Business Solution to Poverty
Paul Polak, Mal Warwick

Book cover image

Narrated By: William Hughes

Duration: 7 hours and 18 minutes

What to expect

The nearly three billion people living on two dollars a day are not just the world's greatest challenge—they represent an extraordinary market opportunity. The key is what Paul Polak and Mal Warwick call Zero-Based Design: starting from scratch to create innovative products and services tailored for the very poor, armed with a thorough understanding of what they really want and need, and driven by what Polak and Warwick call "the ruthless pursuit of affordability."

Polak has been doing this work for years, and Warwick has extensive experience in both business and philanthropy. Together, they show how their design principles and vision can enable unapologetic capitalists to supply the very poor with clean drinking water, electricity, irrigation, housing, education, health care, and other necessities at a fraction of the usual cost and at profit margins comparable to those of businesses in the developed world.

Promising governmental and philanthropic efforts to end poverty have not reached scale because they lack the incentives of the market to attract massive resources. This book opens an extraordinary opportunity for nimble entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate executives that will result not only in vibrant, growing businesses but also a better life for the world's poorest people.


Poverty and precarity, Housing and homelessness, Entrepreneurship, Management and management techniques, Political economy

Listen to a sample

“One of the most hopeful propositions to come along in a long time. Paul Polak and Mal Warwick’s approach is original, ambitious, and practical—and it just may be the key to reducing the number of people in poverty on a very large scale. They propose to harness the power of free enterprise to begin meeting the most basic needs of the poor…while making a profit. Though market-based approaches aren’t new, Polak and Warwick lay out a practical and systematic way to work on a global scale, transforming the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people.”

Bill Clinton

“This inspiring manifesto…features a comprehensive road map for executives and entrepreneurs who wish to address the needs of the ‘bottom billions’ who live on two dollars a day or less…This blueprint should be required reading.”

Pubishers Weekly (starred review)

“An insightful and accessible guide for coinvesting in a way that enriches the livelihoods of the poor and the souls of investors…Whether you’re an entrepreneur or investor, The Business Solution to Poverty has an abundance of examples of what it takes for enterprises to be successful and transformational in emerging markets.”

Bob Pattillo, founder, Gray Ghost Ventures

“Once companies like those Paul Polak and Mal Warwick envision are up and running and looking to the capital markets, I’m confident they will provide the opportunities for funding to help put an end to global poverty.”

Wayne Silby, founding chair, Calvert Funds

“Few people in rich countries like the United States can imagine what poverty in the developing world is really like. The Business Solution to Poverty will help readers everywhere understand both the enormous human toll that poverty takes and the true potential to end it.”