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Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
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Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail

3.87  ·  Rating Details ·  439 Ratings  ·  57 Reviews
Based on his 25 years of experience, Polak explodes what he calls the "Three Great Poverty Eradication Myths": that we can donate people out of poverty, that national economic growth will end poverty, and that Big Business, operating as it does now, will end poverty. Polak shows that programs based on these ideas have utterly failed--in fact, in sub-Saharan Africa poverty ...more
Hardcover, 232 pages
Published February 1st 2008 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 2008)
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Jan 27, 2010 Nathaniel rated it liked it
Shelves: africa, nonfiction
“Out of Poverty” is a workshop; it’s an evangelical seminar and an infomercial. It’s subdivided ruthlessly. It’s full of lists. It’s incredibly repetitive. There is absolutely no way to read it at an academic remove because Paul Polak is beating his readers over the head with the urgent simplicity of his thinking and with the exasperation of a pragmatist who is regularly accused of idealism.

Polak wants to encourage a modest paradigm shift in development. He’s convinced that donations will not a
Apr 10, 2008 Cori rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading-now
Paul Polak is brilliant. His philosophy is simple about how to help most of the world out of poverty - and proven. He's helped 17 million people move out of extreme poverty with his ideas and intervention. That's ONE man. He's like Norman Borlaug - one of the most effective humanitarians in modern time and yet almost completely unknown. The world will ultimately be saved by people with great ideas, effectively applied. Paul Polak is one of those people.
Christina Brady
Jul 27, 2008 Christina Brady rated it it was ok
The author has interesting ideas about how to get out of poverty. However, he is incredibly redundant and the only support that he has for his theory is his own NGO and their experiences.

It provides a different way of approaching poverty elimination, but it comes across as propaganda for his own NGO. The redundancy and only citing his own org and its work cast doubt about his techniques.
Mar 27, 2008 Mitchell rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, poverty
This book focuses on one very specific idea, which is that rural people living on less than a dollar a day should use low-cost drip irrigation to grow labor intensive produce out of season. According to Polak, if we can just help them get started with that, all the problems associated with poverty will solve themselves.
Bojan Tunguz
Dec 09, 2014 Bojan Tunguz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ab ...more
Mar 24, 2012 Robin rated it really liked it
Based on writing ability alone, this book would rate three stars, maybe two and 1/2. It's difficult to get through at times because of how many, many times Polak repeats himself. Sure, perhaps he is really trying to drive a point home - but perhaps he should take for granted that he drove that point home when he mentioned it 5 times ago and he can now mention something without re-iterating every detail.

That aside, this book is very informative, compelling, and provides some definitely controvers
Mal Warwick
Mar 14, 2012 Mal Warwick rated it liked it
A brilliant rural development specialist shares his ideas for ending poverty in the world

Paul Polak is an extraordinary man. A Czech Holocaust refugee as a child and a practicing psychiatrist throughout the 1960s and 70s, Dr. Polak turned his attention to the challenge of ending global poverty in 1981. In that year, he founded the International Development Enterprises (IDE), a Colorado-based nonprofit organization distinguished by its successful launch of the treadle pump that enables farmers to
Christy Horton
Feb 27, 2017 Christy Horton rated it liked it
Lots of great ideas in this book. I would recommend knowing a bit about farming before reading. I did not and some of the ideas were lost on me.
Sep 05, 2010 Rosalind rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be a fairly easy read. I loved Polak’s storytelling writing style in discussing poverty and the bottom of the pyramid in developing countries. He focused on the organization he founded, International Development Enterprises and one of their main accomplishments in bringing drip-irrigation to farmers in rural areas. Polak also discussed his other organization, D-Rev (Design for the Other 90%).

One of the main lessons I garnered from this book was to think simple (but criticall
Jun 16, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing
"Out of Poverty" by Paul Polak was an eye-opening book for me. The focus is on people around the globe making a dollar a day or less and also farms that were less than 5 acres.

The statistics in the book floored me. 85% of farms in the world, 445 million, are less than 5 acres. In China that percentage grows to 98%. My son-in-law and daughter are organic farmers with 8 acres of land they lease, but are currently using just a couple of acres. Helping out a little there has helped me see the tremen
JJ Gamit
Mar 08, 2014 JJ Gamit rated it did not like it
The book proven to be one of the worst book I have ever read about poverty. Paul Polak mislead with word DEVELOPMENT (IDE), by associating it largely with increasing individual income.
The book has very narrow focus on the poverty which consist of farmer with half acre land and method of removing poverty is low cost drip irrigation technique. and do not diversify with people and places.
paul Polak at some point directly refute the ideology of millennium development goal which remove the narrow a
Jul 03, 2016 Zahedul marked it as to-read
Paul Polak, founder of iDE, a renowned INGO, shares his philosophy for alleviating poverty. The book champions the market development approach, as opposed to charitable and philanthropic initiatives. Based on his wealth of experience implementing myriad initiatives over the last 25 years, Paul dissects the current status quo and way forward for increasing living standards of people at the BOP segment. His main proposition for solving development challenges is to adopt business solutions, which a ...more
Jessica Padilla
Mar 10, 2016 Jessica Padilla rated it it was amazing
Paul Polak is an atypical poverty expert and free market advocate. In this book, he argues that handouts and stamps do not help poverty and might in fact make it worse off. He believes that the poor is capable of more than everyone thinks. Rather, he insists, the better solution to poverty is to unleash the poor’s “entrepreneurial power”. Paul thinks that small companies can help the homeless. His company designs cheap water pumps and irrigation systems that sell for a profit while helping farme ...more
Kayla Reopelle
Jan 25, 2015 Kayla Reopelle rated it it was ok
This book was a struggle to get through. Every sentence was soaked with white patriarchy and the privilege. Though the anecdote of Bahadur's family attempts to humanize the book and I'm very happy for his family's accomplishments, Polak's intentions of helping people understand the struggle of dollar-a-day poverty and the power of people living in this situation to fix it, get overshadowed by his need to re-iterate the great work of IDE and his own power, intelligence, and generosity, without wh ...more
Feb 12, 2013 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read the first chapter to this book several years ago for class. I remember thinking that it seemed very smart and straightforward, very readable for something labeled as an economics book. Unfortunately, after finishing this book on my second attempt at it (I got to page 80 the first time and realized I had no clue what I had read, so I started over), I have a somewhat different opinion.

I feel like Polak just wants a pat on the back. Every chapter includes some kind of pitch for his organizat
Sep 01, 2008 Sarah rated it liked it
This is the first book about poverty that I have read that made a LOT of sense. It was simple, straight forward, and laid out specific plans and objectives for ending poverty. It primarily addresses foreign, rural poverty, but does give general ideas to ending various forms of poverty.

Unfortunately for readers, Paul Polak is apparently much more gifted at ending poverty than writing a book. No offense intended--just a warning for any would-be readers. He uses examples over and over again (often
Sep 08, 2009 Elie rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Although terribly repetitive, Polak offers a practical, simple solution to poverty that everyone from small NGOs to the Secretary-General art picking up on: entrepreneurial development through microenterprise. For the rural poor, Polak's solution is to use appropriately designed and adapted technologies to improve high-yield, labor-intensive crops and get them to new markets. For the urban poor, Polak encourages the same type of industriousness, but around cottage industries adapted and linked t ...more
Sep 05, 2012 Andrew rated it liked it
Polak's approach to poverty is simple - help poor farmers make more money so they can spend more on health care, education, more food, better agricultural systems, and better abilities to get crops to the market.

I appreciate this, but he is too confident in the successes of capitalism, and too dismissive of the power structures and systems that keep people poor. He is also repetitive in his stories and solutions.

He offers strong solutions by utilizing design for products that are affordable to
Jan 18, 2014 Vesa rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, society
The problem the author has spent his life trying to tackle is extremely important. The ideas in the book are fresh and sound realistic. There are concrete ideas that someone with enough drive should try out, they may work very well. The author's passion towards the subject shows and he creates a pleasant narrative.

The problem with the book is that it is very repetitive. Nearly same sentences repeat various times throughout the book, sometimes separated only by a couple of pages. If the editor ha
Oct 05, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
An interesting book with practical solutions for ending poverty among one-acre farmers around the world. The basic premise is that people are poor because they don't have enough money, and there are simple solutions and farming techniques that can generate more income. I was very interested in reading this book, but had a hard time getting through it because the author's writing style is so repetitive. It will be a long time before I'm ready to read another book that mentions low-cost drip irrig ...more
Christine Williams
Nov 03, 2013 Christine Williams rated it it was ok
A quick read. I liked the author's emphasis on sustainable and wide-scale programs to work against poverty, but ultimately I found his views oversimplified. His main point is that people are poor because they don't make enough money, so increasing income will end poverty. I don't have any formal economics training, but to me, that's like saying people are sick because they have a disease, so stopping the disease will end the sickness. True, but that statement doesn't give any insight on how to p ...more
Sep 14, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it
232 pages. I met Paul at a Kennedy School conference after hearing Amy Smith from MIT speak. They were both wonderful and inspirational. I admire the work that IDE has done, because it has scaled to helping millions of people. His advice is very clear and simple, so it’s hard to argue with. More, it’s simply a challenge to get out there and get it done. I think he’s returning to the model that gave much of the developing world its head start, hopefully without the environmental degradation and h ...more
Sep 08, 2015 Lexington rated it really liked it
I've read both of Polak's books. If you've read the sequel already, this book does have some overlap in it, but overall it's a really inspiring read and changed how I perceived those living in poverty. It's a must read for anyone trying to develop any type of infrastructure in the third world.

A logical and sustainable approach to solving the issues of poverty. Definitely recommended for social sciences majors.
Aug 21, 2008 Nathan rated it really liked it
Good book on learning what really works to get people out of poverty. It seems they just need to make more money. Seems obvious. Actually Povak's organization designs and markets to small-acrage farmers and they end up making 2x, 3x, 4x more per year. The more they make the more they can improve their quality of life with healthcare, education, better shelter, etc.
Mar 20, 2010 Michelle rated it it was amazing
this book is full of great solutions---and like most solutions it involves a lot of listening. I loved this. It wasn't boring or depressing like so many of these kinds of books can be. This man has had a fascinating life of service. I found myself thinking of this book during the month when having certain conversations....don't you love those kind of books?
Aug 18, 2009 Jules rated it it was amazing
Fantastic approach to solving the world's biggest problems-ending hunger and poverty. Radically simple ideas that change the way you look at these issues. This book was easy to read and understand. Polak uses his own life/work experiences to develop a solution for global poverty. I love the "matter-of-fact" quality of his writing.
Feb 02, 2013 Jon rated it really liked it
Many others have already reviewed the repetitive nature of this book, so I won't beat that horse any more than this. I found Polak's ideas to be transformational in my future approach to design. I've been looking for a way to direct my design skills and I sat during the whole book thinking "I can solve that problem"!

Now, I just need to go and raise the funds to do it!
Aug 14, 2009 Mary rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book to anyone who has thought about the problem of poverty and wondered how to truly help. The author has spent much time interviewing the world's poor, asking them what they need the most. I truly hope that many people will read this book and be motivated to join in on the vision of a common sense way to help the poor.
Charles Tsai
Dec 27, 2009 Charles Tsai rated it it was amazing
A very thought provoking take on international development from someone who knows what he's talking about. Instead of expounding theories from an ivory tower, Paul Polak rolls up his sleeves and gets the job done. Everyone who wants to help end extreme poverty must read this.
Jul 20, 2010 JoyfulK rated it liked it
Some very interesting theories here about how to alleviate poverty. But it could have been a much shorter book, as the author repeats himself frequently. Read the first few chapters to get the theory, and skim the rest to see some examples.
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Paul Polak Founder of Colorado-based non-profit International Development enterprises (IDE) is dedicated to developing practical solutions that attack poverty at its roots.

For the past 25 years, Paul has worked with thousands of farmers in countries around the world--including Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Zambia and Zimbabwe--to help design and
produce low-cost, i
More about Paul Polak...

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“Identifying niches and filling them is the bread and butter of the regular interplay between markets and entrepreneurs.” 0 likes
“Many organizations have donated village hand pumps to provide clean drinking water to village families, only to return two years later to find that 80 percent of them were not working—because nobody had assumed ownership, so when the pumps broke, nobody fixed them.” 0 likes
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