Giving Compass' Take:

• Efosa Ojomo shares three lessons learned from 10 years of work at Poverty Stops Here to help others make a bigger impact for poverty alleviation. 

• How can funders use this information to inform poverty alleviation efforts? 

• Learn about rethinking global poverty reduction in 2019.

Our nonprofit provides poor communities Nigeria access to three things: clean water and sanitation, micro-loans to help individuals start a new business or expand a current one, and education for children. Since 2009, we have successfully raised and invested roughly $300,000 in five different communities. As we celebrate our tenth and final year, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned that I hope you will find useful as you think about poverty alleviation programs around the world.

Resources alone won’t solve poverty:

Poverty almost always shows itself as a lack of resources in poor communities—a lack of food, safe water, sanitation, education, and healthcare—and because of that, many organizations, including Poverty Stops Here, treat poverty primarily as a resource problem.

Any worthwhile investment needs a mechanism to sustain it:

As I reflected on the wells Poverty Stops Here had built—and rebuilt—I realized that the organization overlooked a critical component to successful development initiatives: a mechanism for sustainability. Without ensuring our wells had a mechanism for the communities to maintain them, we were not only creating dependence—the opposite of what we wanted to do—but we were also investing in something that would be short-lived. It is one thing to build a well but it is quite another to develop the system necessary to maintain it.

Markets are the most powerful way to end poverty:

In the course of running Poverty Stops Here, I enrolled at Harvard Business School, where I hoped to gain a broader perspective on how prosperity is created. Through my coursework I was able to see PSH, and other organizations that sought to alleviate poverty, through a different lens. It was there that I learned the power of innovation and markets.

Over the past 30 years, more than one billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty, a majority of whom are from China. As I learned about China’s triumph, I couldn’t help but wonder how the country had accomplished this so quickly. My conclusion: markets.

Read the full article about running a poverty alleviation organization by Efosa Ojomo at Christensen Institute.