“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
This often–quoted Chinese proverb speaks to the need to educate and empower people rather than leaving them at the mercy of others. Richard Beresford of MicroAid, an NGO that uses the Internet to connect extremely low–income people to global resources that can help lift them out of poverty, has a slightly different interpretation of this quote.
“ ‘How to fish’ is the business plan,” he says. It is one of the main tools that help people start a profitable enterprise. When the families he works with are ready to create a business plan, Richard points them to LivePlan. He likes the software because it is simple to use, yet powerful enough to provide all the tools micro–entrepreneurs need. “The fact that LivePlan is online opens up an opportunity for low–income families to share in the business management experience of successful global and local enterprises,” he adds.
Richard was born and raised in the United Kingdom. His father was the managing director of Heinz 57 and his mother was an actress. He studied agriculture in college and travelled extensively throughout Asia and Africa. Over the years he supported himself by working in television in Zimbabwe, teaching chemistry in the United Kingdom, and running various small enterprises. Those early ventures in selling everything from fudge to health food didn't really work out. However, those experiences helped pave the way for Richard to start a highly profitable consulting company called Masdar International, with his friend Mick Slater.
In 1984 Richard sold his shares in Masdar and moved to Indonesia. He worked for a United Nations microfinance program called P4K, and the experience helped him identify his real passion in life – helping poor families earn money.
A business plan is one of the main tools that help people start a profitable enterprise. When the families he works with are ready to create a business plan, Richard points them to LivePlan.
Providing very small loans to potential entrepreneurs was one step in helping people earn a living, but it wasn't the end–all, be–all, Richard discovered. ‘Direct funding to low–income families through conditional cash transfers (CCTs) are now recognized as a most effective tool in the fight against global poverty,’ he says. ‘However, low–income families still suffer from information asymmetry – not knowing how to use CCT funds profitably. Often they do not use the CCT for sustainable livelihoods enterprises purely because they do not have a good plan on how to use this new cash windfall received. Without the ability to learn, they are often left behind as their traditional livelihoods passed down from their parents and grandparents are no longer relevant, profitable or possible in the new world where they live.’