In this paper, World Bank researcher Michael Finger summarises a collection of case studies from his book of the same title (Helping poor people to earn from their knowledge, Oxford University Press 2003). The case studies are built on examples of how poor people in developing countries use skills, innovation and creativity to earn a living from traditional crafts and traditional technologies.

Finger says that an important aim of the book is to draw attention to the income-generating potential of traditional knowledge for poor communities. He says policymakers (in both developed and developing countries) seem preoccupied with legal issues regarding traditional knowledge — such as defending traditional knowledge from being misappropriated by industrial interests; or policing biopiracy — when they ought to be also thinking about finding ways to help poor communities develop the commercial potential of traditional knowledge.