December 2009 Newsletter
Welcome to the December 2009 issue of the Global Washington newsletter. If you would like to contact us directly, please email us.
IN THIS ISSUE
- Note from our Executive Director
- Spotlight: First Annual Global Washington Conference a Great Success!
- Featured Organization: Grameen Foundation
- Changemaker: Chris Fontana: For want of a lesson plan, 5,000 lives have increased opportunity
- Global Entertainment: Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics
- Announcements: Join Global Washington in 2010, RDI Releases New Book on Land Rights, InterConnection Brings Computer Microloan Program to Chile, Julia Bolz on KUOW
- Upcoming Events
I want to thank all of you who attended our conference for being there and for making this first annual conference such an incredible success. We are delighted with the positive feedback, the number of people who came and were part of the event (over 300), and with the number of people who helped plan the conference. Thank you for all of your work. Our staff and steering committee will now take the next 6 weeks to review the notes from the breakout sessions and begin the process of planning for 2010. Thanks for all the input. We will be in touch to follow up on the next steps.
Another exciting project that we have been able to finalize this year is a white paper which was done with the help of the Jackson School at the University of Washington. This paper highlights how United States foreign assistance could be more effective at delivering aid to address global development challenges. This report identifies principles of aid effectiveness and uses them to diagnose the major problems facing U.S. foreign assistance. It also proposes recommendations for meeting 21st century global development challenges. Please click here to read the full report.
I wanted to bring to your attention a new petition that the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) is circulating for a global development strategy to give development a strong voice in foreign policy decisions. They already have collected over 30,000 signatures- let’s increase these signatures and help them reach their goal of 150,000. They are collecting signatures until December 22nd. You can simply click here to sign the petition. Congress has just passed the FY2010 Global Aid and Operations Budget that contains funding for the State Department and other foreign operations, which you can read about here.
Thank you all so much for all of your support in 2009. We look forward to your active participation in 2010 in shaping our work and strategy. And no matter how you celebrate this season and the coming of a new year, may your days be filled with happiness and love.
Bookda Gheisar, Executive Director
Over 300 people participated in the day’s events, engaging in lively discussions and sharing strategic approaches for strengthening cross-sector collaboration among Washington State’s dynamic global development community. We learned a great deal from our esteemed keynote speakers and panels of experts, taking away lessons that will help to make future development efforts more effective. Chief among these lessons is the understanding that public-private partnerships, local ownership, and the empowerment of women should play a key role in future development strategy.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times opened the conference by stressing the importance of focusing development efforts on the empowerment of women and education. Often, women-centered solutions to problems suffered in the developing world are much more cost-effective. For example, at a cost of 50 cents a year per child, deworming can significantly increase school-attendance, particularly for girls.
By focusing on education, particularly on educating women, Kristof believes a nation has an advantage over other developing countries. Bangladesh provides a strong example in emphasizing education in the female population after its separation from West Pakistan in 1971. In turn, the focus on education provided the opportunity for the development of a busy garment industry and successful micro-lending institutions.
The day’s first panel focused on what strategies may be implemented to help alleviate poverty and empower women. The panel agreed that collaboration and partnership with the local communities, as well as an adaptable strategy are key to the success of development projects.
Rick Beckett, President of Global Partnerships stressed the strategy of inclusion in microfinance, which has helped Global Partnerships to achieve a 98% loan repayment rate. Renee Giovarelli of the Rural Development Institute understands the need to listen to the local community, a principle that has guided RDI in providing land rights as a transformative investment in the community. Margaret Willson of the Bahia Street School in Brazil strongly believes in cooperation and local ownership of aid projects, stating the importance of ceding power to the local community.
In the second keynote address, Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley, discussed the importance of developing partnerships between the public and private sectors in an effort to better combat the world’s challenges. With 80% of all aid money from the U.S. coming from private sources such as businesses, philanthropists, and non-profits, it is pivotal that the government works alongside the private sector. With such partnerships, Ambassador Bagley believes the world can work together towards the empowerment of women, an end to human trafficking, and more sustainable energy practices.
The second panel also focused on the need of partnerships between the public and private sectors as a way to more effectively implement development strategies. Gary Kotzen of Costco emphasized the need of businesses to partner with and develop local farmers and producers as a way to facilitate growth at both the local level and the business level.
Given the state of the current global financial system, funding for non-profit development projects may be more difficult to acquire. As a solution to this problem, John Beale of VillageReach sees partnerships between businesses and non-profits as a way to continue to maintain development projects even when most of the funding dries up.
After the opportunity to engage and learn from our speakers and panelists, we gave attendees the chance to engage each other in dialogue focused on what can be done to make our global development efforts more effective. Participants were split into cross-sectoral groups as well as specific issue areas to discuss the challenges in today’s global development sector and identify solutions to create a more effective strategy to alleviate poverty and suffering worldwide.
Thank you to everyone who attended the conference and to those who support it through sponsorships, planning and staffing. Most of all, thank you for your insights and contributions to our Blueprint for Action. We are in the midst of compiling your suggestions for how Global WA can better serve Washington State’s global development sector, and we will share a finalized Blueprint for Action in early 2010.
To see photos and video of conference highlights, click here.
Click on these links to read media coverage of the Global Washington conference by:
Photos by Nancy Levine
You are a farmer in a small Ugandan village. Your sole source of income is the bananas you grow and sell to people in the village. A new mold appears on the bananas that you’ve never seen before. What do you do? You ask your neighbors, but no one can identify it. Thanks to the Grameen Foundation, information is now available. You go to the local Village Phone Operator and ask him or her to send a text message describing the problem to Farmer’s Friend. For a small charge you’ll get an answer back almost instantly.
Grameen Foundation is a global organization focused on poverty alleviation through access to microfinance and technology. Founded in 1996 by Alex Counts after years of mentoring under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Grameen Bank founder Muhammad Yunus in Bangladesh, the organization directly works to alleviate poverty through its programs and collaboration with local organizations around the world. Grameen Foundation has close to 100 staff, split between Washington, DC, Seattle, and countries around the world.
Grameen Foundation’s programs focus on scalability, maximizing impact, financial sustainability and focusing on the poorest of the poor: those living on less than $1 per day. Grameen Foundation and its local partners, including microfinance institutions (MFIs) delivering financial services to the poor, apply these principles in their own programs. Grameen Foundation looks for barriers and hurdles preventing both MFIs and poor people from being successful in their efforts to get out of poverty. Then, Grameen Foundation figures out how to tackle those barriers.
Access to capital markets is one of the hurdles for microfinance organizations. Loans made across international borders are subject to fluctuations in capital market exchange rates. These currency fluctuations mean that someone has to take exchange rate hits. In order to bypass market fluctuations, Grameen Foundation guarantees funds to the local banks in local currency for loans to MFIs. These banks can leverage the guarantee provide by Grameen Foundation making more funds available to MFIs than the actual amount of the guarantee. In the Philippines, the MFIs created a bond product, which the Foundation guaranteed.
Another issue that prevents MFIs from increasing the scale of their efforts is lack of professional staff development and succession planning. Grameen Foundation provides professional staff training for MFIs, providing guidance and acts as a resource for best practices.
Grameen Foundation developed the Progress out of Poverty Index to enable MFI’s to accurately assess the scope of poverty in their region and measure the effectiveness of the assistance they provide. The Progress out of Poverty Index utilizes a list of simple questions to determine the financial status of the poor participating in the micro-loan process. These questions relate to family size, number of children in school, and housing rather than typical financial questions. A value is assigned to each answer so that the MFIs can determine where a particular client appears on the poverty scale. By averaging all such values, the MFI can determine the average poverty level of the clients they assist. By asking the same series of questions repeatedly over time, the MFI can track each client’s movement out of poverty.
Providing the poorest of the poor with access to micro-loans is only one aspect of the financial assistance needed to alleviate poverty. The Grameen Foundation recently received a grant from the Gates Foundation to create 1.5 million new micro-savers in three countries.
On the technology side, the Foundation helps implement the work of the Grameen Technology Center, the Seattle based program which develops technology-based solutions for MFIs and the customers they serve. The Grameen Technology Center created Mifos, an Open Source software application that enables MFIs to collect and track information about their business and their clients. MFIs have difficulty growing beyond several thousand clients because they have many problems related to getting timely and accurate business intelligence. The Foundation is helping several large MFIs, such as Grameen Koota with 300,000 clients and ENDA in Tunisia to use Mifos in order to grow and serve more clients effectively. Others are using it on their own as an Open Source product and the Foundation assists them when asked.
Through the Village Phone program, Grameen Foundation is providing access to telecommunication services for the rural poor. Access to information is a key factor in lifting people out of poverty and allowing them to build and maintain sustainable businesses. To date, The Village Phone program has built a network of 25,000 Village Phone Operators in six countries. Grameen Foundation is expanding the original Village Phone concept to allow the Village Phone Operators to sell airtime as well as act as a communication link for the people in their Villages.
The Grameen Foundation’s ICT Innovation program builds on the success of Village Phone by developing applications that can be accessed via mobile phone through text messaging. The Foundation has partnered with Google and MTN, an African telecommuncations company, to support these information applications in Uganda and Ghana. In the opening example, a farmer who discovers an unknown mold growing on his crop of bananas can send a text message to the Farmer’s Friend application and receive information on how to treat his plants to remove the mold. Grameen develops and refines the application, Google facilitates the searches, and MTN provides the network service to rural areas. ICT Innovations is transforming the Village Phone Operator into a knowledge worker, the broker of information needed by the local farmer who may not be able to text himself even if he had a phone.
Lastly, the Village Energy program is working to develop safe and sustainable energy solutions for the rural poor. The goal of Village Energy is to improve the quality of life of the poor by providing access to electricity through the use of solar energy devices and other sustainable energy solutions.
The Grameen Foundation mobilizes resources to provide financial, professional and technological support to enable the poorest of the world’s poor to break the cycle of poverty. Its innovative strategies and products for MFIs and deployment of technological solutions for those who live on less than a dollar a day put it at the forefront of an old American entrepreneurial and philanthropic tradition–figuring out a way to make it work.
The holidays were over, but no time for lesson planning left Chris Fontana facing his high school class in Chicago in 1992 with no lesson for the day. (Chris insists, by the way, that not being prepared was quite unusual for him.) Reaching into the teacher’s bag of tricks, he had his students discuss current events. One student’s presentation of an article on the disappearing rain forests caught the imagination of both the class and the teacher and created a wave of enthusiasm for doing something about the problem. The class decided to collect all the paper the school used. The janitor agreed to store it for them. Ten days later they piled all the paper up in the school cafeteria in front of the students, faculty and local press, illustrating from their own lives their contribution to deforestation.
The bug stayed with both Chris and his students. He started reading the environmental reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. He became the faculty advisor to the environmental club. The class organized a summit of students looking for ways to avoid environmental degradation, bringing in speakers and arranging places for attendees to stay who had far to travel. Just three years later, those students had become YES, the organization which organized Global Youth Environmental Summit of 1995, co-sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program, which brought together 300 high school students from 32 countries and 40 States for one week of education in environmental and peace issues, social action and leadership skills, and direct environmental service. Chris was the organization’s mentor and sponsor. Over the next few years, a total of six summits were put on, entirely by the students.
A chance meeting with Robert Mueller, the U.N. Under-Secretary General and co-founder of the University for Peace, on a trip to Guatemala inspired Chris to want to help youth develop information first hand about what they could do to address deforestation and problems of underdevelopment. To that end, Chris moved to Seattle, where, from 1996 to 1998, he studied Whole Systems Design at Antioch University and started Global Visionaries. In the beginning of the school year in 2001 he quit his job to devote full time to Global Visionaries. Then September 11 occurred. Maybe it wasn’t the easiest time to create an organization enabling enable young people to travel to economically challenged countries, but, as Chris recognized, it would prove a time more critical than ever to produce concerned global citizens.
Global Visionaries is an after school youth leadership program run by students from more than 12 Seattle high schools. By design, 50% of the participants are from economically challenged families and 50% are from upper or middle class families. It teaches the skills of leadership, educates and trains students in cross-cultural understanding, fundraising, social action and empowers students to take the crucial steps to eliminate racism and social inequalities both at home and abroad. GV participants learn how to become leaders in their local and the global community. Through socially conscious and environmentally focused education and community service in Seattle and abroad, and recognizing that youth need to work together to be the change for the future, GV encourages youth to seek alternative and innovative approaches to the problems facing their generation.
The trip to Guatemala at the end of the first year provides two weeks of immersion in Mayan Culture and Spanish language. The trip allows students to learn not only about the benefits and shortcomings of America’s role in Guatemalan history but also how Mayan culture affects the opportunities of Guatemalans today. The students live in the homes of Guatemalans and work on one of four projects: reforestation, coffee production, clinics or school construction. The project work is based on partnerships Global Visionaries has created with such Seattle groups as Earth Corps or Architects Without Borders, Seattle Chapter or Guatemalan groups such as San Miguel-based NGO, As Green As It Gets. The second year ends with a retreat which emphasizes how students can integrate what they learned over the previous two years into their lives here.
Global Visionaries has just completed its first five year planning thanks to a grant from the Seattle International Fund. Its future will emphasize four items. 1. Become a truly international organization with the Guatemalan leadership programming for Guatemalan youth on par with programming for U.S. students. 2. Create solid organizational infrastructure and strong staff professional development training. 3. Integrate and expand the after school and in-school leadership programs to reach 20% of Seattle youth by 2020. 4. Expand opportunities for students to stay involved as alumni.
Chris was Antioch Alumni of the Year in 2007 and won the Thomas C. Wales Passionate Citizen Award in 2008. Chris’ approach remains guided by human rights lawyer’s Jason Foster’s insight that young people have the vision, skill and time to do anything, they just need the opportunity. Chris is in the opportunity business.
Global Visionaries is the third of organizations recently featured by Global Washington that focus on youth leadership training. One World Now and Global Citizens Corps, come at the issue from opposite sides. One World Now features training economically disadvantaged American youth in global economics and politics and emphasizes Chinese and Arabic language training. Global Citizen Corps harnesses technology to train young people living in conflict areas to improve their own lives and the political processes in their countries. Global Visionaries, brings American young people from economically disadvantaged families together with American young people from economically comfortable ones, helping them learn to work together in the context of global politics and economics. These organizations are laboratories for what works.
As a hat-tip to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn for their call to action to end the oppression of women around the world in Half The Sky (Kristof recently provided the key note address at Global Washington’s December conference), this month’s review focuses on Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink’s book Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics. Written back in 1998, this book is a now classic study of how transnational advocacy networks (TANs) effect change around the world. Kristof and Wudunn seem to be calling for the creation of such an advocacy movement—and Activists Beyond Borders provides additional insight into how this might work.
The book sets out to answer the following questions: 1) how can we define a transnational advocacy network (and who comprises one); 2) why and how these networks have emerged; 3) how TANs work; and 4) under what conditions they have influence. Keck and Sikkink do a fantastic job of interweaving theory and empirical case studies to arrive at answers to these questions. They analyze a wide variety of both successful and unsuccessful campaigns that these transnational networks have waged over the years: the 19th century Anglo-American campaign to end slavery in the United States; the international suffrage movement to secure women’s voting rights between 1888 and 1928; the campaign by Western missionaries to eradicate foot binding in China; an early attempt to stop female circumcision in Africa; human rights campaigns in Argentina and Mexico in the 1970’s and 80s; and campaigns by international environmental networks to stop tropical deforestation and to stop environmental degradation via economic development.
The book does not offer a blueprint for a successful transnational social movement, but it does illuminate several factors that have enabled or undermined success in previous campaigns. Keck and Sikkink identify a number of key techniques that advocacy networks use, including the use of information, symbolic acts, leverage politics, and accountability: “Networks stress gathering and reporting reliable information, but also dramatize facts by using testimonies of specific individuals to evoke commitment and broader understanding. Activists use important symbolic events and conferences to publicize issues and build networks. In addition to trying to persuade through information and symbolic politics, networks also try to pressure targets to change policies by making an implied or explicit threat of sanctions or leverage if the gap between norms and practices remains too large. Material leverage comes from linking the issue of concern to money, trade, or prestige, as more powerful institutions or governments are pushed to apply pressure. Moral leverage pushes actors to change their practices by holding their behavior up to international scrutiny, or by holding governments or institutions accountable to previous commitments and principles they have endorsed.”
On the other hand, the use of such tactics is no guarantee that a campaign will succeed. National and international political, cultural, and ideological contexts can aid or thwart advocacy efforts. Securing the buy-in of influential local actors and NGOs also plays an important role—as do a host of other factors. For instance, comparing the campaign against foot binding in China (success) to the early campaign against female circumcision in Kenya (failed), Keck and Sikkink write: “In Kenya, a group of missionaries with tepid support from colonial authorities confronted a politically weak but ideologically strong opposition in the KCA. In China, a well-organized set of antifootbinding societies faced strongly entrenched cultural beliefs, but no effectively organized political opposition. When the societies gained the support of the both the Imperial Court and the nationalist reformer politicians, the eventual success of their campaign was insured.”
Perhaps the most valuable insight in Activists Beyond Borders is the important role that issues framing and resonance plays in transnational advocacy campaigns. Advocacy networks must be able to “mobilize information strategically to help create new issues and categories and to persuade, pressure, and gain leverage over much more powerful organizations and governments.” Activists in networks “try not only to influence policy outcomes, but to transform the terms and nature of the debate.” In addition: “New ideas are more likely to be influential if they fit well with existing ideas and ideologies in a particular historical setting.” Thus, the antifootbinding campaign in China was a success in big part because the issue framing carried out by missionaries and local actors resonated strongly with the revolutionary iconoclasm of the times (foot binding was reframed as a backward, traditional, and elitist practice that did not fit with China’s effort to modernize); while the campaign to end female circumcision in Kenya was easy delegitimized by local nationalist groups as yet another form of colonial domination.
One criticism of Activists Beyond Borders is that it looks at social movements from a primarily international perspective, and thus does not pay much attention to the valuable role of embedded, locally-grown nongovernmental organizations. But here is where we pick up Kristof and Wudunn’s book, which details many such local organizations and explains how international networks can cooperate to achieve shared goals.
Ketty Loeb, Founder
- Join Now! Global Washington Welcoming New Members for 2010 : With the great momentum we’ve created in 2009, the benefits of joining Global Washington are greater than ever. Our relationships have flourished and our network has grown, as evidenced by the recent media attention from The Huffington Post, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Redmond Reporter and Puget Sound Business Journal. Let us help you gain visibility for your work, help you gain access to policy makers and funders, and build your capacity to do good in the world in 2010. Click here to read more about the benefits of joining Global Washington.
- RDI Publishes New Book on Global Land Rights: Global Washington member organization Rural Development Institute has just published One Billion Rising: Law, Land and the Alleviation of Global Poverty. In this timely and important volume, lawyers from the Rural Development Institute and the University of Washington’s School of Law in Seattle use four decades worth of research on the results of land tenure reform efforts around the world in order to address how we might better meet the struggles to understand and change the plight of the rural poor. Learn more at http://www.rdiland.org/book/
- InterConnection Partners with Bancoestado to Offer Microloans for Computers in Chile: Another great member organization, InterConnection, is using micro credit to provide computers to low income in Chile. In March 2009, InterConnection opened a distribution center in Santiago. The computers provided by InterConnection.org are refurbished in Seattle and shipped to Chile, where they are partnering with Chile’s national bank, Bancoestado, on a microlending program to get the computers into the hands of small business owners. Click here to learn more about the program.
- Julia Bolz Speaks About Building Schools in Afghanistan on KUOW: This week, Global WA member Julia Bolz was a guest speaker on the KUOW show Weekday, along with Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea. Julia is the president of Ayni Education International and the founder of a grassroots project called, “Journey with an Afghan School.” She left her law firm in 1998 to serve as a human rights lawyer and social justice activist in the developing world. Since 2002, she has focused on educating girls in Afghanistan, where her team has built and supplied 30 schools, serving some 25,000 children. To learn more about Julia’s work, go to aynieducation.org. Listen to the show on-demand here.
Click here to see a full list of international development events on the Global Washington’s calendar. Upcoming events include:
- January9: Bring the Power of Digital Storytelling Into Your Classroom
- January 22: Service in Action Seminar Series: Volunteer Wrangling
- January 27: Rick Steves: Travel As A Political Act
- January 30: Health, Sex and Women’s Rights in Contemporary Asia Lecture Series: Women Feed the World
- February4: Democracy, Peace and Development for the Bottom Billion: A Conversation with Paul Collier
Please submit your events to our calendar!