Thursday, March 24, 2016

10 Incredible Solutions to Poverty You Might Be Ignoring

(Image: Juhan Kuus)
Hunger is a symptom of poverty, not the other way around. Many charitable organizations have been fighting hunger for decades, often feeding ‘the same peoples’ over and over again. And a primary goal or mission for some organizations is to enroll as many people as possible onto government social benefit programs, like SNAP (food stamps).

The reason why these solutions above are not sustainable, is because they are focusing on a symptom (hunger) instead of the root cause of that symptom, i.e. poverty.

In our quest for sustainable social impact, Memory Trees offers these 10 solutions:

1. Education
No, not school. Not even books. Education means skills, thought leadership, confidence, an ability to know one’s value, learning how to contribute, and more.

2. Entrepreneurship
Manufacturing and mining jobs are gone. They’re not coming back. The good news is that anyone has the ability to turn stuff (incl. skills) into cash. We teach people how. Maybe you can do the same?

3. Sustainable Food
When we feed someone who is hungry, we solve a near term problem. Usually for a few hours. If we are lucky, maybe for a day. Necessary, but ineffective longer term, definitely not sustainable. Learn about sustainable food. There is an abundance of resources available on this topic.

4. Urban Farming
Look around you. Admire the $$ millions spent on beautification. Open fields with manicured lawns, trees swaying in the breeze. Now imagine all that ‘wasted space’ used for growing something to eat, like fruit trees lining city sidewalks, providing beautification, colors, shade... and food!

5. Micro-Lending
Do you know how little money one needs to start a small business? I am not talking about multi-level marketing scams, or the cost of creating a new social media web application. I am talking about, for example, a cutting board, a chef’s knife, containers, and access to clean water… the micro capital you might need to sell something that you have grown from seed.

6. Food Donations
Emergency relief agencies have this down pat. In fact, some are so well funded and organized that they are building their own little fiefdoms… because he who controls the food, often controls the people. Fortunately, emergency relief agencies do wonderful work. So please keep doing what you’re doing. But, also read # 3 above.

7. Self-sufficiency
Ah, the old “teach people to fish” philosophy. Recently I presented a workshop to nonprofit owners and this was one of my topics. Afterwards, a member of the audience challenged me by saying, “You can teach people to fish, but they still need a rod, reel, tackle and bait…” True. Please see # 5 above.

8. Family Health
I used to call this “Empowerment of Women.” During another workshop, a lady angrily stood up and loudly stated, “Men have a role to play in this too.” Then she walked out. In another session, an irate fundamentalist accused me of supporting "a woman’s right to choose." Both were correct. That is why I changed this header to “Family Health.” This change represents my entire contribution to 'the PC movement.'

The United Nations and other leading research organizations offer studies with facts supporting the direct correlation between female empowerment, and a reduction in poverty levels and/or family income.

For example, Bangladesh was one of the poorest countries on earth. Women of the previous generation had 7-8 kids, on average. Now, their daughters are having 1-2 kids. These mothers and their daughters are learning to become doctors, lawyers, etc. They busy themselves by opening retail stores, or clothing factories where they can employ other women. These employees manufacture the cute clothes you purchase at H&M and Forever 21. It is not perfect, and working conditions are often atrocious… but the ongoing community revitalization efforts are light years away from the previous supressive, patriarchal system where men ruled unequivocally, and with absolute power, before.

9. Social Change
Many people resist education, science, and facts while clinging to long-held beliefs learnt at an early age. Evolution greatly assists in this change management effort, even if superficially viewed as a system that offers humankind “out with the old, in with the new.” Some of our greatest obstacles to embracing change are old adages like, “It's always been this way,” or “That’s not how this works.” Fortunately the earth will ultimately shake off people who resist change... much like a dog might shake off water after a delightful summer frolicking.

10. Public/Private Collaboration
If you really think that your job is done when you have voted for your favorite politician, you might also be surprised “that nothing ever gets done.” No, rather identify and focus on people working for public entities that support your mission. And be persistent in order to get things done. For many people, their primary objectives may include job preservation and recognition. You might not be able to ensure they keep their jobs, but if they help you do yours, you surely will be able to allow them the benefit of receiving (all) the glory and recognition for their great contributions!

At Memory Trees, we are proud of the people who support our efforts... because they get promoted!