Over the summer, Ashoka, along with the White House, Rockefeller Foundation, the World Bank, and several of the world's leading institutions, launched the SME Finance Challenge to identify and fund innovative initiatives that help grow local businesses in developing markets. And while most of the winners were announced last week, only three winners were spotlighted today in Seoul, at the G20 summit, as the People's Choice Award winners.
One winner is the Peace Dividend Trust, a unique team of former aid workers, entrepreneurs, and diplomats who help spur public-private partnerships, local business training, alternative financing, and on-the-ground investment in stricken countries like Afghanistan and Haiti.
"Their approaches propose achievable, yet groundbreaking ways to get more finance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by sparking policy and regulatory changes, increased access to markets, and intensive business-development training," said Ashoka President Diana Wells in the press release.
Peace Dividend Trust grew out of the startling fact that only 5-25% of foreign aid ever actually reaches people on the ground, as aid budgets are primarily spent on hiring international staff and flying in goods.
"PDT's work helping small entrepreneurs in Afghanistan has redirected over $570 million into that economy," Peace Dividend founder Scott Gilmore told Fast Company from Seoul just after the announcement was made.
"This award is a tremendous boost to PDT, and will help us raise the $30m in donor funding we are seeking to launch our loan guarantee facility in Afghanistan, Timor Leste, Haiti and Liberia," he says.
I've had my eye on Peace Dividend—the caliber of their team goes beyond idealistic NGO workers and their approach reflects a clear insight into some of the the life-costing, stifling bottlenecks found in the aid industry as a whole.
"We were frustrated at how the strategic impact of aid was being severely hampered by the inefficiencies of the nuts and bolts of missions like procurement, planning, HR," Gilmore told Fast Company in an interview in July. "PDT's mission is to rethink and change the way aid and peacekeeping is delivered. We do this by finding, testing, and implementing new operational ideas for improving aid. Some have described us as a 'do tank' or an 'aid lab.'"
With the award, Peace Dividend will be propelled into the global spotlight, receive increased funding from major international donors to scale up, and will get a chance at influencing how aid is conceived and structured at the very top.
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[Image: flickr user isafmedia]