At a point sometime after the turn of this century, researchers discovered that half of the world’s poorest people received just 1 per cent of the increase in global wealth and just 1 per cent of the richest enjoyed 50 per cent of the same! There are several metrics like these that constantly shock me.
I read a recent report that states that a lakh of schools in India have just one teacher running each school! Over three fourths of the students do not make it to high schools. My homeschooled children, homeschool theirs and there is a Learning Facilitator for every child! Each child of mine is a Social Entrepreneur.
Everywhere in History, it served a handful of powerful and largely patriarchial folks to have an army of chellas and slaves serving them. The labour class was needed to labour and pander to the needs of a few who held sway over the masses. These poorer human beings did this simply to stay out of hunger. For many years, it appears that the mass serving the rich, was accepted as inevitable! It was only some 200 years back that questions started arising in people’s minds about whether poverty was acceptable as the norm for the masses. Did you know that British industrialists of the 19th century opposed ban on child labour? And that the Indian industrialists ensured that cheap labour got fixed as the norm while they grew exponentially through export-led ventures?
Change did come around in parts with time. The establishment of economic growth which included statistics of an individual’s economic status, brought focus sharply to directions taken up by governments governing the different nations. Both governments and non government groups have taken up to reduce and eradicate poverty. They have achieved progress though curiously we have the same number of people who were poor 200 years ago, even now! Only thing is, then they formed 4/5ths of the population, whereas now they form 1/5th.
Along with the social awakening to the ills of slavery and inequity, realisation that being good to the poor was alone not enough, emerged. The poor had to be massively supported to stay away from being the labour class.
If you look into the status of poverty in India, you will find that India ranked 3rd in poverty levels, right after Nigeria and Congo a few years back. Much of the reason can be attributed to colonialism and its impact on this big nation. At first India believed that it had a problem of unemployment. To the dismay of researchers, it was soon apparent that 80 per cent of our graduates are unemployable. Skill Development and the impetus given to startups did accelerate economic development. But the actual lifting of masses from abject poverty after the 1960s, happened thanks to social entrepreneurship.
Whether it was about providing accessibility to basic needs through products or services, or doing so by offering livelihood opportunities, clearly social ventures were pro-poverty alleviation.
Of these I love the ones that offer livelihood options as it is better to teach a person to fish rather than to offer him fish. Though, as a whole foods vegan advocate, I would love to modify it to say, it is better to show a person the way to become prosperous than to offer alms.
India, Nigeria and Malaysia are a few countries that have used Social Entrepreneurship as a tool to alleviate poverty with its impact spreading over 40 to 50 per cent of the poor population.
This is possible because, while purely commercial organisations exploit the poor and gain profit indecently from their labour, social ventures remove or reduce poverty.
A rich person once told me that they too have helped the poor as they have given much alms to their servants. In comparison, The Fractal Entrepreneurship Foundation has helped to lift over a 100 families from poverty and we are still counting…
This is because Fractal Ventures believe in redistribution of wealth and do not hoard profits for only a powerful few, while extracting work out of the poor.
This is also because Fractal Ventures are conscious of ensuring sustainability, equity and inclusivity throughout their practices. Oftentimes, the horrors of unsustainable resource usage, rights violations of human and other life forms are invisible to the public that promote the growth of commercial ventures, unwittingly. Fractal Ventures on the other hand lay the foundation of their ventures on sustainability, innovation, inclusivity and equity without a doubt. They are Carbon Negative in their operations like many other social ventures.
We all know that those who are poor today aspire to be the nouveau riche of tomorrow. And when they become rich, they, too, would want to emulate the rich of today and turn highly consumeristic. If one has stopped this from happening, alleviation of poverty should happen alongside education or awareness building of sustainability and all other good principles that constantly heal the planet and societies. This is a major portion of what Fractal Ventures do.
The well to do form a miniscule 25 per cent of the population, who however use up 75 to 90 per cent of energy to live out
their lifestyles. Imagine if all people were well to do…We would probably destroy the planet within a few days!
Which is why, I feel, poverty alleviation should not be promoted without awareness building about our responsibility towards the planet and its life forms.
This along with conscious redistribution will not make for a messy poverty alleviation program. Otherwise we shall be blaming the poor for becoming rich, like we are blaming the cows today for increased methane emissions in the air! The cows never asked to be multiplied so much!
By conscious redistribution I mean, that earned wealth should be redistributed, while the rich should also lower the consumption of energy. This is to accommodate the rise in energy consumption by the changing poor, however slight it might be. Down To Earth, a respectable group of sustainability journalists, say that the amount of reduction in energy levels should be to the tune of 30 per cent by developing countries! So then, we are talking about awareness building for the rich and the powerful, too. And that can happen only by addressing the needs of the rich through sustainable products and services. That, too, is a direction adopted by the Fractal Ventures.
My dream is to popularise Fractal ventures so much that all businesses then only focus on becoming carbon negative or neutral businesses along with bringing prosperity to all and the planet.
That destiny is in the hands of each one of you who are listening. Do ask me questions so that we can build this more and more. Do share with all you can.
I would love to hear from you if you have thoughts on alleviating poverty through social entrepreneurship. Do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be blessed.