The Poor will remain poor in absence of any Moral Leadership

Script of my presentation about Acumen Fund Fellowship at Acumen Fund Pakistan Community Gathering on Dec 11, 2009.

 I’ll tell you a story

Once upon a time, there lived many many poor people who used to raise many many animals. Since the people were poor, they used to maintain their animals poorly, and in return, animals used to yield poor quantities of milk. This milk was poorly sold to middle men who used to poorly store and transport it to buyers. Thy buyers paid a poor price for the poor quality milk which gave them only poor health.

There was poverty all around, everywhere. And the belief was that the poor can find solutions to their poverty by themselves. With this belief they waited. One poor generation passed on this belief to the next who passed it on to the next. And the chain of poverty extended to many many centuries and generations.
Until one day one person started thinking and acting differently. He brought these poor people together, connected them and pooled their resources together for their collective benefit. Today his cooperative sells around two billion dollars of dairy products, every year, making the lives of millions healthier and richer.
Moral of the story (and it’s based on Newton’s law): The poor will remain poor in absence of any moral leadership.
And I want to talk more about moral leadership since this is what makes Acumen Fund’s fellowship program so great and the experience so rich. Saima just touched upon mechanics and structure of the program so I would focus more upon the contents – what goes into making of a leader at Acumen.

We start this program by setting our moral compass right. We discuss UN Charter and chapters from Bible. We read the works on distinguished thinkers on human nature, concept of good & bad, and working forces in society. We discuss Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Rousseau, Hobbs, Aristotle, Ibn-Khuldoon, Amartya Sen – just to name a few from the long list.

We go through the exercises on integrative thinking; understating our differences and using them as our strength. We meet leaders who have fought against the status quo, the established systems of gender discrimination and exploitation. We discuss the power of social media in social mobilization. We practice empathy by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and putting ourselves in shoes of the poor. We spend a day in shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens for the destitute, and in long queues outside public hospitals.

And this is the process that produces people like Aun, Tricia, David and all other Saima just mentioned. I understand that identifying myself with these great people I am making a commitment to do something comparably great as these people have done. And I know I can do this because I have support and guidance of all of you.

Thank you.