What if every aid worker was given a micro investment fund?

What if every aid worker – local and international – at every level was given a micro investment fund, over which they have total personal discretion? How would aid delivery change?

The rise of and access to technology in the developing world is already significantly changing the way aid agencies work. It has also made alternative support mechanisms to seemingly “invisible” local leaders and initiatives more possible than ever before. In fact, there is a growing number of small NGOs and foundation that specialize in offering direct funding to grassroots leadership and small, often “informal” movements.

Why not expand that idea to give every aid worker ‘in the field’ a social change investment fund of $1,000 (£655), over which they have total personal discretion? Each person could be tasked to find an under-the-radar grassroots organization, local leader, or community initiative worthy of support. The only stipulation would be that the group has been in existence for at least three years and has never received international assistance. Allow only one-page proposals and reports to cut down on transaction costs.

People must find a person, an organization, or an idea that inspires them. The primary mandate will be to tap into the enthusiasm that drew them into aid work in the first place and see for themselves how a diversity of approaches and actors are all a part of unleashing social change.

At the end of the experiment, the fund managers could get together and share what they’ve learned through well-facilitated and documented reflection exercises to distil good practices and actionable insights.

The estimated 595,000 aid workers around the world are rarely called to examine the bureaucratic rigidities that govern their day-to-day work. With just $5,950,000, one in 10 of these aid workers could try the investment fund and find ways to change a corporate culture that no longer meets the demands of a rapidly-changing world.

[The Guardian]

Will US budget cuts create an isolationism?

Excerpts of an opinion piece by Bruce Stokes, director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center:

The forced budget cuts, known in Washington as sequestration, are now in force in the United States and $85 billion in spending cuts are in the process of being implemented, with about half of them coming out of Washington’s spending on international engagement.

These reductions include foreign aid and … will shrink the U.S. footprint around the world, with consequences for the projection of both U.S. hard and soft power.

The question now, in the United States and overseas, is where exactly the cuts will fall.

China transforming Africa

Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, and author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa”,  is an outspoken critic of international aid, arguing for years that foreign handouts stifle Africa’s development, perpetuate corruption and hinder the continent’s growth.

In a new interview with CNN, Moyo explains why she’s optimistic about the future of Africa. She looks at the positive impact that China can have on the continent and details the key drivers that will spur Africa’s economic growth. Some briefs:

CNN: The Chinese story has been thrown into the mix, has that changed the landscape?

DM: Yes, absolutely, but in a strange way it’s exactly what we need in terms of delivering economic growth and meaningfully reducing poverty. We need jobs, we need investment, we need trade, we need foreign direct investment, whether investment domestically but also from the outside. It’s not some magic pill, everybody knows that this is the formula, and finally the Chinese are showing up, again, not just in Africa, but around the world with that elixir, that mix of opportunities to really transform these countries.

CNN: A lot of people are critical of Chinese “neo-colonialism” but you argue that’s not the case.

DM: Well, it’s not, because China has so many economic problems in itself. You know, this is a population of 1.3 billion people with 300 million people that live at the level of Western living style. So they’ve got a billion people to move out of poverty. The notion that they would be spending their time trying to colonize other places is just, frankly, absurd.

I’m not saying that China should be given a red carpet, carte blanche, to come into Africa or, indeed, anywhere in the world, and do what they like. We do need the investment, we need job creation and we do need actual trade in these places. But I think what’s really essential is to focus on what China can do for Africa, as well as what Africa can do for China. And I think that discussion is not had as objectively as it should be.

Afghans worry about International Aid

The impending withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign combat forces from Afghanistan means more than a loss of firepower. International aid is also on the decline because of donor fatigue and fears of deteriorating security after nearly 12 years of war.

Worried about losing hard-won gains, many Afghan and international aid organizations are racing to finish projects or find new sources of funding to provide basic services such as health care, education and electricity that the weak central government has been unable to deliver.

The money that has flowed into Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. invasion that ousted the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies has led to drastic improvements, with nearly 8 million children, some 40 percent of them girls, enrolled in school — up from just over 1 million when girls were banned from school under the Taliban.

Afghan street children are packed into classrooms, raising their hands to answer math questions and bending their heads over art projects as part of a program funded by the European Union. But the money is about to disappear after a four-year grant expires next month, and the Afghan government isn’t ready to fill the gap. That leaves thousands of poor children who spend most of their days hawking goods on the street poised to lose their only access to an education.

The U.S. Agency for International Development in Afghanistan has built or refurbished more than 680 schools, and child mortality has been halved with improved health facilities and other services.