The paper addresses the trend in anti-poverty policy of making poor people responsible for their own development. The paper however argues that this strategy reflects a poor assessment of whether the poor are capable or ready to take on this role. This point is illustrated by two examples: a cross country household survey to assess natural entrepreneurship amongst the poor and a randomized social experiment aimed to involve poor rural parents in improving the way their children are taught in public schools.
The first study shows that while many poor own businesses, it is more a survival strategy than something they have a special inclination to do. The second shows that, despite parents being aware of their right to hold the school accountable as well as the poor state of learning of their children, they opted not to get involved. The authors thus conclude that since it is difficult to fully understand what motivates the poor, and given the structural constraints the poor often face, it is questionable to assume that they can be wholly responsible for development at the community level.