“Broken economic systems contribute to material poverty, and nowhere is this more true than in the Majority World, where unemployment is rampant and an estimated 2.6 billion people live on less than two dollars per day.” – When Helping Hurts

When someone writes a book, I will sometimes try to find out from which lens they are writing it.  See, people have their views because of a set of circumstances in their lives.  Authors are no different.  They will write books based on their circumstances or an association they have.  It isn’t that I think they are being underhanded or using trickery, but I know people have drivers beyond “good will”.

As is revealed in Chapter 9, the authors work for the Chalmers Center for Economic Development.  Brian Fikkert (Dr. Fikker, as it were) is the Founder and President for CCED and Steve Corbett is the Community Development Specialist for CCED.

This chapter deals with ways to inject money into the materially poor ecosystem without doing a ton of damage.  Mostly focused on forms of Micro Finance (MF), the authors make some very good points about why this method is effective.  Here are some good tidbits to think about:

  • Loan sharks in the Majority World have lending rates as high as 3650% (10% per day).
  • Micro Finance (MF) has become one of the premier strategies for bringing economic empowerment to poor people in the Majority World.
  • Many researchers and practitioners believe that the primary constraint facing poor farmers and microentrepreneurs is a lack of access to capital to purchase equipment and other inputs.
  • The poorest people on the planed do not have access to the typical savings and loan services that the rest of us take for granted.
  • In the absence of banking services, poor people are often forced to borrow money from loan sharks or give their money to “savings sharks” who will keep their saving in a “safe place” until they need it (at the rate of up to 80%).
  • Grameen Bank demonstrated that is was possible to fix at least part of the broken economic system.
  • By placing poor people in borrowing groups of their own choosing and then requiring the group members to guarantee one another’s loans, Grameen showed that it was possible to obtain high rates of loan repayment from poor people.
  • Since missionaries and Majority World churches are on the front lines of poverty alleviation in these contexts, the appropriate role of North American churches is to support and strengthen the ministries of these missionaries and Majority World churches.
  • A Savings and Credit Association is a very simple credit union in which poor people save and lend their own money to one another.
  • The role of indigenous churches or missionaries in this model is simply to promote the group by facilitating its formation.
  • When both MF institutions and churches/missionaries have a holistic vision, they can join hands in ministry, with each party providing a component of what is needed to address the effects of sin at both the individual and systemic levels.
  • Many churches lack a holistic vision, believing they are to care only for people’s spiritual needs.
  • Business as Mission takes on many forms, but its defining feature is the missionary owns and operates a legitimate, for-profit business that he or she uses as a vehicle for ministry.
  • Given that one of the primary problems in the Majority World is a lack of employment opportunities, it makes sense to start and operate businesses than can directly provide jobs for poor people.

There are ways people with a business mindset can have an impact on the materially poor.  I have often investigated buying a coffee farm in Costa Rica and running it as BAM (business as mission).  Much to the chagrin of my wife, I am about 80% serious about packing up and moving.  🙂

Could you imagine running a business in a foreign county and teaching people how to provide for themselves?  How about doing it in the US?  Why is it romantic to dream about doing it with poor people in Kenya but not in New York City?

Just something to chew on.

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