NETWORKING OUT OF POVERTY

Two decades ago, the solution for alleviating poverty went something like this: food, clothing and shelter. It was about handing out immediate needs. The rhetoric then changed to handing out basic tools for impoverished people to grow food, to fish and to sew. But change agents began to look for even longer term solutions. The food-clothing-and shelter solution then turned into something like this: skills, access and literacy.

"Handing out" opportunity is the new framework for addressing poverty. More and more entrepreneurs are realizing that the solution has both business and social benefits. A recent New York Times article highlighted Babajob.com, an Indian Web site started by a software engineer who decided to "hand out" networking opportunities, transferring the concept of "LinkedIn" to the village job seeker.

Sean Blagsvedt, the founder of the site, decided that poorer Indians who were seeking positions as nannies, housemaids and drivers simply could not find jobs because they did not have the right connections. Sending staff into the streets to drum up job seekers, Babajob has 2,000 unemployed, digitally-illiterate Indians registered on its site. The site also pays Internet cafes and local community organizations to help people register and fill out skills profiles. The Web site is regularly visited by wealthy Indians ready to employ. Babajob's model is winning praise as it injects internet savvy with a social conscience.

-Devi Thomas, Former Account Supervisor, Cause Branding

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