June 10

Kyle Poplin / James Militzer / Scott Anderson

Roundup: A $100 Million Idea, Reproductive Rights Redux and an Inverting Poverty Pyramid

Hand-picked by NextBillion’s editors, here are the news articles, announcements, tweets, videos and other media that captured our attention over the course of the week.


$100 million – enough to change the world?

Last week the MacArthur Foundation launched a new competition that will award a $100 million grant to a single proposal that helps solve “a critical problem of our time.” Called 100&Change, the competition is open to non-profit and for-profit organizations working in any field or sector, and it will be repeated every three years. The Foundation believes that $100 million is enough money to catalyze lasting solutions to complex social problems – it will be interesting to see which problems MacArthur deems solvable, and whether its optimism is warranted.


An Inverting Pyramid

Business Insider this week calls the base of the pyramid’s economic potential “so gigantic that it would be hard to miss.” We certainly agree. Yet, somehow many (including us) missed the basis for that conclusion: The Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, Moving on Up – Bottom Billions Primer, issued in February. In exploring long-term investment trends, bank analysts write that 3 billion of the world’s poorest 4.5 billion people could be joining the middle class by around 2030. “The Bottom Billions will drive the growth of the global middle class, which will expand at rates seen only during the 19th century Industrial Revolution and post-WW2 booms. Every minute, 30 EM (emerging market) households join the global middle class.”


Could Facebook “likes” take the place of charitable donations?

Big brands help provide us with free entertainment by advertising on popular TV and radio shows – all we pay is our attention. Could a similar model work for charity, in which brands offer nonprofits donations based on the number of social media shares consumers provide to their advertising? Paul Polizzotto, president and founder at CBS EcoMedia argues that this would benefit advertisers, nonprofits – and cash-strapped consumers hoping to do good for free.


A New Thought Leader Changing the world



mHealth, Finally?

Given that lack of access to health care is pervasive in many of the world’s poorest countries, telemedicine offers remarkable opportunities. Ghana, for one, is trying to take advantage of them. Here’s hoping its citizens can overcome the legal and institutional barriers that have so far prevented mHealth from solving some solvable problems in more developed countries.


Easy for You to Say

It makes perfect sense for the World Health Organization to recommend, as it did this week, that women in Zika-prone countries delay getting pregnant for up to couple of years, until a vaccine is discovered. Or does it? The fact is, many of the countries where Zika is prevalent are dominated by the conservative Catholic Church, and abortion is illegal and contraceptives aren’t accessible there. Expect much more discussion about family planning and reproductive rights in Latin America in the weeks to come. (For more about Zika – what is known and unknown – read Dr. Melvin Sanicas’ blog for NextBillion.)


A Million More Solar Customers

The pay-as-you go model of solar got a big boost with the announcement by a Northern India company it will install 4,000 microgrids to reach 1 million people with power by 2022.

Social enterprise Boond says it will provide pre-paid metered solar power access to households in the range of US$2-$4 per month. This week it joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA), part of United Nations Development Program, and made the commitment to develop the microgrid with mostly rural customers in mind. By the end of last year, Boond had installed more than 2,500 kilowatts of solar capacity for more than 100,000 people, according to BCtA. It expects sales to follow: “Boond anticipates US$350,000 in revenues from solar micro-grid sales during 2016, and this figure is expected to surpass US$1 million by the end of 2017.”


Branded Snark



‘As Coordinated as a Demolition Derby’

That’s the assessment of The Economist in this critique of global development aid, as principally seen through the Malawi experience. Money quote:

“Donors would probably do more good by concentrating on a few projects in a few countries. But they strive to achieve the opposite. To them, and to the politicians who control the purse strings, plastering the world with flags is a sign of success.”


Bitcoin goes to Washington (And BEYOND?)

It was closed to the press, but intriguing reports have emerged from last week’s 16th annual International Conference on Policy Challenges for the Financial Sector in Washington D.C., which brought together central bankers from over 90 countries with some of the top names in finance. According to attendees, Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen encouraged her central bank counterparts to learn all they can about new financial technologies, specifically mentioning bitcoin, blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. Yellen has taken a hands-off approach to regulating cryptocurrency, allowing the technology to develop – her remarks have sparked calls from the industry for the Fed to embrace it fully, and predictions that its greatest benefits will first be leveraged in emerging markets.



Homepage and top image credit: Sam Einhorn/Flickr

Base of the Pyramid