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Young World Rising – Our Hope for Ending Poverty?

When you look at eradicating extreme poverty, there are many influences that combine to reduce issues such as preventable diseases, ie Malaria or Diarrhea, providing clean water, and caring for orphans, etc. But what is the hope for these issues to be completely eradicated in the future? According to Rob Salkowitz, it may very well be the new generation of entrepreneurs in this digital age.

Many think that hope might be found in global companies such as Apple or GE, maybe Bill Gates or George Soros will help cure the ills of poverty in our world? Young World Rising is a book that challenges those common beliefs and takes a different perspective. It makes the case for a less-expected direction forward: a world in which new growth and innovation comes from outside the established centers of the global economy and comes from the bottom up (p. 7).


The picture of the future painted in Young World Rising does not ignore the reality of billions of mouths to feed, but suggests the possibility that that billions of minds working together and billions of hands pulling in the same direction might be able to stay a step ahead of the challenges of scarcity and sustainability (p. 8).

How does this work? According to Salkowitz, there are (3) forces reshaping our world: (1) Youth (2) ICT (Information and Communication and Technology and (3) Entrepreneurship. (p. 8). To illustrate this, let me tell you a story. I’ll never forget when I stepped off the plane in rural Lalibela, Ethiopia. It’s a place surrounded by shepherds, farmers, and poverty. It’s also known as one of the amazing wonders of the world because it is home to many Monolithic churches that were carved out of rock over a thousand years ago, and not too much has changed since then. In this remote village I was taken by the local youth to an internet cafe. I could hardly believe such a thing could exist in the middle of nowhere but sure enough, inside a red, rusting tin building sat several computers with internet access. These young people were able to stay in touch with information and people from all over the world. This small building and business were owned by a 16 year old boy and his uncle. I still hear from many of those boys to this day.


That’s what has changed and continues to change.  The bottom line is that the more than 3 billion of the world’s 6.7 billion population are under the age of 24 (p.20). They have all grown up in the digital age and all have access to a global economy and they are the ones capitalizing on this new age. All of them have access to information much of the older generation doesn’t know exists, they are socially connected around the world (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) in ways unheard of up to this point, the capital to start businesses digitally such as webpages and business sites, are inexpensive – and they are innovative (p. 40).

Here’s the exciting part: research shows that this group of young entrepreneurs are incredibly socially conscious. They are working within their poor communities to create solutions that help to abolish their own poverty. Their war-cry is “doing well by doing good,” (p. 41). Foreign aid has been a dead end street for countries like Africa and that is not the full solution. Sustaining economic development by empowering local producers, local markets, and local entrepreneurs is what will transform communities (42.)


The other note of interest is that this demographic of young people in this knowledge based, digital economy is that their social responsibility leads them to work in direct partnership with NGO’s. Portugal’s Magellan Project is a great example that has provided over 500,000 computers to poor children in their country. This is good news for those of us that work directly with the poor in that capacity. Non-profit’s that foster economic development in terms of ICT capacity-building have a unique advantage in finding corporate funding partners, because their social objectives are directly aligned with the business imperatives of some of the best companies on earth (50.) Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential Program is another great example.


We must think differently about how we approach poverty. Many of the old systems have failed and continue to fail. Our good deeds are not helping if they are only a part of providing hand-outs (aid), and don’t lead to local economic transformation. Rob’s book is an encouraging indicator of what is to come. As we invest in youth, they will invest in themselves.

You can follow Rob Salkowitz on Twitter here. For more information please see my colleague, Andy Campbell’s post here.

Comments read comments(8)
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Bob Mudd

posted June 29, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I believe the tenants of his conclusion are idealistic but not characteristic of the norm. While the world is changing, power (manifested through wealth, adoption of technology and political control) is still centralized in the few.

There are examples where this ‘flat world’ we live has manifested advancement not otherwise available but culture, broken government and the lack of changed hearts and minds (holy spirit) are still more powerful factors.

India will be a great case study in this basic theory. Looking back 20 years from now will be very interesting. Huge economic development taking place but 800 million people are still living on less than $2 per day.

Focusing on empowerment through evangelism, perpetuation of effective government, economic freedom and basic human rights is critical.

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posted June 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

Is there any data to support the notion that many cultures in the developing world already possess the wiring for community-based care? Relational cultures have used whatever tools available to them to take care of each other–whether that be the tree outside their house or an extra room, etc. Perhaps the emergence and usage of digital technology is the next step in that process. One that is remarkable not because the people are different (they likely aren’t), but that they are applying those tools toward community goods–rather that personal goods. I think in the west we still struggle to understand that our concept of “self interest” is not shared by the entire world. Where we would use digital technologies for personal gain, other cultures who possess a “community interest” wiring would see these as the next in a line of ever-better tools to care for those in their community. Any thoughts on that?

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Tom Davis

posted June 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

Matt, glad you asked. That’s exactly what the next post is about.

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posted July 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

What a great post Tom…and solid comments. I hope more are chewing on the content and comments and will post more as it would be a fantastic discussion thread. In my limited trips to Africa I have already met so many young people of great potential – with the desire to move beyond hand-outs and seek personal and community transformation – but they struggle with the chains that hold them back (family pressure/needs, finances, confidence to think bigger, oppression). Thanks for giving us some things to press in on.

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Covering Letter

posted July 2, 2011 at 5:25 am

India will be a great case study in this basic theory. Looking back 20 years from now will be very interesting. Huge economic development taking place but 800 million people are still living on less than $2 per day.

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Andy Campbell

posted July 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm


Great post. Thanks for the nod toward my review at the end. Interesting dialogue on my post with Rob Salkowitz about the way that our doctoral cohort is applying his work. He’s a top-notch guy.

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Rodger McEachern

posted July 15, 2011 at 12:48 am

Tom – great post…I think if I were living in the countries you visit I would put my hope into Salkowitz’s vision socio-economic betterment that he points to in his book. And he made a great comment in our chat when he said that entrepreneurs, even if their prime motivation is profit, come to a point when they realise that to continue to make money they have to improve the social/political infrastructure, be that building a road, improving governance, or bringing justice into society. This potential doesn’t give me existential angst as a Christian…in fact as a Christian I am asking, ‘how can I work with young entrepreneurs in their communities for the betterment of that community?’ #dmingml

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