Skip to Global Futures Initiative Full Site Menu Skip to main content
April 27, 2015

Responding To: Global Futures Contest: The End of World Poverty

Empowering the Poor to Eliminate Poverty

Jordan Greene

In 2030 we look back at our magnificent accomplishment of eradicating extreme poverty. The road was long and difficult, but the unprecedented cooperation of organizations and the bold dedication and support of global citizens allowed us to best one of the world’s most ancient and dire afflictions.

Extreme poverty was a very complex and dynamic issue that required cross-disciplinary and cross-industry cooperation to solve. The initiative gained momentum when we formalized our two main targets—human security and human capital—and began a campaign to consolidate global efforts toward eliminating poverty through use of internet communities. The key was the empowerment of the poor. These efforts included ending political and ethnic violence; ensuring greater access to food, water, and medical treatment; as well as civic, technical, and entrepreneurial education. These ideas were not novel, but new initiatives to decentralize the distribution of development aid money allowed for a wider spread of innovation and development.

Using new electronic forums and technologies, the World Bank was able to help consolidate the massive efforts toward ending poverty that were already being made by individuals, public and private organizations, and NGOs around the globe. Innovators and philanthropic investors needed to come together to eliminate redundancies between many diverse and often overlapping organizations and projects. Using forums, conferences, and easy-to-use apps, the international community was able to better coordinate its efforts to expand new technologies to help establish human security.

Some innovations included clean water technology like the LifeStraw and other water purification technologies that allowed people consistent access to clean water. With heightened levels of coordination, funds were allocated more efficiently to expand clean water initiatives as well as genetically modified strains of food crops. With expanded access to these technologies, human security increased dramatically. When people had food to eat and water to drink, diseases were less likely to take their lives.

Which leads us to the next step in strengthening human security: disease eradication. Again, with the help of expanded coordination through new forums and collaboration software, scientists and philanthropic firms were able to work together and connect researchers with investors more easily.

Finally, we knew we must stem political and ethnic violence. If destabilizing violence was present, other work could not be done, and no progress toward ending poverty could be made. The efforts to cease the violence that perpetuated poverty in some regions were accomplished with a multilateral approach. Civic education played a major role. We needed feet on the ground to educate people about their responsibilities to participate in their own governance and help maintain peace and stability. Using door-to-door techniques as well as community meetings, teaching campaigns helped people learn to use political channels to resolve issues. Until people felt ownership toward their political system and their government, the system would never last. Governance that maintained political stability had to be a product of people’s own making.

After consolidating our human security efforts and expanding our education campaigns we moved on to the next phase of eliminating poverty: building human capital and stable economies. Finding consistent employment for the extremely impoverished had been a persistent problem for decades. The open market allowed people from all over the world to interact with each other without conflict and to each other’s benefit, but for those with few or no currently marketable skills it was extremely difficult for them to join in and enjoy the wealth of global trade. This is why the entrepreneurial education was so critical in the elimination of extreme poverty.

Entrepreneurial cultivation actually proved to be much more important than just technical skills that could be employed in current industries. We found that in order to permanently eliminate poverty it had to come from the ground up. We couldn’t force people to eliminate their poverty or do it for them; we could only empower people and cultivate their infinite capacity for innovation to eliminate it themselves.

Instead of telling people what they needed in order to eliminate poverty, we asked them what they thought they needed. Instead of granting money to national governments as the World Bank had been doing for decades, we came up with a new method of decentralizing the distribution of aid funds which was specifically aimed at empowering local entrepreneurs. Using new software and paradigms of financial support that were inspired by community groups like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, we were able to engender entrepreneurship among the most impoverished populations. No matter what we had initially thought, the people really did know what they needed better than anyone else. Furthermore, when we opened these initiatives to the public, the weight of funding these projects was also distributed. We found that many in the world wanted to contribute to these efforts, but it was often too complicated, or people didn't trust organizations with their donations. We made access to funds as decentralized as managerially possible. Systems were in place to avoid fraud and maintain absolute transparency in expenditure and allocation of funds. People were able to create solutions that worked for them on a more localized level.

As more people began to have access to financial capital, they were able to create small businesses and simple products and services that were marketable to each other at the local level. The local markets began to swell with business. The distributed financial aid allowed a much wider use of capital, which led to sustainable growth.

Organizations also used distributed-risk models like peer-to-peer lending, as demonstrated by the U.S. firm Lending Club. These initiatives enabled people all over the world to strike up their fledgling economies. People were able to lend to each other with the small amounts they had or were granted and thus benefit from the gains of interest, and we saw the truly infinite innovation of human beings as the poorest of people created novel ideas and innovations. The entrepreneurial and financial education efforts increased and allowed for the small spark of their economies to catch sustainable flame with this new, people-centric model of financial asset distribution.

People were able to create sustainable small businesses which allowed them to begin marketing to and hiring their neighbors and friends who, in turn, had capital to spend and lend. Thus, economies slowly strengthened. As the small businesses expanded they found they were able to adapt their products to the global marketplace. They were slowly but surely integrated into the global marketplace. Once connected, the powers of the market took flight. They were able to compete in the global market, and the market-driven wealth redistribution already underway in places like China, Brazil, and India finally began appearing in the poorest nations as well.

In the end we discovered that it was not our own innovation that was most needed to eliminate extreme poverty, but the immense, latent, transformational power lying dormant in the impoverished people themselves that we needed to cultivate and bring to life that led to the truly remarkable elimination of extreme poverty from the face the Earth.

Jordan Greene is a graduate student at the University of Utah, anticipating graduating with a master's degree in 2016. He found a passion for international affairs when he was young and has been pursuing a career in the field ever since. He has studied the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in person in Jordan, the West Bank and Israel. He also worked at the UN for the Albanian delegation for a short period. He is drawn to problems and innovations in fields that affect a majority of people such as technology, economics, politics, and business. He is an entrepreneur and loves working on dynamic problems as well as creating and strengthening organizations.

Other Responses