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Poverty Alleviation through Partnerships: A Road Less Travelled for Business, Governments, and Entrepreneurs

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While investigating the role of business and accepting that profitable partnerships are the primary solution for poverty alleviation, we voice certain concerns that we hope will extend the authors’ discourse in Alleviating Poverty through Profitable Partnerships. We present a model that we believe can serve as an effective framework for addressing these issues. We then establish the imperative of inclusive growth. Here, we engage with the necessity of formulating strategies that focus on the pace and, importantly, the pattern of economic growth, including its social and cultural dimensions. We also deliberate on the parameters of inclusive growth with the overriding objective of ensuring that multiple strata of society share the benefits of globalization. Turning to the critical role of institutions in promoting social welfare, we explore the impact of government policy vis-à-vis the leverage enjoyed by other social institutions. Despite the reality that state and private interests often operate at cross purposes, we argue that government must still be an integral part of the solution matrix. With direction from other social institutions, entrepreneurial forces can be unleashed to tackle endemic poverty prevalent in the base of the pyramid. We then provide an in-depth case study in which the availability of telecommunications in rural areas was utilized as a means to foster development and ensure inclusive growth. The conclusion examines lessons learned while operationalizing the model, and spells out the impact of our enablers at ground level.

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  1. We recognize that persons in poverty are not a monolithic group with identical characteristics and needs. However, lacking a shorthand that adequately captures the multi-faceted nature of these individuals, we will commit the sin of referring to them as “the poor”.

  2. As the largest and most widely dispersed form of business organization, we acknowledge the special place that MNEs have in the fight against poverty. However, we wish to expand the pool to the entire social institution of “business” because it is arguably the primary driver of economic growth in all its forms (social institutions are those arrangements all societies have that channel behavior in prescribed ways; examples are government, religion, education, the family, and the economy). For example, much of the growth in employment comes from small firms.

  3. The reader will soon realize that, for an academic essay, our article has relatively few citations from other scholars. We have done this intentionally. The topic we engage with is not merely an academic discourse—a vast number of people’s lives are spent in wretched poverty because government officials, politicians, and private citizens have not created solutions to end poverty, or, frankly, to make it a priority to do so. We hope to provide a fresh perspective and spur actual solutions to the problem.

  4. We recognize that there are instances in which the government is too corrupt or dysfunctional to be an effective source of moral and practical leadership. In such instances, it will be necessary for ends to be determined by other institutions, such as religious groups or the military. This unfortunate reality only strengthens our call for inclusion of other social institutions in addressing the alleviation of poverty.


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Correspondence to Craig V. VanSandt.

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VanSandt, C.V., Sud, M. Poverty Alleviation through Partnerships: A Road Less Travelled for Business, Governments, and Entrepreneurs. J Bus Ethics 110, 321–332 (2012).

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