TED Conversations

V K Madhavan

Operations Director , A4e India Pvt Ltd


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Mere transfer of approaches and processes from successful enterprises to poverty eradication will not work, and could set back efforts too

Increasingly, with entrepreneurs turning their attention to poverty eradication - rarely to address the root causes of injustice or inequality- approaches and processes used successfully in enterprises are being used for social development and poverty eradication. There is a belief that (a) profit - the greatest incentive - is the crucial differentiator to solve problems that have hitherto remained and (b) that a simple solution or product exists or can be created, for every problem - a solution or product that can be made available on a large scale with the accompanying economies.
The process of finding simple solutions is leading to an over-simplification of why poverty exists and persists. The belief that 'a product' exists for every need - it only needs to be invented if it doesn't exist - doesn't recognise the inherent complexity of human life and motivations.
The emphasis on 'products' rather than in 'processes' and 'people' is leading to the root causes for poor governance and the persistence of poverty being swept aside.
We need to pause and apply tools that make for successful enterprises selectively without losing sight of the fact that the reasons for poverty are not just complex but intrinsically linked to human emotions - fear, love, hatred, desire, ambition, shame, insecurity, joy ....
The need for the hour is for a hybrid approach to social development - in other words a new path and not a blind belief that the 'market' offers solution to all our problems.


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  • Feb 15 2011: very true indeed. The art of understanding the actual needs of your client (be it a person, enterprise, non-profit or a community) has been lost because colleges and universities are now focused elsewhere. applying the same template(s) to every challenge will always limit your success. 'Starting with a blank page' (and mind) has never been more important than it is nowadays, and yes, I know some will argue that this leads to too much complexity, but that complexity is only horizontal. Vertically you will be able to manage quite successfully because you already have the tools needed and know how to acquire them if you don't. What works well for me has been to focus on just listening, without thinking while I'm listening, and letting the client lead the approach. In a sense, I'm seeing myself more as a facilitator than an agent of change-I'm there to help not to lead. Once the best solution has been determined then I get aggressive in applying templates, processes and products that have proven successful. I think a similar approach initially will always lead to the best solutions.

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