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Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (BK Currents) Paperback – 1 Sep 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler (1 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605092762
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605092768
  • Product Dimensions: 14.2 x 1.8 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 420,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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""Out of Poverty by Paul Polak, offers optimism. Optimism not just for those fighting poverty and those fighting to get out of it, but for any company interested in a basically untapped 1 billion-person market."" -- Jessie Scanlon ""February 22, 2008; BusinessWeek""

From the Back Cover

"Out of Poverty teaches us to think simple. Paul Polak brings forward ideas and solutions that bypass government agencies and other leaden institutions. Ideas that work!"
-- Paul Newman

"Paul Polak's life of global engagement testifies to his dedication to helping the rural poor develop concrete ways to fight poverty. His book is the pragmatic idealist's view of how things can be done."
- Suresh Kumar, Special Advisor, Clinton Foundation

"Paul Polak has written a compelling, insightful, and surprisingly practical book on dealing with poverty around the world. Drawing on his own first-hand experiences and in-person observations, Polak's book goes straight to the heart of the matter and offers how-to advice on wiping out global poverty, one family and one person at a time. If half the people on Earth live on less than four dollars a day, then the rest of us should read this book."
- David M. Kelley, Founder and Chairman, IDEO and Donald W. Whittier Professor in Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University

"Paul Polak's approach is beautifully revolutionary because it recognizes that the poor MUST be part of the solution to end poverty, and are not the causes of it."
- Majora Carter, CEO, Sustainable South Bronx

"After 25 years working in developing countries, Paul Polak provides a unique, practical and entrepreneurial blueprint to enable and empower the rural poor to lift themselves out of poverty. His innovative and curious mind and his courage in challenging conventional thinking offer proven solutions which unleash the capacity of the poor to create income - giving them a hand up, not a handout."
- Philip R Berber, Chairman, A Glimmer of Hope Foundation

"Paul Polak offers a personal, radical and profoundly sensible prescription for alleviating global poverty. His engaging style of story-telling is not only persuasive, but entertaining. Read "Out of Poverty" -- it will change the way you look at the world."
- Sandra Postel, Director of the Global Water Policy Project and author of Pillar of Sand: Can the Irrigation Miracle Last?

"Paul Polak listens to people few of us ever hear from--the world's poor `one-acre farmers'--and comes up with simple, practical solutions for helping them better their lives. His work is profoundly inspiring. Even if you don't normally read books about development and poverty, read this one!"
- Lori Pottinger, Director of Africa Programs, International Rivers

"Paul Polak is passionate about the alleviation of poverty. This book presents numerous case studies demonstrating that effective programs to raise the incomes of poor people must start with an effort to understand and involve poor people in the environments in which they find themselves."
- Vernon W. Ruttan, Regents Professor Emeritus, Departments of Economics and Applied Economics, University of Minnesota

"Paul's approach to solving our world's greatest ailment is one of simplicity in design and humanity in spirit. His powerful recipe for change is clear, precise, and DO-able. And we need to desperately DO it right now."
- John Maeda, Associate Director of Research, MIT Media Lab and author of The Laws of Simplicity

"With personal anecdotes and field experiences, Paul Polak shares the philosophies that have made IDE one of the most successful organizations in providing life-changing technologies to people in the developing world. Paul's joie de vivre, his commitment to eliminating poverty and his pragmatic irreverence are all captured in his book."
- Amy Smith, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

"Beyond showing how the world's poor can lift themselves out of poverty, Paul Polak helps us get to know them as human beings. He gives voice to the people he worked with, helps us learn from their experiences. It is an extraordinary gift. This book should be required reading for every citizen of the world!"
- Andrew Youn, founder, One Acre Fund

"Out of Poverty is an unputdownable record of Polak's success with tiny-scale farmers, embedded with
workable rules for designing, scaling up, and distributing affordable innovations to the poor. It makes a
clear declaration: Poverty can be ended if business, government, and development agencies learn these lessons."
- Michael Lipton, Research Professor of Economics, University of Sussex --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Mar. 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of my favorite nonfiction books is Small Is Beautiful. I never thought I would find a book that I liked as much as that one for how to reduce poverty, but Small Is Beautiful has now been replaced by Paul Polak's Out of Poverty as a helpful guide for poverty elimination.

I was drawn to the book by Susan Harrow's video of a talk by Dr. Polak, and I attended a recent presentation he made at MIT to learn more. Though trained as a psychiatrist, Dr. Polak appears to have been a thoughtful listener before he began to treat patients. That sincere interest in understanding the circumstances and perceptions of others has served him well in understanding the real and mental barriers that keep rural poor people who live on less than a dollar a day in income from lifting themselves out of poverty.

In Out of Poverty, Dr. Polak summarizes what he has learned from in-depth conversations with over 3,000 poor people and in attempting to design and deliver products and services that would help them to earn more money from their existing resources. A key lesson that readers will learn is that each person's situation is different, and you cannot impose solutions from above. Instead, you should seek to take advantage of the hard work of poor people and their determination to survive and thrive (if possible).

His overall model is to help rural poor (who are most of the poorest of the poor in the world) to grow high-priced items (such as out-of-season vegetables and fruits) that require lots of labor on tiny plots of land (scattered holdings that total an acre or less for a family). While the concept is simple, turning that concept into reality isn't.
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By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Dec. 2014
Format: Paperback
I am not really someone who gets excited about books on poverty, poverty alleviation, and “social” work in general. Not out of callousness or unconcern with those affected by these issues. I just find most writing on this subject very intellectually shallow, and filled with do-good rhetoric without any concrete realizable effects. In fact, the total lack of success of all well-meaning and over bloated poverty reduction programs, both in the West and the Third World, have made me a bit cynical about the prospects of investing any measure of intellectual effort into trying to understand these problems and appreciate the solutions that really work. So with all that in mind, I was quite amazed with how interesting, educational and inspiring “Out of Poverty” turned out to be.

There are two main features of the book “Out of Poverty” that make it stand out compared to all the other poverty and poverty relief accounts that I’ve come across. The first one is that this is a very hands-on down-to-earth approach to understanding and working with poor people. The author is not a first-world think tank wonk who spends most of his time immersed in the library of some ivory tower institution. He spent a considerable amount of time talking to, and most importantly listening to poor people from around the world. Every page of this book exudes the sense of trust that people who are most affected by poverty are the ones who understand their predicament the best and are able to provide the best insight for the possible solutions to their problems. Which brings me to the second distinguishing feature of this book: its unwavering belief in the enterprising spirit of every human being.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had tried putting my expectations down before reading this book, which has become very popular with many people working in development aid. I must say, that after reading it, I am joining in on the choir of praise for this book.
Mr. Polak is down to earth: there are no policy prescriptions in his book besides some vague references to the amount of aid being given through governments and poverty reductions strategies that want to look at too much, as well as consultants/aid agencies that completely fail to look/ask the poorest about poverty reduction! (and this is, sadly, awfully true in the development business...).
Instead, Mr. Polak concentrates on his passion: with commitment and empathy he writes about the poor farmers he works with and the practical solutions to their problems which they need to struggle with: if the problem is lack of water for irrigation, then what do the poorest of the poor need with grand strategies...? And here, Paul Polak delivers ideas on cheap, practical solutions he has seen working in many of the different places he has worked.
The book is thus an eye-opener, although one could indeed ask for more linking between the grassroot level and the grand strategies of governments/aid agencies, specially because of the infrastructure which Mr. Polak admits that needs to be in place for the farmers to seel/produce more, like roads, transport, agricultural inputs... - perhaps for another book.
Another minor criticism of the book is that it does implicitly assume a completely rational market-behavior on part of all poor farmers; this is not always the case, as small cultural resistance to change or internal power struggles in communities. This is not that rare, and when it happens, it is not always easy to implement some of the good ideas of Mr. Polak.
The book is nevertheless wonderful.
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