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From Inhabitants to Citizens

Can a Stoplight Guide the World Out of Poverty?
February 6, 2020
Program Lifts Inmates, Offers Second Chances
February 11, 2020

Last week I posted a review of Martín Burt’s book Who Owns Poverty.  I included some clips from an interview I conducted with Martin last year at the annual conference he runs for people who implement the Poverty Stoplight.   Those clips focused on what Martín said about the Stoplight, but he had other profound things to say that I didn’t want you to miss.

The Four Questions

I ask the same four questions of every person I interview:

  • What is your earliest memory of money?
  • What is the best investment you ever made?
  • What is the biggest mistake you have made with money?
  • Where do you struggle to get your financial decisions to line up with your values?

Here is how Martín answered the questions:

If you want to see my answers to the questions, you will find them here: About Me.

And here’s how other people have answered the questions:

Serial Social Entrepreneur

When Martín sees a problem, he immediately starts thinking about how to organize people to solve it.  I asked him where this all started:

From Inhabitant to Citizen

Martín’s interest in helping people improve their own lives led him into politics.  He became the mayor of Asunción (Paraguay’s capital) and, after a change of government, Chief of Staff to the President.  His replies to my questions about his political career have deep meaning for the current political situation in many countries today:

In the post on the Poverty Stoplight I included a clip of Martín discussing the many dimensions of poverty.  He said that, when we look at poverty this way, we realize that we all have areas where we experience poverty.

Many of us are now experiencing poverty in our politics.  We are living as inhabitants rather than citizens.  We have a lot to learn from Martín, who stood up to a dictator by organizing the inhabitants of his city to exercise their rights as citizens.


  1. Joe says:

    Whenever I am asked to support someone else I ask them to go to the store and buy a Dome home accounting book and come back in one month with every penny accounted for.

    They don’t. I would help if they did. They wouldn’t need help if they did.
    Maybe they do and that’s why they never come back.

    • Larry Reed says:

      Thanks, Joe. The programs I have seen that do the best at teaching financial management are Savings Groups. People save their own money together with others every week. Those who want to borrow make a request to the group and the group votes on whether to give them a loan or not and what interest rate to charge. Each week people put in their savings and borrowers make payments on their loans. The accounting is done out loud in front of every one. Over time all the members of the group learn the value of saving, how to use loans to increase income and how to account for money as it goes in and out.

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