Rob Katz

BoP Critic Karnani: Stop “Romanticizing the Poor”

Aneel KarnaniAneel Karnani, a Professor at the University of Michigan and a Managing Director at FSG Social Impact Advisors, is a long-time critic of market-based approaches to poverty alleviation and the “base of the pyramid” concept in general.

His latest article, Romanticizing the Poor, appears in the Winter 2009 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review.? A brief excerpt:

Market solutions to poverty are very much in vogue. These solutions, which include services and products targeting consumers at the “bottom of the pyramid,” portray poor people as creative entrepreneurs and discerning consumers. Yet this rosy view of poverty-stricken people is not only wrong, but also harmful. It allows corporations, governments, and nonprofits to deny this vulnerable population the protections it needs. Romanticizing the poor also hobbles realistic interventions for alleviating poverty.

This article came across my desk last week, and I’ve been thinking about it since.? A formal response is in the works – to which I will invite Professor Karnani to respond here on NextBillion – but I wanted to make sure that everyone reading the site knew about the article and had the chance to read it themselves in the meantime.Comments are open below if you have immediate thoughts; should this spark an interest, here are some of Professor Karnani’s other critiques of the BoP concept:

Update 12/15/08: Aneel Karnani is not a Managing Director with FSG Social Impact Advisors, as I reported Friday.? The erroneous material was sourced from the Stanford Social Innovation Review web site; even so, I should have cross-checked it.? My apologies.