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Posts Tagged ‘poverty niche

Step #2: Choosing the method — Becoming a Social Entrepreneur

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This is the second part of a two part series entitled “Becoming a Social Entrepreneur”.  Be sure to Pick your Poverty Niche before reading this post.

Now, we much choose the most effective way to battle the problem(s) affecting your niche.  Then, we’ll find organizations and other vehicles that we can leverage to put our resources to work.  We will be using the entrepreneurial poor of Kampala and Gulu, Uganda as an example in this post because that’s my niche.

First things first; many people start their quest for solutions by attaching themselves to an organization without fully understanding the methods which the organization deploys.

For example, if we like an organization that helps the entrepreneurial poor in Uganda.  That’s great we know who they help, but, we may not know how do they help?

Do they:

  • give them money
  • give them supplies
  • give them vocational training

I strongly recommend remaining organization agnostic in the beginning of your quest for solutions to the problems facing your poverty niche.  Even if you have already chosen an organization you want to work with, I encourage you to step back and run through the rest of this exercise.

  • First, compile a list of organizations that currently do work with your poverty niche.  If the list is less than 10, then cheat a little and find organizations that work with other poverty niches that are similar to yours.  You can use Charity Navigator, Facebook Causes, Mix,, or Google Search to research organizations by niche.  This task should take a few hours, but should be pretty easy.
  • Next, visit read their Charity Navigator profiles or their websites to figure out what methods or activities they use.  This task could take a few hours and may be a little more difficult.
  • Next, educate yourself about the pros/cons of different methods deployed by a variety of organizations.  This task is a bit tougher.  You’ll want to look for trusted websites.  Academic papers or white papers from large organizations are good.  Try to steer clear of opinion forums…If you find a great comprehensive content source please post the link in the comments below.

In our example, we chose micro-finance as our preferred method for helping the entrepreneurial poor of Kampala and Gulu, Uganda.  Below is our short list of pros/cons.


  • Micro-finance has been deployed across many cultures and countries since the 70s.
  • Very low default rate means the loaned money comes back to us and we can loan it out again.
  • Bottoms up distribution ensures more efficient resource allocation than top down government disbursements.
  • Micro-finance institutions (MFIs) are self-sufficient off the interest charged to borrowers.
  • The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for work in this area – it has momentum.


  • Claims that loans are used to supplement lifestyle, instead of growing business.
  • Claims that loans intended for women are taken by their husbands.
  • Claims of unfair interest rates charged to borrowers.
  • Claims of some MFIs stealing the money.

Once you know more about what is being done, what works, what doesn’t, what’s sustainable, what’s not, etc; then you will be ready to start looking for specific vehicles or organizations that might match the method you have determined to be the best.

That’s the subject of a future post.


Written by thetyson

March 5, 2008 at 11:11 am

Step #1: Picking your poverty niche — Becoming a Social Entrepreneur

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Poverty is a complex and stratified problem consisting of many inter-linked regional, environmental, cultural and political variables.  When I started digging into it, my small mind was quickly overwhelmed.

Its obvious that the “poverty market” must be narrowed, and just as a business evaluates a market segment before exploring product/market fit, so must a social entrepreneur or altruist evaluate the cycle of poverty and decide which niche to pursue.

Picking a Niche

Picking a niche is hard.  There are so many things you could do, the only thing that matters is that you pick something that you’re truly passionate about (also true in business).

You should narrow the market as much as possible, so use as many factors as possible.  See some examples below:

1.  A people with whom you identify

Can you think of a life experience that you, your friend(s) or you family member(s) may have had that would link you to another less fortunate group of people somewhere in the world?  For example, if you were adopted, you might identify with orphans who are less lucky than you.

If not, then skip to #2.

2.  A region that you feel moved to help

Is there a particular town or region that holds special significance to you?

If so, then research this area’s people and specific problems on Wikipedia, Google News, and the CIA Factbook.

If not, then read the world news at, Google News or poverty blogs and cross reference countries or regions with the Wikipedia and the CIA Factbook to get more info on the area and its issues.

3.  An organization with a mission you really believe in

Do you, your friends or relatives belong or give money to an organization that helps people in poverty?

If so, find out who they help and where — and use those as your answers for #1 and #2 above.

If not, then you can find some organizations at Charity Navigator.

If you still haven’t found a group/region niche that you feel passionate about, then talk with your friends and get some ideas from them.  Or, if you are of means, travel to a couple impoverished areas near you or elsewhere in the world.

So what’s my niche?

Written by thetyson

March 1, 2008 at 12:26 pm