Tag Archives: books

Book Review: Reframing Poverty: New Thinking and Feeling About Humanity’s Greatest Challenge

Reframing PovertyReframing Poverty by Eric Meade

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Poverty in all its multitudinous forms is not an easy subject to broach. An age-old problem, poverty, its root causes, as well as poverty reduction have all been studied and theorized, it seems, ad infinitum. It is not often that someone presents poverty in a more nuanced way than generalized and ubiquitous thinking on poverty. In Reframing Poverty: New Thinking and Feeling About Humanity’s Greatest Challenge, Eric Meade takes a deep dive into how poverty is more of an emotional construct that evokes feeling as opposed to the more widely read and globally accepted set of data points. Meade’s conclusions take some time and thinking to wrap your brain around to be sure. In fact, I had to put this book down several times to keep from seething. I do, however, appreciate new ideas that can be engaged in rather than reading the same poverty reduction principles that seem to keep vulnerable communities trapped in a cycle of poverty with Sisyphean tendencies.

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Book Review: To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life

To Fool the Rain: Haiti's Poor and Their Pathway to a Better LifeTo Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life by Steven Werlin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Helping families lift themselves out of poverty means helping them build income and wealth, but it is a social phenomenon as well,” wrote Steve Werlin, the author of To Fool the Rain: Haiti’s Poor and Their Pathway to a Better Life. “And one of the social change we try to effect involves working on the way members look at themselves.”

It is quite impressive how someone’s mind and attitude can alter and reset the course of one’s life. However, in order to eventually arrive at that mind reset some people require a substantive hand out, constant observation and follow-up; not simply a prescriptive hand up. When looking at the lowest income countries in the world like Haiti a vast array of NGOs work to alleviate some of its inherent problems with programs that address the root of poverty. Some provide work programs, educational programs, health care, or even microloan programs. But some of Haiti’s families are so extremely poor they cannot dream of qualifying for many of these programs because they have virtually nothing. In fact, they live in such cyclical poverty they cannot feed themselves on a daily basis, or even every other day. In Haiti’s deepest far reaches and unfathomable rural areas are families who live in abject poverty far away from roads and towns. They require the most cumulative social programs designed by worldwide NGOs that specialize in the nuances of poverty reduction and eradication.

In Haiti, for example, one of those social programs is called “Chemen lavi miyo (CLM)” in Creole or a Pathway to a Better Life that is run by Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance organization. Even as a microfinance enterprise Fonkoze realized that to reach the poorest Haitian families means to provide overarching programs that teach rural women who qualify for their CLM program financial and entrepreneurial skills as well as life and relationship skills.

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Our Interview with Matterness Author, Allison Fine

Allison FineAllison Fine is among the pre-eminent guides to the social media revolution. Her gift is for converting uncertainty over rapid change into excitement over remaking organizations by the least expensive and most profitable means available: connecting with others. She is author of Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media. In addition, she is the author of the award-winning Momentum: Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age, and co-author of the bestselling The Networked Nonprofit.  Her blog, A. Fine Blog, is available on her website, www.allisonfine.com.

A leading voice on social media and the nonprofit sector, Fine has written about why “Matterness”, well, matters and how important it is for organizations to talk with people and not at them.

I interviewed Fine about who should read and adopt Matterness principles and why.

You can purchase Matterness on Amazon.

Matterness CoverQ: For people who do not know what Matterness is, can you boil it down to a few sentences?

A: Sure. Matterness is the powerful force of mutual interest that happens when organizations and people work with and not at one another. Your readers will recognize what this means because that’s what you’re doing every day! You are in conversation with your people and treat them like co-creators on your sites. You develop strategies together and connect Moms to one another and to causes and companies, too. Too many other companies continue to use these amazingly powerful social media channels as newfangled billboards – opportunities to just keep broadcasting at people. Matterness reverses this course and makes people matter more than ever in relationship to organizations.

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Book Review: Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place

Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World's Deadliest PlaceConsuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place by Peter Eichstaedt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There has increasingly been more attention paid to conflict minerals – the minerals that are extracted from mainly developing countries – that are used to power the technology we all cannot live without. These minerals cause problems for a great many of us. We cannot go a day or even a few hours without our cell phones, tablets, and laptops even though we realize that the minerals inside of them most likely caused suffering for some African miner working to earn very little wages. With every social media update and email we send it seems we don’t care, but conflict minerals put us into an unimaginable bind. Whereas the great many of us can go without buying conflict diamonds none of us can seriously go without our technology. Therein lies the rub.

Celebrities, activists, and humanitarians shout from the rooftops about conflict minerals and how multinationals are grabbing mines at breakneck speeds to claim the riches beneath the earth. But no one is taking the next step and doing away with their technology to take a stand against the minerals that today cause undue hardship for so many. We remain largely nonplussed. It’s not that most of us don’t care, it’s that we don’t understand the history of it all and the devastation surrounding conflict minerals. It’s a “them” problem, not ours.

That is why Consuming the Congo: War and Conflict Minerals in the World’s Deadliest Place is so important to this global dialogue. Instead of the problem being simplified into soundbites, the history and repercussions of conflict minerals in the DRC is laid out in great detail by veteran journalist and Africa editor of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting at the Hague, Peter Eichstaedt. In reading Consuming the Congo you get an overwhelming sense that it’s not Eichstaedt’s first time at the rodeo. He already has great knowledge of the history of the region, but also has excellent resources who are not afraid to talk to him and provide inside information about the goings-on of the area and provide insight about who is fighting whom. It is a difficult task to undergo, to be sure: putting the pieces together for an audience that largely couldn’t point the Congo out on a map.

Eichstaedt makes the narrative easy to follow and the history relatively easy to comprehend although the actors are so rife it’s hard to keep up with who is who. Perhaps some of the bit players could have been left out of the narrative, but I have a feeling the story would be left rather incomplete and the book would grow holes that would grow larger as history goes on. Every bit person counts. Every militia and rebel group counts. Every multinational country counts and every country that is vying for supremacy over the region counts, even though for the reader it can become tedious.

Eichstaedt does, however, a masterful job explaining why conflict minerals exist and why they are so extremely valuable. We know it is because they are essential to every electronic device on the planet, but he does a great job of explaining the why. He also does a masterful job at describing how the rush for conflict minerals is negatively affecting the people and the terrain of the Democratic Republic of Congo while nothing seems to be getting better.

Consuming the Congo is essential reading for those who want to get to the bottom of the conflict minerals debate and see why it really is important as consumers to fight for nonconflict minerals. However, the book is also quite disturbing because it seems no one is doing anything about the suffering. It just goes on while we fire up our devices and seemingly don’t care.

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** Update: As noted today in Fast Company’s Fast Coexist starting now all Intel microprocessors will be conflict-free.

Help Send Books to Ethiopian Schoolchildren

Children everywhere deserve an exceptional education. In fact, it it their right. In Ethiopia, there is a 10-20% increase of school-age children meaning there is a greater need for educational materials.

Bruktawit Tigabu, the award-winning entrepreneur and co-founder of Tsehai Loves Learning, is bringing storybooks to thousands of children in Ethiopia and needs your help. Higher Circle has launched their Opening Books to Open Doors campaign where they are raising $10,000 to provide books for 4,000 Ethiopian schoolchildren.

$10 will provide four books for children in need. Donate now.

Below Bruktawit Tigabu talks about the importance of reading for Ethiopian children.


Photo: Jennifer James
Inforgraphic: UNESCO