Slideshow: Volunteering in The Jungle – A Journey to the Calais Refugee Camp

By Katya Akulinicheva

At 3:45am on a grim November Saturday, my alarm marked the start of what was going to be a very long day. Wearing rainboots and with my duffle bag in hand, I set off for my 5-hour journey with a volunteer group called Greenlight from London to the refugee camp in Calais: a port city in northern France known as “The Jungle” for its chaotic organisation and basic conditions. My mission was first personal – to see for myself what life in the camps is like and to do my small bit to help – and also professional, to see what the sanitation facilities are like and to speak to NGOs on the ground.

The Calais camp was initially intended to “house” about 1,000 people. At its peak, there were about 8,000 people; now there are about 6,500 all hoping to get into the UK. The UK has pledged to take 20,000 Syrians by 2020. The first few hundred were admitted last month and the process will continue slowly.

Around 80% of the camp dwellers are adult men – most of them left their families behind in warmer countries like Turkey and Greece, hoping to send for them once they have a more permanent solution. Only about 50% of the refugees in this camp are Syrian. The rest are mostly Sudanese and Eritrean. This fact alone illustrates the complexity of finding a one-stop solution, or to applying a single logic, to the refugee crisis.

In October, NGOs started advocating for the French government to take responsibility for the inhumane conditions of the camp, even if temporary: there was 1 toilet to every 75 inhabitants (UNHCR’s minimum is emergency situations is 1 for every 20 people), water sources were contaminated by feces, many inhabitants suffered from tuberculosis, scabies, and post-traumatic stress, and there were rats in the tents.In November, a number of NGOs took the Calais government to court over serious violations of human rights, and the court ordered the government to put in place waste management, latrines, and water points. Since then, the French government has hired humanitarian NGO Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED) to take charge of sanitation and waste disposal.

At the Camp

Upon arrival, I spend several hours sorting incoming clothing donations and organising them by type, gender, and size. Working alongside me are volunteers of all ages, nationalities, and religions. Some had come for a day, some for a weekend, and others for several weeks.

Then it’s time to see the camp, which is located in an industrial waste site; in November, the water in the camp was found to be contaminated with asbestos. Rain slashes my face and the wind howls, but life in the camp goes on. Camp dwellers line up for food and water, socializing as they wait.

The seasoned volunteers I spoke with said that conditions had improved significantly since the court order in November. More stable tents and structures are being constructed around the camp, and raised platforms are being brought in to place under tents so people can get though the cold winter. ACTED will continue their involvement at least until the Spring to install bins, additional water points, and latrines. But clearly a lot remains to be done and physical and human resources are limited.

As the sun starts to set, I rush back with other volunteers to our warm, dry bus. Volunteer buses have to leave before dark to make sure that refugees don’t try to hide in the luggage compartment.


It’s very difficult to form a single point of view on what is happening in Calais and what should be done about it. Most of the refugees were working age men, yet volunteers from the UK had to come to clean up the rubbish – this seemed a bit wrong. But then, I have no idea how destitute I would feel having left my war-torn country, sailed to Europe in an oil tanker, and walked across Europe in shorts and flip-flops leaving my children behind. And somewhere out there are the children that they left behind, also without a home and a clear vision of their future.

The one unmistakable emotion I felt was hope for humanity, having seen how many volunteers chose to give their weekends (and in many cases several weeks) to build tents, carry rubbish, cook meals, and sort boxes in response to this crisis. The hope I felt when I was invited inside a dry tent by a refugee who has nothing to call his own. As long as people like that live, there is hope for a better world.

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A Crystal Ball for Global Development: What Will Happen in 2016?

This article was originally published on Huffington Post Impact.

By Yana Watson Kakar, Madji Sock, and Shyam Sundaram

True to hopes, 2015 was a landmark year for global development. Two decades of talks yielded an ambitious, universal agreement to fight climate change and the UN General Assembly defined the next 15 years of development targets with the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and agreed to a framework for financing them. However, as with any year, 2015 brought in unexpected crises: millions of Syrian refugees, an earthquake in Nepal, and violent extremism around the world in Kenya, Mali, France, Iraq, Lebanon, and many other countries.

n-UNITED-NATIONS-FLAG-628x314What is 2016 going to bring? Predictions are a tricky business, but we think these are going to be defining themes for the coming year in global development:

Blended finance will become the de facto way to finance development priorities. 
The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are in effect, but there’s currently a 2.6 trillion funding gap for the SDGs per year - roughly equivalent to the GDP of Brazil. Traditional development aid cannot fill this void alone; more private sector involvement is critical to the success of the SDGs. However, investments in emerging markets are lagging and major funds have lost between 12 and 30 percent of their value in the past five years. Moreover, for the first time in nearly three decades, investors have pulled more money out of emerging markets than they have put in.

Is this a death knell for the development goals? Not at all. We predict increased investment in blended finance, a new way to use public funds to entice private capital towards investments that have financial, social, and environmental gains. The recent launch of the Convergence platform at Davos is a good first step. We also believe that there will be a growth in financing from developing countries themselves: think tax revenues, private domestic savings, pension funds, private equity markets, and remittances. Combined these can surpass current aid flows.

The implication? The public sector needs to design structures and initiatives that incentivize the private sector to collaborate with them – they will not be able to achieve the ambitious SDGs alone.

The race for a new UN Secretary General (SG) will result in a clarified mandate for the United Nations. 
The UN had a few successes in 2015 (read: SDGs and climate agreement) but it has fallen far short in maintaining peace and security – it was hampered in its ability to broker solutions in Syria and Yemen and in protecting human rights in Daesh territory. Continue reading

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Launch of Convergence: The World’s First Blended Finance Platform

Dalberg is thrilled to announce the launch of Convergence: the world’s first deal sourcing platform that helps public and private investors find and connect with each other for blended finance investments in emerging and frontier markets. Conceived under the World Economic Forum and OEC-DAC’s ReDesigning Development Finance Initiative, Convergence was designed and launched by the Global Development Incubator and Dalberg Global Development Advisors and is now an independent organization headquartered in Toronto.

ConvergenceConvergence aims to increase deals in emerging and frontier markets by connecting public, philanthropic, and private money and expertise through blended finance: the strategic use of public and philanthropic funds to attract private capital towards investments that can deliver development impact in emerging and frontier markets. When private investors can go in on a deal with public co-investment support, they benefit from lower risks and/or enhanced returns on these investments. This marks a midway point between traditional impact investing and purely commercial investing platforms, in a way that is region and sector-agnostic.

The platform serves three main purposes unique to today’s investing landscape:

  1. To connect credible private, public, and philanthropic investors with one another, helping them co-invest in deals that are listed on the Convergence platform;
  2. To provide over $7 million in grant funding to practitioners for the design of innovative finance products that would otherwise be too risky or complex to pursue;
  3. To ease the investment process for both new and experienced investors through a range of practical tools and resources on how to structure blended finance transactions and streamline the investment process.

So what does this look like in practice? Let’s say an asset manager (private investor) is looking to invest in a chain of low-cost hospitals targeting the poor in West Africa but fears that the macroeconomic climate is too risky. The investor has also never invested in West Africa before, and is unsure about how investments work in the region. This investor creates an account and logs on to Convergence. Through the Investment Network, the investor posts the West Africa hospitals investment opportunity and connects with public investors who have experience in low-cost healthcare, who have networks across West Africa, and who can help mitigate risks. The investor then uses the platform’s historic deals database to review comparable transactions that have happened in the past. A topic primer section helps the investor learn about the mandates, processes, and priorities of various potential public investor partners.

By connecting public, philanthropic, and private funds, Convergence is expected to unlock billions of private sector dollars for global development, which can lead to a ten-fold increase in overall investment in emerging and frontier markets. As we face a $2.5 trillion funding gap for the SDGs, the need for blended finance is more paramount than ever before.

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10 Global Health Trends from 2015 and What They Mean for the New Year

This article was originally published in NextBillion.

By Erin Barringer and Vicky Hausman

Screenshot_6At Dalberg, we recently took the time to reflect on some of the most exciting moments in global health in 2015 and what’s to come in 2016. Last year, our health team went to hospitals in rural Ethiopia to conduct human-centered design research; to the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Brazzaville to help improve organizational effectiveness; to mobile network operators’ boardrooms in Liberia to unlock greater digital connectivity as a tool to prevent future outbreaks…to name just a few projects. Here are the key trends and emerging topics that we saw along the way. Overall, these reflect a fundamental transition toward local ownership of health priorities, financing and implementation; a growing need to understand and target specific segments of populations, including a deeper knowledge of the human aspects of “beneficiaries” or “consumers”; and a shift in focus to several emerging areas of opportunity which are new to the global health agenda. We hope these will spark new ideas, collaborations, and debate.

1. The need for financial innovation is increasingly local. The most urgent areas in need of financial innovation are continuing to shift downstream and include local supply chains and local consumer finance and risk protection to support health and wellness. These needs are more grounded in local, country-specific context, and thus, at times, less scalable than past global “architecture”-level financing plays. We see some very promising bright spots of local financial innovation, such as Linda Jamii in Kenya or Naya Jeevan in India, expanding access to health insurance for expecting mothers and the working poor. However, the unmet needs and outstanding areas remain great, and more innovation is needed, particularly at the national and sub-national levels.

2. The first wave of “graduates” are coming; precedents are being set and there is huge potential for learning from their experience. With the prospect of looming “graduation” of countries from a variety of donor financing and support as they reach middle-income status, individual funders and institutions including Gavi, the Global FundUnitaid and PEPFAR have been grappling with the policies and mechanisms to best facilitate this process or more optimally allocate their funding while ensuring that public health gains are not lost. In June 2015, we watched with excitement as the Gavi board approved access to appropriate pricing to Gavi-graduated countries via discrete vaccine tenders and an extension of pre-financing support. In the coming year, these global health institutions should focus on investing in the evidence base and learning which policies can best support countries as they transition out of donor funding to ensure sustained positive public health outcomes.

3. A one-size-fits-all approach to influence doesn’t work. Over the past decade, opportunities to influence key global health decisions were in large part focused on global events such as the World Economic Forum or the UN General Assembly meetings. While those continue to be important moments, the reality is that achieving health impact often requires advocacy and policy efforts in a much more fragmented, local, ministerial space. For example, the Disease Control Priorities Network (DCPN) supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sits on a wealth of global health data. But at times there is almost too much data to parse through and the key points don’t reach decision-makers at the global or local levels. While working with DCPN earlier this year, we found ourselves wondering how to break this divide. Ministries of health are increasingly looking to evidence, expert advice, proven models and local input to determine their priorities and programs. However, what influences leadership in Addis Ababa is often distinct from what influences leadership in Kano or Kaduna State in Nigeria. More and more, we have been partnering with both global and local organizations to understand local geopolitical landscapes and potential pathways to influence.

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The Elephant in the Room: Financial Inclusion for the Missing Middle

By Joe Dougherty and Radoslava Dogandjieva

Giving poor people direct access to basic financial services is a laudable goal in
itself, one that can generate important benefits. However, while financial inclusion can help the poor improve their lives in some important ways, there is one thing it apparently does not do, at least as far as the research suggests: financial inclusion does not make a significant difference in helping people escape poverty.

If financial inclusion does not help lift families out of poverty, what does? Experience
suggests that the most reliable route out of poverty for low-income families in the developing world is access to formal employment. A large majority of the jobs in developing countries are in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)—the businesses that occupy the vast middle ground between microenterprises and large corporations. However, SMEs lack access to affordable capital, keeping them from truly impacting poverty rates.

This article published in MIT Innovations Journal explores the SME financing gap and ways to close it from a systems thinking perspective in light of past interventions that have not worked.

Read the article in full by clicking on the thumbnail:


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From Charity to Change: A Dynamic Approach to Building a Better World

by Joe Dougherty 

Mark ZuckerbergOn the first day of December, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan celebrated the birth of their daughter, by announcing their intention to direct 99% of their Facebook shares to a new philanthropic venture, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which will seek to “advance human potential and promote equality.” The announcement was met with a fair amount of criticism, mostly centered on the couple’s decision to make the Initiative a (potentially profit-making) corporation rather than a private foundation, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Critics like ProPublica’s Jesse Eisenger point out that Zuckerberg and Chan did not donate to charity but rather, “created an investment vehicle” which is subject to fewer legal restrictions than a nonprofit or a foundation and thus leaves Zuckerberg “completely free to do as he wishes with his money,” including investing it in profit-making ventures. This observation is certainly true… and it was certainly a good move for Zuckerberg and Chan, if they truly wish to advance human potential and promote equality.

Here’s why:  Charity, traditionally, is how the social sector helps meet a need that government or private companies don’t address – like sheltering the homeless or helping former prisoners find jobs, for example. This type of direct charity is important and, unfortunately, still very necessary. But most foundations – even well-established ones like the Rockefeller and MacArthur Foundations – have long since moved beyond traditional charity to seek lasting social change. Instead of just providing shelter for the homeless or helping former prisoners, they are also addressing the root causes of homelessness and asking why so many people are in prison in the first place. Rather than perpetually filling the gaps left by government and markets, modern philanthropists are exploring whether governments and/or the private sector can permanently close those gaps. This is old news, and most people would agree that it makes more sense to look for sustainable solutions rather than stop-gap measures – in other words, philanthropy should not simply apply band-aids to society’s wounds but rather, help create a healthier society.

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Mobilizing Banking for Indonesia’s Poor

By Michael Mori and Trevor Zimmer

Indonesia is the largest consumer market in Southeast Asia and a member of the G20, yet it has one of the biggest underbanked populations in the world. As of 2014, only 36 percent of Indonesia’s 243 million people were banked, leaving the majority financially excluded, exposed to risk, and left to manage their finances with mostly inefficient, informal services.

Although formal financial services have the potential to improve the livelihoods of these underbanked millions, growth in the mobile phone market in Indonesia presents an opportunity to offer mobile financial services. However, despite the potential convenience, mobile financial services have failed to gain traction among Indonesian consumers.

This article published in MIT Innovations Journal demonstrates how, if designed well, priced competitively, and distributed widely, mobile financial services have enormous potential to drive financial inclusion and promote inclusive growth in Indonesia.

Click on the thumbnail to read the full article:


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Do you have what it takes to be a climate negotiator? Take this quiz and find out

World leaders descended on Paris earlier this week to negotiate a climate change agreement. This is a seminal moment for our planet and stakes couldn’t be higher — this is about keeping earth habitable for all. So, what if you could attend the talks? Would you be an effective climate change negotiator? Try your hand at the questions below to find out.

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How Gayle Smith Can Solidify the Obama Administration’s Development Legacy: An Open Letter

This article originally appeared on

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate confirmed that Gayle Smith will lead the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). As she begins in her role today, the following letter details how Ms. Smith can fortify USAID’s institutional strength in the years to come.

By Matt Frazier and Rebecca Grubman

Dear Ms. Smith,

Congratulations on your nomination to be the next Administrator of USAID. Your predecessor, Rajiv Shah, helped raise USAID’s profile in Congress and across the wider development community. Working closely with the White House – and with you in particular – USAID has established innovative initiatives from Feed the Future to the Global Development Lab and Power Africa. These programs have broadened the tools that the agency can use to pursue its mission, while bringing in new – sometimes unexpected – partners to help that mission along.

USAIDThat said, many USAID programs and initiatives launched during the Obama Administration are still developing. There is risk of institutional fatigue as the agency continues to meet a changing external environment. With only two years left in the Obama Administration, the legacy of recently launched USAID programs will be at risk as an incoming Administration adopts a new set of priorities. We therefore recommend you focus on consolidating and securing this Administration’s long-term commitment to ending extreme poverty in our lifetime, while fortifying USAID’s institutional health for the coming decade.

1. Maintain and Strengthen the Development Coalition in Washington, and Beyond 

Your experience in Washington proves you understand the importance of leadership in DC. Dr. Shah spent much of his tenure forging relationships with both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, and bringing in nontraditional actors – such as the faith community – previously marginalized or less involved in discussions with USAID. Your experience leading interagency efforts around global development gives you a powerful ability to work with political allies and across other arms of the US Government. This creates a broader constituency in support of USAID, its mission, and its programs.

Such constituencies can be fragile, however, requiring constant engagement. Few of USAID’s recent initiatives have been converted into legislation; they rely instead on discretionary decision-making within the agency and can be easily unwound as priorities (and budgets) shift. It is striking that five chairs of the seven subcommittees of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations have not yet served a full Senate term. As new voices take greater leadership in Washington, you ought to proactively seek new political champions to make the case for USAID’s mission and programs.

At the same time, we know that the global battle against poverty has new actors – most notably companies increasingly willing to work in so-called “frontier markets.” USAID’s approach to private-sector engagement, along with its focus on technology and data, puts it in the vanguard of most bilateral aid agencies. Still, companies tell us that USAID too often wants to “call all the shots” instead of collaborating. Replicating successful initiatives such as Power Africa, creating more intuitive and consistent mechanisms for engagement and outreach, and hiring staff with a mix of public- and private-sector experience will help ensure that USAID continues to widen the coalition of partners willing to engage in its mission.

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21st Century’s Emerging Inequality

By Gaurav Gupta

In the current discussion on rising inequality, it’s easy to overlook the fact that inequality was the norm, and simply expected, throughout most of history. Not until the 20th century did equality become a leading value. Last month at the Asia Society in Mumbai, Yuval Noah Harari delivered a thought-provoking lecture on equality, past, present, and especially future, followed by a Q&A with Dalberg’s Asia Regional Director, Gaurav Gupta.

Harari, author of a new book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, predicts a “new inequality” between an upgraded elite and a new “useless” proletariat. Through this discussion of the long-term view of inequality in the coming century, Gaurav and Yuval detail technology’s ability to act as both an equalizer and a replacer of human skill, and the role and evolution of belief systems in societies of the future.

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