Small Inputs Can Lead to Large Outcomes

The other day I first came across the so-called Beatrice Theorem: Small Inputs Can Lead to Large Outcomes.

Nicholas Kristofs tale starts in Uganda, were Beatrice Biira grew up as the child of poor farmers unable to sent their education-hungry daughter to school. At the same time a church community in Connecticut decided to donate a few animals through Heifer International to poor African farmers.

One of the cows, which cost 120 US$ in the Heifer catalogue, was given to Beatrice parents. It soon had twins, thus supplying the family with nutritious milk. The milk was also sold and with soon the family had enough cash to sent their daughter to school. An American, visiting the school, recorded the story and published it in 2000 as „Beatrice Goat“, which became a best-selling children book. As an outstanding student Beatrice was not only awarded scholarships, she was also admitted to a prep school in Massachusetts and then to Connecticut College. A group of 20 donors to Heifer financed the girls living expenses.

It was Jeffrey Sachs, who, when hearing of Beatrice story, called it jokingly the „Beatrice Theorem“: small inputs can lead to large outcomes.

Of course, a lot ould have gone wrong. As Nicholas Kristof quotes Beatrice herself:

‚Corruption is high in Uganda.’ A crooked local official might have distributed the goats by demanding that girls sleep with him in exchange. Or beatrice goat might have died or been stolen. Or unpasturized milk might have sickened or killed Beatrice.

Yes, many things could have gone wrong. But then there is a good model in place, they often go right. Beatrice for her part wants to get a Masters Degree at the Clinton School of Public Service and return to Africa to work for an aid agency.

As Kristof correctly puts it:

the challenges of global poverty are vast and complex, far beyond anyone’s power to resolve, and byung a farm animal for a poor family won’t solve them. But Beatrice’s giddy happiness is still a reminder that each of us does have the power to make a difference – to transform a girl’s life with something as simple and cheap as a little goat.

As our friend and betterplace fan Rischi, founder of Gorilla Bio Fast Foods likes to say:

Now that betterplace.org exists, people don’t really have any excuses left. I want to say to all these people, who fatalistically state: ‚There is nothing I can do about global poverty’: Now you can make a difference: concrete, direct and easy.

You can, for example, buy a fishing boat for women in Tanzania who want to be financially independent of their husbands or buy books for disadvantaged children in Thailand.

2 Responses to “Small Inputs Can Lead to Large Outcomes”


  1. 1 Nyarushanje Farmers March 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks Heifer International for having boosted girl child education through donations, As an example of Beatrice Biira theorem, it really works in almost every sector provided one has ambitions of following that theorem.

    As Nyaushanje Rural Farmers` Organization we have come to learn that with few start up capital one has to flourish and stay better life.

    We continue to pledge our total support towards appreciating your work done through documenting different brochures.

    sincerely

    Nyarushanje Farmers
    nrforg@yahoo.com

  2. 2 Odyek November 22, 2016 at 8:34 am

    “Small inputs can lead to large Outcomes” Beatrice Theorem, made me spend my day reading more about the ” Beatrice Theorem” in academic world and community work, I had not read about such theorem, though we use much of those words back at home in Bware, Kasese, Uganda. Indeed, I have observed many people’s lives changing when they begin small, in most times, the trend had been ” think big syndrome” then we never even make a step. I am amazed by the story of Beatrice Biira, who comes from the foot of Rwenzori Mountains. She is an amazing social change agent in the village where she comes from and now has taken the world fora to share her story from a humble beginning. We need more of the Biiras to show up on the world map.


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