Monday, 19 May 2008


Robert Tuttle, US Ambassador to the UK, wrote a great letter to the Guardian a while back; this is the most important bit:
In 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, net private resource flows to the developing world from US citizens and companies exceeded $130bn, more than the sum of ODA from all OECD members combined. These flows included capital investments and credits of $62bn, remittances of $41bn, and private charitable giving of $30bn. When added to US ODA of $21.75bn in 2007, these resources represent more than 1% of US GDP.
There is therefore a huge imperative to harness that private giving for the good. But as he says "the effectiveness of aid is as important as its volume".

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

He's wearing clothes

A new and thought-provoking book on 'philanthrocapitalism' has been published by Michael Edwards (a grants officer at the Ford Foundation). It's well worth a read, especially since it's free to download.

His main argument is that business thinking can damage civil society. Since, in his view, capitalism is the cause of so much suffering in the world, it can only go so far towards creating a solution to the world's problems. As he sees it, technology and the market cannot change the political and social root causes of poverty and cannot provide deep 'structural change'.

But the evidence to date is that, in the vast majority of cases, it is civil society which has failed to bring about beneficial change. In international development particularly there are barely any examples of outside organisations instigating or promoting social movements which successfully improve the lives of those at the bottom of the pile.

In any case, rigorous evaluation can determine the extent of success or failure of particular projects, including those which seek to empower disadvantaged groups or support social change. Projects should be evaluated against one another without recourse to ideology.

In the final chapter, Edwards calls for greater accountability of donor organisations - a theme which we have returned to many times on this blog. He writes:
[We should] commission independent impact evaluations for any tax exempt activity above a certain size, and publish the results. Require all foundations and social enterprises above a certain size to compile a publicly available summary of all evaluations every five years, and to solicit feedback from grantees and beneficiaries, and independent experts in the field.
I agree that tax-exempt organisations making charitable donations should face legal requirements to at least publish a basic list of the projects they have supported (including the size of the donation), if not evaluations of those projects as well.

Monday, 5 May 2008

More than a wet flannel

Here's an interview with Matt Flannery, cofounder of, a site which allows people in the developed world to make loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries over the internet.

Interestingly he predicts that:
"[In the future] we could allow women in Ghana to lend to women in Mexico. Increasingly you will see a general trend of blurring of the lines between first and third world. We’ve already had Mexicans lending to Mexicans. We’ve had Malaysians lending to Iraqis. We’ve had all sorts of blurring distinctions between the haves and the have-nots and that’s playing itself out on our site, which is really, really interesting to watch...Eventually I think you will see people in the global South actually lending to people in the global North. So someone in Chicago can take a loan from someone in Kampala, Uganda. That will be really, really interesting as well then all scenarios start playing themselves out."
Of course that future relies on Kiva surviving that long. At the moment they survive on 'tips' and grants from charitable foundations. I suspect that won't last long.

They're gonna getcha

One World Trust has published the list of international organisations, businesses and NGOs who are in its sights for the 2008 Global Accountability Report. The development organisations which should be worried are
  • African Development Bank
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation
  • Care International
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • International Planned Parenthood Federation
  • Islamic Relief
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Plan International
  • Transparency International
  • United Nations Children’s Fund
Including Transparency International was inspired!