Top 10 PovertyCure Videos for 2017

We wanted to make sure to highlight PovertyCure’s top 10 videos from 2016 so if you have not seen them yet, you can easily do so now! Check out the list below and watch them all today!

#1 – Poverty, Inc. Official Trailer

Drawing from over 200 interviews filmed in 20 countries, Poverty, Inc. unearths an uncomfortable side of charity we can no longer ignore. From TOMs Shoes to international adoptions, from solar panels to U.S. agricultural subsidies, “Poverty, Inc.” challenges each of us to ask the tough question: Could I be part of the problem?

#2 – Microfinance 101

Microfinance is most often equated with microcredit, but it’s more than that. In this video clip from the PovertyCure DVD Series, microfinance experts Ebow Graham, Muhammad Yunus, and Damian von Stauffenburg flesh out the bigger picture.

# 3 – PovertyCure – From Aid To Enterprise [Full Version]

PovertyCure is an international network of organizations and individuals seeking to ground our common battle against global poverty in a proper understanding of the human person and society, and to encourage solutions that foster opportunity and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit that already fills the developing world.

#4 – Charity that Hurts – Clips from PovertyCure Episode 1

A billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. For Christians, addressing this problem is a nonnegotiable; it is an essential element of our faith. But having a heart for the poor isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes, with the best of intentions, we actually do more harm than good. Unfortunately, in our filming and research, we found story after story of not-so-positive, unintended consequences of many charity and aid projects around the world. If we really care about our brothers and sisters in the developing world, we have learn from our mistakes. We must use our minds to unite our desire to help others with our knowledge of the social, economic, political, and spiritual foundations of human flourishing.

In this session, we will analyze the two major forms of international development assistance, private charity and government-to-government foreign aid, and hear what the indigienous leaders and recipients of such assistance have to say about it — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

#5 – PovertyCure – a Six Part DVD Series [Extended]

PovertyCure is thrilled to present our new, six-episode DVD series on human flourishing. Three years in the making, this high-energy, 152-minute documentary-style series challenges conventional thinking and reframes the poverty debate around the creative capacity of the human person, made in the image of God. Listen to the voices of entrepreneurs, economists, political and religious leaders, missionaries, NGO workers, and everyday people as host Michael Matheson Miller travels around the world to discover the foundations that allow human beings, families, and communities to thrive.

# 6 – Ghanaian Entrepreneur: Growth Hindered by Foreign Aid

In this clip from the PovertyCure DVD Series (see, Ghanaian software entrepreneur Herman Chinery-Hesse describes how foreign aid can often inhibit growth for local businesses.

“When elephants fight, the grass suffers… political parties rely on foreign aid more than tax revenue so they are more interested in a smile on the World Bank country director’s face than the success of my business.” — Herman Chinery Hesse, Ghanaian Software Entrepreneur

#7 – Theodore Dalrymple on the Capacity of the Poor

“The first thing I would say to those who say that we must come and give, otherwise these people are incapable of improving their situation or getting out of their poverty, is to ask them why…Why are these people uniquely unable to get out of their poverty? Is there not evidence, in fact, that when given the opportunity, they do in fact, uh, get out of poverty themselves?” – Theodore Dalrymple, Writer and Psychiatrist (UK)

#8 – Does Globalism Destroy Culture?

“The globalization of business, of trade, of the exchange of goods and services is the best way to protect cultures, because it supports and encourages individual prosperity, the right of every person to be able to go out and have the freedom to fail, or the freedom to achieve, the freedom to be able to participate in a global economy.” — Declan Ganley

#9 – A Kenyan Professor’s Call to Action – Poverty, Inc.

Following the Colorado Premiere of Poverty, Inc. at Starz Denver Film Festival, Dr. M.D. Kinoti, PhD immediately approached Mark R. Weber about setting up a screening at Regis University. A native of Kenya with decades of experience in international development, Dr. Kinoti knows better than most the adverse effects of the poverty industrial complex and the need to re-think the way we address people in the developing world.

“As an African, having grown up in rural village in Kenya and poor, and having worked two decades in the development sector for big NGOs such as World Vision, I cannot stress enough the importance of the ideas presented in this film for our students and faculty.” – Dr. Kinoti

#10 – Robert Woodson on Effective Charity

Bob Woodson explains the problem with the ‘therapeutic model’ of many social service programs and charity organizations, which threaten the human dignity of the recipient by seeing them as helpless in their poverty. People feel most dignified and least degraded when they earn the things they have, not when they are given things. Hand-outs often reinforce the problem of dependency and the unequal provider/recipient or therapist/client relationship that is intrinsic to the therapeutic model of charity.

Watch more of our videos on our YouTube Channel!  Happy New Year!

Changing the Perception of Work | by Chad Jordan


Let’s talk about jobs. Sure, work might not be the most thrilling narrative, but I promise to do my best to make it a little more exciting.

What’s a root cause of individuals and families not having education and healthcare access? What’s a key reason for food insecurity? Lack of stable income. And where can one find consistent income? A job. You see where I’m going with this?

Lack of consistent, stable income is one of the key roots of systemic poverty. If families had access to stable income, they could afford to pay school fees, take their children to a clinic if they’re sick, make sure they eat three meals a day.

A job is a lifeline. Though it’s a single person working that job, the effects it has on family and community members is astounding. It means the difference between sending your children to bed hungry or with a full belly.

But how do we promote jobs, employment, dignity in Africa or Central America or South Asia? Wouldn’t it be easier to focus on an education platform or a healthcare clinic or a feeding program? The answer is that it’s not easy to focus on job creation, and yes, it would be simpler to work on a less daunting program. The point here is not to take away from those great organizations working on education, healthcare, or food. They are needed and valuable to create infrastructure, but they’re not a solution to poverty in themselves.

The truth is that community transformation, national transformation, regional transformation will only come from economic engagement. Gone are the days where we can ignore the economy with our efforts to “help,” because including the economy is, in fact, the only way to make lasting progress. I believe we have to attack the root of poverty if we ever want to do anything about it, and unleashing the power of jobs is an essential way to do that.

Attacking poverty with jobs? Again, sounds kind of boring, difficult, even misguided. Go ask someone stuck in the grips of poverty what they most want in the world. Did you do it? I guarantee you the answer was “a job.” Stable employment is the way to build a better future for yourself, your family, your community, your nation.

Taking this whole crazy idea even further, we have to identify the visionaries who will help create the jobs we’re talking about for unskilled workers who might not otherwise have a place to turn. Not everyone can (poof) create jobs out of thin air. But entrepreneurs have the ideas and innovations — the grit — to create opportunity for members of their communities.

We have to identify the entrepreneurs, who when enabled to scale their businesses, can create more jobs, more security, more access for those stuck in cyclical poverty. These men and women are catalysts in this endeavor of putting people to work. They are the local heroes we can help support (read: not direct) as they do what they know how to do: business.

The long and short of all this is that we need to find ways to support business innovation, scaling, and training as a means to job creation, which is the way for families and communities to transform their norm and get out of systemic patterns of poverty.

Our team at Arrow has chosen to focus on global job creation by building an investment platform to link altruistically-motivated investors in the United States with growth-ready entrepreneurs in Central America and Africa. How will you support work, jobs, and stable income for families around the globe?


Chad Jordan is the author of Shut Up & Give?, ReThink Missions, and Three Jobs, as well as the co-founder & CEO of Arrow Global Capital and the founder of Cornerstone International.  He is a 2016 Under 30 NextGen Award winner and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

How We Can Break Free of the Handout Mentality | by Andrew Vanderput


Handouts can be a pretty contentious term. Hopefully my next statements will help ensure that I do not increase that contention. When you saw  “handout mentality” you might have thought I was referring to the material poor. Actually, I was referring to you. More on that later.

For the sake of this article, let’s define handouts as the provision of resources to people in material poverty without any expectation that the recipients will need to invest their own time or other assets in order to receive those same resources in the first place. Note: Relief or aid given to people immediately after a manmade or natural disaster would not fall under our definition of handouts.

We know that handouts as defined above can be ineffective and damaging. They can create dependency and destroy initiative in the recipients. Why develop your own talents and work to become independent when you know you will be provided for free of cost? Because of this, recipients will become chronically reliant upon their patrons and will never be able flourish themselves, let alone help their communities do the same.

There are a myriad of other reasons handouts are damaging that we could discuss, but I want to get back to you. While handouts can be destructive, it is the views that undergird handouts that are even more pernicious. To be more specific, it is how you see the people you want to help that causes the damage. This may sound tangential but it is not. It is crucial. How you view people will invariably dictate and shape your efforts to help them.

If you only and ever see people as incapable, helpless, unable to contribute, and even burdensome then your actions will naturally flow from that perspective and inform your poverty fighting efforts. You will not partner with the poor, you will patronize them. You will only see their lack, so you will give shortsightedly. This errant view of the material poor is the handout mentality.

Please do not automatically dismiss this point or see it as irrelevant to you. While you may think you do not see the material poor in such light or would never dream of doing so, subconsciously you may. When examined carefully, the causes you give to, and the way you have gone about addressing poverty will tell you a lot about how you see the poor. Given enough critical thought, you might realize you have a handout mentality.

How do we break free of this mentality? We must change our thinking so that the material poor are seen as they truly are: Created by God and fellow bearers of His image. As people full of potential and endowed with incredible, creative abilities. As savvy and entrepreneurial. As partners. As equals.

When you begin to view the poor like this, everything changes. You are no longer focused on lack, want, or deficit. You only see assets, potential, and opportunity. You see all of the enterprise and business opportunities you can support. You no longer see yourself or your institution as the answer. You realize they are the answer. You break free of your handout mentality.


Andrew Vanderput is the Strategy and Engagement Manager at PovertyCure, an initiative of the Acton Institute. Andrew comes from a diverse background in public policy, non-profits focused on international poverty, marketing, and consulting. He has long held a passion for promoting entrepreneurial solutions to poverty. He lives with his wife and two children in Grand Rapids, MI.

Want to Help Haiti in Hurricane Matthew’s Aftermath? Look to PovertyCure Partners

Haiti Hurricane Matthew

The strongest storm to hit the Caribbean in a decade, Hurricane Matthew, has now moved north but left great devastation in its wake. The power of this storm’s destructive force was felt most in Haiti and news coverage at this point has largely focused the Haitian’s plight. This has led many to ask how can they serve or help the people in Haiti.

As a country that is too well acquainted with catastrophe, Haiti has received much foreign aid and help in the last many years. In times after great natural disasters, relief has been sorely needed. In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, relief will be needed again.

The problem is that NGOs and governments will likely never move beyond providing relief. Instead of supporting local entrepreneurs and businesses, these charitable actors’ ongoing efforts will very likely unintentionally harm the very people they are attempting to help.

So which organizations support local entrepreneurs and local businesses, the true hope of Haiti? PovertyCure has developed a global network of partners that adhere to the PovertyCure principles and therefore, are attempting to address poverty in such a way that we believe is the most effective and leads to human flourishing. Here is a list of many of our partner organizations that work in Haiti:

These partners, along with others, are doing the hard and slow work of building up local entrepreneurs and businesses in Haiti. Through their efforts the beautiful Haitian people increasingly see themselves as the heroes in their own story. As you consider which organizations to support in their efforts to serve in Hurricane Matthew’s aftermath, we humbly submit these PovertyCure partners as good options.


About the Author:

Andrew Vanderput is the Strategy and Engagement Manager at PovertyCure, an initiative of the Acton Institute located in Grand Rapids, MI.

Thinking About Poverty | by Gerry Hartis


Material sufficiency, even abundance, is an important dimension of the prosperity that is the destiny of humanity. This notion is more than mere “make-me-happy” humanism.  Jesus himself tells us, “I have come that they may have life; and have it to the full. (John 10:10 – NIV). This prosperity, this God-kind-of-full-life, that Jesus came to give us has two core characteristics:

  1. Vibrant and resilient community and
  2. Satisfying and fruitful work.

To say, as many mistakenly do, that material wealth is what Jesus promises us would be silly.  But it would be equally as silly to deny that material wealth has obvious and important implications for both.

Let’s consider the first: vibrant and resilient community. Anyone who knows actual people living in actual poverty will quickly observe that the absence of community is both a cause and effect of material lack. It is, after all, not just what, but who, you know.

Well-connected people don’t look for jobs – and I’m dating myself here – in the newspaper. They simply call their friends and begin to ask after opportunities.  Eventually, their social networks yield something. But poverty is in part caused, and then reinforced, by a lack of these same social networks. If you don’t know anyone with a fruitful and satisfying job, it is unlikely that anyone will offer you one. Thus, Proverbs 19:7 reports, “The poor are shunned by all their relatives – how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found. (NIV)”

The same it true of work. Lack of work is both a cause and effect of poverty. Material resources, including cash, are important to participation in family/community and performing work.  How often has the it been said, with hands raised in vexation, “to get a job you have to have a job!”  This catch 22 forces the socially unconnected to start from scratch.  And while their peers gain valuable experience under the supervision of their parents’ friends, the poor toil to pull together a long enough work history to compete for entry level positions.  This cycle puts them at a disadvantage well into their careers.

So, I offer that when we think about how to serve people living within the limitations of material poverty, the framework of “community and work” will guide us to two at least two important questions:

  1. How might we create opportunities and provide resources for people to move toward participation in vibrant, life-giving and resilient communities?
  2. How might we create opportunities and provide resources for engagement in satisfying and fruitful work.

How do we respond? With more questions of course!

Here’s a perspective set of questions we can ask. The first questions are personal ones:

  • Who are the people with whom I am in relationship, but for one reason or another, are in danger of moving outside a community of care and positive influence?
  • How might I help those people find social or occupational opportunities and resources?

From there we ask:

  • Who can help me respond to connect these people to a life-giving community?
  • Who can help me help my neighbor find opportunity and resources for generating value within the community we share?

A third level of inquiry might be:

  • What organizations are already addressing the needs of people, like the one’s I know, who need/want community and opportunity and resources for value-generating work?
  • Are they doing their work well?
  • Do I support them?

As answers to those questions emerge we get a clearer picture of our own personal role in the fight against poverty. We see those in, or near, our own circle influence who are impoverished by isolation from community, or by lack of opportunity and resources. These are individuals with whom we can take personal responsibility and act in their favor. We can make it a point to introduce them to community. We can take economic chances on them.  We can, in short, be the beginning of the network and/or opportunity that we ourselves have enjoyed through others.

We also identify organizations and institutions that will share the weight that comes from offering such aid. By supporting those groups with time, talent and treasure, we make it easier for others to ask these same questions and engage. And once the virtuous cycle starts to spin, it only gets easier to make a difference.


Gerry Hartis is an experienced professional working with commercial and non-profit organizations engaged at the intersection of business, higher education, and policy. Gerry served as the Director of Business & Leadership Studies at the American Studies Program of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (Washington, DC). In that role he was among the first to actively explore the application of market principles to the global development enterprise through partnerships with players in the NGO and business communities. Gerry and Joanna Hartis are residents Alexandria, VA.

PovertyCure Issues: Education

Learning is action and the proper starting point is understanding the person and the foundations of human flourishing.  Today we continue our series of PovertyCure Issues focusing on the Human Person, specifically Education.  You can see our other PovertyCure Issues Posts by clicking here.

The singular issue is improving human capital.  ~ Carl Schramm

Education and Economic Development

Education in developing countries can help improve life in obvious ways, such as economic growth, political stability and personal health. Unfortunately, developing countries tend to be behind the rest of the world in basic education, especially women’s education. Still, increased education funding is not a silver bullet, and not only because foreign aid for education often gets misdirected by inefficient and corrupt bureaucracies. With education, as with most issues in poverty relief, good intentions need to be yoked to sound economics and a right understanding of the human person if they are to generate positive results for the poor.

Education in Developing Countries and Foreign Aid

In his essay, “After Empire,” Theodore Dalrymple describes a negative consequence of formal education that he observed while living and working in Tanzania: “The aim of education was, in almost every case, that at least one family member should escape … rural life and get into government service, from which he would be in a position to extort from the only productive people in the country—namely, the peasants from whom he had sprung.” As Dalrymple says in the PovertyCure interview, “The purpose of education was to get a job in the government so that you became a member of this parasitic class,” meaning the ruling political class, which “had actually an interest in making sure that no one else flourished, because that would be the end of aid.” In other words, badly focused Western education efforts in Tanzania resulted in people leaving the real foundation of the economy, its farming, to join the government in extorting from the remaining farmers, with devastating consequences for the society. Without care taken to prevent problems like this, formal education can actually worsen the situation in a developing economy.

The international push for free primary education has attracted billions of dollars in support for planting government schools all over the globe. The cause seems unquestionable, but James Tooley, a Professor of Education Policy at Newcastle University, has noticed some troubling unintended consequences. Kenya has experienced some of these actions directly. Propelled by a $55 million grant from the World Bank in 2003, the Kenyan government instituted Free Primary Education (FPE), a program which official sources estimated, “would allow an extra 1.3 million children to be enrolled in public school: all of them children not previously enrolled in school.”

But the results were less than hoped for and the effect on local entrepreneurs was stark. “Private-school owners in Kibera alone reported a total enrollment decline of some 6,500 after Free Primary Education was initiated; some schools closed altogether,” said Tooley. Also contrary to early predictions, the government schools posted only subtle increases in enrollment numbers, and according to local school owners, “FPE caused an overall net decline in [school] attendance of nearly 8,000 children from one slum alone.” However well-intended, the “international community” ended up crowding out local education pioneers instead of partnering with them.

Subsidiarity and the Vision of Education in Developing Countries

To effectively improve education in developing countries, subsidiarity needs to play an important role, allowing local knowledge to shape the sort of education children receive. What may be best for a child in suburban Boston may not be the best curriculum for an equally bright kid in a farming village in India. Or there may be substantial overlap. But a one-size-fits-all mentality will not allow anyone to make an informed decision on this score.

More fundamentally, an effective educational system must begin with a true understanding of the nature of the human person. An educational system that buys into a redistributionist and zero-sum view of wealth, for instance, is less likely to encourage children to aspire to wealth-creating activities in their professional lives. Consider the example that Dalrymple gives of education in Tanzania when he lived there. Notice that in that example, an understanding of local needs by itself would not have been enough to break the cycle of parents seeking to train their children to enter the government bureaucracy: families’ local knowledge apparently was informing them that there were so few opportunities for advancement outside of government service that they shouldn’t bother trying to educate their kids to be entrepreneurs or scientists or engineers. Thus, fruitful transformation requires holistic change—in this case, an effort to reform both the vision of a good education and the cultural institutions beyond the school so that some children not only develop wealth-creating skills, but also have opportunities to use their training to create new wealth for themselves and their communities.

Education at the Sonrise School in Rwanda—Training Job Makers

The example of the Sonrise School in Rwanda, founded by Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana, offers one positive example. Bishop John has sought to fashion an educational experience that nurtures the creative and leadership capabilities of the school’s students, many of whom were orphans. “Instead of training job seekers, we train job makers,” he says. “We need to be able to move from aid to production.” At the same time, and for several years now, the country’s political leaders have been working to make Rwanda a more business-friendly environment—friendly both to investors from the developed world and for indigenous entrepreneurs. If Rwanda’s strong rate of economic growth since the latter half of the 1990s is any indication, these efforts are paying dividends. Such institutional reforms mean that children who are taught entrepreneurial skills are more likely to have a positive outlet for such skills, a fact that will encourage Rwandan families to search out and cultivate entrepreneurial talent in their children. In this way, a vicious circle may eventually be replaced by a virtuous one.

Entrepreneurs Meeting Education Needs

We sometimes treat “the poor” as if they were somehow uniquely incapable of rising out of poverty without our assistance. We often assume, if we don’t provide them with everything they need, including education, that no one will. Yet if we look closely (and with a bit more humility), we see indigenous solutions everywhere.

Part of Tooley’s research was undertaken in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. “Kibera has, according to various estimates, anywhere from 500,000 to 800,000 people crowded into an area of about 630 acres, smaller than Manhattan’s Central Park,” Tooley notes. It is also a place where private property ownership is difficult to achieve. Many of the homes and businesses are labeled temporary structures, and the owners are unable to gain land title and recognition by the government.

Despite the challenging business landscape, Tooley found entrepreneurs stepping in to fill educational needs. “…We found 76 private elementary and high schools, enrolling more than 12,000 students. The schools are typically run by local entrepreneurs, a third of whom are women who have seen the possibility of making a living from running a school,” he explains. The schools also offered shelter for the poorest, including orphans.

Surprising discoveries were also made in the Gansu province, a remote and mountainous region situated on the upper and lower reaches of the Yellow River in northwest China. “Roughly half of its counties, with 62 percent of the population, are considered ‘impoverished’,” says Tooley. Looking beyond the major towns and bustling villages, where public schools are common, Tooley’s team scaled the steep mountain paths to discover “a total of 696 private schools, 593 of them serving some 61,000 children in the most remote villages.” “Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Gansu’s private schools were set up by individuals, or the villages themselves, because government schools are simply too far away or hard to get to,” says Tooley. Locals identified the vital need for education and acted to meet the need.

Government Education in Developing Countries vs. Low Cost Private Schools

Another area of study connected to education reform in developing countries is the question of public vs. private education. Efforts have been made by organizations such as the United Nations to increase worldwide primary education through donor-funded public schools, in the belief that only rich families have access to private education. Despite the expectations, however, studies show that poor families around the world frequently opt to pay for low-cost private education rather than the free education provided by government schools. Tooley researched this phenomenon, and in “Backing the Wrong Horse,” he reports, “Across the developing world the poor are eschewing free, disturbed by its low quality and lack of accountability. Meanwhile, educational entrepreneurs from the poor communities themselves set up affordable private schools to cater to the unfulfilled demand.”

In his study, Tooley found that private schools outperformed their public counterparts in nearly every level of comparison. Public education suffers from problems such as lack of accountability; indifferent teachers who often fail even to show up at schools, and overcrowding. Tooley quotes a woman in Kenya who uses an analogy to describe the situation: “If you go to a market and are offered free fruit and vegetables, they will be rotten. If you want fresh fruit and veg, you have to pay for them.”

Tooley found the rate of teacher absenteeism to be higher in most government schools than private schools. In addition, student performance in many private schools was noticeably higher. In Hyderabad, India Tooley observed that “students attending recognized and unrecognized private schools outperformed their peers in government schools by a full standard deviation in both English and math (after accounting for differences in their observable characteristics).”

While publicly-funded schools initially have a larger pool of resources to draw from, the educational experience in private schools may be just as good, if not better. Tooley observed a private school in Ghana consisting of little more than an iron roof and rickety poles. When speaking with the school’s owner, he gained a much different perspective than one might expect from merely looking at the architecture. “Education is not about buildings,” she scolded. “What matters is what is in the teacher’s heart. In our hearts, we love the children and do our best for them.”

This richness is an aspect not always present in government-funded schools, which lack accountability to the parents. Tooley maintains that “when parents pay fees they demand more of the schools, and the schools themselves are more accountable to the parents.” Making a financial commitment to education empowers parents to be more conscious of and committed to the education process, and urges schools to be good stewards of the resources given to them by parents.

Education in Developing Countries: Parent Choice and Accountability

Riddhi Shah cites competition, parental choice and accountability as factors that help to sustain the high standard of education in private schools, allowing them to outperform public schools at a very low cost. Some have suggested more funding to improve public schools, but in her article, “Class Difference,” Shah quotes an Indian mother criticizing the idea: “The problem isn’t the money … The problem is the teachers don’t have to listen to us.” Tooley suggests helping extremely poor families pay for private schools with government vouchers, to ensure that parents can put pressure on schools to perform and choose the right education for their children.

Even when given the option of sending their children to public school at no cost, a significant number of parents in the developing world seek out alternate options. In Ghana, the government has built schools across the country. The tuition is free, but the quality is generally low, sending frustrated parents looking for private solutions. The PovertyCure DVD Series features interviews of Ghanaian parents who have opted for private schools providing high-quality education at a fraction of the teacher cost.

This desire for private education is reflected in the high number of private schools within portions of the country. In the Ga district of Ghana, which surrounds the capital city of Accra, Tooley’s researchers found “a total of 799 schools, 25 percent of which were government, 52 percent recognized private, and 23 percent unrecognized private.”

Competition and Partnership in the Education Process

While entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill the high-quality education void across the developing world, sustainable private education requires something more. Recognition of these schools by the government is needed, as well as a legal framework that allows for their expansion. Some countries have made great strides in this area. In Peru, for example, the law on for-profit education was liberalized, with the goal of allowing international companies involvement in the education process. As competition is good for the development of high-quality goods and services, it is also beneficial for education.

In addition, outside investment in private education can yield high-level growth and a long-term impact, providing resources initially lacking in school start-ups. Tooley and others believe the high-quality education provided by private schools makes this a worthwhile venture, not just for communities themselves, but countries as a whole. He co-founded Omega Schools, which creates private schools in Ghana that benefit low income families and empower students. In just three years, the Omega Schools chain has grown to 20 schools and 11,000 students.

Key Voices:

James Tooley on Parent-Teacher Accountability
When I first came to Ghana, I met with just astonishment because private schools they say are for the rich, the elite, the middle classes. So the question arises: why are parents paying fees to go to private schools when they could get government schools for free? I think it comes down to probably two main reasons. One is when parents pay fees, they demand more of the schools. The second reason is that the schools themselves are accountable to the parents.

James Tooley on The Low Cost of Private
What we found in my study was that in poor areas like this, the majority of school children are in private schools, and these schools outperform the government schools at a fraction of the teacher cost.

James Tooley on Competition
In a small village like this, there are six private schools. Can you imagine that? Small village, six private schools? They are all in competition. They all want to innovate, to improve and raise standards. That’s why competition is good. It’s good for the parents; good for the children; it’s good for the system.

James Tooley on What’s best for the kids
People say, ‘you’ve got to have public education, these are the poor people, public education has got to work there.’ Some people might say, ‘you’ve got to have private education’, but who cares? Let’s cut through all that and say, ‘what works for the children? What works for the children of the poor?’ And then we can have a real discussion. Drop your ideological baggage. What I found in this research all over the world in every single country is that parents the worldover are the same as parent

Marc Coleman on The Economic Advantages of Education
I would say the excellence of our education system [in Ireland], up until the 1980’s, in providing a highly-skilled and flexible workforce was a key ingredient in attracting foreign direct investment … to attract those industries, you need to have an excellent education system.

Marc Coleman on Education as a Transmitter of Economic Prosperity
You’ve got to be consistent. If you’re buying into free markets and free trade in the way you deal with the outside world, you’ve got to have free markets and trade in your domestic economy. But you’ve also got to have a certain amount of social fairness. And education is crucial to distributing economic opportunity. You’ve got to make sure that access to education is spread to everybody. You’ve got to make sure that access to health is spread to everybody.  These are the basic transmitters of economic prosperity. And if you do that, then you will find that you do transmit the wealth across the whole of society; and as a happy byproduct, you have more buy-in from all different sections of society. And that’s very important to a developing economy. Because if you don’t do that, what can go wrong very quickly, particularly in some developing economies, is that you get a very strong opposition to globalization and you get political instability, and perhaps unrest.  And that can threaten the whole project, and that can actually send a country going backwards, into insularity, into protectionism, and into oligarchy.


PovertyCure Issues: Dignity and Capacity of the Poor

The first thing I would say to those who say that we must come and give, otherwise these people are incapable of improving their situation or getting out of their poverty, is to ask them ‘Why?’ – Theodore Dalrymple


Inherent Human Dignity

The materially poor are often viewed as inferior in worth and dignity to the materially wealthy. Historically, this has led to neglect, exploitation and enslavement. But a more insidious way that such prejudice manifests itself is when the well-intended view the poor primarily as objects of pity to be saved by gestures of charitable good will. Such a reaction to extreme poverty involves at least a half truth. Our desire to help is rooted in a proper recognition of our human solidarity with those who are suffering. But that sense of solidarity is compromised when we fail to see the capacity of the poor alongside their need.

The Danger of Dependency

In ancient Rome, the impoverished masses were satisfied in their lowly state by the state providing “bread and circuses.” In other words, they were given free food and entertainment rather than economic freedom along with the opportunity to develop and use their natural abilities. This has been a recurring pattern. Political interests often dictate the creation of generous welfare programs and unconditional aid. A sop is easier to provide than a solution. Unfortunately, these programs often have the unintended consequence of undermining the cultural fabric of poor communities, encouraging what psychiatrist and author Theodore Dalrymple refers to as “the underclass,” a subculture marked by despondency, family breakdown and high levels of crime and substance abuse.

While temporary relief programs may genuinely assist the poor, it is important that these programs be designed to avoid fostering dependency and damaging a community’s social fabric. When people are dependent for long periods of time on handouts—whether from the government or from private charity—their ability to provide for themselves by serving others is impaired and their dignity threatened.

The Capacity of the Poor

In light of mounting sociological data underscoring the culturally destructive effects of long-term social welfare for poor communities, many poverty fighters encourage charities to focus on helping the person caught in poverty develop and employ his creative capacities. They warn that such efforts need to be accompanied by humility and a keen awareness that spiritual poverty exists in every class.

At the same time, this call for humility is distinct from a form of relativism that insists that every worldview, every value system, is equal and nobody from one class or culture should try to impart its cultural treasures to another. Instead, the poverty fighters who emphasize the role of enterprise and capacity development seek to match a humble partnership approach with efforts at spiritual and cultural formation, education and, where needed, training in good work habits and skills. They also tend to emphasize that such efforts need to be shaped by the principle of subsidiarity, which emphasizes the importance of local knowledge and face-to-face compassion. In this way, those seeking to help the poor are better able to identify what the poor actually need, as opposed to what we perceive from afar that they need.

From Paternalism to Partnerships

Doug Seebeck, the founder of Partners Worldwide, tells the story of getting a job as a young agricultural consultant in Bangladesh. As he explained in his interview for the PovertyCure initiative, he went over expecting to teach advanced farming techniques, but as he worked with them face to face, he quickly realized that they were excellent farmers, wringing from their small plots of land an enormous harvest given their resources. So finally he asked them what they thought they needed to boost productivity. They said that it would be great if they could have water in the dry season, since—except for the lack of water—the conditions were far better for farming at that time of the year. There were reserves of fresh water near enough to make this feasible; the problem was that the farmers were too poor and lacking in connections to invest in an irrigation system. Seebeck went to work with them on bringing fresh water to their farms in the dry season, and in this way they were able leverage the agricultural skills that these poor farmers already possessed.

Christian Charity and the Dignity and Capacity of the Poor

Among Christian communities, the power of the poor also can be cultivated and encouraged by remembering that the biblical call to be generous extends to rich and poor alike. This is the core message of International Steward, a non-profit organization begun by Brett Elder to encourage churches in poor regions of the world to practice generosity. Elder points to the Gospel story of Jesus praising the poor widow who gave to God her last two pennies as emblematic of what materially wealth Christians all too often forget: The poor also have a calling and capacity to be generous stewards of the things God has entrusted to them. Often rich Christians see Christians in extreme poverty and, in a rush to help, they forget that the poor also have stewardship capacity, even in conditions that would seem to disallow saving and giving.

When International Steward delivered this message to a church in Nairobi, Kenya, its Sunday collections increased from an average of $188 per week to more than $400. In another case in Uganda, Bishop Hannington Bahemuka took the message of International Steward and, working with his congregation, transformed their war-torn village from one of dependency to one of generosity and a growing independence marked by a successful effort to build their own church and care for war orphans. As they recognized their own dignity and capacity, they began to flourish in ways that before would have seemed impossible.

Key Voices

Robert Woodson on Mischaracterizing the Poor

“The idea of empowering neighborhood people is a radical idea because it’s not something that’s understood on either the left or the right of the political center. I think Bill Bennet, the former secretary of education, summarized it beautifully. He said ‘When liberals look at poor people they see a sea of victims and when conservatives look at poor people they see a sea of aliens.'”

Damian Von Stauffenberg on the Role and the Limits of Charity

“Charity has its place in emergency situations.… A life that is lived on as a recipient of charity is a miserable life. I think, in our DNA, the way God made us, we are made as co-creators. God wants us to perfect and to really finish His creation. And if you’re simply a recipient of charity, you’re not doing that; you’re not fulfilling your real destiny, which is this creative capacity that God has endowed us with, we’re letting that creative capacity sit idle. I think that’s—at probably at the deepest level that I can reach—what’s so inadequate about the traditional response to poverty.”

Damian Von Stauffenberg on the Power of the Poor

“They can create wealth for themselves. They can become productive. The poor become productive and that’s how you create rich countries. That’s how a small, poor agricultural economy like Switzerland becomes what you have seen when you studied in Geneva. It’s that process. And that’s the answer to development.”

Rev. Robert A. Sirico on Overlooking the Capacity of the Poor

It’s so often the case that when people come from the developed world to the developing world and they see the wretchedness of poverty in such close proximity, they experience a kind of a guilt about their own prosperity and translate that guilt into policies that fail to recognize that these people are made of the same stuff as the people in the first world, that they have the same capacity that enabled the developed world to be so prosperous in the first place.

Eric Kacou on the Role of Individuals

I believe that individuals are critical in the prosperity creation process inasmuch as they are the ones that are at the beginning and the middle and at the end of the prosperity creation process. As it relates to assets, there has been a focus in developing countries mostly on physical assets, on financial resources, on infrastructure, on natural resources. What is really required is an understanding that all those resources are just wealth in potential.

Kim Tan on the Dignity of the Poor

I think what people want if you ask the poor, if given a choice between a handout or a hand up that helps them really to have a sense of dignity and independence, to be able to put food on their table by themselves through their own effort. They all want to be able to do that. You know, that is, that is a part of the human aspiration and I think we need to find ways of doing that and it’s enterprise that can really help people do that.

C. Neal Johnson on Our God-Given Creativity

God is an incredibly creative individual, and He said that I’m making men and women in my own image. He made us to be creative individuals … He gave a number of things to humanity and to mankind and said, ‘Look, this is who I want you to be. This is who I’ve made you to be. I want you to take dominion. I want you to exercise your creative gifts.’

C. Neal Johnson on Handouts vs. Paychecks

It’s easier to write a check than it is to give of yourself.… All too often that’s what the people in the pews have done and the churches have told us, that the NGOs have told us – that’s all they need, they want our money … But when you go to find people in these countries, and they don’t have jobs and you realize what they need is not just a check, but they need a job, they need meaningful work. God made us creative, he made us to work—what they need is the kind of dignity that comes with a paycheck that says, ‘Somebody values my services, somebody values my life, and that I have dignity.’

Rudy Carrasco on Capacity and Responsibility

Every single person on the face of the planet is created in God’s image. Everybody has the same heavenly Father. Everybody has capacity, talent, and ability. Everybody has responsibility. Everybody has stewardship responsibility. I don’t care what dirt hovel you’re living in, in Brazil or Mexico City or Manila. You have a responsibility to be a steward of the resources under your control because you have a heavenly Father who has put great things inside of you and that’s waiting to be called out and developed and extracted.

Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez on Poverty in Guatemala

Poverty is a very important aspect of life in Guatemala. It’s all around us. And you cannot grow up, not seeing poverty around you. You have to be very callous not to care or not to reflect on it. The president of the University Francisco Marroquin actually, that was his turning point. He was thinking, how do I alleviate poverty? What is it that we should do to alleviate poverty? And the response was not through charity or through handouts because he realized that that was temporary relief and that there was something more that had to be done in order to alleviate poverty.

Ismael Hernandez on Capacity of the Poor

A lot of things are being done, but we don’t sit down to think about, “What are the principles of the free society?” How can we help and elevate people to realize that they are made in the image and likeness of God? And they have the inner capacity, the moral strength. They are made in the image of God, which means they have the capacity of knowing the truth, reason, and doing the good. They are the answer. That is the problem. We have always seen external, external reasons of our problem, white people, capitalism, America itself. In reality, we are the problem. But we are the solution. And when we realize that, an horizon of opportunity just opens up immediately. And that’s what we are trying to do with the Freedom and Virtue Institute.

Marcos Hilding Ohlsson on Creating Wealth and Developing Incentives to Progress

The solution to poverty? We should ask ourselves how we can create wealth. And especially in these neighborhoods, we can look at how can people flourish or work in society or in families or in small communities to be able to create wealth, to be able to create value. And actually I think that there is, there’s two parts of it. One is a mental structure, that they start to believe in themselves and that they have something to give to society, that they’ve got something to offer. And that will encourage them to be able to create something or to give something. And on the other side, we need a proper place where they can develop these incentives. Like, we have to create incentives for them to work. I think in that sense we should reduce incentives for people not to work. For example, now they receive a social welfare if you don’t work.

Juan José Daboub on Using our God-Given Talents

There is one parable in the Bible that I really love and I think captures part of what I am trying to say, and that’s the Parable of the Talents. You know, we all were given certain gifts by God. It is our job to multiply them.




  1. Gilbert Meilaender, Neither Beast nor God: The Dignity of the Human Person (Encounter Books, 2009).
  2. The History Guide, Lectures on Ancient and Medieval History: A Brief Social History of the Roman Empire


Free Markets Foster the Service of Strangers | by Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley

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I often talk about the virtues of a free society and they are vast.  When we are free to live into the gifts and talents God has given us we are able to both contribute to the flourishing of others and benefit from the flourishing that others help create. In this way, flourishing is positive sum.  I benefit when I find ways to serve not just my family, neighbors and church members but when I find ways to serve complete strangers.

That is what a free society encourages.  Rather than finding ways to plunder, steal, exploit and manipulate; market economies encourage us to create, innovative and problem-solve. When we look across the globe at the poorest and most destitute places on the planet we can see that plunder is the way to “be on top” and to maintain that societal posture, one must keep plundering.  The oppressed, those who live at the expense of the plunderers cannot thrive and the vicious cycle of poverty and oppression continues.

What often goes unnoticed in all of this is that families are crushed under this type of life. Mothers and fathers are unable to provide their families with things that we take for granted like learning to read, playing in the park, and mastering the bicycle.  In wealthy societies we take these daily activities for granted in many cases.  We often fail to stop and realize how rich we actually are, and not just in material terms but in our time.

When we are able to unleash our creative talents and trade with others it alleviates us from having to do everything on our own.  Think about the woman who is forced to wash her clothes by the riverbed.  She shares the river with animals, the water is filthy and the work is backbreaking.  She doesn’t have very many attractive alternatives and so she must do it, day in and day out.  In doing this she is being faithful to her family and fulfilling her God-given duties to care for her family, but it is hard.  In fact, it is likely that she does not consume enough daily calories to sustain this effort.

Imagine what it would be like for her to have access to electricity and a washing machine.  It would free her calories and her precious time.  When her time and energy is freed for other things she can care for her family in other ways. It also enables her to develop her God-given creativity.

Market economies are not just about “being rich” and padding our Bank of America accounts, they are about unleashing each person’s creativity to problem solve for others not just for ourselves.  Market economies in this regard require that innovators and problem-solvers who want to “be rich” must have compassion and empathy for people who suffer.  They don’t have to love them, but they do have to sympathize, to put themselves in the shoes of others, and from that find ways to solve problems.

When this happens we are all better able to thrive.  I just took my daughter to her annual checkup and I was confronted with how much I personally benefit from this.  The doctor was able to become specially trained, which took years of her life, and countless hours of study.  The doctor then is able to know what problems to look for, what issues might be present and when she cannot solve them, she refers us to a specialist who is also trained to diagnose and then solve.  My family can thrive because others have dedicated years of study to become experts in my child’s health.  When these doctors underwent this laborious task of becoming experts, they didn’t even know me or my family and in fact my children were not yet born.

That is the power of a free society.  We seek to serve strangers and in doing that we can become rich, but not just rich materially.  My doctor benefits from others who develop medical devices, and those folks benefit from others who work on computer technology and those folks depend on other who have found ways to use assembly lines to hasten the manufacturing of all of these things.

This interdependency means that for all of us our time is freed.  My doctor can specialize, as can the person who makes medical instruments as can everyone else. If we all had to do everything on our own, we could not thrive and we barely survive under such conditions. We are not created to do everything on our own so when we can only rely on ourselves we experience poverty and suffering.

Free markets save lives and that is what makes us rich.  Being rich is not just about the amount of money in your bank account but about the freed time and the longevity that economic freedom brings. This is all because we are encouraged to serve strangers.


Dr. Anne Rathbone Bradley is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at The Institute for Faith, Works and Economics, where she develops and commissions research toward a systematic biblical theology of economic freedom. She is a visiting professor at Georgetown University, and she also teaches at The Institute for World Politics and George Mason University. Additionally, she is a visiting scholar at the Bernard Center for Women, Politics, and Public Policy. Previously, she has taught at Charles University, Prague, and she has served as the Associate Director for the Program in Economics, Politics, and the Law at the James M. Buchanan Center at George Mason University.

Stewardship – What is in our Hands? | by Jonathan A. Moody


“Every single person on the face on the planet is created in God’s image.  Everybody has capacity, talent, and ability…  Everybody has stewardship responsibility.”
– Rudy Carrasco, Effective Stewardship

I love this quote from Rudy Carrasco.  It reminds me God has gifted us with his image.  And innate in that privilege is a responsibility to bear it well – to use it the same way He does.  It’s true that each of us is in a different season of life.  Each has enjoyed, or endured, different experiences.  Each has been entrusted with a unique combination of time, talent and treasure.  But, essentially, we are all stewards – overseers of a great gift.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines stewardship as “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”  However, we often underestimate the value of the life and influence God entrusts to our care.  Ultimately, the gift-giver will want to know what we did with His generous present.  With that in mind I ask, do we see everything in our hands as a seeds of hope and potential?  If so, are we planting those seeds in expectation of a fruitful life?

Not that it is always easy.  For instance, my current season of life includes stewarding my two young children: David, 4, and Ruby, who isn’t quite 2 years old.  They’re undoubtedly amazing – easily my favorite people.  However, they are still normal kids.  And, of course, in many ways I’m a normal parent.  So, amid the shrillest screams and most piercing cries I need to remind myself of the unfathomable promise that lays in their young lives.  I have to see beyond their temporary normalcy, past my own even, and remember that I’m a steward called to take care of their childhood in a manner that bears fruit for their adulthood.

A stewardship approach to life requires a shift in perspective.  A steward focuses on what he or she has rather than what they don’t have.  As a dad I could focus on not having two grown children who have great jobs and bring me chocolates on the weekend.  Ironically, if I did so, the two children I actual have would have a smaller chance of growing into those future adults.  If I want to see growth, I have to focus on David and Ruby exactly where they are, as they are.

This concept is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian worldview. Exodus 4 gives us a clear example of the concept.  Moses was on the lam, hiding in the desert while the children of Israel toiled as slaves to Pharaoh.  Though God could have acted on his own in the situation, He chose to partner with his steward, Moses.  And God started the process of Isreal’s rescue with a simple question: “Then the Lord said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ (Exodus 4:2, NIV)”

This is the basic concept of “asset based development,” a philosophy that encourages us to when we approach development with a focus on the assets rather than the needs of a community.  The essence of the PovertyCure message is that when an individual is free to steward what he or she has in their hands, they will see it grow.  As our statement of principles puts it,

We are stewards of creation with freedom and responsibility.  The earth is a gift to be developed responsibly.  The stewardship approach to creation encourages holistic and sustainable development.  Stewardship theology cautions us against crass and hedonistic exploitation of the natural realm.  Likewise, it warns us away from viewing nature as divine, or the earth as a sanctuary to be left undeveloped.

Pastor Erissa Mutabazi, the Rwanda Country Director for Hope International, makes this point succinctly in a video devotional entitled “What’s in Your Hands?”.  In it, Pastor Mutabazi states, “We can’t help but ask, what will happen if, instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we consider what God has already given us… our talents, our dreams, our motivations, and offer them back to him as an act of worship.”

God has called us to be stewards of his creation and to not underestimate what we have in our hands.   In an effort to apply that truth more deliberately, I recently went through the exercise of writing a life plan based off the book, Living Forward, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy.  I cant’ recommend it highly enough.

Another excellent resource is Effective StewardshipIn this five-session video study, hosted by Dave Stotts, you will learn how to think critically and biblically about the areas of responsibility that God has entrusted to you.

Again, as Pastor Mutabazi says, “God has given each one of us gifts and he invites us to use them, no matter how small they may seem.  We serve a God who fed thousands on five loaves and two fish, … imagine what might happen if a movement of Christ followers use the gifts God has given to bring healing into a broken world.”

So, what do you have in your hands that you will accept the challenge to be a better steward of?  Let us know in the comments to be entered to win this week’s prize!


Jonathan A. Moody is the Managing Director of PovertyCure, an Acton Institute Initiative.  

Introducing the PovertyCure Magazine | by Jonathan Moody


PovertyCure Magazine


At PovertyCure and Acton Institute we constantly strive to produce resources that connect ones good intentions with sound economic principles. This is precisely the connection we seek to make in the new PovertyCure Online Magazine. Through captivating stories and images, this online publication will show–through stories of practical action–how to leverage our resources for community impact.

The feature story comes from a trip the PovertyCure team took to Guatemala in January. This story highlights the life of Antonio Cali, a one-time socialist, who is leading a charge to promote free-market principles in his puebla of Comolapa. He has started a liberty advancing think-tank, a small micro-loan business and a school educating children in free-market principles. You can learn more about the amazing work Antonio is doing just outside of Guatemala City here.

In this beautiful publication, you’ll also find a story from Acton Research Fellow and Director of Poverty, Inc., Michael Matheson Miller. He highlights many important truths about the anthropological foundations of man–specifically the fact that all humans are created in the image of God. This line of thinking requires us to think of those living in poverty as subjects, the protagonists in their own development story, rather than as objects of our charity, pity and philanthropy. You can dive deeper into this well-crafted essay here. It’s our wish that you enjoy reading the PovertyCure Online Magazine as much as we enjoyed producing it! We can’t begin to express enough gratitude for our more than 400 partners around the world who made this publication possible. I also encourage you to check out Acton Institute, our parent organization, for more resources that will help you connect your good intentions with sound economics.


Jonathan Moody, Managing Director of PovertyCure, an Acton Institute Initiative.