Barefoot College– Bunker Roy Fights Poverty By Using Entrepreneurship

Barefoot College

Barefoot College was started in 1972 to help teach local Indian communities how to solve mass poverty. The organization has recently generated some buzz and Fast Company covers it in their most recent issue. (The article should be accessible to the public in a few weeks)

An Indian named Bunker Roy, 60, whose Tilonia-based group, the Barefoot College, has spent 30 years empowering India’s rural poor to innovate their way out of poverty.

Barefoot College students, “washouts, copouts, and dropouts,” as Roy fondly calls them, learn skills ranging from midwifery to computer programming, solar engineering to rainwater harvesting. There is no required curriculum, no deadline for graduation, no degree awarded. The school, which includes stipends for all students, is supported by the income generated by offering such services to villages all over India.

Roy recently received some press when he slammed the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals as a “recipe for disaster” doomed to “be achieved only on paper.” That probably didn’t win Roy too many political friends but his model has won a lot of believers, and he recently received a $615,000 Skoll Foundation grant to seed Barefoot College all over the world.

It’s a scalable, community-based model of development managed from the bottom up by the poor themselves–a decentralized alternative to the Millennium Villages launched in Kenya and Ethiopia by Sachs’s Earth Institute at Columbia University. The big difference is, it costs at least $250,000 to set up each Millennium Village… Last year, with just $100,000, [Roy] brought 10 Afghans to India to train at the Barefoot College for six months and bought 120 solar units to power five villages.

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