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Climate Change

Aleem Walji on Development Marketplace

Tom Grubisich's picture

Aleem Walji is the new Innovation Practice Manager at the World Bank Institute, which includes the secretariat for the Development Marketplace consortium and other innovation platforms.  He is former Head of Global Development Initiatives at Google.  The peripatetic Walji sat down for this mini-interview as DM2009 was winding up:

Q. Development Marketplace stresses innovation, both in projects it seeks and how they're evaluated.  Why is innovation so important?


A. The need for solutions, and fast, is urgent.  Business as usual is simply not sufficient.  We’ve got to look at new ways of doing things -- things that have worked in one part of the world that may work in another part of the world, or are entirely new.  We put out a call to the world, particularly the developing world, to say what are your ideas, what are you doing, what can you do? How can we support you, adapting to a rapidly changing climate? This competition was to shine a light on those ideas.

Q.  We hear a lot about scale.  What does it really mean?

A. Scale is a term often used and misused.  When I think about scale I think about a pathway to reach the maximum number of people possible.  It doesn’t necessarily mean an organization has to become extremely large for an idea to scale.  It could mean that an idea is adopted by a small organization but relevant and replicated by other groups in other parts of the world. When I think of the Development Marketplace, we want to get to the point where we can connect early-stage ideas to the people, money, and partners who can help see ideas through to execution and grow them to their optimal levels. 

Q. What factors are important for success? 

A. In many ways we’re really betting on leadership, we’re betting on people who we think are going to deliver an outcome, and are going to be flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.  The projects will change, they will adapt, they will grow.  What we’re really talking about is how do we position our winners to be able to benefit from our support, then really leverage it, along with partners.  We want to be connectors in an ecosystem.  We want to be connectors in a cycle of growth and scale.

Q.  Most of the DM2009 projects came from NGOs and academic institutions.  There weren’t very many from entrepreneurs...

A.  This is a little bit of concern to me.  When you look at the viability of any project it has to have a pathway to sustainability, and commercialization is one pathway. When there are ideas that can be commercialized and have revenue models that can be sustained, that is a very positive sign.  For those that don’t, there have to be other paths to viability like public-private partnerships for example.  For those that don’t have one or the other, I worry how they will sustain themselves.  That's where partnerships becomes key and our role in creating an "enabling ecosystem" of seed funders, debt financiers, equity players, and capacity builders is very important.
 

Blogs, Other Sites Follow the DM2009 Story

Tom Grubisich's picture

DM2009 has been drawing attention from climate-change-related and other blogs and websites around the world.  In "The Dirt," published by the American Society of Landscape Architects, web content and strategy manager Jared Green -- who was also a juror for the DM2009 competition --  published this post about some of the winning finalists. Green's post was picked up by the Sustainable Cities Collective blog.

Some of the attention came from abroad -- the site the Austrian Network for Information and Communication Technologies for Development and -- in France -- Actualités News environnement.

Climate-L, which is produced by an international team of climate change experts with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, published this article.

Tom Friedman to Climate Change Deniers

Edith Wilson's picture

I asked New York Times op-ed columnist Tom Friedman to come see our "100 ideas to save the planet" at last week's DM2009 competition.  His response was he was on his way to the Amazon, where climate change is accelerating the despoiling of that vast ecosystem and driving its indigenous communities into more povery.  A number of DM200 finalist projects from Latin American would attack those ravages.

In his column today, Friedman says bluntly: "My argument is simple: I think climate change is real. You don’t? That’s your business. But there are two other huge trends barreling down on us with energy implications that you simply can’t deny."

For more, here's the column.

Words That Echoed Across DM2009 Competition

Tom Grubisich's picture

“I came here thinking of my people.  I leave here thinking of our planet.”

That's how finalist winner Carlos Daniel Vecco Giove of Peru summed up what DM2009 meant for him.  (Vecco was honored for his proposal to aid the Amazonian indigenous populations in his country in adapting to rapid climate change.)

Vecco's stirring words echoed around the floor of the competition, on up to the podium during the Friday, Nov. 13, awards ceremony, where a rapt audience heard Warren Evans, Environment Director of the World Bank, say: "Let me share with you what I heard that one of our finalists who traveled here from far away said this week."

One way or another, the other finalists expressed the same thought -- if not in so many words, then in the potential for their projects to bring innovative but practical climate adaptation not only to their target community but to people and places across regions and countries...to the whole planet.

DM2009 Winners Face More Funding Hurdles

Tom Grubisich's picture

Development Marketplace awards to winners range up to $200,000 -- to cover what is called "early-stage" or seed development of projects.  But after that period -- usually one or two years -- any project, no matter how promising it looks, has to find new funding.

DM2009 juror Tran Triet of Vietnam, a DM2003 winner, talked about projects that seek to transform a community both environmentally and economically -- the ambitious aim of many of the DM proposals, winners and non-winners alike.  At the panel on "Taking an Idea to Scale," Dr. Tran said: "A long-term commitment is needed.  The social agenda takes time to happen.  The normal [Development Marketplace] funding cycle of one or two years would be too short to bring about changes."

Juror Fred Onduri, who is chair of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as head of the Policy and Planning Department of the Ugandan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says two years "is not enough."  He thinks the national governments of the countries where the winning projects would be developed should fund them in the out years.

Ideas, anyone?

The Drama of Climate Change: Nigerian Wins at DM2009

Tom Grubisich's picture

Nnaemeka Chidiebere Ikegwuonu of Nigera was one of the 26 winners at DM2009 with a project that would create a radio drama aimed at educating small farmers on how how to better manage the risk of growing crops in extreme weather that swings from storms to droughts.

While accepting congratulations, Ikegwuonu said, "There is a saying in our local Igbo language, 'To whom much is given, much is expected.'  Thanks to this award, within 18 months, small farmers living in southeastern Nigeria will mitigate and adapt to climate change by integrating local knowledge and external technology."

Through a network of 15 radio stations, the series will be able to reach a potential audience of 15 million in southeastern Nigeria.  Listener clubs will be able to broadcast feedback through solar-powered radios.

 

DM2009 Winner Is Doubly Happy

Tom Grubisich's picture

Clutching two crystal globes at Friday's DM2009 awards ceremony was David Manalo of the Philippines, who won with two of his three finalist projects -- one for "bell and bottle" rain gauges to provide an early warning system against storm-caused floods and landslides, and the other to put 2,000 to 2,400 people rural people on the electrical grid through floating hydropower generators.

"I didn't expect this," he said, elated but a bit dazed from his and his projects' double honors.  "Winning once would make me more than happy."

Manalo's brother, Eugenio, a partner in the early-warning project, stayed behind in the Philippines to aid victims of recent typhoons.  "I will call him, but not right now – he's sleeping," said David, at 1 a.m. Manila time.

Sponsors Who Made DM2009 Happen

Tom Grubisich's picture

Development Marketplace couldn't happen without its sponsors, who donated nearly $5 million for this year's event.  Here they are, from left, at the Friday morning awards ceremony -- William Ehlers, team leader of the Global Environment Facility; Elwyn Grainer-Jones of the International Fund for Agricultural Development; Danish Ambassador to the U.S. Friss Arne Petersen; Warren Evans, World Bank Environment Director; and Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute.

A Juror Looks at the Quality of the DM2009 Projects

Tom Grubisich's picture

World Bank climate change specialist Kseniya Lvovsky was a juror for DM2009.  Here's what she had to say about the judging process and the quality of the finalists' projects in a new posting to the Bank's Development in a Changing Climate blog.  All very interesting, and authoritative, because Lvovsky is leading the Climate Change team in the Environmental Department of the World Bank that is overseeing the implementation of the Strategic Framework on Development and Climate Change.  She is also coordinating climate change-related activities across the  Bank. 

 

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