We've been exchanging emails with many of the hundred DM2009 finalists to get their collected thoughts on the competition. Many of them had good things to say about the event and its programs, and how Development Marketplace could better their projects' chances, even if they weren't among the 26 winners. But sprinkled among the positive assessments was some criticism.
Ben Stein, who heads a reverse-osmosis desalinization project to provide drinking water for 48 households on Rah Island in the Pacific nation of Vanuatu, praised Development Marketplace for "starting to understand what social entrepreneurship is," and singled out the knowledge exchange sessions. But Stein says something important was missing: "People. The World Bank is not a very 'people-friendly' or public place. As there are no more Peoples' Choice awards [given in previous years' competitions], it appears that most Bank employees aren't willing to spend the time to look at the DM. Perhaps future DMs should be held at a more public venue and really marketed to the interested public, or find some way to make the Bank a more accessible place and really market the event to the interested public. Also, there was so much talk about social media, social marketing, and networking one would think that everyone in DC knew about DM, but in fact it seems to have been one of DC's best-kept secrets."
Lilani Goonesena, whose Vietnam project would help poor farming families grow saline-tolerant crops, said "I found the event to be very interesting, culturally and professionally." But she also said: "With all the experiences of the candidates from around the world, there was very little heard from them during the workshops. I would rather have had presentations given by them about their countries/projects/government relations/challenges etc."
And she added: "The thing that really shocked me (particularly at a climate change conference) was the widespread usage of disposal plates/cups/plastic/cutlery at the World Bank. It is wrong on so many levels –- the environment, amount of landfill, lack of recycling, unprofessional, expensive, and really sends a poor message about the Bank. If you consider the amount of landfill generated by the event in that one week, how does that affect the event’s carbon neutrality?"