GlobalGiving Co-Founder: ‘We Failed Completely’

GlobalGiving Co-Founders Mari Kuraishi and Dennis Whittle believed there had to be better way to do aid, and they were willing to fail to find out.


Dennis Whittle was failing.

He was in charge of a new department at World Bank that was supposed to spark innovative products. Nine months later, the department hadn’t delivered.

“We tried a bunch of things. We failed completely. We were being ridiculed in the hallways,” Whittle confessed in his TEDx Talk, “Do What Makes Sense—When It Makes Sense.”

It was time to try something different. Whittle invited anyone in the world to the bank to pitch an idea, without going through the traditional government funding process. Over 300 teams responded to the open invitation.

“For two days, all that mattered was the quality of your ideas and not who you were,” Whittle said.

Within 48 hours, Whittle had awarded $55 million to 44 entrepreneurs. Success, he thought. Until a woman from Uganda told Whittle that his competition didn’t ‘make sense.’

She said, “You should have a secondary market where anybody in the world, like me, can find money from anybody else in the world.”

Whittle realized she was right. In 2002, he co-founded GlobalGiving with his World Bank colleague, Mari Kuraishi.

“GlobalGiving is basically a website where we’re trying to give anyone in the world a voice, anyone in the world the right to be heard about what they and their community need, and anybody in the world the ability to connect directly with them and help them,” Whittle said on the TEDx stage.

Whittle describes GlobalGiving as a place that “levels the playing field” for nonprofit problem solvers.

“The world,” he said, “is a point where we can all make a very big difference, and we can all reach out and give a hand to an outsider and help make them an insider.”

Featured Photo: Help 300,000 Kids Realize That Math Can Be Fun by Akshara Foundation

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