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The Business Solution to Poverty; Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers Hardcover – 1 Sep 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler (1 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1609940776
  • ISBN-13: 978-1609940775
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.3 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 377,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This inspiring manifesto from Windhorse International CEO Polak (Out of Poverty) and entrepreneur Warwick (Fundraising When Money Is Tight) features a comprehensive roadmap for executives and entrepreneurs who wish to address the needs of the "bottom billions" who live on $2 a day or less: clean water, renewable energy, affordable housing, accessible health care and education, and jobs. This blueprint should be required reading, since, as Polak reminds readers, "We can't donate ourselves out of poverty." (Sept.) --Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review "One of the most hopeful propositions to come along in a long time. Paul Polak and Mal Warwick's approach is original, ambitious, and practical--and it just may be the key to reducing the number of people in poverty on a very large scale. They propose to harness the power of free enterprise to begin meeting the most basic needs of the poor . . . while making a profit. Though market-based approaches aren't new, Polak and Warwick lay out a practical and systematic way to work on a global scale, transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people."--President Bill Clinton "In down-to-earth prose that's a pleasure to read, Polak and Warwick describe in detail, and with abundant examples, how to build a multinational business that will help end the tragedy of poverty--while opening up new markets and returning attractive profits. This book is must reading for senior management at every major corporation with global operations."--Aron Cramer, President and CEO, Business for Social Responsibility "As this extraordinary book makes so clear, business alone possesses the power and the resources to help billions of the world's poor rise out of poverty. I believe we have a responsibility to do so, too. In these few pages, Polak and Warwick provide us with a detailed blueprint for the construction of new business ventures that will directly address the scourge of poverty."--Anand Mahindra, Chairman, Mahindra & Mahindra "The Business Solution to Poverty is an incredible resource for values-driven business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to improve performance, foster meaningful social change, and enhance the bottom line. Though written with developing countries in mind, the principles of Zero-Based Design can be put to work anywhere. Read this book and change the world!"--Deborah Nelson, Executive Director, Social Venture Network "I visited several small poor villages in rural Orissa where Spring Health, one of the companies this book describes, sells safe drinking water. I believe Spring Health will grow quickly into a very big company. You can learn how to build such a company through this extraordinary book. Paul Polak and Mal Warwick offer a way forward for enterprising multinational companies to expand their markets, acquire tens of millions of new customers, and generate handsome profits--while helping millions of very poor people to lift themselves into the middle class."--Tim Solso, former Chairman and CEO, Cummins "The Business Solution to Poverty presents a radical new idea that's firmly grounded in common sense. This book describes precisely the sort of investment opportunity that patient investors who seek social impact are looking for. Once companies like those Paul Polak and Mal Warwick envision are up and running and looking to the capital markets, I'm confident they will provide the opportunities for funding to help put an end to global poverty."--Wayne Silby, Founding Chair, Calvert Funds "The failure of foreign aid and other efforts by outsiders to end poverty in developing countries is no secret. But now we have a promising alternative approach to this age-old challenge. The Business Solution to Poverty shows the way, step by step, with countless examples that virtually leap off the page."--Barbara Lee, cofounder and Cochair, Congressional Out-of-Poverty Caucus, and Chair, Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity "Paul Polak and Mal Warwick have written an insightful and accessible guide for co-investing in a way that enriches the livelihoods of the poor and the souls of investors. Why are we here, anyway? Whether you're an entrepreneur or investor, The Business Solution to Poverty has an abundance of examples of what it takes for enterprises to be successful and transformational in emerging markets."--Bob Pattillo, founder, Gray Ghost Ventures "Few people in rich countries like the United States can imagine what poverty in the developing world is really like. The Business Solution to Poverty will help readers everywhere understand both the enormous human toll that poverty takes and the true potential to end it."--Van Jones, cofounder, Green for All and Rebuild the Dream "Finally, a solutions-focused approach, as opposed to the typical problems-focused approach, toward solving one of the most pressing global issues of our time--global poverty. Polak and Warwick fully understand that business, not aid, offers the greatest opportunity to serve the world's three billion people living in poverty and that a profit-based solution will move the needle far faster than tired models of traditional philanthropy. These emerging markets represent a vast opportunity for successful enterprises to flourish successfully, and the authors give us a practical guide to doing so."--Kellie A. McElhaney, author of Just Good Business and Founding Faculty Director, Center for Responsible Business, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley "This is a very practical and compelling set of takeaway ideas to accelerate the use of business tools to end poverty. They are based on decades of operational success that have benefited some of the world's most impoverished people. Polak and Warwick have produced a gem that teems with easy-to-understand concepts and brilliant examples that show how business can make a historic contribution to improving life conditions in developed and underdeveloped societies."--Ron Grzywinski, cofounder, ShoreBank "The Business Solution to Poverty is based on decades of experience in eradicating poverty through profitable business. This astounding book will teach you how to practice ruthless affordability, zero-based design, last-mile delivery, and other essentials of poverty alleviation. Your view of poverty--and perhaps of business, too--will never be the same."--Gifford Pinchot, President, Bainbridge Graduate Institute "The Business Solution to Poverty turns Paul Polak's groundbreaking work to expand affordable irrigation for the dollar-a-day farmer into a compelling and practical vision to eradicate poverty. An indispensible resource for all with a big idea, an entrepreneurial spirit, and a drive to make poverty history."--Sandra Postel, author, lecturer, and Director, Global Water Policy Project "Though The Business Solution to Poverty presents a powerful case for a market-based path to a world without poverty, it also lays out a practical and compelling vision of the role that philanthropy and NGOs can play."--Neelam Makhijani, Chief Executive, Resource Alliance "The Business Solution to Poverty helps us understand what poverty looks like in developing countries. Moreover, it challenges us to consider how to best reach potential customers at the bottom of the pyramid by calling for a revolution not just in design but also in corporate blueprints--ushering in a new breed of businesses that should help transform the marketplace in emerging markets."--Randall T. Kempner, Executive Director, Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs "Paul Polak is a hero of mine. His vision, like that of Muhammad Yunus, is to use business to serve the very poor at scale. As entrepreneurs who walk their talk, Polak and Warwick demand that we deliver value to the poor, not catchphrases to the media, and that we do so at a scale commensurate with the need. Polak's personal experience delivering needed basic services over the last mile is what makes this book powerful."--Jay Coen Gilbert, cofounder, B Lab "The Business Solution to Poverty makes a strong case that business, employing innovative technology, can effectively end extreme poverty in collaboration with government and local communities."--Rajiv J. Shah, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development

About the Author

Paul Polak is the founder of Colorado-based nonprofit International Development enterprises (IDE). For the past 25 years, Paul has worked with thousands of farmers in countries around the world to help design and produce low-cost, income-generating products that have already moved 17 million people out of poverty. He is the winner of numerous awards, including being named one of Atlantic Monthly’s 50 “Brave Thinkers” in 2009.”

Mal Warwick worked for three decades as a professional fundraising consultant to nonprofit organizations and progressive political candidates and committees. In 2010, Mal left the fundraising field to become one of four partners in the One World Futbol Project LLC. Now, in 2012, he divides his time among the following: impact investing, and volunteer work for GreatNonprofits, the One World Futbol Foundation, and Social Venture Network.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Shows how design principles and visions can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, health care and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins attractive to investors. Useful ideas for entrepreneurs who are concerned with trying to produce a better life for the world’s poorest people. Builds on the insightful work, a decade ago, of C.K. Prahalad in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 31 reviews
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Too Much Hype; Not Enough Meat! 1 Nov. 2013
By Richard Moxon - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I believe strongly in this book's idea that business can offer solutions to poverty, but these authors offer only a few insights, buried under a ton of self-serving verbiage. They disparage and distort other path-breaking ideas (e.g., microcredit) and books (e.g., C.K.Prahalad's Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid), while offering what they seem to think are amazing "takeaways" like "think big" or "products must be affordable." There are some good ideas and examples here, but come on, these are neither path-breaking nor magic bullets. They are asking budding social entrepreneurs to not even bother unless they can imagine a business with 100 million customers, yet the examples they cite to prove their model have not reached anything like that scale. These authors could have written a much better book if they were less worried about how many books they can sell, and more about adding a few useful ideas to actually improve the world.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A no-nonsense, solutions-focused approach to Creating Shared Value 9 Sept. 2013
By Don Richardson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Paul Polak and Mal Warwick's new book The Business Solution to Poverty is, as Bill Clinton says on the cover note, "one of the most helpful propositions to come along in a long time... original, ambitious and practical." If you're an entrepreneur looking to break into emerging markets, a development practitioner trying to figure out how to harness private sector smarts and local entrepreneurship, or if you are a corporate executive seeking to get beyond glossy "Corporate Social Responsibility" reports and actually get things done that make a difference, buy this book, read it and share it.

The concept of Creating Shared Value has emerged in the last couple of years as an anchor for businesses seeking to make a difference, make profits and scale their offerings for real social and economic benefits. In their well known Harvard Business Review article from 2011, business thought leaders Michael Porter and Mark Kramer provide us with the conceptual building blocks for Creating Shared Value. Polak and Warwick provide a practical "how-to" manual for people looking for a no-nonsense, solutions-focused approach to Creating Shared Value in some of the toughest markets in the world.

Three billion new customers are waiting for innovations and business savvy that target their needs and aspirations. These three billion customers are willing and able to put cash on the table to buy goods and services that they can use to lift their families out of poverty. They are hungry for products and services that will improve their lives.

The Business Solution to Poverty guides you to better understand who these customers are, how they interact with supply chains, and how you can get to know them better. It provides key success factors, a brilliant list of 20 "takeaways", and plain language case studies from the field. Polak and Warwick are the real deal - seasoned entrepreneurs with the scars and business development mileage necessary to write a book that you can pick up and start using right now to build your business solution to poverty.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
For all ctizens 26 Sept. 2013
By Julie O'Mara - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Polak and Warwick's book tells readers how to achieve an amazing "win-win" for the world - how to help people get out of poverty and at the same time provide a viable, profitable business for entrepreneurs and investors. The 20 Takeaways of the book help make the messages and strategies easy to grasp. And the chapter "What We Say to Critics" gives straight-forward information to overcome objections. I definitely suggest reading this even if you aren't an entrepreneur or investor. All citizens should read this as we all need to work collaboratively to end poverty.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
If you are after big money, this is a must read book 22 Sept. 2013
By Renee - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"The business solution to Poverty" is a very insightful reading and is highly recommended for social entrepreneurs, business leaders, non-profit making organizations to read. The authors, Paul and Mal, have shared in this book how to build a sustainable and profitable business by solving the fundamental problems for the masses - people in poverty - those who are earning 2 dollars a day.

Do not think it is an easy start for such business. It is going to take a longer period of time when you design a product/solution the masses need. However, once you have get to that point, your business model is going to lead you to a sustainable and replicable business model that generate long term and consistent revenue.

In this book, Paul and Mal walk the readers through the followings:

- The business opportunities in providing simple (not complicated) solution to painful problems for the masses
- How and what you need to pay attention to when one design a product that the mass market need
- What are the trade-off do you need to make when you decide products for them
- How sustainable and rewarding will it be for businesses like that
- What kind of marketing strategies you should apply when your target customers are the masses in poverty
- Illustrate with examples on successful cases and failure cases
- Who are the key parties that make such business opportunities a success
- How and why you should "reset" your mindset when you want to succeed in designing a product/solution to the masses
- Why most of the funding from different parts of the world is kind of "wasted" and the current problems of poverty has yet been improved much

While you can view this book as a bible that share tips for anyone who wants to succeed by solving painful problem, it also serves a good reminder for start-up entrepreneurs - "You create a product/solution that the market needs and people are happy to pay for and bring them a better returns/life instead of selling what you think they need"

Renee From Asia Business Books
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Must read! 21 Sept. 2013
By Jesse Stoner - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the most important books of our times: a practical and compelling guidebook for how to make an attractive profit while eradicating one of the world's most pressing and persistent problems--that nearly three billion people still live in abject poverty. Polak and Warwick provide a cogent and compelling market-based proposition for how to tackle an enduring challenge that charity and government combined have never managed to meet. I urge you to read this outstanding book and spread the word. The Business Solution to Poverty belongs in the hands of every business leader, entrepreneur, and investor.
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