By Lorrin Windahl.
In my opinion, Paul Polak is a quiet achiever. His name may be more synonymous with sustainable design in the US, where the SRD movement is much larger, but here in Australia he is relatively unknown. So you are probably asking who is this Polak guy and what has he done to impress me enough to write about him?
Paul Polak has been working with people who earn less than a dollar a day for over 20 years. He’s worked around the globe in places such as India, Africa, Vietnam and Nepal, just to name a few. His background and 23 years experience as a psychiatrist have been fundamental to his success in working with and understanding developing communities’ real needs. As a result his design solutions are sustainable as they are developed with, and not just for, the families & communities involved and they are locally produced & maintained. His designs include the $25 treadle pump (pictured below), a drip irrigation solution and a donkey cart.
In 1982 Polak founded the not-for-profit organisation International Development Enterprises (IDE). He has also since become a well-known public speaker on the topic of SRD and has written the book ‘Out of Poverty’. The book discusses why he thinks mainstream poverty eradication programs have failed to reach their goals and how IDE was taken a different approach to address the problem.