Reflections from the 2103 Summit – Valerie Boffy’s Talk on Summiting the Everest and the parallels for ending poverty

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At first thought, the connection between ending poverty and summiting the tallest peak in the world is not really evident but after Boffy’s short session, the parallelism becomes unmistakable. Boffy contends that similar convictions are required to end poverty as are required to climb the tallest peak in the world. According to Boffy technology, experience /know-how, confidence, favorable weather, health and luck are necessary ingredients to achieve the dream of summiting Everest. Technology helps a climber deal with the negative externalities of the climb – to keep warm, to breathe, to keep track of one’s location among other necessities. Similarly, technology is a key step in catalyzing the end of poverty – using mobile technology to access remote populations, using alternative delivery channels to increase client convenience, and using data mining to match products to client demands. Boffy mentions the importance of experience/know-how and shared how she escaped death based on the advice of other more experienced climbers – at one juncture she was told that if she sat down she would die, a piece of very simple advice that saved her from death. Similarly, she argues that in the fight against poverty practitioners need to learn from others mistakes and use lessons and learnings from others to take the poverty eradication agenda forward. Confidence is key, it helps you see possibilities and resources that are available and builds the belief that your dream is actually achievable. Confidence is thus an integral part of achieving your dream. Another important variable is the weather; the slight change in the weather on top of Everest can make or break your summit. For low-income households weather has two kinds of manifestations – the actual weather and the economic weather. The former dictates the ability of low-income households to continue their businesses even the slightest change in weather such as rain can disrupt the business activity and hence income generation for a poor family. The economic weather dictates how well the local and international economy are doing which has a direct impact on prices and inflation and hence a direct impact on poor households. Health is another important factor – according to Boffy the healthier she became the more she was convinced she could achieve her dream, the same is true for low-income households personal capital is necessary for poor people to come out of poverty which includes personal, mental and physical capital. Access to healthcare, immunization and sound health is mandatory in helping poor people to climb out of poverty. The last element for success is luck, according to Boffy she was able to summit Everest not because everything went according to plan but because she was lucky, i.e. preparation met opportunity. The same is true for poor individuals to climb out of poverty – individual level luck is as important in coming out of poverty as is the services you receive!!!