Breaking Convention to Fight Extreme Poverty: Why I'm Releasing the FXBVillage Methodology

05/04/2015 04:04 pm ET | Updated May 03, 2016

Can an "open-source" approach move us closer toward the growing movement to end extreme poverty by 2030? I believe it can.

That is why, after 26 years of working to break the cycle of poverty and uplifting children plagued by HIV/AIDS, war and poverty, I have decided to share my approach with the world.

On May 4, my international development organization, FXB, is releasing the FXBVillage Toolkit and Planning Guide, a 200-page, step-by-step, interactive guide that puts FXB's proven approach into your hands. I offer it freely to venture philanthropists, NGOs, governments, social entrepreneurs and the rest of the world.

Active in eight countries over the past 26 years, the FXBVillage model maintains an 86 percent success rate at helping families overcome extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 a day. Although there are many global development organizations that have made important contributions to the field, FXB remains unique. Instead of focusing on single components of poverty, we simultaneously address five drivers of poverty: food, education, income, health and housing. We also teach families how to generate an income and save money, as well as provide important psychosocial counseling. And we do all of this in just three years, slowly reducing our support each year until families become self-sufficient and stay out of poverty long-term.

We've provided access to health clinics, nutritious food, schools and sustainable housing. We've taught families how to run small businesses and farms. We've connected mothers to other mothers struggling to raise their children alone. Most importantly, we've taught families how to continue to access and sustain these resources on their own.

The toolkit, which was developed with experts at Harvard University, chronicles our history, process, methodology and successes. We share stories from the urban slums of Colombia, rural villages in Rwanda and remote communities in China. Most of all, we teach others how to help the extreme poor break the cycle of poverty using a field-tested, comprehensive approach that works and is cost-effective-with an expenditure of just $125-$230 per person, per year.

It is crucial for anyone looking at our work to know that we believe there can be no sustainable impact without addressing the inextricable links between health and human rights (as the late Dr. Jonathan Mann of Harvard University proposed and proved), as well as the missing link of business that I added when I saw first-hand what was needed in the field for long-term self-sufficiency of program participants.

Additionally, the guiding light behind the FXBVillage program has always been the Convention of the Rights of the Child (that, shamefully, has yet to be ratified by the United States). My goal from the beginning was to vindicate these rights by preventing yet another generation of children from falling prey to sex trafficking; drug addiction; terrorism; recruitment as child soldiers and gang members; and the various other social ills that beset those in extreme poverty.

There are countless examples of how the FXBVillage model has helped prevent such outcomes over the past 26 years. I like to tell the story of Nite, an HIV-positive Ugandan woman. In 1995, as an FXBVillage participant, Nite received one cow. A decade later she has three cows, two pigs and some chickens, as well as land on which she grows pineapples and coffee and built a house for her eldest son. This has provided enough income to put all her children through school, two of whom went on to university, and one who got a job abroad.

It's because of stories like these-as well external studies confirming our success-that FXB's work has won the endorsement of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and countless others who work with and support FXBVillages around the world.

The release of the FXBVillage Toolkit and Planning Guide could not be more timely as nations around the world debate the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of (at last count) 17 targets being formulated this year by global leaders whose major aim is to end poverty and improve the lives of the poor by 2030. Whether the final number of goals is 10, 12 or 17, it is clear to me that we will not be able to achieve any of them if we keep doing business as usual. So I invite those involved in the SDGs process to look closely at the FXBVillage methodology for solutions that can put us on the right track to achieve progress--and fast.

I realize that even in the altruistic world of international development, sharing the keys to success is not as common as one would think; the competition for funders is fierce. But I didn't follow conventional wisdom 26 years ago when I started FXB, and I have no intention of doing so now.

In the spirit of shared knowledge, I invite you to use our proven approach to helping families overcome extreme poverty and lifting up children worldwide. I ask that you consider applying the methodology to your current and future poverty relief efforts, and as we all work toward a more sustainable world together, I look forward to your feedback on the FXBVillage Toolkit and Planning Guide. Join our conversation online using #FXBOpenSource.