Poverty is a word that conveys a lot of different meanings to different people. Some see hunger, others see disease, while others see squalor. These mental pictures often come from the media's publication of dire cases of starvation and cataclysm. Yet there is another, often more insidious side to poverty. It is the fact that it exists just around the corner, and that we choose not to see it. This is why as a worldwide community we respond more to disaster than the daily, grinding catastrophe that is poverty.The news is full of stories about those who have been recently impoverished or may soon become so. The mission of the BYU ESR Center is explained by their Web site:
For instance, here in Utah where the ESR Center is located, almost ten percent (225,000 people) live in poverty. In the United States, almost thirteen-percent (37 million) live in poverty, while over forty percent (2.7 billion) people around the world live in poverty. For millennia the same questions have been asked, "What causes poverty? What can be done? How can I help in a way that builds self-reliance?"
The BYU Economic Self-Reliance Center (ESR Center) was founded in 2003 with the express purpose of answering those questions by focusing on helping families become economically self-reliant. As an academic research center, we do this by helping socially minded practitioners to better serve their clients. Our research agenda investigates and develops interventions that best promote economic self-reliance—both domestically and abroad.The two main projects that are the focus of the ESR Center are Microfranchising and the Single Mom Initiative.
The ESR Center defines MicroFranchises as small businesses that can easily be replicated by following proven marketing and operational concepts. The overall objective of MicroFranchising is to promote economic development by developing sound business models that can be replicated by entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid; therefore, the start-up costs of MicroFranchises will be minimal. The key principle is replication, replicating success to scale. MicroFranchising is a new tool designed specifically to assist these entrepreneurs to become more successful and reach economic self-reliance, through the provision of successful business models with the necessary initial and on-going training needed to succeed.
The Single Mom Initiative (SMI) represents the ESR Center’s effort to help families in Utah. Beginning in late 2005, the SMI was created in partnership with the Single Mom Foundation with the express purpose of helping single moms in Utah achieve economic self-reliance.
Although the U.S. is not considered a poverty stricken country, but with 7.6% over-all unemployment and with the rate certain to increase, there are many people who are facing poverty without the tools to survive. Maybe it is time to use what we have learned from dealing with poverty in third world countries, right here in the U.S.