iDE Global

Press Release: Change, Not Charity: iDE Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary - 3 October 2022

October 3, 2022

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When iDE founder Paul Polak first visited Ethiopia in the 1980s, Somalis were being driven across the border by conflict in their home country. He noticed the refugees were struggling as they carried wood, water, and food with rudimentary carts pulled by donkeys.

Practical and innovative, Paul used abandoned car parts and displaced blacksmiths to modify the carts, making them much more efficient. The improved carts were then sold by the blacksmiths to other refugees on credit, with payments made from income generated by hauling goods with the carts. Five hundred carts were sold, producing more than $1 million in net income for cart owners over three years.

As we celebrate our 40th anniversary on October 1, iDE is proud to have worked with almost 40 million customers like the Somali refugees, coming up with market-based fixes to enduring challenges. We believe the market offers the best way to incentivize people and find sustainable solutions that can be passed down through generations.

In 1982, when Paul founded iDE, the world was a different place. At the time, 25 percent of the world’s population were undernourished with famine taking the lives of more than a million people in Ethiopia. Homelessness was at an all-time high as 15 percent of the world population lived below the poverty line. And AIDS was poised to sweep the world, devastating a generation of families and leaving millions of African children orphaned.

iDE CEO Lizz Ellis said we live in a very different world today. The hunger rate has more than halved, 9 percent of people live below the poverty line – still too many  – and an AIDS diagnosis is no longer a death sentence. A combination of economic growth, scientific discovery, diplomacy, and the determination to accelerate the development of communities across the world has brought us to this point.

“In recent years, some of the gains realized in the last four decades have been lost,” said Ellis. “COVID-19 has impacted development work and poverty rates have ticked back up. The pandemic has also led to a spike in world hunger, which is being compounded by war in Ukraine. Inflation, broken supply chains and economic challenges threaten to further undermine our efforts going forward. We cannot let that happen.”

“Now with 1,300 staff based in 14 countries iDE has a lot more work to do. The fresh approach Paul gave us will take on new meaning. In the coming year we will launch our “moonshot” and double down on commitments around impact and scale. We’ll also be pushing the boundaries around innovation, technology, climate change resilience and importantly, gender equality. At iDE we believe women entrepreneurs are catalysts for change as they are a strong link between community, business, and family.”

Our work ahead won’t be easy. In fact, the next 40 could be harder than the first 40. But at iDE we don’t back down from a challenge. Please join us in our journey to bring about change, not charity.

About iDE

iDE is a non-government organization dedicated to ending poverty. Based in Denver, Colorado, our work within agriculture, sanitation, climate change resilience, and gender equality, stands out in the international development sector because we don’t simply hand out money or commodities. Instead, iDE believes in powering small-scale entrepreneurs and building robust market ecosystems that are financially competitive, resilient to changing climates, and inclusive of marginalized people. iDE has 1,300 global staff and offices in 10 developing countries.

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iDE Contact: KC Koch +1 303 884 4534

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