The World Bank has published a very intriguing site called DoingBusiness.org Benchmarking business regulations. The title sounds boring, but the potential for positive impact in the developed and developing world is anything but.
Many charities have strong emotional appeal, feeding starvation victims, minimizing conflict, fighting disease etc. Many charities are very successful due to their appeal to basic emotions. The ability to reply to cry for help is powerful. these organizations can and do perform much good. There is however a set of work that has less "sex" read emotional appeal, but can make things better for everyone.
For example one of the leading causes of death among children and infants in the developing world is diarrhea, this is a sad fact. Another sad fact is that most famines, and other "TV quality" issues are actually preventable.
The Nobel prize winner, Amartya Sen has stated that no widespread famine has ever occurred in a "functioning pluralistic democracy", this is due to the fact that democracies usually have feedback mechanisms that allow for mitigating small crises, before they manifest themselves into humanitarian disasters.
Another issue that is popular currently is anti-globalization. Unfortunately, the anti-globalisers end goals of better lives for the poor aren't really served by either the protests or anti-capitalist positioning they espouse. Many studies and reports indicate that development, increased living standards and personal security most often go hand in hand with rising GDP in an economy. Exceptions do occur for easily extractable mineral or oil resources.
Business creates jobs. Jobs and property ownership improve people's lives and help the cultivation of a middle class, which usually seeks education and improved say in the national affairs. Many theories of democracy assume a "Stable" middle class is a key component to a sustainable mature multi-party democracy.
The doing business site from the world bank indicates, some of the legal restrictions that hinder economic and therefore personal growth within various countries around the world. Better business practice is usually a function of better legal procedure and effective bureaucracy. This is hardly sexy stuff and most certainly not suitable for the evening news.
The results of improved business policy and procedure however is truly amazing. The estimate is 2.3% of growth per year DoingBusinessReport for the lowest quartile economic performers. This means $10's of billions of dollars and 10's of millions of lives improved just by changing policy and procedure. No miracle drugs, flights of AID, foreign intervention or billion dollar wasteful projects. Change from within countries can create billions in value and change millions of lives. Now that is sexy. The payoff from changing a policy relative to the payoff is truly impressive and exciting.
In the next few years, I will be seeking to build an open source website and PR campaign to highlight the opportunities and potential for improving throughout the world. The core philosophy is that 95% of solving a social social solution, which poverty is, is getting people to agree on the nature of the problem.
Therefore the first part of my project will be a series of tools to make the Worldbank statistics more media and individual digestible and friendly. The Worldbank has done a fantastic job of compiling and presenting the data from over 3,000 sources. My belief is that an open source "wiki" approach which allow open collaboration and access to the data and the related issues, can radically accelerate the rate of change from within the various countries that have the most to gain from improving the policies and procedures relating to property and business at levels ranging from the individual to the small enterprise.
So let's get started framing the opportunity to make things better....
If anyone wants to help out contact me: Nick (at) gogerty (dot) com.
We will need wiki experts graphic experts, flash gurus and many multi-language skilled people. The oppurtunity create billions in value for millions of people means each volunteer will indirectly have a profound if immeasurable influence for bettering the lives of many.