From Poor to Entrepreneur

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Creative Solutions to Big Problems

Why are poor people poor? A loaded question with potential for lengthy argument and debate. The way you answer that question will affect your attitude and actions toward people who are categorized as poor (or your attitude and actions toward yourself if you consider yourself to be poor)- will you give money to pan-handlers? to organizations that help people who are poor? tell your friends how they’re lazy and should just get a job?

What about challenging the way we see people who live in poverty? Grameen Bank in Bangladesh chooses to see individuals who live in poverty as people with skills who have not been given the opportunity to use them because of institutions and policies around them. They believe that the answer to poverty is the “unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being” (see Grameen Bank website). Their attitude then guides their action, causing them to provide microcredit loans on reasonable terms to people living in extreme poverty so they can build on their skills and earn a better income through entrepreneurial endeavours.

The dividing line between rich and poor is growing smaller these days with the instability of the marketplace. The comfortable of today may be the poor of tomorrow. Seeing the creative potential in people who are poor, rather than seeing charity cases, will go a long way in creating a society with room for all.

(For an example of peer-to-peer lending, see the Zopa website.)

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Today’s 4 Minute Writer

Where’s My Share?

He’s mumbling something as he staggers toward me. His eyes are honed in on my face- is he talking to me? I’m not sure whether to respond or just keep walking- he doesn’t look like the kind of person I’d usually have a conversation with. He continues to approach me, making full eye contact the whole time. I look around. There are other people on the street. I am reassured.

“Pardon?” I ask timidly.

“I said, where’s my $1,500?” His tone is matter-of-fact.

“What?” I’m confused. Does he think I owe him money? He must not be thinking straight, who knows what he’s on.

“The government just announced that they’re giving three million dollars to help the homeless. There are 2,000 homeless people in this city, so where’s my share?”

I stare at him, at a loss for what to say. He breaks eye contact and just keeps walking.

His question stays with me. I know all the answers about how funding goes into programs so that lots of people can get help, it’s not a ‘stand in line and get some money’ free-for-all. Still, there’s something in his question that makes me wonder if we’re losing the value of the individual in order to support programs that keep people trapped in the situations they’re in. I turn around to find out more about who he is and what he thinks, but lose sight of him behind the “Renovations Coming” sign in front of the 12th Street Mission.

Use the comment field to suggest a topic, submit your writing on today’s 4 Minute Writer topic (Where’s My Share?), or to comment.

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4 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Writing

4 responses to “From Poor to Entrepreneur

  1. Well written! I look forward to more of your blog entries.

    Keith

  2. Hi Zoe, what an incisive set of writing. I think you are right: each person is a bundle of potential. The difference between rich and poor is so often not only opportunities, but expectation of oneself. Educational research says the best teachers have high expectations of their pupils: they teach them the sky is the limit. Thus an exceptional teacher can raise someone out of poverty, just by showing their pupils the possibilities for success and fulfilment, and how to reach them.

    Another great post, thank you.

    • You know what’s interesting too, is that since I started the blog and think over posts I’m going to write, I find myself challenged to look at those around me with new eyes- especially those I have a hard time with. Like you say, I start to expect something different from these people as I let them out of the box I’ve put them in. And the results? I’m watching and waiting… Thanks for your comments.

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