Paul Polak on Poverty Alleviation

Paul Polak, founder of International Development Enterprises (IDE), has released an enriching addition to the poverty debate. ‘Out of Poverty’ clearly elucidates some of the great myths of traditional development approaches and, best of all, will have you thinking optimistically about solutions.
Polak’s work provides an innovative and well grounded approach to addressing poverty; a revolutionary style that recognises the competencies and enthusiasm of the poor as subjects in the development process.

It is “a wise and engaging new book” (The Economist) that offers “optimism not just for those fighting poverty and those fighting to get out of it, but for any company interested in a basically untapped 1 billion-person market” (BusinessWeek).

For Polak, small farmer prosperity represents a great opportunity to end rural poverty and because of this, development initiatives should maintain a focus on rural development through investment within these communities. In doing so we must move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach and reject 3 great myths surrounding poverty alleviation, which are that:
1. We can donate people out of poverty;
2. We can end poverty through national economic growth; and
3. Multinationals as they are now will end poverty.
He elaborates on the significance of these myths within the book and also provides an outline in his latest IDE presentation, which can be seen on this youtube video:

Part I

(Be sure to watch parts 2 and 3, pasted further below)
His approach is based on his professional experience, spanning over 25 years, which has lifted more than 17 million people out of poverty through IDE initiatives. Although now he has retired from IDE he has started a new company D-Rev ( which focuses on the design of projects for the world’s poor communities.
In his book he convincingly exposes the underlying and practical dilemmas of traditional approaches to development, critiques the persistent macro-economic focus of development and suggests that commitment is required where it is most needed for $1 a day people in rural communities. His grass-roots method focuses upon the abilities of poor people to reach market opportunities through the use of innovative technologies.
The threats of our modernising world, including unchecked free market economics and population growth, bring about changes to the rural context that results in less space for subsistence farming and more room for big business growth. It is a blessing that Polak has achieved so much success and that now shares his insightful, balanced and positive views in ‘Out of Poverty’ for us.
If you are interested to understand more about the great myths of poverty alleviation and the strategies that can achieve real development in the neediest areas I would strongly recommend his book, or even just enjoy his presentation. Read more and order online at:
Part II

Part III

Leave a Reply