Where Are the Real BOP Stories?
?It makes good journalistic fodder, but it’s just the same story over and over!? This was fellow blogger Rob Katz?s comment when I called him about posting a story on the Strappity-do-da company. His frustration was similar to that expressed by Ethan when he complained about journalists covering essentially the same microfinance storyline instead of getting to real scalable models at the BOP. So what was the problem with Strappity-do-da, an enterprise that sells beaded bra straps sourced from a group of women in Colombia with handicraft skills?
?I?m tired of hearing feel-good stories about Americans traveling to a country, finding a community that produces a random handmade item, and selling them to their wealthy friends? it makes for a good human interest piece, and it’s great that they?re doing that, but it’s not a solution.? Rob continued ranting before slamming the phone. Okay so he didn?t slam the phone- and he doesn?t talk like that either, being a level-headed economist-type. I used some rhetorical flourish there.But he has a point. I resisted writing about this company until I saw several articles on it published in newspapers from the International Herald Tribune to the Houston Chronicle. Companies like this seem to get more attention than those that are actual examples of producers at the base of the pyramid selling products on their own initiative and their own terms. It seems to be a common theme; the story of the George Soros, the Bill Gates, or in this case Shelli Styles figure reaching out to the poor community to sell their local goods makes for a good quick read. It just makes for a lousy long-term development plan.
So let’s renew Ethan’s call to journalists: Let’s focus on the people that are shaping real trends for poverty alleviation- the business and development models that are financially self-sustaining, that are actually empowering underserved communities, that can be multiplied and expanded. With all do respect to Shelli, Strappity-do-da is not news; the users of Peoplink are.