Archive for the ‘International Development’ Category

The Social Enterprise Frontier

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

By Grant Tudor


Social entrepreneurship in the neo-natal clinics of India. Photo: Grant Tudor

I’ve been in India two weeks now, talking social enterprise with some remarkably rare changemakers (social enterprise is an explosive field being explored here on campus by emerging groups like the GW Social Enterprise Forum). Last Monday I sat in a cramped concrete office deep in Chennai’s industrial park, drinking tea with Mr. Mukundan – a wrinkled but wildly energetic old man – as he discussed his low-cost alternative energy stove that runs off 100% plant oil… something that will not only positively impact the pocketbooks of the world’s rural poor, but help tackle one of the largest, albeit strangest, causes of global greenhouse gas emissions: kerosene stoves. Read the rest of this entry ?

For-Profit Poverty Eradication

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

By Bobak Tavangar

“Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, art and industry, and if it be expended for philanthropic purposes. Above all, if a judicious and resourceful individual should initiate measures which would universally enrich the masses of the people, there could be no undertaking greater than this, and it would rank in the sight of God as the supreme achievement, for such a benefactor would supply the needs and insure the comfort and well-being of a great multitude.”

~Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, The Baha’i Faith

Stuck in poverty in Beijing. Photo: Bobak Tavangar

In light of a variety of factors–the undeniable truth of the above quotation, a new book I’m reading called The Blue Sweater, a global financial crisis whose most dire implications seem to somehow trickle down to our impoverished brothers and sisters around the world, and my own musings and observations here in Beijing–I have decided on what I need to dedicate myself towards: rewiring the global economy for inclusion and true prosperity. The means? For-profit models of investment. The end? The complete eradication of poverty world wide. I’m sick and tired of NGO’s being run by a few underpaid visionaries to benefit only a few of the billions who yearn for real economic equity. And as for governments: human beings want dignity, not hand-outs in the form of “aid”. I think it’s time the world made a real effort to make this ‘end’ a reality. This realization I’ve had has been a long time coming but trust me folks, it’s here to stay. Read the rest of this entry ?

Search terms for the article:

Human Potential in Beijing

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

By Bobak Tavangar

“The endowments which distinguish the human race from all other forms of life are summed up in what is known as the human spirit; the mind is its essential quality. These endowments have enabled humanity to build civilizations and to prosper materially. But such accomplishments alone have never satisfied the human spirit, whose mysterious nature inclines it towards transcendence…”

–The Promise of World Peace, Universal House of Justice, The Baha’i Faith


Walking the streets of Beijing, China. Photo: Bobak Tavangar

I’ve been thinking a lot about human potential. Who? How much? How do we know? Where does it come from? How can it be unlocked?

Here in Beijing I see so much potential inherent not just in the individual but in Chinese society as a whole. History has shown us how capable the Chinese are with significant contributions to science, governance, commerce, and social theory and it is proving no different now. This country is rediscovering what it means to harness the world around them for the sake of progress. Read the rest of this entry ?

Dispatch From Abroad: Vitamin A, Sachets, and Slums in Nairobi, Kenya

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Grant Tudor

Kibera, Kenya: Africa’s largest slum. Photo: Grant Tudor

I’m a rising Elliott School senior who has spent the majority of his time (and money) on international affairs-y things like war, peace, war, and some anthropology. For those of us interested in development, we study things like aid policy and political economy, ready for World Bank recruitment come May. So naturally I was surprised a few months back when I found myself in cramped Nairobi offices gathering data on vitamin A, iron and iodine intake figures, and in Africa’s largest slum mapping maize distribution channels and pricing patterns.

I didn’t come to Kenya planning to research nutrition and business strategies in slums. But after a series of events and small epiphanies, I realized that to make the biggest impact on our world maybe the World Bank, UN and USAID aren’t the only post-graduation paths out there. So here’s my quick story of going from a World Bank-bound Elliott kid to an entrepreneurship-and-public-health-strategy enthusiast. Read the rest of this entry ?

Search terms for the article:

Fostering Grassroots Sustainability in Panama

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Emily Primack

It rains almost everyday in the early afternoon in La Palma. While walking I notice buckets collecting the water to be used for later. My first day with my host family, they explained that water was a valuable resource and was to be used sparingly. Basically, I understood from my basic level of Spanish that I should simply live by the old saying, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” I have gotten more and more used to taking 60 second showers and brushing my teeth with as little amount of water as necessary.

For some reason, I assumed all of this effort to conserve water was the whole “Going Green!” fad. However, a few days ago while riding a chiva (a bus without a schedule), I noticed all of the people around me throwing their trash out the window as if the ground was their own personal trash can. I kept it cool until I reached my house and could ask my host family about littering. They explained to me that there was indeed a law against it, however it was not enforced whatsoever.

I learned that my family and others living in La Palma do not conserve to save the environment, but instead to save money. While it makes complete sense, I was a bit dissapointed. Read the rest of this entry ?

Dispatch From Abroad: Developments in Beirut

Monday, July 20th, 2009

By Bram de Roos


The Mediterranean Coast of Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: Bram de Roos

After studying Arabic for the last academic year and getting a taste of financial management through a course at the Business School, I decided in the spring that it would be good to get some experience in finance in an Arab country. With a background in political science, Japanese studies and anthropology, I figured it would be hard to start managing a Gulf-based investment fund right away. Instead, I decided to look for an opportunity in microfinance.

My interest in international development and base-of-pyramid business models made me curious about this much-praised approach to help ‘the poor’. Especially after setting up a team of Students in Free Enterprise at GW, I was curious to see how other organizations stimulate entrepreneurship. All the while, it would give me an opportunity to test my newly acquired finance and language skills in a new environment.

So I went online, looked for microfinance organizations anywhere in the Arab world (strategically omitting Afghanistan) and send them e-mails offering my services as an intern. Of the scores of messages sent, just a few resulted in a reply. But eventually, I only needed one, so when Al Majmoua in Lebanon asked me to do an Activity-Based cost analysis to look for ways to improve their profitability, my plans for the summer were sealed. Read the rest of this entry ?

Search terms for the article: