TACOMA, Washington — When thinking of ways to reduce poverty, one likely thinks of efforts involving direct aid: providing food, clean water and medicines, among other efforts. These efforts are essential, of course, but there are also other ways that people can impact entire communities in long-lasting and sustainable ways. One such way is by supporting entrepreneurship in communities with high poverty rates. Entrepreneurship can reduce poverty in several ways, a fact that Becky Straw of The Adventure Project recognizes.
How Entrepreneurship Can Reduce Poverty
Instead of giving clothes to children in impoverished communities, employment created through entrepreneurship allows parents to buy clothes for their children themselves. Instead of short-term healthcare initiatives that provide healthcare for a few months at a time, employment allows members of the community to provide healthcare all year round. The majority of workers in developing countries are self-employed, mostly consisting of farmers and “own-account” workers. These “small-scale entrepreneurs” face higher risks of poverty. This is largely why entrepreneurship is so important in the fight against poverty — empowering self-employed workers to improve their job and income stability is key for them to form a pathway out of poverty. Using entrepreneurship to create jobs is an ideal way to give people living in poverty the opportunity to better their situation in a sustainable way.
The Adventure Project
Several organizations do address the issue of global poverty through entrepreneurship. One such organization is The Adventure Project. Co-founder Becky Straw came up with the idea for the organization after seeing the prevalence of broken wells soon after they were installed. Charities were building plenty of wells, but the wells would often break down soon after and communities did not have the skills or resources to perform repairs.
Consequently, communities lost their access to clean water and organizations would require more money and resources to return and fix the wells, which sometimes did not happen. In the face of broken wells and facilities, the organization required an alternative solution to ensure that the communities retained their access to water and the ability to lift themselves out of poverty. Straw looked to entrepreneurship as a path toward sustainable change and long-term poverty reduction.
The Adventure Project focuses on four main areas in its quest to reduce poverty: “environment, hunger, health and water.” Within these areas, the organization creates jobs that address the needs of the community and give people a way of providing for themselves and their families. To preserve the environment, The Adventure Project trains members of the community to build and sell efficient stoves that reduce carbon emissions. Addressing health, the organization trains healthcare workers to sell medical products and provide medical attention. To improve hunger, the organization provides irrigation pumps so people can grow and sell food to the community. Finally, focusing on water, the issue inspiring Straw to start The Adventure Project, the organization trains mechanics to fix broken wells and engineers to keep the pipes working.
The Ripple Effect of Employment
Creating a job does not only help the one person who secures the job. As Straw explains, “that job ripples in extraordinary ways to help the community.” It is easy to see the impacts that a singular job has on the person’s family, but the effects it has on other people are also significant. Straw spoke of the incredible experience of Grace, a woman who got a job through The Adventure Project and was able to buy malaria medicine for the extremely sick kids of another mother in the community. The mother spread the news of how Grace saved her kids and Grace essentially became the “hero of the community,” in Straw’s words, by helping several other kids who became sick. Stories like this demonstrate the impact of just one job on countless people.
For jobs to truly uplift a community, employment needs to be stable and productive. Oftentimes, the focus is on the number of jobs created rather than the impact of those jobs. Aspects of jobs such as “equity, security, dignity and freedom” need addressing as well to elicit the greatest impact on people. As illustrated by Grace’s story and countless others, a job that allows people to help others can be incredibly impactful. This is something The Adventure Project accomplishes with its programs. As Straw explains, the people the organization helps are “resilient and hard-working and have a lot to offer. And they have purpose, they just don’t have the same opportunities.” Giving them the resources and technology to utilize their skills and drive to help themselves and others is the key to reducing poverty.
Impact in Numbers
The use of entrepreneurship to improve the livelihoods of those living in poverty has resulted in concrete impacts in several countries. The Adventure Project alone has created more than 2,200 jobs that have impacted more than 1.9 million people across six different countries. This includes more than a million people who have received access to clean water through the 331 jobs created for well workers. Organizations like The Adventure Project highlight the effectiveness of this strategy, which will only increase as employment becomes a larger focus of poverty reduction efforts. Using entrepreneurship to reduce poverty not only helps people earn a living for themselves, but also impacts entire communities and creates a better living and learning environment.
– Ritika Manathara