With idealism and a sociology degree, in 1995 Arbind Singh founded Nidan, a nonprofit in northern India that has organized 60,000 street vendors and other informal workers into 19 cooperatives that pool resources and secure low-interest credit. One for-profit spin-off has turned “waste pickers into waste managers,” he says, noting that the working poor have skills but lack strong institutions. “That is the missing link.”
Secure access to markets can bring many of the world’s informal workers out of poverty. Arbind Singh gives urban poor access to markets through large people-owned and managed institutions—large enough to influence policy and be legitimate competitors in a globalizing market….