I am a bottom up guy, top down may work in some instances, but bottom up seems to be the most reliable way to pragmatically make forward progress in the real world. This is what I think is so cool about microcredit in general and Kiva.org, specifically. Nicholas Kristof wrote about his new business partners in Afghanistan and the Dominican Republic in "You, Too, Can Be a Banker to the Poor":
"The local group, Ariana Financial Services, has only Afghan employees and is run by Storai Sadat, a dynamic young woman who was in her second year of medical school when the Taliban came to power and ended education for women. She ended up working for Mercy Corps and becoming a first-rate financier; some day she may take over Citigroup. “Being a finance person is better than being a doctor,” Ms. Sadat said. “You can cure the whole family, not just one person. And it’s good medicine — you can see them get better day by day.”
Small loans to entrepreneurs are now widely recognized as an important tool against poverty. Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his pioneering work with microfinance in Bangladesh.
In poor countries, commercial money lenders routinely charge interest rates of several
hundred percent per year. Thus people tend to borrow for health emergencies rather than
to finance a new business. And partly because poor people tend to have no access to banks,
they also often can’t save money securely."
Check out Kiva.org - have fun, learn something, and be useful -- all at the same time -- smart, distributed P2P network at its best.
Update: Thomas Barnett adds some thoughts on Kiva.org a sort of a DIY Foreign Policy
Get your own foreign policy
ARTICLE: Peace Through PayPal?, By BETSY STARK, LARA SETRAKIAN and TERI WHITCRAFT, ABC News, June 5, 2007
Neat story that dovetails with my notion that everyone who wants to make a difference should just go ahead and get their own foreign policy and stop waiting on change from above.
It is really cool to see such novel uses of the existing technology infrastructure to, in Barnett terms, connect, core resources to gap know-how, entrepreneurship, and energy using the Web; and props to PayPal who supports by providing free payment processing.
And for you risk management types - you appear to have a 97-99.7% chance of getting your investment back.