A conversation with Martin Burt the founder of Fundacion Paraguaya
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 56 seconds.
What we repeatedly do we will get good at but if we use the wrong tools it will take us centuries. If I tell you to overcome a wall and instead of giving you a ladder I would hand you a bucket? How successful would you be overcoming that wall… You might get creative stepping on it and using it to reduce the distance to the edge. Perhaps after failing to jump and holding on to the edge you might eventually succeed overcoming that wall. A little scratch here and there. The question I ask myself is though … Why haven’t we used a ladder instead?
“Poverty is defined by government statistics and by top down approaches.”Martin Burt
I met Martin Burt a truly global citizen who rethinks how we should look at poverty and the measures to fight it. So if we look at poverty but instead of a micro perspective we zoom out and get a metrics-based look onto people’s income which then guides our action plan to fight poverty… Do we understand what is happening on the local level? I suppose we don’t and that is one of the reasons why we are so terribly bad at fighting poverty around the world. Martin’s vision and mission are to reverse that thinking and fight poverty with the support of technology and be developing a totally new mindset.
The family is the essential building block of our society
What Martin shared with me is the view on society not as a box of people with an overarching government that controls it all but instead as a sensitive construct of millions of families that build the fundament of every single society on the planet. “We should start counting populations by households,” Martin mentioned in the interview. To do exactly that we have new ways of working on that micro-level with the development and drastic cost reduction of smartphones. Actually, technology can really empower us to start from the bottom. With his Poverty Stop Light project, Martin questions the status quo of tackling poverty and opens new ways of addressing the most pressing issues around the world.
Poverty Stop Light
Fundacion Paraguaya is collaborating with organizations around the world to utilize technology to help families in setting up an action plan to get out of poverty, which would not mean going above one or three dollars a day but instead tackling factors such as health, education, infrastructure, environment, housing, organization, participation, and motivation. With three options (extreme poverty, poverty, and no poverty) families are able to evaluate their situation and prioritize the most pressing factors actively. Isn’t poverty much more complex than going beyond three US-dollars a day?
Obviously, accessing the status quo is only the initial step. However, it is the crucial part because once a family has actively decided to get out of poverty and address the most pressing issues; local, national and international organizations can then support these efforts in a very targeted way truly having an impact in the lives of families and therefore in the quality of life in that society.
Once the status quo is understood, the government, local NGOs and multi-national organizations can address the prioritized issues that families face and support their way out of poverty step-by-step.
In our interview, Martin shared with me the different options that technology nowadays gives us. We no longer need to walk kilometers to a branch office to add money to our savings account. We can utilize our phones to take advantage of local stores that help us get our savings on an online micro-savings app. Other ideas involve mitigating significant risks that endanger the wellbeing of the entire family with micro-insurance services. That is also a topic I addressed in one of my other articles.
Martin also developed the idea of micro franchising, meaning utilizing best practice from other communities how a sufficient income can be generated through small enterprise activities. To build a successful local business also the understanding of how to calculate, how to sell and how to create a lasting income is important. Therefore, Martin starts educating children in schools from a very young age so they are set up to build their own micro-businesses when they leave school.
School is where it all begins
Ideally, pupils have already identified ways of creating income for their families and their environment. So, they can be a change agent in their community. Martin and Fundacion Paraguaya work with schools in several countries to design programs that encourage children to solve challenges in their communities and earn their own income. The lessons are powerful. Not only do the participants receive a feeling of ownership and self-respect but also get an understanding of fundamentals around generating and securing their income. As a result, they can then support their entire family and helps to lift them out of poverty.
Martin and his entire team address the majority of pupils in Paraguay already today and then have plans of expending their educational workshops in schools as one stepping stone for families to find a way to a better life with children that are independent with the knowledge to be a change agent in their communities.
Please have a look at Fundacion Paraguaya to get a deeper understanding of their efforts and impact in the local and global community. If we can all just make a small step in the right direction and add to that we can change it all.
23rd of February 2020, Munich, Germany