(CNSNews.com) - The solution to poverty begins in the neighborhoods and the people affected by it, says Robert Woodson, the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
"You always have to begin with a solution in mind," Woodson told CSPAN Tuesday morning in a discussion on poverty. "I tell people, what is your solution? If all whites tomorrow were to move to Canada and Europe, tell me how it would affect the black on black crime rate, how would it it affect the out-of-wedlock births, how would it affect the spread of AIDS? How would it affect those issues?" he asked.
"What I'm saying to Black America, we must stop victimizaton. We must stop complaining about what white folks have done to us in the past. We must go into ourselves, as Dr. King said, and find indelible ink -- our own emancipation proclamation."
Woodson's organization goes into low-income communities and seeks out leaders and "moral mentors" to help solve the problems they understand so well.
"When you bring people together where you are motivated by solutions and not complaining about what others have done, it is amazing how much entrepreneurial energy exists within these high-crime neighborhoods," he said.
"Young men who have been to prison...if they can drive, it means they can drive taxicabs in high-crime areas. My point is, we should be using all of our energy to try and promote innovative approaches to poverty rather than just trying to find excuses. There's nothing more lethal than a good excuse for failure -- institutional racism, whatever that means.
"We need to just stop it, and we need to begin to concentrate on what we can do to elevate and lift ourselves, regardless of the resistance that other people may impose on us."
Woodson noted that government anti-poverty programs have made poor people a "commodity" for "a professional class of providers." He said that most of the trillions of dollars spent on poverty in America don't go to the poor, but to those who serve poor people -- and who "need poor people for their own existence."
"We have some perverse incentives for maintaining poverty in America. It is unfortunate, but two out of ten whites with college educations work for government; six out of ten blacks. It is an unfortunate situation where a lot of professionally trained blacks are in the position of being caretakers of the their low-income counterparts."
Woodson said there's currently no incentive to reduce poverty:
"The problem is, the majority of the money that is employed to address poverty is invested in people that are outside of that zip code -- professional service providers. They ask not which problems are solvable, but they ask what problems are fundable.
"They are answerable, not to their customers, the poor -- they answer to those who provide the money. So the conflict here is really over who controls the means of providing monies to the poor.
"I've seen endless examples of poor people that come together and design effective solutions to drug addictions, to violence and crime, only to have these inoovations ignored."
Woodson said innovation requires a difference structure:
"We need to look at the low-income communities and best invest in entreprenerus and people who are indigenous to those communiteis that demonstrate they can rebuild without gentrification."
Woodson praised Rep. Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan, which Woodson influenced.
Woodson said both he and Ryan (R-Wis.) have reached out to the Obama administration, "but we haven't seen too much response."
"We want to work with anybody who is promoting solutions," he said. Asked if there is any presidential candidate right now who is promoting viable solutions to poverty, Woodson said "no."