on the public who was in need. Although he repeats many of the same points, Polak’s book is enjoyable to read. I recommend Polak’s point of view to readers who seek a perspective on the problem of poverty worldwide in a practical way. People should read this book as it informs and covers many of the major issues in our society. This book’s audience is aimed toward people who love to help the needy. However, it would be helpful in a school setting to make aware world issues among the next generation of entrepreneurs. Therefore, I would give this book a good rating of 4 and a half stars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I read the first chapter to this book several years ago for class. I remember thinking that it seemed very smart and straightforward, very readable for something labeled as an economics book. Unfortunately, after finishing this book on my second attempt at it (I got to page 80 the first time and realized I had no clue what I had read, so I started over), I have a somewhat different opinion. I feel like Polak just wants a pat on the back. Every chapter includes some kind of pitch for his organizat I read the first chapter to this book several years ago for class. I remember thinking that it seemed very smart and straightforward, very readable for something labeled as an economics book. Unfortunately, after finishing this book on my second attempt at it (I got to page 80 the first time and realized I had no clue what I had read, so I started over), I have a somewhat different opinion. I feel like Polak just wants a pat on the back. Every chapter includes some kind of pitch for his organization, IDE. I have to wonder why it's not a bigger name if it's as successful as he says. That being said, there are some very valid ideas here. I'm absolutely going to steal his reading glasses idea and use them as a home stay gift for when I move.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Reopelle

    This book was a struggle to get through. Every sentence was soaked with white patriarchy and the privilege. Though the anecdote of Bahadur's family attempts to humanize the book and I'm very happy for his family's accomplishments, Polak's intentions of helping people understand the struggle of dollar-a-day poverty and the power of people living in this situation to fix it, get overshadowed by his need to re-iterate the great work of IDE and his own power, intelligence, and generosity, without wh This book was a struggle to get through. Every sentence was soaked with white patriarchy and the privilege. Though the anecdote of Bahadur's family attempts to humanize the book and I'm very happy for his family's accomplishments, Polak's intentions of helping people understand the struggle of dollar-a-day poverty and the power of people living in this situation to fix it, get overshadowed by his need to re-iterate the great work of IDE and his own power, intelligence, and generosity, without which Bahadur would still be living in poverty. The book's redeeming qualities lie in an extremely detailed account of farming practices among dollar-a-day family farms and the benefits of scalability and design to offer products to people in this income bracket.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This is the first book about poverty that I have read that made a LOT of sense. It was simple, straight forward, and laid out specific plans and objectives for ending poverty. It primarily addresses foreign, rural poverty, but does give general ideas to ending various forms of poverty. Unfortunately for readers, Paul Polak is apparently much more gifted at ending poverty than writing a book. No offense intended--just a warning for any would-be readers. He uses examples over and over again (often This is the first book about poverty that I have read that made a LOT of sense. It was simple, straight forward, and laid out specific plans and objectives for ending poverty. It primarily addresses foreign, rural poverty, but does give general ideas to ending various forms of poverty. Unfortunately for readers, Paul Polak is apparently much more gifted at ending poverty than writing a book. No offense intended--just a warning for any would-be readers. He uses examples over and over again (often times I would stop reading a paragraph and wonder if I hadn't already read it and had somehow just lost my place or something). Seemingly word-for-word.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Elie

    Although terribly repetitive, Polak offers a practical, simple solution to poverty that everyone from small NGOs to the Secretary-General art picking up on: entrepreneurial development through microenterprise. For the rural poor, Polak's solution is to use appropriately designed and adapted technologies to improve high-yield, labor-intensive crops and get them to new markets. For the urban poor, Polak encourages the same type of industriousness, but around cottage industries adapted and linked t Although terribly repetitive, Polak offers a practical, simple solution to poverty that everyone from small NGOs to the Secretary-General art picking up on: entrepreneurial development through microenterprise. For the rural poor, Polak's solution is to use appropriately designed and adapted technologies to improve high-yield, labor-intensive crops and get them to new markets. For the urban poor, Polak encourages the same type of industriousness, but around cottage industries adapted and linked to global markets. His reasoning is strong, and although it runs counter to the big organizations involved in "international development," it sounds a lot like common sense.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Polak's approach to poverty is simple - help poor farmers make more money so they can spend more on health care, education, more food, better agricultural systems, and better abilities to get crops to the market. I appreciate this, but he is too confident in the successes of capitalism, and too dismissive of the power structures and systems that keep people poor. He is also repetitive in his stories and solutions. He offers strong solutions by utilizing design for products that are affordable to Polak's approach to poverty is simple - help poor farmers make more money so they can spend more on health care, education, more food, better agricultural systems, and better abilities to get crops to the market. I appreciate this, but he is too confident in the successes of capitalism, and too dismissive of the power structures and systems that keep people poor. He is also repetitive in his stories and solutions. He offers strong solutions by utilizing design for products that are affordable to $1 a day farmers that will enhance their output and enable them to provide more for their families.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vesa

    The problem the author has spent his life trying to tackle is extremely important. The ideas in the book are fresh and sound realistic. There are concrete ideas that someone with enough drive should try out, they may work very well. The author's passion towards the subject shows and he creates a pleasant narrative. The problem with the book is that it is very repetitive. Nearly same sentences repeat various times throughout the book, sometimes separated only by a couple of pages. If the editor ha The problem the author has spent his life trying to tackle is extremely important. The ideas in the book are fresh and sound realistic. There are concrete ideas that someone with enough drive should try out, they may work very well. The author's passion towards the subject shows and he creates a pleasant narrative. The problem with the book is that it is very repetitive. Nearly same sentences repeat various times throughout the book, sometimes separated only by a couple of pages. If the editor had simply removed the repetition and released a slimmer book, the flow would have been much better. Despite this problem it's a book worth reading.

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