Posts tagged with: povertycure

Blog author: ehilton
posted by on Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It doesn’t seem that anyone would WANT to live in a slum. But that is not necessarily true, according to Charles Kenny of Foreign Policy. In fact, for many of the world’s poor, a slum can offer opportunities and services not available in rural areas.

 Across the world today, thanks to vaccines and underground sewage systems, average life expectancies in big cities are considerably higher than those in the countryside; in sub-Saharan Africa, cities with a population over 1 million have had infant mortality rates one-third lower than those in rural areas. In fact, most of today’s urban population growth comes not from waves of villagers moving to the city, but city folks having kids and living longer.

In part, better quality of life is because of better access to services. Data from surveys across the developing world suggest that poor households in urban areas are more than twice as likely to have piped water as those in rural areas, and they’re nearly four times more likely to have a flush toilet. In India, very poor urban women are about as likely to get prenatal care as the non-poor in rural areas. And in 70 percent of countries surveyed by MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, school enrollment for girls ages 7 to 12 is higher among the urban poor than the rural poor.

In no way does this suggest that we should simply shrug our shoulders and say, “Slums are good enough.” However, it does suggest that there are economic footholds in urban areas that can be built upon – footholds that appear to be lacking in many rural areas.

Read Charles Kenny’s ‘In Praise of Slums’ here.

This article is cross-posted at PovertyCure.org.

There is a lot of talk today about “social entrepreneurs.” What is a social entrepreneur, and how does that differ from a business entrepreneur? Why do social entrepeneurs matter?

According to the Ashoko website:

Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.

Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.

These are people like Marie Montessori, who pioneered a new method of education, and Muhammad Yunus, who created Grameen Bank, known for its revolutionary form of microfinance.

Social entrepreneurs differ slightly from business entrepreneurs, although there may be some “cross-over.” While business entrepreneurs typically start businesses because they want to make a profit and serve a particular customer base, social entrepreneurs usually start with the desire to solve a problem. While profit may be an outcome, it is not necessarily a part of the social entrepreneur agenda. For instance, a chef may decide to start a restaurant because she loves cooking and wants to profit from it. A social entrepreneur may start a restaurant because she wants to teach young people how to cook so they can gain valuable job skills. Both are worthy goals, built on different platforms.

In Ireland, Michael Kelly saw that most supermarkets were filled with imported produce, even though fresh local options were available. Not only was the lack of fresh food a nutritional issue, it was costing jobs and impacting local growers. He created GIY (Grow It Yourself) Ireland, helping people grow their own produce and increase demand for locally grown food.

Kahiniawalla is an organization borne of hope and necessity. Samantha Morshed was looking for a way to help rural Bengali women create sustainable jobs. While they were able to make wonderful handmade items, they didn’t have an easy way to sell and distribute them.  After meeting Austin and Marita Miller, Kahiniawalla was born: handmade items “that tell a story”.

Some social entrepreneurs start with an eye towards artful expression, such as Patricia Michaels, a clothing designer from New Mexico. As an artist, she wants to do more than simply create beautiful clothing; she uses her business as a way to “raise the status of Native American people”, connecting the stories she grew up with to the outside world in her designs – teaching through art, if you will.

Social entrepreneurs come from a variety of backgrounds, with agendas as different as Ireland is from Bangledesh is from New Mexico. They may be artists, missionaries, engineers, teachers. All are confronted with an issue or problem, and see a way to solve it. Then they try to do just that. Social entrepreneurs matter because they are NOT people who say, “You know, somebody ought to…..”, and wonder why the government or some agency hasn’t yet solved the problem. They think, “somebody ought to…” and ask, “Why not me?”, tackling the issue through a blend of creativity, determination, business acumen and a desire to serve and solve.

Cross-posted at PovertyCure blog.

PovertyCure, an educational initiative of the Acton Institute, has won a 2012 Templeton Freedom Award for its contributions to the understanding of freedom in the category of “Free Market Solutions to Poverty.” From the website:

Acton Institute, United States
The US based Acton Institute has won a 2012 Templeton Freedom Award for their PovertyCure educational initiative. PovertyCure advocates moral free enterprise as the key to authentic and permanent poverty elimination. PovertyCure has already had a tangible impact on the poverty debate through high-impact partnerships, resources, and conferences even though the project was only officially launched last fall, relying on the efforts of an extensive coalition to market and publicize the effort.

A visit to the website reveals a growing list of 160 national and international partner organizations from over 50 countries. These partners represent academia (University of Notre Dame, University of Cambridge), entrepreneurial groups (SEVEN Fund, MicroRate), and religious ministries (Goshen International, Partners Worldwide). The ‘Voices’ section of the PovertyCure website features over 30 well-known experts, as well as those who have overcome poverty including Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, Cambridge University scholar Peter Heslam, and Oxford University professor Paul Collier. Over 30,000 web users have watched these short, impactful videos to date.

A major element of the campaign was Poverty, Entrepreneurship, and Integral Development, a seven-part conference series taking place throughout Africa, Europe, and Latin America. In total, conference lecturers fielded some 300 television and radio interviews with media outlets around the world, while the conferences themselves received coverage on television, radio, and Internet sources reaching more than 50 million individuals. This figure includes such popular outlets as The Guardian, The Economist, and Financial Times. Additionally, social media is one of the initiative’s most effective vehicles. PovertyCure’s Facebook page, which had 2,300 likes this time last year, boasts 368,000 today, representing a substantial number of people around the world who interact with and share our content. A documentary is currently in the works and will be broadcasted by PBS.

For more on PovertyCure, please visit the website.

In a post about the “Nuns on the bus” tour, National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez reminds us that “at a time when the very ability of church organizations to freely live their mission of service has been compromised by federal mandates, it is especially important to debate the role of government with clarity and charity.” In her essay, she brings in the the PovertyCure project and Rev. Robert A. Sirico’s new book, Defending the Free Market: A Moral Case for the Free Economy.

About PovertyCure, Lopez notes that “the project asks if we have been raising ‘the wrong questions’ about the causes of poverty and how to address them.” She goes on to quote Rudy Carrasco, the United States Regional Facilitator for Partners Worldwide, who said this in relation to the PovertyCure mission: “Everybody has capacity, talent, and ability. Everybody has responsibility. Everybody has stewardship responsibility. I don’t care what dirt hovel you’re living in, in Brazil or Mexico City or Manila. You have a responsibility to be a steward of the resources under your control because you have a heavenly Father who has put great things inside of you, that [are] waiting to be called out and developed and extracted.”

Download Carrasco’s AU 2012 lecture here.

Religious people have a big role to play in the defense of freedom, Lopez says.

“When freedom is divorced from faith, both freedom and faith suffer,” Father Sirico writes in a new book, Defending the Free Market. “Freedom becomes rudderless, because truth gives freedom its direction. Freedom without a moral orientation has no guiding star. On the other hand, when a people surrenders [its] freedom to the government — the freedom to make moral, economic, religious, and social choices and then take personal responsibility for the consequences — virtue tends to waste away and faith itself grows cold.”

The nuns on the bus may not be cheerleaders for the bishops or the Fortnight for Freedom, but their road trip can be a helpful accompaniment. Fundamentally, this debate we’re having about God and Caesar is about much more than a presidential election: It’s about who we are as a people and whether we do not merely tolerate but welcome — and even encourage — religious believers as economic and political participants. The sisters and the bishops are on the same page there.

Read “Without Freedom No One’s Got a Prayer” by Kathryn Jean Lopez on National Review Online.

Michael Matheson Miller, Acton’s Director of Media, recently made an appearance on NPO Showcase, a community access show here in the Grand Rapids area, to discuss the PovertyCure initiative. The full 15 minute interview is available for viewing below:

Acton On The AirActon’s Director of Media Michael Matheson Miller joined host Dave Jaconette this morning on WJRW Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan for an interview touching on a number of subjects including 3rd world poverty, Kony 2012, entrepreneurship in the developing world, and even a discussion of the HHS mandate issue.

The interview lasts about 20 minutes; Listen via the audio player below:

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Blog author: jwitt
posted by on Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My recent piece in The American Spectator took the left to task for its misuse of the terms justice and social justice. The piece was more than a debate over semantics. In it I noted that Sojourners and its CEO, Jim Wallis, continue to promote well-intended but failed strategies that actually hurt the social and economic well-being of poor communities. I also called on everyone with a heart for the poor to set aside a top-down model of charity that “has trapped so many humans in a vicious cycle of paternalism and dependency” and instead to focus “on cultivating political and economic freedom for the world’s poor.” Sojourners’ Tim King responded here and then emailed me to ask for my thoughts on his response. I’ll start by emphasizing a few areas of agreement, adding a caveat here and there so as not to overstate the areas of overlap, and then I’ll move on to some areas of difference.

First, it’s a matter of record that politicians and other opinion leaders from both major U.S. parties have supported various forms of government-directed charity over the past several decades. Tim King is completely justified in pointing this out, and it’s important to recognize this state of affairs, since it reminds us that transforming the way we do charity won’t occur simply by voting one party out of power. Substantive change will require cultural transformation.

A second area of agreement is that, yes, there is such a thing as smart aid. PovertyCure has a good discussion of smart aid versus damaging aid here, as well as a page here on the good, the bad and the ugly in efforts to fight malaria. And in this Acton Commentary, Jennifer Roback Morse discusses some of the lessons learned in the battle against AIDS in Africa.

Third, Tim King’s blog post gives the reader the impression that that I consigned all uses of the term “social justice” to everlasting perdition, or that I want to ban the use of adjectives from the English language or something. My position is actually a bit more nuanced than this. In my article I noted that the term social justice has “a justifiable raison d’être,” “stretches back to 19th century Catholic social thought” and “was used in the context of nuanced explorations of law, ethics, and justice.” I didn’t have space to elaborate on this in the Spectator article, so I pointed to additional resources in this follow-up blog post.

King went on to say that the adjective social in social justice “highlights that justice deals with systems and structures within a society, not just with individual people. Justice can occur through the punishment of a single person for wrongdoing, but also through ending slavery or apartheid.” Absolutely. Justice deals with those things, a point I underscored in my article.

The thing is, though, that’s not how the religious left generally uses the term social justice, a reality that Tim King himself demonstrated by immediately pointing to the Circle of Protection statement as an embodiment of social justice principles. The statement is about preserving top-down government spending programs on behalf of the poor.

Another way to see how ordinary justice is being leeched out of Sojourners’ brand of social justice is to look at its official position on abortion. On the organization’s Issues page, under “What is Your Position on Abortion?” Sojourners emphasizes that “All life is a sacred gift from God, and public policies should reflect a consistent ethic of life.” Sounds like justice, plain and simple. But then look at their specific recommendations for how to protect the sacred gift of unborn human life:

Policy
Dramatically reduce abortion. Our society should support common ground policies that dramatically reduce the abortion rate by preventing unwanted pregnancies, providing meaningful alternatives and necessary supports for women and children, and reforming adoption laws.

Notice what’s missing from the list: A call to extend the most basic human right to unborn babies by making it illegal to kill them. What’s missing, in other words, is a call to extend ordinary justice to the unborn. In its place is a call to prevent “unwanted pregnancies” and to create attractive alternatives to killing unborn babies.

Sojourners and its leader say that laws against abortion are unattainable and ineffectual. But these laws wouldn’t be unattainable if the religious left joined religious conservatives in the fight to extend the right to life to the unborn. And as for ineffectual, University of Alabama professor Michael New studied the question and came to a very different conclusion in State Politics and Policy Quarterly. Here’s how he summarized his findings:

Planned Parenthood and many groups on the Catholic Left often argue that pro-life laws are ineffective. They claim that contraception spending and more generous welfare benefits are the best ways to reduce abortion rates. In reality, however, there is virtually no peer reviewed research, analyzing actual abortion data, which finds that more spending on either contraception or welfare has any effect on the incidence of abortion.

Conversely, this study adds to the sizable body of peer reviewed research which finds that legal protections for the unborn are effective at lowering abortion rates …

The study is now part of a substantial body of academic literature showing that such laws are effective in cutting abortions — and back up the anecdotal evidence seen in states like Mississippi, Michigan, South Carolina, Missouri and others where abortions have been cut by half from their previous highs thanks to the passage of several pro-life measures limiting abortions.

What Sojourners and many others on the left support for the unborn is more of their ineffective brand of redistributionist “social justice,” and never mind about the most basic form of justice for the unborn — a right to life protected by the law.

I’ll close by calling attention to one other thing in Tim King’s response, and that is Sojourners’ whole post-partisan meme. It’s a little surreal that they keep trotting this dog out after the George Soros funding fiasco. As my old colleague Jay Richards and others have reported, Sojourners had already received significant funding from the ultra-liberal, ultra-secular George Soros when Jim Wallis denied it in a public interview, going so far as to answer the charge by saying that World magazine editor and Acton senior fellow Marvin Olasky “lies for a living.” Then it came out that Sojourners has in fact received major funding from Soros, along with major funding from a who’s who list of left and ultra-leftwing organizations.

Sojourners keeps trying to hunt with the “we’re deep, not left” meme, but the dog won’t hunt anymore. A better approach would be to simply identify themselves as members of the religious left and forthrightly make a case for the specifics of their position. An even better approach would be to rethink that position from top to bottom, looking not at just the immediate and obvious effects of various government wealth transfers, but also at those long-term effects that are less obvious and often destructive.

In the mean time, if you are looking for a clear alternative to A Circle of Protection, one that emphasizes the dignity and creative capacity of the poor and the role of Christian worldview in promoting human flourishing, take a look at PovertyCure’s Statement of Principles or PovertyCure’s Facebook page. To sign a letter that directly answers the Circle of Protection, go here to Christians for a Sustainable Economy.

Friedrich Hayek called it a weasel word. The American Spectator has my new essay on it here.

More on social justice as it appears in Catholic social teaching here. And more on social business here.

Acton On The AirActon’s Director of Media Michael Matheson Miller was in-studio this morning on The Tony Gates Show on WJRW Radio to talk about global poverty, PovertyCure, and his recently completed trip to London to speak about those issues at an Acton conference. To listen to the interview, use the audio player below:

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The American Life League has released an investigative report on the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which, it turns out, has been funding dozens of thoroughly unchristian organizations in its fight against domestic poverty. Catholics in the pews who have given to the annual CCHD collection might not be happy to learn that the program’s efforts are frequently right out of line with its “fight poverty: defend human dignity” slogan.

At Acton, we believe that in the long run, the poor are harmed by patronizing aid schemes that, well intentioned though they may be, don’t account for the dignity of the human person whom they try to help. It’s certainly inconvenient that you can’t end poverty by giving lots of people lots of money, but we’ve tried just that for decades, and poverty is nowhere near eradicated.

People are pulled out of poverty by the creation of wealth through productive work, and that is the only way that is truly appreciative of the dignity of the poor. Marxism fails as an economic system and as a means of bettering the condition of the poor because it misunderstands human nature. It debases men and women.

It’s disheartening, then, to see that a quarter of the organizations funded by the CCHD for 2010 – 2011 are either directly involved in materialistic poverty alleviation campaigns based on false anthropologies, or else are proud partners of such organizations. They promote abortion and birth control as ways to keep the poor from reproducing, because, you know, the poor deserve dignified treatment, but we sure don’t want to deal with more of them. And then these organizations tell the poor that if only Lenin were in charge, they’d all be well-off.

In 2010, after public pressure from the American Life League and others, and an internal investigation, the CCHD promised to stop funding groups that trample on human dignity. Unfortunately, the ALL reports that “the number, and percentage, of offending organizations has actually INCREASED in the last year — from 51 to 54 groups and from 21% to 24%. ”

If the program can’t be rehabilitated, it needs to be ended, because the only kinds of poverty programs the USCCB should be supporting are those that cleave to the Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature. (See, for example, Acton’s partner PovertyCure.)