I've been thinking lately about development. By lately, I mean the past three or four years, ever since I became an International Development minor and interned in South Africa. I'm still not entirely sure I have a correct idea of what we should be doing in the developing world to lift our brothers and sisters out of poverty. But then again, the experts don't agree either. I was talking with a co-worker about her trips through Africa with Mothers Without Borders. They gather supplies from the States, pay a heapload of money, then travel to orphanages distributing these supplies. I have no doubt these people appreciate their services, but is this really doing anything at all to deliver them from the cycle of poverty? Probably, no, definitely not.
I've been reading a lot lately about the new development trend called "social entrepreneurship." Before, development and business contradicted. Business made money by exploiting these people, not helping them. Agribusiness bought their land for pennies on the dollar to grow cash crops, so that they could no longer grow cassava for their families. Multinational corporations hired them for cheap wages to work in sweat shops in Southeast Asia, so we as Americans would get unlimited cheap clothing, toys, appliances, you name it. For previous development generations, big business=bad news.
Recently though, with the rise in popularity of microcredit and microloans, business is seemingly successful at doing its part in eradicating hunger from the lives of the select poor individuals who benefit from it. Businesses are sending children to school so they do not repeat the course of being ill-educated. Social entrepreneurs are finding ways to improve lives by helping the poor lift themselves out of poverty. It's not about hand-outs, it's not about aid money. It's self-interested in some respects, but what isn't to the economists? It's self-interest that is helping others while it's helping the entrepreneurs. It ensures mutual benefit.
If you want to learn more about social entrepreneurs or development debates in general, there is SO MUCH out there. I've taken a slew of college classes on it, but it really just requires a little reading. Start with Jeffrey Sachs's The End of Poverty. Then read the antithesis of his arguments in William Easterly's The White Man's Burden. There are books with a gender perspective like the new book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn entitled Half the Sky. Read about Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank, then read about his followers. BYU hosts a social entrepreneurship competition every year. Read about some of the winners.
If you don't care to read, but like what little I've said in these sparse paragraphs, give a microloan at Kiva. Buy some jewelry from Musana. Be informed, learn a little bit more about your brothers and sisters not in your family, your ward, your country even. Do your tiniest part to help the world be a better place for God's children.