How To Solve Extreme Poverty

How To Solve Extreme Poverty

Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible. —Marcus Aurelius

I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Dr. Paul Polak a few months ago. During our conversation, I was inspired that one person can make a big difference if they’re willing to get into the trenches, build local relationships, and commit for longterm development rather than short-term gains.

Dr. Polak mentioned numerous times that he’s spent hours and many months with his target segment (rural farmers), asking them questions, living with them, learning how they think, and genuinely trying to help them better their irrigation practices, increase their crop yield, and work more efficiently.

If Zimbabwe and southern African townships, villages, and cities are going to develop into entrepreneurship and business ecosystems, we need entrepreneurs who are committed to longterm strategies. Profits are important for sustainability, but having the heart and guts to commit to make a difference over years of work goes a long way in development.

Here’s Dr. Polak’s list on how to solve extreme poverty:

  1. Go to where the action is
  2. Talk to the people who have the problem
  3. Learn everything you can about the problem’s specific context.
  4. Think big & act big
  5. Think like a child
  6. See & do the obvious
  7. If somebody has already invented it, you don’t need to do so again.
  8. Make sure your approach has positive measurable impacts that can be brought to scale. Make sure it can reach at least a million people and make their lives measurably better.
  9. Design to specific cost and price targets.
  10. Follow practical 3 year plans.
  11. Continue to learn from your customers.
  12. Stay positive: don’t be distracted by what other people think.


Thanks for reading! We're heading to climb Kilimanjaro this week. Along with a group of businessmen and philanthropists, and a few mountain men, we'll be setting our sights on the roof of Africa in order to raise awareness and funds for a orphan home. This home will be able to house 60 Zimbabwean orphans, hopefully giving a few kids a place to live, have family, and love. For more info on that, please visit

To the summit!

Tommy & Tim

(photo via africa renewal)