Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Trouble With Bill (He's So Close to Great)

First, a question: What would happen if an exceptionally public-spirited chiropractor was to blow the whistle on exaggerated claims made by other chiropractors? We'd all say "great!" And what if he was to persuade similarly high-minded colleagues to collaborate on a book about making chiropractors, as a profession, more accountable? Again, we'd say "great!"

But what if that same well-meaning chiropractor was to endow said book on chiropractor-accountability with the title What Works In Health-care? We'd all say... well, it wouldn't be nice. "Who's making exaggerated claims now! Isn't there more to health-care than the work of chiropractors? And I thought you just told us that most of your fellows are frauds anyway? What exactly is going on here??"

The problem would be worse if policy-makers, political leaders, and power brokers actually believed that the book and its cover were one and the same. Nutrition? Don't bother me. Exercise? Who cares. Preventative medicine and therapeutics? No my concern. All I care about is straightening your spine.

Now go back and substitute "development economist" for chiropractor, "aid-effectiveness" for chiropractor-effectiveness... and, for "nutrition" and "exercise" the words "entrepreneurship" and "technological innovation." There you have my dismay (OK, fine, over-reaction) to the book by Jessica Cohen and Bill Easterly titled What Works in Development.

Now let me explain why I'm going to spend the next 4-5 posts persisting in the seemingly irrational undertaking of picking a fight with Bill Easterly: It is because Easterly is the most compelling voice among development economists today. Others are brilliant (Michael Kremer, Esther Duflo among them) and worthy of genuine admiration as scholars. Some are doing great practical work, alongside their academic work.

However, Easterly is alone in having solid academic background, a large platform from which to speak, and something like the right message to deliver.

That last phrase holds the key to my frustration... "something like the right message." Yes, Easterly is near the top of the list among economists addressing the vitally important issue of strategies to make the most of the coming prosperity (see post #1 of this blog). If he can't get it right, what hope is there for the rest of us?

In any event--whether or not it turns out that there's anything to my particular angle here--my guess is that boxing with the blind men Uptown who still don't see the limits of big money approaches to development has got to get a bit tedious. So if my observations serve only as a brief, peripheral break from the "aid good"/"aid bad" show, so much the better.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Aid Effectivess DOES NOT= Development

When I first heard about the new book by Jessica Cohen and Bill Easterly on What Works in Development, I was downright excited.

Then I looked at the papers posted online , the combined texts of which look like this

... and listened to the podcast of the book release event at Brookings on January 21, the transcript of which looks like this

I finally got a hold of a copy of the book itself. If you are interested in techniques for assessing the impact of aid (and, parenthetically, why cross-country macroeconomics is difficult to the point of being, well... pointless) I urge you to order up a copy right now. An impressive list of the usual suspects in development economics shares insights as to what we Think we really Know about aid from Randomized trials.

But "what works in development"? I think not.

What is my view of what works in development? Here's one picture (the text of chapter 3 from The Coming Prosperity):

Many other plausible pictures are possible... None resembles an economist's navel.

More to follow on this general topic... including why framing the search for solutions in global development as Easterly vs. Sachs is a bit like framing the search for solutions to the obesity epidemic as Coke vs. Pepsi.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Without Google, Will Baidu Become China's Minitel?

I clearly remember visiting my cousins in France in the mid-1980s, the heyday of a device launched in 1982 by Poste, Téléphone et Télécommunication (the French national telephone company) called the “Minitel.” The Minitel was a marvel. It consisted of a small keyboard and monitor with myriad uses: you could buy things, book seats on the train, check the market, find a phone number, and even chat with friends. It being France, pretty much everyone in the country eventually had one. It was a pre-Internet Internet—connected by phone lines, through a centralized system.

Now if there was any way to save this Gallic innovation from its inevitable demise once the Internet rolled into town, I am sure that the good folks at the PTT (now France Telecom) would have teamed up with this or that minister to find one. Indeed, they tried. But a national network, operated through a centralized carrier, could not compete, in any way, shape, or form, with the global, almost organic, architecture of the Internet. The Minitel limped along, but today is nothing more than a glorified phonebook.

Such battles happen all the time—and, almost invariably, open networks beat closed networks, and larger networks beat smaller ones, in that order.

All of which leads me to wonder if Baidu, the Chinese search company which currently has 66% of China's search market, won't be up next up for monopolistic, closed-network obsolescence if Google (which has the remaining 33% of the search market) ends up pulling out. Search is a tough business to break into--though, admittedly, most folks thought it was locked up in the US before Google got going in the late 1990s... and they were wrong. But, for a variety reasons, a search monopolist in China may be tough to displace in the market, with complacency being the predicted outcome. As one Chinese Internet market analyst quoted in today's New York Times put it, "Without competition, Baidu has no motivation to innovate."

Nick Kristof had this to say in his column today: "In a conflict between the Communist Party and Google, the party will win in the short run. But in the long run, I’d put my money on Google."

He's right. In the controlled chaos that is economic development, the chaos has a tendency to pull back every once in a while before it once again overwhelms the control. Sooner or later, that's what's going to happen here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Picking Up the Twitter Throwdown

It has taken me three months, but I'm finally answering this call issued by Rob Katz:
@robertkatz: Twitter throwdown btween @auerswald & @bill_easterly was awesome. hope Phil + Bill will take up on blogs. 7:24 PM Oct 29th, 2009
Here's the Twitter exchange Rob was referring to.
Easterly: On Gates. When aid optimism vs pessimism becomes political not evidence based - am I guilty also? (prev T'd)

Me: @bill_easterly Your "searchers" (who are they again?) may gauge effectiveness w/ randomized control trials. But no entrepreneur ever did.

Me: Been to a lot of events. Tonight's presentation by Bill & Melinda Gates was exceptionally powerful. @gatesfoundation

Easterly: I couldn't see the Gates webcast last nite b/c of technical problems. Anyone who saw it have any comments or reports?

@bill_easterly I was there also (ergo previous Tweets.). Gates Foundation is not the U.N. That's a good thing. Gates is an entrepreneur.

Me: @bill_easterly Bill Gates is an entrepreneur first, philanthropist second. @gatesfoundation

Me: @bill_easterly The totality of your narrative ultimately does not make sense because you do not understand entrepreneurship.

Easterly: Why do entrepreneurs like bad data? RT @auerswald: your narrative does not make sense because you do not understand entrepreneurship.

@bill_easterly Science doesn't prove, only disproves. Data & analysis not "good" or "bad," but rather better or worse depending on context.

Me: @bill_easterly RCTs are $$ & inherently limited in generalizabilily & by non-stationarity of distribs. Good in public health. Not much else.

Easterly: My blog is also cautious and critical of RCTs RT @auerswald RCTs are $$ & inherently limited in generalizabilily

@bill_easterly Entrepreneurship is inherently forward-looking. Retrospective confidence you call good data is, prospectively, just a guess.

Me: @bill_easterly You advocate a data aesthetic relevant only to public health & critique of aid relevant to everything but public health.

Easterly: Don't you need to know if it's working? RT @auerswald Entrepreneurship is forward-looking. Retrospective you call good data is a guess.

Me: In business, you know it's working when people buy what you're selling. RT @bill_easterly: Don't you need to know if it's working?

Easterly: We dont have that in aid, need to know outcomes RT @auerswald: In business, you know it's working when people buy what you're selling.

Me: Didn't you get the memo? Aid doesn't work. RT @bill_easterly: We don't have that in aid, need to know outcomes.

Let's continue our dialogue on blog or email RT @auerswald

@bill_easterly has worn me out. Unintended consequence from going to Living Proof event last night. @gatesfoundation

Monday, January 11, 2010

No, "DOD" Does Not Stand for "Department of Development"

Also relating to my post on Saturday on the topic of U.S. global development policy, here's a reality check on the role of the DOD in development that I got in an email from Gordon Adams who for five years was Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget (the senior White House budget official for national security):
1.Such efforts are not central to the DOD/military mission, but by-products of the military role in Iraq and Afghanistan (and a few other countries where counter-terrorist operations are under way). We have government agencies for which development is the mission, notably USAID.

2. The focus of DOD's effort is not development, but meeting near-term mission needs for commanders. The net result is investments that are not oriented toward long-term development, but acquiring "hearts and minds," as part of the military mission. Projects end up not deriving from a country-based view of development needs, and are, as the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has noted, often not sustainable in the long run.

3. Empowering DOD for this mission has the consequence of further weakening State and USAID; Congress concludes they are not capable of their mission, with the result that a growing civil-military imbalance gets even worse.

4. In the end, making DOD responsible for development is counter to US national interests, because it puts a uniformed face on US forward engagement, which is not universally appreciated. In turn, this makes further US steps more difficult as other countries and peoples come to see the US forward engagement as military, and driven by US security interests, not development.
And this from a colleague in the Armed Forces, who concurs that DOD is not a development agency, but adds
I still think there is more of a role for the DoD than simply developing technologies. The military also has core competencies in logistics, command and control, monitoring and evaluation, ops research, training, program management, etc, which USAID or other agencies could leverage as part of their development efforts. If nothing else, the military could help USAID and DoS developing these capabilities within their own organizations, or assist when they share a common footprint in various countries.
BTW: Gordon Adams is now a Professor at American University's School of International Service. He and Cindy Williams have just come out with a great book titled Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home.

Anonymous DOD guy is ... anonymous DOD guy.

What Rajiv Shah is up Against (One View from the Inside)

From what I hear, Rajiv Shah is an amazing individual who has what it takes to transform General Moto... I mean, USAID. Still, he has his work cut out for him. That, at least, is the conclusion I draw from this message I received yesterday from a colleague with current, and I expect accurate knowledge, of the situation at USAID, sent in response to my last blog post:
USAID has two main problems as I see it: insularity and ideological group think. These both sort of reinforce each other and bear on several of the practical problems of the agency such as the fact that much of the funding of the agency gets tied to "green development"--as if anyone actually really knows what that means, let alone how to achieve it--and environmental impact statements on development projects. What this really means is that we are going to be pushed out of development by the Chinese who clearly care more about the environment than do we (sarcasm intended).

DoD does not have its hands tied to the same extent as USAID does with all its externally imposed or, frankly, internally imposed, constraints: an accounting system reminiscent of the Army in 1940; a structure in the foreign service that cares more about how long you've been with the agency and who you've pissed off lately than the quality of your work, the projects you've completed, or what expertise you bring to the agency; and worse yet, a promotion system more concerned with time in grade than anything else.

Then of course, they pay talented people like [noun indicating insufficiency], and brown-nosing blow-hards like kings.

There are of course the normal obstacles, like the government's inability to fire incompetent people and a completely dysfunctional human resources division ... but hey, this is what everyone else seems to have to deal with.

The issue of insularity is a problem for the agency because it is completely hostage to the political left, which means it has zero supporters from anywhere else in the political spectrum. That puts the agency's survival in question and undercuts its ability to represent the US population at large--which, after all, is a primary role of a diplomat. The agency's precarious political position also affects it's ability to solve problems, as people on the inside approach things from the perspective of how best to hang on to USAID money rather than how best to accomplish the agency's mission and .... I am afraid, I don't think a new administrator is really going to change any of that.

On a related note, they could also use a real dose of facts about under which administrations and Congresses they have fared better or worse. There is a tendency to obsess about Republicans being their enemies, despite the fact that this technically isn't technically true, since most of the agency's downsizing happened under Clinton (not either Bush or Reagan), and their budget growth in recent years came almost entirely under a Republican president and Congress. This is completely lost on them.
My own view on this last set of points: One of the great things about the end of the Cold War is that it caused an implosion of ideology. If you wonder what this means, go to China (still think it's a "Communist" country? you are seriously missing the point), Vietnam, or India for that matter. Unfortunately, the political leadership in the United States is having a hard time catching up with this global reality. (Business leadership is doing better.)

The concern raised by my colleague here is just a case in point. The global transformation currently under way--what I term the coming prosperity--is far beyond anything that might be pegged as a "liberal" or "conservative" issue. If any of our nation's representatives overseas don't get that, they sure should.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hillary Clinton on Global Development: The GREAT, the TERRIBLE, and the unspoken

On Wednesday (a decade ago in Twitter time) Secretary Clinton gave two speeches at the Center for Global Development. You may have mistakenly heard that it was one speech, but it was, in fact, at least two.

Here's the GREAT speech the Secretary gave on technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation as drivers of development (the Secretary's actual words, in their logical order as determined by me):
Development is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative -- as central to advancing American interests and solving global problems as diplomacy or defense.

New technologies are allowing billions of people to leapfrog into the 21st century after missing out on 20th-century breakthroughs. Farmers armed with cell phones can learn the latest local market prices and know in advance when a drought or flood is on its way. Mobile banking allows people in remote corners of the world to use their phones to access savings accounts or send remittances home to their families.

There is no limit to the potential for technology to shrink obstacles to progress. And the United States has a proud tradition of producing game-changers in the struggles of the poor. The Green Revolution was driven by American agricultural scientists. American medical scientists have pioneered immunization techniques. American engineers have designed laptop computers that run on solar energy so new technologies don't bypass people living without power.

Because development is indispensible, it demands a new approach. We hope to put ourselves out of the aid business. Rather than helping fewer people one project at a time, we can help countries activate broad, sustainable change.

Private businesses are able to reach large numbers of people in a way that's economically sustainable, because they bring to bear the power of markets. We're exploring venture funds, credit guarantees, and other tools to encourage private companies to develop and market products and services that improve the lives of the poor. We are seeking more innovative ways to use our considerable buying power -- for example, through advance market commitments -- to help create markets for those products, so entrepreneurs can be sure that breakthroughs made on behalf of the poor successfully reach them.
Here's the TERRIBLE speech she gave pandering to folks worried about losing their jobs at USAID (the Secretary's actual words, in their logical order as determined by me):
We also need to ask hard questions about who should be doing the work of development. It's time to rebuild USAID into the world's premier development agency.

The experience and technical knowledge that our development experts bring to their work are irreplaceable. Whether trained in agriculture, public health, education, or economics, our experts are the face, brains, heart, and soul of U.S. development worldwide.

Development projects can be stalled or stymied by too little support from leaders. Our diplomats can help make the difference. They have the access and leverage to convince government ministers to give these development programs their support.

Some of the most transformative figures in the history of development represent the convergence between development and diplomacy. Today, we have many such "development diplomats" working at USAID. They embody the integration between development and diplomacy that, when allowed to exist, can amplify both of these disciplines.
Finally, here's the speech she might have given instead of the terrible one.
I'm here to talk about global development policy. If anyone happens to hear a loud chomping sound outside the door while I'm talking, that's the Department of Defense eating our lunch.

Now the mere fact that the Department of Defense has moved into the development business shouldn't worry you. They're doing it because they have no choice. (As you probably noticed, our political leaders got in the habit for a while of telling them to invade countries without any clear plan of what to do in the event that they "won." So they're trying to fix that.)

What should worry you is that a bunch of farmboys from Missouri are, in more than a few cases, doing a better job figuring out what works than this room of so-called experts. That may be because they have common sense. Or it may be because they don't have cozy relationships to outside contractors whose ability to continue to pay their mortgage depends on their skill in pushing the same Kool-aid (pun intended, of course) that has been toxic to developing countries for fifty years.

What does all of this mean for you here at USAID (because even though I'm at the Center for Global Development, you all know who I'm really talking to)? It means after 30 years of diminishing relevance, you all are now in serious danger of losing not only your jobs, but your Agency.

So this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to set you up with a really smart guy from the Gates Foundation. He's going to be in charge. And I'm going to say a lot of nice things about you for a while. I'm even going to try to get you some more money. And I'm going to ask you all to read and ponder one single four-page essay by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

And it that doesn't get you to figure out what actually works in about 24 months, then you're all fired.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Partying Like It's 1869

Remember the Black Friday financial panic of 1869? No, of course you don't. Neither did I. Well, that was when a group of financial speculators with insider access took reckless risks based on the premise that the government would be there to back them up. People lost lots of money when the asset bubble they had artificially created popped.

You get the idea. And, yes, there have been lots of financial panics over time that are in some way or another similar to the one we recently experienced. But I bring this one up in particular because of another event that occurred in 1869: the completion in the U.S. of the First Transcontinental Railroad. I bet you do remember that. Why? Because, in the long run, the Transcontinental Railroad mattered, and the financial panic of 1869 didn't.

Another Transcontinental Railway is being completed today. It is wireless and global. Instead of connecting one half of a country to another, it is connecting one half of the world's population to another. Is this global revolution in mobile communications a bigger deal than the financial crisis of 2008-09? I dunno. Was Cornelius Vanderbilt a bigger deal than James Fisk?

While we're pondering these finer points of U.S. history, we can take a minute to say hello to the world's have-nots. We can now, you know. They have cellphones.

Schumpeter's Century

This essay of mine from The American Interest (November-December 2007) provides some of the conceptual background for The Coming Prosperity, as well as the title for my innovation policy blog, with Brian Higginbotham. Here's how it starts:
The history of the 20th Century is invariably told as a political and military narrative: the battle of world’s democracies first, with the Soviets, to defeat fascism and second, against the Soviets, to defeat communism. Far less well appreciated, but arguably more relevant to the present, is the economic subtext of the same history: the rise and (partial) fall of large-scale, centralized production.

... The real power of Schumpeterian analysis for today’s readers, and the focus of this essay, comes in its application to the period from Schumpeter’s death in 1950 to the present. What really caused the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Not Ronald Reagan. How does the threat of Islamic Fundamentalism today compare with the threat of Fascism in the 1930s or Communism in the 1950s? From the standpoint of economic fundamentals, it doesn’t. What is the key to China’s sustained economic growth? Not cheap labor...

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Great Depression That Wasn't (part 1)

If you've read one essay by Fareed Zakaria, you've read them all? Maybe. But luckily for Zakaria, his one essay is pretty darn good. In the latest version he neatly summarizes what anyone who has stopped reading columns by Paul Krugman long enough to look out the window already knows:
Despite the turmoil of the past year, it's important to remember that more people have been lifted out of poverty in the past two decades than in the preceding ten.

The current global economic systems is inherently more resilient than we think.

The diffusion of knowledge may be the most actually be the most important reason for the stability of the current [global economic] system.
If you're under the impression that these claims ignore the documented, devastating impact of the global financial crisis on the global majority earning less than $3/day, read this exchange between Bill Easterly and the World Bank's Martin Ravallion.

Assessing the impact on the global financial crisis on people in the poorest places is not an easy matter--one complicated by many factors including the fact that the bubble in commodity prices burst (+ for the poor) at the same time as the global economy tanked (- for the poor). Certainly, the downturn has been bad for everyone. But did the negative impacts of the global financial crisis overwhelm all other gains (e.g. the global revolution in mobile communications) even when one only considers the past two years? Not obviously the case.

The Great Depression That Wasn't (part 2)

In his essay in this week's issue of Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria starts by bringing us back to last Winter, when doom-saying was de rigeur:
Pundits whose bearishness had been vindicated predicted we were doomed to a long, painful bust, with cascading failures in sector after sector, country after country. In a widely cited essay that appeared in The Atlantic this May, Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, wrote: "The conventional wisdom among the elite is still that the current slump 'cannot be as bad as the Great Depression.' This view is wrong. What we face now could, in fact, be worse than the Great Depression."
Another Great Depression??... Lest you think any critique I might put forth now is purely the product of 20/20 hindsight, here's what I had to say about comparisons to the Great Depression back when Johnson was finishing up his essay for The Atlantic:
... there is another issue that can be resolved much more easily. That is the extent to which the nation's current economic predicament compares to the Great Depression.
Here's the answer: There is no comparison between the Great Depression and today's economic crisis.

Put differently: There is NO COMPARISON between the Great Depression and today's economic crisis. To compare the two is actually to insult the memories of our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents, as the case may be, who endured that era of hardship and struggle.

... "Poor" in the world today doesn't mean that your 401K just lost 60% of its value. "Poor" means that your children have a far better chance of dying of diarrhea than they do of going to college. Whatever difficulties most Americans may be facing at the moment, they in no way compare with the hardships faced either by our forebearers during the Great Depression, or by the majority of people elsewhere in the world today whose daily wages amount to less than the price of a latte.

At home, the putting greens may be closed and our golf clubs may have been repossessed, but we still have a pot to piss in. Let's be thankful and start to build the Next America, rather than wasting our time lamenting the demise of the last.
OK, so Johnson was talking about global economic turmoil, and my comments are focused on the United States. But the point is the same. The "Great Depression" that matters is the one that has been surrounding the Global Economic Center for the past century--that this to say, the economic periphery inhabited by the majority of the world's population. As Zakaria's essay does a good job of summarizing, what the economic crisis of the past year and a half actually did was to sink the peaks (rich countries) and raise the valleys (formerly poor countries) somewhat in our still very uneven global economic landscape.

So, if the global financial crisis served to advance global equity, then no worries? Not quite. But don't be surprised if people in the world's poorest places have as much sympathy for our "suffering" since the Fall of '08 as we do about certain former purveyors of Collateralized Debt Obligation now forced to downsize in Greenwich, CT...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Afghanistan, Land of Opportunity

A few years ago I heard Francis Bator give a talk to a small group at the Kennedy School about Lyndon Johnson's foreign policy. Having for three years been Johnson's deputy national security advisor, Bator was in a good position to reminisce on this subject. He observed, without much elaboration, that Johnson had actually been very adept in dealing with the Russians--as a Senate veteran, he could relate to Kremlin schemers. However, the Viet Cong were another story. They were, according to Bator, deemed by LBJ and those closest to him to be playing an altogether different game than we were--"inscrutable," irrational, and the like. Calamitous decisions ensued.

As I listened to Bator's recollections, it struck me that the "war on terror" just gearing up at the time was likely to lead to a similar trap: by systematically underestimating our adversary's strategic capabilities, we would end up under-utilizing our own.

Fast forward to the outstanding the set of essays in the New York Times Magazine last August about the global imperative to improve the lives of women, including a powerfully written article on a girls' school in Afghanistan. While the Afghanistan article focused, with forgivable journalistic predictability, on the dreadful battery-acid attack that victimized 11 girls at the school, it also contained the following interesting bit of data: "In 2001, only a million Afghan children were enrolled in school, all of them boys. The education of girls was banned. Today, approximately 7 million Afghan children attend school, of which 2.6 million, or roughly a third, are girls." While the article points out that attacks also occurred at other schools, the numbers are still striking: 2.6 million is a lot more than 11. So perhaps a claim for improvement can be made here.

Another example from a different domain: In a recent issue of Innovations journal we published an essay by Karim Khoja, founder of Roshan, the Afghan cellphone company. Created with support from the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, Roshan went from serving 80,000 customers in 2003 to serving 6.6 million at the start of 2009. It continues to grow rapidly--now with a rapidly expanding mobile banking service. I heard Khoja speak last year. He tells a remarkable story--but, of course, it is one that doesn't get much press.

Roshan is an example of the sort of "positive insurgency" driven by entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation that is the real driver of development. Want to "help"? Provide local entrepreneurs with skills development, mentoring, and other essential support (yes, funding as necessary).

Under Obama as under his predecessors, the corridors of power are full of people who continue either to believe that the world can be comprehended in terms of geopolitics (a concept that in my view lost whatever meaning it once had with the fall of the Berlin Wall); that aid to governments is somehow equivalent, or even superior to, investments that go to directly to entrepreneurs (ref. the outstanding essay by my friend Iqbal Quadir); and that some sort of straight line can be drawn between actions of the U.S. military and the emergence of a democracy, in Afghanistan or anywhere else.

Better to have a few more people, who like Khoja, are looking at Afghanistan and other inevitably ascendant societies as lands of opportunity.

Nobody Owes Rwandans Anything...

Sound harsh? Before you judge, consider the source: Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Here's more of what President Kagame has to say:
It is very simple: nobody owes Rwandans anything. Why should anyone in Rwanda sit back and feel comfortable that taxpayers in other countries are contributing money for our own well-being or development? Why should we not be doing what we are able to do and raise ourselves up to higher standards and achieve more and better and get out of this poverty that we find ourselves in. Change has to start in the mind. And that is what we have been working on over time. Once the mind gets correct, the rest becomes simple.

This is the reason that we are focusing on creating an entrepreneurial mindset in every Rwandan. This mindset begins with a sense that one’s life, choices, and actions matter to the whole country. It begins with a clear understanding that business as usual is not acceptable. Every day, every Rwandan from all walks of life has a unique opportunity to change our country for the better.

The full essay is well worth a read. It'll be the lead in the special edition of Innovations journal that my editorial team and I have put together for the Ashoka-Lemelson Celebration of Fellows coming up in Hyderabad next month. (Thanks to Michael Fairbanks for that.)

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Coming Prosperity

In our lifetimes the majority of the world's population will join the global economy. This is not just a good thing. It is the biggest and best development in human history.

But progress toward global prosperity is not inevitable. The very magnitude of the changes already in process and those to come creates significant obstacles to their realization. The choices that each of us make will determine the extent and reach of the coming prosperity, and our part in it.

This blog, and a book I am writing by the same title, is about the coming prosperity and the opportunities it creates for each of us to make the most of humanity's moment.