By Dan Runde
WASHINGTON, DC (January 14, 2004) — A man in Washington browsed through GlobalGiving.com, a development website. A project offering information technology training to handicapped people caught his attention. He thought about donating, figured out his budget, and gave. A few weeks later he received a 20 second video showing several Cambodians with disabilities working on computers purchased through the project, partly with his money.
This is the kind of direct connection GlobalGiving generates between donor and recipient, cutting out the multiple bureaucratic steps typically involved in development aid.
GlobalGiving was founded in 2001, and USAID's Global Development Alliance (GDA) office liked its model enough to contribute $500,000 towards the site's startup costs. The grant is managed by DCHA's Office of Private and Voluntary Cooperation-American schools and Hospitals Abroad, which has long supported innovative approaches, exemplified by GlobalGiving, that leverage private resources to expand the impact of development assistance.
"The GlobalGiving alliance positions the Agency in an interesting new space," said Holly Wise, GDA director. "It is a great opportunity for us to help create this new marketplace and through it to enhance the impact of our foreign assistance investments."
Now the site's founders are working with various missions on potentially creating country portals that would list each mission's projects, so that potential donors can choose USAID projects to support. Each country would get a portal, addressing each country's unique needs, which would help target likely donors.
The scale of projects listed on GlobalGiving varies dramatically, as do the contributions people, organizations and businesses choose to give. The site lists over 250 projects in 54 countries. Some of them take $2,000 to implement, others $200,000. A project can be as simple as building a latrine for a community in South Asia, as complicated as creating a microfinance institution for small businesses in Zimbabwe, or as unusual as supporting a missing children's network throughout Latin America.
Projects on the site can be searched by subject - such as environment, gender and human rights - or by regions.
Each month a special project is featured. The January theme is small business, spotlighting the Yochin Tayel K'inal Coffee Cooperative in Mexico. The program aims to offer an alternative marketplace for small coffee farmers and foster economic independence for indigenous people in Chiapas state. It needs donations of $3,450.
In a sense, GlobalGiving is an online forum that acts as an e-Bay for international aid, said Wise.
"It can extend the reach of work Agency staff have been doing in relating to diaspora communities in the U.S. and elsewhere, and can connect development opportunities with corporate-employee-giving programs in a very direct and targeted way," she said.
Partners in this alliance, along with USAID, include Visa International, Hewlett-Packard company and the following foundations: Skoll, Omidyar, Hewlett, Kellogg and Mott. GlobalGiving has nine employees and is based in Bethesda, Md. The website can be viewed at www.globalgiving.org.
"Frontlines" is a publication of the United States Agency for International Development.