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Discovering the Genius of the Poor
[Date Created: September 25, 2014]

by Thomas Graham

*This article was published on the Philippine Star last September 24, 2014. For the online version, click HERE.

 

The author Thomas Graham with his father and detainees of the Davao Women’s City Jail.


MANILA, Philippines – “Ditch the shirt and tie! Go out and discover the genius of our poor!” Having interviewed a number of businessmen and politicians worldwide, no words have ended up having such a profound impact upon me as those of Tony Meloto, founder and chairman of Gawad Kalinga.

After three hours of interview (I had expected to be in and out in no more than 30 minutes), I looked back at my clipboard of questions to realize that at least half of them never actually got answered. Not because Meloto had refused to answer them, but because I myself had realized how irrelevant they were.

As he talked passionately about his unconditional love for the poorest of the poor, my follow-up questions – on the latest government anti-poverty scheme or the UN development goals – didn’t somehow seem to fit.

Meloto encouraged me to view various poverty-related issues in a different light. When I talked about charity, he spoke about going beyond it, about partnering with the poor. When I singled out the role of government, he talked of creating ‘miracles of solidarity’ involving partnership, not only with the government, but with all sections of society. When my questions focused on individual projects to alleviate poverty, Meloto looked forward to eradicating it entirely by 2024.

Since arriving in the Philippines I had interviewed many people on the subject of poverty, but I hadn’t met anyone who spoke about it quite as audaciously as he does.

One of his more astonishing claims – his belief in the ‘genius of the poor’ – remained particularly stamped on my awareness. I wondered how he could see ‘genius,’ when all I could see was dirt and deprivation. If there was indeed genius in the poor, then why were they poor in the first place?

Perhaps sensing my skepticism, Meloto laid down the gauntlet: “Come alongside the poor, befriend them, partner with them, and you will discover their potential. But don’t take my word for it – experience it for yourself.”


>> Read the full article HERE.

>> Read Tony Meloto's invitation to the 2nd Global Social Business Summit HERE.




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