Economy, World

Catalyst Conversation: Microfinance in the Developing World29 Dec


Muhammad Yunus helped pioneer the concept of microcredit with the formation of Grameen Bank – meaning “village bank” – in Bangladesh in 1983. The bank is based on the principle of that loaning what would be considered tiny amounts of capital to entreprenuers – the first loan was $27 to a total of 42 craftpersons – could not only lift people out of poverty but also serve as a sound investment practice. Today, Grameen Bank has 8 million borrowers, a 99% loan repayment rate and loaned $7b billion since its formation.

During this roundtable discussion, GCG seeks to learn what the future hold for the broader state of microfinance, opportunities and challenges, and debates how well has the concept of microfinance been successfully exported from Grameen Bank & Bangladesh. GCG also discussed if the model may work in some societies/developing countries better than others. The conversation also included internet institutions such Kiva and Prosper allowed for greater adoption and/or efficiencies of micro-finance.

Please login for supporting material and the full conversation.


Foreign Aid in Developing Nations09 Aug


What are the challenges and possibilities for foreign aid programs?

Prepared by Alex Johnston and Don Ball

For the video inclined, TED has two lectures which should open up the discussion about the needs which aid fails to meet:

The experts square off on the need for more foreign aid: sachseasterly8may8,1,3796907.htmlstory?coll=la-util-op-ed

How is aid administered?

(see attached, “The Future of Aid”),

(see attached, “Why Foreign Aid is Hurting Africa.”  (in particular “A constant stream of “free” money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do — it doesn’t need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn’t have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power.”)

Aid and debt, trade, and accountability.

(see attached, “Too Big to Fail.”)

  • Under what circumstances is aid necessary or beneficial?
    Under what circumstance can it do more harm than good?
  • Does foreign aid undermine accountability?

Consider some of the primary motivations behind aid:

  • Altruism, humanitarian, pr, trade promotion, soft power/political favors, political stabilization, investment opportunities, economic ties, military alliances, tax benefits,etc?

What are the best vehicles for aid and under what circumstances are
they appropriate?

  • Government to government (traditional infrastructure,
    trade/custom/quota agreements, peacekeeping, disaster relief, etc)
  • Private to private (private investment, NGO-driven
    health/education/infrastructure programs, etc)
  • Government to private (health research, subsidies or insurance for investment, etc)

Closing discussion:

What parties are most capable of raising, managing and distributing aid? What are some case studies where different forms of aid have been successful? What are some case studies where different forms of aid have been detrimental?What can we learn from these case studies? How does the emergence of new investor and donor nations (e.g. China) affect the aid landscape?What alternative are available to aid-based development strategies?Given growing public sector debt and private sector frailty due of the financial crisis, can we expect to see big changes in the aid  landscape?

Media, Tech, World

The 2009 Iranian Elections – The ‘Twitter’ Revolution?09 Aug


The Twitter Revolution

Prepared by Liz Nugent and Don Ball

GCG discusses the recent presidental elections in Iran, focusing in particular on the role new media (twitter, blogs, text messaging, facebook) played in the elections – facilitating the opposition and student movements, increasing the ability of protesters to organize, and allowing candidates to communicate directly with their constituencies. Below are some links that will provide background on the elections.

Results of the election:

Protest coverage

Obama’s reaction to election

Example of twitter accounts that were constantly updated during the protests and chaos that ensued after the elections:

Role of new media:,8599,1905125,00.html

Recent developments

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The Global Catalyst Group seeks to gather persons of unique potential into a community dedicated to thought leadership, shared resources, and mutual improvement. Through deliberate collaboration, collective mentorship and continuous dialogue we believe that we can support and stretch one another with meaningful insight and thoughtful guidance. We encourage our membership and partners to exercise, together, their ambition, creativity, and both their professional and social networks to pursue a greater purpose than oneself. We challenge them to leave a legacy and we support one another towards this end.

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