Profit or not: how to have an impact at scale

Paul Polak, who has spent many years working on developing products for those living on US $2 a day, thinks that in choosing strategies to eliminate poverty that don’t generate revenue, far fewer people have been reached.  Read his comments in a recent blog post.

He compares the philosophy of Milton Friedman, a famous, pro-free-market American economist, and Muhammed Yunus.

He defines “reaching scale” as helping more than 100 million people living on < US $2.  And mentions the following factors as important in doing just that, regardless of whether or not you hope to make money in the process:

What are the common features of initiatives that have truly helped extremely poor people move out of poverty?

  1. They begin by thoroughly listening to poor customers and thoroughly understanding the specific context of their lives.
  2. They design and implement ruthlessly affordable technologies or business models.
  3. Energizing private sector market forces plays a central role in their implementation.
  4. Radical decentralization is integrated into economically viable last mile distribution.
  5. Design for scale is a central focus of the enterprise from the very beginning.

What do you think?

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