Alumni News

Clarkson Leads in Global Poverty Solutions Conversation

by Sarah Cushing - Office of Marketing | Feb 05, 2016
Clarkson in Guatemala

Professor Bill Clarkson, Ph.D., sat among the 25 attendees, including lawyers, managers and missionaries at the 2016 PovertyCure Latin America Consultation in Antigua, Guatemala from Jan. 21–24, wondering how he got there. As a University of Valley Forge (UVF) business professor, Clarkson thought he was invited to the event as a presenter to share his latest project, the Reading, Pennsylvania Poverty Case Study, with leaders in Latin America. He quickly learned that he and the others were invited as consultants on free-market poverty solutions. 

Clarkson was engaged over two days with 20 political leaders, non-governmental organization leaders, as well as business and church leaders. The goal was to help those influential leaders from Latin America understand that aid is a flawed concept, that enterprise is the solution to ending poverty, and to share ideas about how to initiate a new process. “Every individual at this event knows that the current way of doing things is broken and they’re looking for what we can fix,” Clarkson said. “Latin America is at a tipping point economically. If the methodology is going to change from aid to enterprise, now might be the time.”

Clarkson learned about PovertyCure a few years ago through The Acton Institute, a non-profit research organization that focuses on free-market economics. He attended Acton University, an annual conference hosted by the Acton Institute, where hundreds of global leaders, with numerous faith views, integrate business and economics with intellectual history, theology and philosophy. As an Acton subdivision, PovertyCure is an international coalition that rethinks global poverty and educates people on the aid versus enterprise poverty solution. “People are interested in how to create enterprise and flourishing families and PovertyCure has solutions,” Clarkson said.

The Reading, Pennsylvania Poverty Case Study stemmed from the 2010 U.S. Census which labeled Reading as the country's number one poverty pocket. Clarkson and co-author Sarah Bessette ’15 wrote the case study. Clarkson’s macroeconomics class researched the root and incline of the city’s poverty and how those changes affected the community. Clarkson asked his class, “How do we respond as people of faith?” They studied Matthew 24 and 25 to evaluate how Christians should respond to poverty. “Our focus was to begin engaging people in understanding poverty domestically in the U.S.,” Clarkson explained.

Through his research, Clarkson found an avenue with a similar mission in PovertyCure and used its vision to suggest possible free-market poverty solutions for Reading. At first, Clarkson and PovertyCure spoke about how their principles translate to domestic cases of poverty, but as the recent PovertyCure Latin America Consultation showed, the Reading case study can be used to brainstorm how its principles translate to Latin America. “The first step was to see if the case study was applicable,” Clarkson said.

Clarkson was recently featured on a panel of economic experts in the online personal finance resource publication, WalletHub, in an article titled “2015’s Cities with the Highest and Lowest Populations in Need.” Clarkson commented on the main challenges that low-income families face today, the policy interventions that have proven successful or failed to help families achieve economic independence, and how nonprofits and charities can best serve the poor.

The Reading case study received a $5,000 Acton Institute mini-grant to explore the topic more in-depth and publish an additional case study. The mini-grant includes funding for two parts: a more detailed Reading case study and a template for others to study and apply to another city in poverty. The case study is scheduled to be published later this year.