Category: Poverty

Shoe-That-Grows-Kenton-Lee-04-677x381One day while walking to church in Nairobi, Kenya, Kenton Lee noticed a little girl in a white dress who had shoes that were way to small for her feet. He thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a shoe that could adjust and expand – so that kids always had a pair of shoes that fit?”

That question led to the development of “The Shoe That Grows,” a shoe that grows from a size 5 to a size 12 and can last from 5 to 10 years. The Shoe That Grows is the first project of Because International, an organization committed to practical compassion and creating “innovative products that help people living in extreme poverty.”

The organization’s seven-step process provides an inspiring model for creating innovations that can help those in poverty:

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

AEI’s Arthur Brooks offers up an interesting take on solutions to poverty. He thinks the key lies in “boring things,” and his inspiration is artist Andy Warhol.

I often ask people in my business — public policy — where they get their inspiration. Liberals often point to John F. Kennedy. Conservatives usually cite Ronald Reagan. Personally, I prefer the artist Andy Warhol, who famously declared, “I like boring things.” He was referring to art, of course. But the sentiment provides solid public policy guidance as well.

Warhol’s work exalted the everyday “boring” items that display the transcendental beauty of life itself. The canonical example is his famous paintings of Campbell Soup cans. Some people sneered, but those willing to look closely could see what he was doing.

Warhol’s critical insight is usually lost on most of the world.


homeless-coderOn his way to work in 2013, tech entrepreneur Patrick McConlogue walked past a homeless man, Leo Grand, who was exercising with a heavy chain. McConlogue took this as a sign of Grand’s internal drive and motivation and decided to try an experiment:

The idea is simple. Without disrespecting him, I will offer two options:

1. I will come back tomorrow and give you $100 in cash.

2. I will come back tomorrow and give you three JavaScript books, (beginner-advanced-expert) and a super cheap basic laptop. I will then come an hour early from work each day—when he feels prepared—and teach him to code.

Leo turned down the money and took the opportunity to learn how to code. McConlogue saw this a portending great things: “It turns out Leo is a genius particularly concerned with environment issues.”

McConlogue initially gave Grand a laptop and some books and met with him an hour a day for tutoring. Later he would take off work for five weeks to work with Grand full-time on a smartphone app, “Trees for Cars.” Even before the app launched, McConlogue was dreaming about how to scale up the process into a program to help other “people in need”:

extreme-povertyCan the world put an end to extreme poverty within the next 15 years?

That’s the current goal of the World Bank, and its expected that the United Nations will adopt that same target later this year.

In 1990, the UN’s Millennium Development Goals included a target of halving poverty by 2015. That goal was achieved five years early. In 1990, more than one-third (36 percent) of the world’s population lived in abject poverty; by 2010 the number had been cut in half (18 percent). Today, it is 15 percent.

Extreme poverty is defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. The new goal is to move almost all the world’s population about that line by 2030. Is that even possible?

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof

Good story in the Wall Street Journal today about rocker-activist Bob Geldof and how he’s spearheading a push by private-equity firms into Ethiopia to effect a “historic shift from aid to trade.” Investments are flowing into private sector projects such as a flower farm, a juice company, pipeline building and commodity exchanges.

A number of high-profile investors have recently shown up here. KKR & Co., the New York-based private-equity firm, last summer bought control of a rose farm, Afriflora, for about $200 million, its first investment in Africa. Blackstone Group plans to build a $1.35 billion pipeline to bring gasoline to the capital, Addis Ababa. Hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones is backing a $2 billion geothermal power project.

The investors are following in the footsteps of Irish punk rock singer turned activist Bob Geldof, whose Live Aid concerts 30 years ago this summer raised about $145 million for the victims of a devastating Ethiopian famine. Mr. Geldof now chairs 8 Miles LLP, a London-based private-equity firm that invests in Ethiopia. 8 Miles raised a $200 million fund in 2012; Mr. Geldof put in a few hundred thousand dollars. “They don’t have to die in vast numbers before we pay attention,” Mr. Geldof said in an interview. “The potential rewards in Africa are far greater than anywhere else.”


Trailer-parkBeing “missional” and showing a concern for justice for the poor have become issues of increasing concern among American evangelicals. Yet the focus tends to tend to be on urban minorities instead of the largest percentage of Americans living under the poverty line.

If you want to hear crickets in a room full of educated, missionally minded, culture-shaping evangelicals, says Anthony Bradley, ask this question: “What are you doing to serve the needs of poor white people?”


Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia has now given away more than 10,000 slices of pizza, using a unique “pay-it-forward” system where “customers can pre-purchase $1 slices for those in need.”

The story is inspiring on a number of levels, illuminating the power of business to channel the best of humanity toward meeting complex needs in new and unexpected ways, often quite spontaneously.

The owner, Mason Wartman, left his job on Wall Street to start the restaurant, following his vocational aspirations and bringing a new product and service to this Philadelphia neighborhood. This is a great social benefit in and of itself, and yet the owner and his customers went further, responding to other signals in their community through generosity and innovation from the bottom up. As several homeless people in the video explain, the grace-filled approach of the business and its customers made a remarkable impact, giving them peace, encouragement, and empowerment. (more…)