Written for Introduction to Design for Social Innovation, taught at Carnegie Mellon University by Dimeji Onafuwa & Silvia Mata-Marin, in response to the documentary Poverty, Inc.
Watching Poverty, Inc., it was interesting to see how many solutions seem to have been implemented without any consultation or participation with the people who are being directly affected. It’s tragic to see entire communities / countries being treated as guinea pigs for experiments in development that haven’t been thoroughly thought through. The poverty industry continues to profit while the poor only suffer more. It’s also frustrating to see there are people who do have solutions that could be effective, but they are either marginalized or ignored completely. It just goes to show that (as they said in the film) people are capable of solving their own problems, but they are just not in positions of power and so don’t have access to the infrastructure needed to implement the changes.
The documentary didn’t address important contributing factors like history of colonialism and exploitation of resources in these countries. I would have liked to hear more about that, and how these forces can be countered.
Regarding “Exclusion,” they mentioned the breakdown of rule of law and barriers in the justice system, but I wonder whether lack of access to good education may be also be a point of exclusion that is contributing to the cycle of poverty.
Footnote: If anyone is interested, Dead Aid also discusses the failure of foreign aid in Africa. It’s an interesting read, though, as the author is an economist, most of the proposed solutions (as I recall) are less related to social innovation and more to do with economic policy.