The Economist has a recent article (“Revisiting Ricardo”) on the reasons behind the growing economic inequalities within the poorest countries. One point discussed is that better educated and better skilled individuals are able to connect with individuals and companies in the advanced economies, and move towards their income levels and standards of living. Not only are the uneducated and unskilled unable to do this, they are also losing their previous connections to their more fortunate fellows. Hence economic development can help the top and hurt the bottom within a country.

Economic development in all countries correlates with a variety of factors such as good early education, high savings, investment in infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, etc), and less corruption. In developed economies some people want good kindergartens so that their kids will ultimately do well in university. That is a priviledged view of the value of primary education. In the poorest economies, many children get very little education at all. In Afghanistan and ten African countries, most adults can’t read and write. In India and Pakistan, a quarter of the adult population is illiterate – hundreds of millions of people.

We work with the Acumen non-profit fund to support their Fellowship program in India, Pakistan and East Africa. The Fellows are all social entrepreneurs who are developing the skills necessary to implement dreams of changing their communities in long-term foundational ways – schooling, garbage recycling, farming initiatives, micro loans. Here are the 2014 Pakistan Regional Fellows:

2014 Lahore Acumen Fellows-resized-600

They are young, intelligent, dynamic and big-hearted. We are happy to provide 2-day Income|Outcome workshops for them, and trust that their enterprises will be stronger as a result. We recognize that our workshops only reach 18 people at a time, but we believe the powerful ripple effect will help bring benefits to tens of thousands.

But surely there has to be a way to provide basic business literacy to the hundreds of millions who struggle to survive by creating very basic businesses. Some are selling fruit from a basket by the side of the road, or practising an informal repair skill they have. But as they have no way of understanding their full costs or their investment needs or their cash flows, they have little chance of growing beyond a hand to mouth existence.

We are working on ways to reach these people directly, and changing technology is providing new pathways for us.

If your interests are in the not-for-profit area, contact us. We’re looking for solutions too!