Monday, May 21, 2007

5/22 : Addendum to my earlier post: The GlobalGiving Filmfest now has 240 producers signed up and climbing...

5/24 : We are now up to 290 film producers....

Let's buy out the World Bank

Here is a post I wrote last December about doing a buy-out of the World Bank. I wrote it with a bit of tongue in cheek back then. But with the recent upheaval at the Bank, several people have written to say this is not such a crazy idea after all.

Friday, May 18, 2007

After Paul Wolfowitz

Over the last couple of months, many people have asked me what I thought about the saga involving Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Wolfowitz resigned yesterday after a short, stormy tenure.

Because I left the Bank over six years ago, I have resisted the temptation to pontificate. But I can recommend two articles in the papers today - one by Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post and the other by Steven Weisman in the NY Times. Based on what I know from former friends and colleagues at the Bank, these two articles capture the real issues and dynamics of the situation. [Addendum: Let me also recommend this article by Fred Kaplan in Slate.]

As with all messy situations, there are lots of conflicting points of view. But there is one matter on which no one disagrees: the importance of strong managerial, leadership and diplomatic skills. No matter how smart - or how right - you are, you cannot effectively lead an institution by intellect alone. To be a good leader, you need to have decent (if not superb) management skills, know how to handle people, and surround yourself with good people whose own skills complement your own.

In this context, it is disheartening to hear some of the names of candidates being proposed to replace Paul Wolfowitz. Most of them are smart and well respected, but some of them are known to be terrible leaders and managers. It would be hugely counter-productive to appoint someone who does not have what it takes to lead the Bank through the changes it so urgently needs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

GlobalGiving Meets Sundance

In a short period, over 150 people have registered as Film Producers in the GlobalGiving Filmfest. Please help us spread the word to make this a new Global Sundance Festival!

Here is how it works. We ask project leaders in the field to provide raw video footage, photos, and anything else they want to send in. Then we allow people to take that footage to create a video. Producers can add their own music, text, and any other content they think is useful to produce a finished product designed to vividly convey the impact of the project in question. In June, once all the films are submitted, we will launch public voting for the best videos.

Here is a little video that Meredith Landis in our office made to explain how the GlobalGiving Filmfest works.

To make this video, Meredith used clips sent in by project leaders from countries such as Haiti, Gambia, Brazil, and India. Note that this film took her only an hour to create. She used free editing tools (I personally like OneTrueMedia best), and she has almost no film-making experience.

You can find out more here. And if you want to become a film producer yourself, go for it; it's easier than you think.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

SocialEdge beats out the White House

Kudos to Victor D'Allant and Jason Clark at, a website run by the Skoll Foundation. Victor has recently launched a series of Global X videocasts that have rocketed to the top of the podcast ratings on iTunes, at one point edging out the White House podcast and more recently crashing Skoll's servers. Check the videocasts out at iTunes under the Podcast/Government section or watch them on SocialEdge.

Victor and Jason have been at the forefront of experimenting with new features and approaches on their newly revamped website. Last year, Victor convinced us to create the GlobalGiving Index, a weekly index of what's hot and what's not in international giving though our marketplace. This helped spur us to think more about syndicating information from GlobalGiving out to other websites.

Now Victor and Jason are both experimenting with new media (video) and syndicating out their own content to other sites such as iTunes. By carrying out such experiments and showing the way, SocialEdge is providing a major service to the sector as a whole.

Thanks, Victor and Jason.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to stay small?

I like the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and so I eagerly picked up a recent issue to read about "How Non-Profits Get Really Big."

But this paper could also have been titled "Why Do So Few Non-Profits Get Really Big?"

The paper notes that, since 1970, about 144 non-profits in the US have grown to exceed $50 million in revenue, with the largest now having about $650 million in revenue.

This sounded impressive to me at first glance. Then I happened to pick up the latest issue of Fortune Magazine, which listed the top one thousand US companies. All of these companies are bigger than $50 million- MUCH bigger. Even the smallest company among the top one thousand posted $1.5 billion in revenue in 2006. The biggest company among the top thousand posted $350 billion in revenue.

The non-profit sector faces a number of challenges that both inhibit growth and impede allocation of resources to their best use. Consider the following. Of the Fortune 500 companies that started among the top ten in 1990, only three remained in the top ten by the end of the decade. Open competition meant that successful newcomers displaced the rest.

But in the non-profit sector, the picture was reversed. Seven out of the top ten non-profits not only stayed in the top ten but increased their share of the market during the decade. So much for competition! And according to Jed Emerson and Paul Carrtar, only 6% of non-profits accounted for four fifths of all revenues in the sector.

GlobalGiving exists to create a marketplace for good. The objective of our marketplace is to create a level and transparent playing field, where the activities with the highest impact will get the most resources.

As we develop this market over the coming years, there will be lots of competition among newcomers and established organizations alike. And that competition is a good thing. It will drive innovation and efficiency in the sector at a far faster pace - something that is critical if we are to successfully tackle the challenges facing the world today.