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Beyond building products – changing hearts and minds to actually use them

Marta Milkowska's picture
They were everywhere — blown-up condoms flying around as balloons in a small village in southern Kenya. A day earlier volunteers from an international NGO came to the village to promote family planning. They held a daylong workshop for women and thoroughly described the risks of lack of sexual protection. The next day, the volunteers left, and the village was covered with flying condom-balloons. It was 2007 and I was just about to learn how typical that story was. In the months that followed, I saw cookstoves being used as shelves and mosquito nets as football goals. So what went wrong?

"Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it"

Marta Milkowska's picture

(c) Marta Milkowska“Every time I see a problem, I create a social business to solve it,” renowned Nobel Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus said to an overflowing room at the World Bank Group’s Headquarters in Washington, DC this summer. “Set up a social business.”

“The poor are like Bonsai trees,” the founder of Grameen Bank explained, “When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a six-inch-deep flower pot, you get a perfect replica of the tallest tree, but it is only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted; only the soil-base you provided was inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong with their seeds. Only society never gave them a base to grow on."