Monday, June 19, 2006

What is this Underdog thing?

Why is this blog called "Pulling for the Underdog?"

Because I like helping people realize their potential - especially those who have not gotten a fair shot so far.

This does not mean everyone will succeed. It means they should have a fair shot.

There are some open and performance-based systems in the world. But in many cases people don't have access to "show their stuff." And so even if their "stuff" is good, it does not get recognized and rewarded.

This holds true within organizations and companies as well as political systems.

One of the pre-cursors of GlobalGiving was the Innovation Marketplace. This was a physical event in the atrium of the World Bank in 1998. It allowed any Bank staff member, without exception or regard to rank, to pitch an idea for funding. At the end of that day, there was a grown man - a senior economist - crying, because he had never had his idea heard by the bureaucracy. If a senior economist at the World Bank was having trouble getting his idea heard, we realized how much harder it must be for most people in the world.

So we decided to do the Development Marketplace in, except this time we allowed almost anyone in the world to participate. This time we had 339 extraordinary finalists from around the world, ranging from supreme court justices from Latin America to NASA scientists to women from Uganda who had never been outside of their home provinces. None of these people had access to the World Bank system. When the Ugandan women asked me whether it was true that the World Bank president was going to hear their idea, I pretty much broke down.

At the end of the Development Marketplace, a woman from South Africa came up to us and said "I didn't win." "Well it's a competition," I replied, "Not everyone can win." "Well when does the secondary market start," she demanded to know, and continued: "Just because the World Bank didn't fund my idea doesn't mean that there are not others out there who will support it."

She was right, and that is how GlobalGiving was born. My co-founder and I resigned from the World Bank about six months later to start GlobalGiving.

GlobalGiving is about not only enabling your idea to be heard by the World Bank president. It is about enabling your idea to be heard - and potentially supported - by anyone in the world.

That is why I call it Pulling for the Underdog.

PS: The Ugandan women beat out the NASA scientist for funding.
PPS: I welcome your comments. Please provide your name and email.