Rob Katz

Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship Launches

Legatum Center logoDo we need another Fellows program?? That was my initial thought when I first heard of the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship and its related Legatum Fellows program.? After all, there are so many programs dedicated to identifying and supporting existing or budding social entrepreneurs – Skoll, TED, Ashoka, GSBI, Agora, Echoing Green, Pop!Tech, Acumen Fund – the list goes on.? Would Legatum be able to add any real value alongside these existing programs?

The answer, I think, is yes.? Legatum just formally launched its program yesterday, but in reviewing their materials and speaking with their Managing Director, I am more than cautiously optimistic that Legatum is going to make a significant impact in the base of the pyramid space.

Why am I optimistic?? First of all, look no further than yesterday’s event.? It featured the largest-ever public gathering of Nobel laureates in Economics:

Their panel was moderated by Iqbal Quadir, the Founder and Director of the Legatum Center.? Qadir is well-known in the base of the pyramid community as the founder of GrameenPhone, the revolutionary social enterprise that has brought economic self sufficiency – not to mention connectivity – to tens of thousands of villages in South Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Of course, one panel does not a program make.? The Legatum Center is using its endowment to support 12 Fellows from around the world as they study and develop enterprise-based solutions to poverty in low-income countries.? The first class of Fellows is nothing short of impressive – check out the interactive map on Legatum’s site for details.

The kickoff event is over; the Nobel laureates and other speakers have gone home.? But Quadir, Managing Director Michael Maltese, the Center’s staff and visiting scholars – including BoP guru Jesse More, formerly of CARE Enterprise Partners – are just getting started.? With $50 million from Legatum to fund their work, I’m confident that this is an auspicious beginning.