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Paul Polak

founder, International Development Enterprises

Paul Polak, founder of Colorado-based non-profit International Development Enterprises (IDE), is dedicated to developing practical solutions that attack poverty at its roots. For the past 25 years, Paul has worked with thousands of farmers in countries around the world--including Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Zambia, and Zimbabwe--to help design and produce low--cost, income--generating products that have already moved 17 million people out of poverty. Before establishing IDE, Paul practiced psychiatry for 23 years in Colorado. To better understand the environments influencing his patients, Paul would visit their homes and workplaces. After a trip he made to Bangladesh, he was inspired to use the skills he had honed while working with homeless veterans and mentally ill patients in Denver to serve the 800 million people living on a dollar a day around the world. Employing the same tactics he pioneered as a psychiatrist, Paul spent time "walking with farmers through their one-acre farms and enjoying a cup of tea with their families, sitting on a stool in front of their thatched-roof mud--and--wattle homes." Paul's ability to respond with innovative solutions--such as the $25 treadle pump and small farm drip--irrigation systems starting at $3--helped IDE increase poor farmers' net income by $288 million annually. IDE received a $14 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation in 2006. In 2004, Paul received Ernst & Young's "Entrepreneur of the Year" award in the social responsibility category. And Paul was named one of the *Scientific American* "top 50" for his leadership in agriculture policy in 2003.