Issue 5, October 2008
|Appendix I: What Individuals Can Do|
How Individuals Can Make a Difference
The development community is increasingly coming to include individuals who give their “time, talent, and treasure” to address the root causes and experience of poverty worldwide. As Lael Brainard and Vinca LaFleur of the Brookings Institution have written, “along with lending its voice to specific issue-driven campaigns, the public has become an active participant in financing development and a growing contributor to development activities on the ground.” They estimate that individuals from the United States alone contributed as much as $26 billion last year to the developing world.
*Chart courtesy of YouthGive
Below, we profile two types of organizations that are working to harness the power of individuals, adults and youth, to meaningfully participate in anti-poverty efforts globally.
Toward a New Paradigm of Philanthropy – The Next Generation
YouthGive is a non-profit organization that works to engage children and youth in philanthropy and to instill lifelong habits of generosity and civic engagement. Their philosophy is that everyone can be a philanthropist and social entrepreneur.
YouthGive enables young people to have their own philanthropic giving account that puts them in the driver’s seat of giving. Parents can open a youth account online for any amount – $1, $20, or $100 – to which youth, friends, and family can donate. Then, from a menu (written by youth participants themselves who map, interview, and profile organizations), the youth donor can explore issues and connect with non-profit organizations working around the world. Using their own donations as a base, the youth possess a platform from which to leverage additional funds from corporations and others, allowing them to join in the larger philanthropic community, where they are given a seat at the table with traditional funders and development professionals. YouthGive also offers a philanthropic curriculum that blends online and offline learning with on-the-ground stories and hands-on engagement activities – all of which seek to build hope, social awareness, and philanthropic expertise. They also run trips for teams of youth to work with non-profits, government leaders, and businesses in the developing world to explore the potential of philanthropy and microfinance in addressing global poverty. On these trips, youth also document their experiences digitally and use the resulting film-work to mobilize and educate others.
Individuals as Microfinanciers
As discussed in the Microfinance section, the provision of small loans and/or grants to local entrepreneurs is a critical anti-poverty tool. Yet, this is not just the provenance of large institutions such as the Grameen Bank and BRAC. Many organizations exist to facilitate the participation of individual donors and lenders in this growing field. Two examples are below.
Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person microlending website, and it enables individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Kiva links potential lenders with existing microfinance institutions that have access to micro-creditors seeking small business loans. Through the internet, a personal and transparent connection is established, and the individual lender can see how funds are being used and the impact their dollars are having on the ground.
Living Goods is an organization that facilitates the development of entrepreneurs among women in developing countries, while also working to address the public health needs of their communities. Working with BRAC and other partners, Living Goods operates Avon-like networks of door-to-door Health Promoters who make a modest income selling essential health products at prices affordable to the poor. These local women are trained, and act as public health advisors, providing critical products while also earning a living for themselves and their families. The model seeks to address both poverty itself and the debilitating diseases of poverty that impact the lives and productivity of wage-earners throughout poor communities.