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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Al Hammond to Join Ashoka's Leadership Group

By Rob Katz

Since joining the World Resources Institute in 1990, Al Hammond has been mixing things up.? Against steep odds, he built the World Resources Report into a best-in-class publication featuring extensive datasets of environmental indicators ? putting it on par with the World Bank's World Development Report and the UNDP's Human Development Report.? He built on that experience to write a widely-read book ? Which World? Scenarios for the 21st Century ? that laid out scenarios for how the world might develop over the next 50 years given the twin constraints of climate change and poverty. ?

Al then convened a group of leading technologists, business leaders and development experts to discuss the importance of bridging the digital divide - a meeting that spawned WRI's Digital Dividends research initiative and gave the first public platform for the base of the pyramid message. Along the way, Al directed numerous internal initiatives at WRI and served as an advisor for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the Global Environment Facility and the Human Development Report - among many others.Surprisingly, however, Al doesn't consider these notable accomplishments as his most significant contribution to World Resources Institute and to our sector at large.? Last month, over a dinner of sandwiches and salad, he reflected a bit on his work at WRI.? "NextBillion.net," Al said, "has to be one of the creations I'm most proud of during my tenure at WRI.? Three years on, it's amazing to see the energy around base of the pyramid research and practice.? Along with 'The Next 4 Billion' report, I'd have to say that NextBillion.net really captures what I feel are world-changing trends when it comes to poverty alleviation."

As we finished dinner, Al gave the news: he would be leaving WRI at the end of June to take a position at Ashoka. I asked Al what his new position would entail. "Ashoka will give me the opportunity - and the global platform - to scale what we've been doing at WRI.? Furthermore, I'll be focusing on rural connectivity and healthcare, two issues I care deeply about, which happen to be priorities for Ashoka.? It's a good match."? Sounds like it.

For the BoP community, this is a big deal.? When you think about BoP thought leaders, the Big Three come to mind immediately - C.K. Prahalad, Stu Hart and Al Hammond.? When one of them changes jobs or alters course, it's bound to have wide-ranging implications for the sector.? For instance, Ashoka now has to be considered a major player in the BoP space - not that they haven't been doing excellent work, especially through their Full Economic Citizenship initiative - just for the fact that Al is on staff.? In addition to the work Al will be doing, Ashoka is already focusing on efforts to transform low-income housing, engage commercial banks in social investment, develop micro health insurance and other sector-based strategies. ?

WRI, meanwhile is excited to continue honing its focus on the Green-BoP space ? staff experts from the New Ventures team including Virginia, Ella, Francisco and Derek are exploring the intersection between BoP issues and environmental sustainability in key sectors such as energy, water and transport.

And I'm happy to announce that Nextbillion.net readers will continue to benefit from Al?s insights and analysis as he is staying involved in the site as a staff writer.? We'll all look forward to Al's posts from the field as he conducts his sector-scaling work.

Personally, I'm a bit wistful about Al?s departure from WRI ? my first boss is leaving my first employer, conjuring up some good memories.? And I'm not the only one, not by a long shot.? During Al's tenure at WRI, he has mentored countless junior staff, seeding social sector employees that have gone on to top graduate schools, prestigious research institutions, leading companies (and some startup venture fund in New York.) ?

In all seriousness, perhaps this mentorship and career incubation is Al's greatest contribution, not NextBillion.net or the World Resources Report or Which World.? After all, people like Beth Jenkins, Maggie Powell and John Paul are out there putting Al's ideas into action every day.? Talk about a transformative sector strategy.

Congratulations, Al ? and good luck.? We'll be hearing from you here very soon.
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