Jaryd

Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

It’s Been a While (Updated)

In Business, Computers, Development, Internet, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Technology on December 30, 2008 at 4:11 am

UPDATE: I have decided to try my hand at the Twitter-like micro-blogging service. I have named it Tefilah, the Hebrew word for prayer, to emphasize the focus of the site. Feel free to join and try it out. Hopefully we will be able to grow it to a vibrant community of Christians.

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So it has been a while since I have written anything… I’ve wanted to write something for a couple of weeks now, but just couldn’t decided what to write about. I still don’t really have any idea, but I thought I would give it a shot and see what I come up with. I guess I will just go over a list of some possible projects I have been collecting in my head for the past few months:

Twitter-like Site     In case you have never heard of it, Twitter is an online micro-blogging service where you can keep your friends, or “followers” as they are known on Twitter, up to date about what you’re doing, where you are, or anything really. Your status can be updated via web or text, and it places your update in a timeline of all of your followers. For example, if I wanted to tell my followers that I was coming home to Puyallup for break, I could update my status to say “Jaryd is writing.” That would be added to my friends’ timeline, or even sent to them as a text or email if they have set their account to do so. The thing I really like about Twitter is that it is a non-obtrusive way to keep people up to date with what you are doing, thing, or where you are going.

But if Twitter is fine, why start another site just like it? Well it wouldn’t be just like that. The main difference would be that it would be used for prayer support or letting others know you have received an answer to prayer. It would be a non-invasive way to ask others for prayer support, or just keep people up to date on things that God has been doing in your life.

Honestly, it wouldn’t even be that difficult, thanks to the open-source software Laconica. All I would have to do would be to rent a server, install the server, and it would take care of pretty much all of the work. I would have to do a lot of work to get it up to the complexity of Twitter, though. I would love to be able to help people all over the world connect and support each other through the power of prayer.

I also would like to adapt this cool project called TwittEarth. It displays tweets (the name for status updates on Twitter) on a 3D globe showing the location of the user. It is a pretty cool way to look at the activity of individuals on a global scale. One last thing I would like to do is set up a daily verse for users to meditate on, or let others know what kind of meaning it has for them.

Mideals     I have written about this before in an earlier post, but I thought I would come back to it because I really do like it. The idea is that it is a commerce site in the style of Amazon, but users can set priorities on what aspects of a product or company are the most important to them. A user can set the order of importance of price, environmental impact, where it is made, the organizations the company supports, etc… Then a user could search for products or companies and the site would calculate which products match the user’s priorities and present them accordingly.

People talk about about what they feel is important, but at one point you have to put up or shut up. This could take away an excuse that keeps people from aligning their spending with their values.

University Microcredit Network     This was the focus of the last post I wrote, and I still like it. I believe microcredit will be one of the most fundamental tools the human race has in defeating poverty. As fundamental as the hammer for constructing houses, or the cornerstone of a foundation. Microcredit gives the tools to those that really have the incentive to use them.

I feel that the microcredit model of poverty reduction fits very well with college students. Microcredit is built around the fact that a little money can go a long way, and little money is something that college students do have. According to census.gov, there were 20.5 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States (including under-graduate and graduate). I’m willing to bet that each student could donate $1 to microcredit programs and development programs.

Many microcredit program loans range from as little as $50 into the thousands of dollars. But for the sake of calculation, let’s say the average loan is $100. That makes for 205,000 loans made for the people around the world to better their situation, and most importantly the health of their family and the education of their children.

That’s just with $1 from each college and university student in US. That doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me.

I will keep thinking over these to see if any of them speak to me enough to carve out some time to work on them. Let me know what you think about them, or any ideas you have in the comments!

University Microcredit Network

In Development, Economy, Philanthropy, Poverty, Public Education, Whitworth on November 3, 2008 at 3:51 am

I went to a special lecture last week about microcredit and its powerful impact on the developing world. From wikipedia:

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to the unemployed, to poor entrepreneurs and to others living in poverty who are not considered bankable. These individuals lack collateral, steadyemployment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor.

Basically, the working poor apply for small loans, usually starting around $100, to buy capital and start making greater profits in their businesses. The loans are repaid with very low interest, and then the borrower can then take out a larger loan to grow their business even more.

The reason that the borrowers need a special microcredit bank is because traditional banks will not give them any loans because they lack the usual paperwork, such as deeds and titles, collateral, and even a credit history; Thus, the banks see the poor as a credit risk. But, according to World Vision, 96% of the loans in their Microenterprise Development Program are repaid on time.

Organizations like the Grameen Bank, Kiva, and World Vision are taking the chance to help people escape from poverty. I would encourage everyone to take a look at these organizations and consider donating as much as you feel comfortable with. Even $25 can change the life of farmer.

What does this have to do with the University Microcredit Network? Well, the UMN is an idea I’ve been considering for a few days since the lecture. Since microcredit is all about small sums of money (which is college kids have), why not tap into the vast resource of poor, but activist-minded, age group of college students? If every university in the United States collected enough money for one $100 loan… well, it would be a lot! Better yet, what if universities and colleges built this into their budgets? Just a miniscule $1000 could provide much need start-up money for several businesses. And it is a drop in the bucket for many schools!

The UMN would be the eyes, ears, and hands for organizations like Kiva and World Vision. The purpose: collect money and educate students. There are a lot of lives that could be changed with small donations from poor students.

Heck, if people really couldn’t donate, what about investing. Places like MicroPlace (owned by eBay) offer up to a 3% return on investments. Good way to make a few bucks. (But I like places like World Vision where the funds are returned to the pool – a revolving door fund, if you will.)

Blog Action Day – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Politics, Poverty, Public Education on October 15, 2008 at 7:38 pm

I must admit, Blog Action Day has snuck up on me. I was quite busy at the beginning of this week, and I haven’t thought much about what to write on the issue of poverty. One thing that does come to mind is a recent lecture I attended. David Oliver Relin, author of Three Cups of Tea (I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to understand how one man can reshape the world through education). In his presentation, he discussed what he believed to be the best weapon against terrorism was to destroy ignorance with education. Through education, poverty and suffering (huge factors in the development of terrorist groups) will be removed. While I question this stratagem’s ability to fight current terrorist groups, I see the great value in the future accomplishments. Why do terrorist groups target the United States and its allies? From my point of view, it seems to be ignorance, misplaced blame, and zealotry. To be honest, the US has spilled our fair share of milk in the region, but the primary reason for their own situation is because some groups want to keep it that way. They don’t want to change, whether voluntarily or by military force.

Okay, but what does that have to do with poverty? In case you haven’t noticed, terrorism and poverty go hand in hand. Terrorist groups seek out suffering people to mold into their own gorilla force. Mr. Retin showed us some interesting, gladdening, as well as terrifying images. One was of a radical madrasah setting up a disaster-relief camp for victims the major 2005 Kashmir earthquake. There were tents for shelter, tents for food, and a tent for radical teachings. Here is an excerpt from an article on the earthquake and the aid delivered by terrorist group Jammat-ud-Dawa:

The Jihadi aid campaign

Meanwhile, long before the arrival of army regulars, international aid agencies, or emergency search and rescue teams, an alternative volunteer army was reporting for duty in the earthquake zone: the Jihadis. Bearded young men converged on towns close to the epicentre, after threading their shiny white mini-vans or military vehicles through boulder-strewn roads. More trekked by foot across rockslides, carrying picks and shovels. 

Yahya Mujahid, a Muslim militant chief, said he ordered his guerrillas to put aside their Kalashnikov rifles and hired 100 mules so they could get relief supplies up to the heights and carry out the injured. 

The efforts won accolades from anguished survivors. No one else was on the spot to help locals unearth the injured and administer first aid, shroud and bury their dead, or dish up dates and hot soup so they might break the Ramadan fast at dusk. These aidworkers appeared extremely organised. In Muzaffarabad, a garrison city and the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, a big banner was erected over a tarpaulin spread with prayer-mats and quilts. It identified the energetic do-gooders as Jammat-ud-Dawa. 

This group is known to be a spin-off of the banned religious militants, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and is widely seen as the fundraising and recruiting wing for Islamist warriors who cross into India. 

Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans, outlawed Lashkar as a terrorist organisation in 2002 because of its links to al-Qaida. The name change has allowed Jammat-ud-Dawa to continue building its religious seminaries, to train preachers for mosques, and dispense medical care to the indigent. But will they be able to muster support and force their way onto the national political agenda?

Before Pakistan’s army was there, before the internal community could respond, there was Jammat-ud-Dawa. They delivered aid; they were the ones that helped the victims in their time of need. Support had been won for the group, and a negative view of the government and the international community was fostered. Not exactly a win for the war on terror. I know that US aid couldn’t possibly have responded before locals did, but I am using this as an example of something we must prevent in the future.

Flying in aid wouldn’t help us fight current terrorist organizations, but it would help prevent new soldiers and groups from being created. When it comes down to it, fighting terrorism is a big public relations campaign. There is an image of the western world in the minds of people, and that image determines whether they throw their support behind them, or us. We need to keep pushing in on current organizations so we can make sure they never blow up a bus full people again; at the same time we need to fight poverty and ignorance. What we do today determines what we won’t have to do tomorrow.

Note: This is a first draft, but I wanted to make sure it was posted in time for Blog Action Day. Let me know what you think in the comments. Look for revisions in the future.

Extremely Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

In Development, Poverty, Video on October 5, 2008 at 3:39 pm

Please take the time to watch this short video about XDRTB. You can watch the video at the official website and learn more about this pandemic, or watch the clip below. As humans, we can’t take action on every issue that impacts the world; we tend to focus on things that hit closer to home. It makes sense, it’s human nature. But I feel the least we can do is at least know that it is happening. This is the same idea that the creators of Invisible Children had: to spread the knowledge of it. For no one to know that a tragedy has happened makes it more difficult for healing to begin. So let us know the pain, know the faces of suffering, that our brothers and sisters are going through all over the world.

Warning: There are graphic images in the following video.

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty

In Development, Economy, Internet, Philanthropy, Politics, Poverty, Video on August 21, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Just wanted to let you guys know that I will be participating in Blog Action Day 2008 this year.  What is Blog Action Day?  From the site:

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

That’s the basic premise of BAD: to listen to thousands of different perspectives on a single issue in order to understand it more.  Poverty is a complex issue, but after October 15th, I’m hoping to be a little closer to the answer.

Here is a little video summing it all up.  Enjoy!

Think tank

In Development, Economy, Politics, Poverty, Public Education on July 20, 2008 at 7:06 pm

One of the ideas I have been mulling over in my head for a while is starting up a think tank.  From Wikipedia:

think tank (also called a policy institute) is an organization, institute, corporation, or group that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice. Many think tanks are non-profit organizations, which some countries such as the US and Canada provide with tax exempt status. While many think tanks are funded by governments, interest groups, or businesses, some think tanks also derive income from consulting or research work related to their mandate.

To me, the beauty of a think tank is that often they can remain quite disconnected from other parties and advocacy groups if careful enough.  The best way to form solutions is to step back, look at the whole situation, and form a logical, and amicable, solution.   Step 1 is where most groups, governments included, fail.  They are too involved in the politics of the issue (they ought to be), and because of this entanglement form decisions that look good, rather than based on logic.  For example, a politician would have a difficult time being elected saying that a recession is a perfectly normal part of economic growth, and that the trick is to balance growth with recession.  Instead, politicians claim that they are the only ones that can break free of economic troubles and send the economy sailing.

This is just saying what people want to hear; it has nothing to do with reality.

A think tank has the potential to solve global issues through gathering data, studying the trends, and applying controlled changes.  But I wouldn’t want to limit a think tank to economic policy.  There’s no reason why you couldn’t gather the best and brightest in their respective fields and tackle all sorts of problems.  Here’s a few:

  • City planning
  • Education
  • Human rights
  • Economics
  • Peace
  • Criminal justice
  • Public relations

If you have anything that you think should be added to the list, leave a comment.

I’m going to start a think tank.  Join me.

Peace Corps

In Development, Post-Whitworth, Readings on March 3, 2008 at 10:18 pm

I have been reading Keeping Kennedy’s Promise: The Peace Corps Moment of Truth for about a week hoping that it would give me some more insight into something that could play a major role in my life as I finish school in a little more than three years. It certainly has, but not in the way I had expected.

The book was published in 1978, authored by two individuals that have 20 years of cumulative experience in the Peace Corps, C. Payne Lucas and Kevin Lowther. It has some very interesting views on the inner workings of the Peace Corps, and also the internal struggles, partisan politics, and even seemingly selfish acts within an organization created to bring people together in a Brotherhood of Man. Every rose has its thorns, I suppose.

Instead of making me more interested in volunteering with the Peace Corps, the book has had the opposite effect: leaving me less than excited about possibly signing away two years of my life to an organization that seems to make a lot of mistakes; at least according to Keeping Kennedy’s Promise, it does. I haven’t yet finished reading it, but I am very close and thought I would put down some thoughts I felt I wanted to share.

More Ways

In Christmas, Development, Economy, Poverty on December 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm

I’m sorry to keep bringing up ways that you can spend your money, but I want to make sure you know about all of your options to make the greatest impact this Christmas.  I think the best thing you could do would be to invest in the World Vision Microenterprise Development program.  You make a small, one-time investment, but your money keeps on giving.  Once it is loaned out to an entrepreneur, they use to the money to increase production/buy new equipment etc… then they repay the loan with interest, and it recirculates back into the loan program.  So your one time donation could provide countless businessmen and women with greater opportunity to feed their families and strengthen a village.

Economic Development in Terms of Medicine

In Development, Economy, Poverty on August 27, 2007 at 3:23 am

I’ve been thinking about Africa a lot lately, and most recently in terms of medicine. I’ve been dreaming up an idea of an organization that I would like to establish. It’s a business/organization hybrid, but it is founded on a business-like model. The organization invests in a community in return for labor from the citizens of that community. The profit (if any) would cycle back into the company to fund projects and other needed services. Here is the basic idea for my business/organization (from now on I will refer to it as an organization):

The organization builds houses, hospitals, schools, banks, roads, any infrastructure needed by the community.

The citizens buy a house from the organization (but must pay off the zero-interest mortgage) and work at the organization until the mortgage is paid-in-full.

In compensation for working at the organization, the employee receives healthcare for their family, schooling for their children, and a salary. The salary will be enough to pay for food, water, clothing, anything they need. Anything left over will go towards the mortgage, and savings.

Once the employee has paid off the remainder of the mortgage they will no longer be obligated to work for the organization any further.

Employees (or former-employees) that wish to start their own business can apply for a micro-loan. Upon approval, the organization will work with the entrepreneur to develop a business plan, find a location, build the business, and turn a profit. The entrepreneur can apply for a larger micro-loan later if they wish to expand their business. The business owner must pay back all ero-interest loans and invest a percentage in the revolving-fund-micro-loan system. I replicated the micro-loan system that World Vision uses because I think it is a perfect system for encouraging business growth.

Also, the organization will set up a scholarship for the top students that will pay for all, or the majority, of tuition to a university. This is on the condition that they return to the community and try to apply their degree there. If they become doctors, then they will work in the hospital; if the are engineers, then they will work on developing the community, and surrounding communities; etc…

But the whole point of the organization is to leave once the community can sustain itself. This is when I began thinking of it in medical terms.

When a body is damaged and has lost a substantial amount of blood, the body’s natural healing system is mostly useless. Blood is a vital aspect of the healing system: without it no nutrients can reach the damaged parts, and no healing can occur.

My organization would act in the same way as a blood transfusion. It would help support the natural healing system and function in place of the original blood. Once the body is healthy enough it would begin to replace the foreign blood with it’s own and sustain itself.

That is the goal of my organization: to promote and enable economic growth in developing nations.

Let me know what you think, I would love to hear criticisms and praises alike!