“Competition breeds excellence” is a mantra I heard growing up. But excellence at what exactly? Some of the most competitive business schools in the United States have trained finance wizards to gamble on the value of basic human necessities, like food and homes, winning huge profits for themselves, while bankrupting many others. In the weeks following the Haitian earthquake, we saw many distributions of food that were unannounced and took place in a very short time period, creating brutal competition. When people must continually compete for their very survival, how can we ever hope to end violence?
At the same time, many of us are learning that more innovative paths toward excellence can draw on the wisdom of groups. Today more than ever, we need to diversify and increase our collective wisdom in order to cope with the many environmental, economic and human challenges we face. And yet there are a billion people in the world who never have the chance to contribute to the fount of human knowledge because they live in extreme poverty. In Africa this may mean having only a few years of schooling; in Europe it may mean schooling that is continually interrupted by getting burnt out of one home, evicted from another, and remaining the outsider who is bullied in each new neighborhood.
Despite these obstacles, it is possible for people living in some of the most difficult situations of poverty to develop their own capacity for excellence through innovative projects. In Madagascar, for instance... (Read more at: http://togetherindignity.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/the-bottom-billio...)