Arriving Refugees Boost US Government Revenues

Posted by Terrence Isert, September 20, 2017

A draft US Health and Human Services report quantified a net positive boost to the US government coffers from newly arrived refugees. As reported in the NY Times, the study analyzing economic cost of refugee resettlement programs versus the cost of admitting them over a 10-year period from 2005 – 2014. The initial findings found a $63 billion net positive increase to US government revenues. The draft report can be found here.

Minority-Owned Business on the Rise

Posted by Terrence Isert on July 26, 2017

The 2017 annual U.S. Census of Survey of Entrepreneurs shows an increase in minority-owned businesses. Both payrolls and employment of minority-owned employers grew by nearly 5% over the period of 2014 to 2015. Women-owned firms grew annually be 3.0% over the same period. Not surprisingly, the highly-populated Mid-Atlantic/New England metropolitan areas and California accounted for a large share of the growth. Read more here.

Four Takeaways for Future Food Security in a Changing Climate

Posted by Terrence Isert, February 9, 2017

How does the world adapt its agricultural practices given the uncertainty of what has become an increasingly unpredictable set of weather patters across the globe? What are the key impacts and adaptations? Who should be involved in decision-making? Devex reports on a presentation by Emmy Simmons, a Senior Advisor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies on changing climate and agricultural impacts on future food security. Read more here.

Cash Grants instead of Welfare?

Posted by Terrence Isert, January 4, 2017

Is there a more efficient safety net delivery channel than the current welfare state in the US. A recent article by Richard Barlow of Cognescenti argues for just such a model. He cites the effectiveness of Brazilian model however there are tradeoffs. The US is not Brazil. One study calculates current welfare packages that include state and federal aid that provide a median of $29,000 in benefits compared to the $10,000 in cash per person that the author proposes. Is this a feasible fix or a voucher system in disguise?

EDA Awards Entrepreneurship and Innovation Grants for Growth

posted by Terrence Isert, December 6, 2016.

The US EDA awarded $15 million in entrepreneurship and innovation in 19 states throughout the US. Perhaps most notable is the concept that through these grants economic inclusion is not only fostered but considered essential to promote economic growth and more importantly, community stability and resilience to build foundations for future prosperity. Read more here.

Importance of Assessing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

By Terrence Isert, January 8, 2014

What builds a successful ecosystem to support entrepreneurship development? The concept of focusing on enabling environments is a global concerns for development practitioners and complementary to efforts to support entrepreneurs individually or in groups. The Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs provides a diagnostic toolkit for development practitioners to assess entrepreneurial ecosystems. Access the complete toolkit here.

A recent report from the World Economic Forum also details similar contextual challenges and opportunities that entrepreneurs face to launch and sustaining their businesses. The importance of access to markets, human capital and financing constitute a trifecta of priorities for budding entrepreneurs. Find the report here.

Changing Food Aid for the Better?

Posted on April 8, 2013 by Terrence Isert

An interesting change to food aid to be proposed by the Obama Administration in its 2014 budget  involves a restructuring of a 60-year practice in food aid for developing countries.  Instead of distributing food from the US, the change would permit food to be purchased locally or provide grants directly to charitable agencies for their humanitarian programs. An interesting debate that has been brewing around this issue for many years centers on US-agriculture global competitiveness versus the crowding out of local farmers. It is no doubt that food aid is a big business and that food is desperately needed. In 2012, the USDA  alone estimated that its food aid programs would benefit approximately 9.7 million people worldwide.   From 2006-10, the US shipped an average of 2.7 million metric tons of food at an average cost of $2.4 billion/fiscal year, largely (73%) to respond to emergency and relief needs. The GAO  issued findings on food aid effectiveness in a  2011 report that stated food aid cost the US government an additional $219 million over a 3 year period (2007- 2010). This was due in part to inefficient monetization, the term used to describe how aid agencies sell US food commodities overseas to get funding for their programs. The GAO study recommended closer market price monitoring by USAID and USDA and reducing maritime shipping costs (a third of overall food aid costs) by increasing competition to reduce this loss. What will be interesting to watch as this debate unfolds is whether the US government, private sector, and the humanitarian community can reform food aid in a meaningful way to more effectively address poverty and other root causes to world hunger. Watch this space for more news.


Crowdfunders for Entrepreneurs and more: Kickstarter and Indiegogo lead the way

Posted on March 27, 2013 by Terrence Isert

Crowdfunding platforms are becoming the rage as entrepreneurs and individuals with a creative flair search for typically small-scale financing options. Imagine you are an individual entrepreneur with a great idea or a local project with real potential for social impact in your community but no money to get it going. Or a charity that needs to go beyond its traditional and fatigued donor base to expand its outreach in its community to just a few more poor households. What do you do? You turn to what is known as a crowdfunding portal where you upload your story, even a photo or two, and socially-minded individuals, anywhere in the world can read your story and send you the capital, piecemeal and small-scale to get going. Kickstarter or Indiegogo,  the successful leading sites have spawned a “crowd” of new crowdfunding sites, as Inc. magazine reports. Newcomers such as  MicroryzaPetridish, and Iamscientist now provide a way to raise money only for scientists and scientific research. Razoo and GoFundMe works their magic for charities and nonprofit organizations.  exclusively. Cause to Fund and ioby specialize in the local community impact projects, such as homeless projects, community gardens and neighborhood clean-ups.  Read the full article here.

Rising Spirit of Youth Entrepreneurship

Posted on March 14,2013 by Terrence Isert

Youth entrepreneurship has become paramount for the stability and economic advancement of many countries. The demographic shift in developing countries in particular has produced far more youth than older adults. An ILO report on global youth employment  estimated in 2012 that there were 1.8 billion youth in the world with more than 75 million ages 15-24 struggling to find work.  In many regions of the world, the future of a country’s economy lies in getting youth to think of entrepreneurship as an option. In the Arab world, Qatar apparently is leading the way. The country posted the highest rate of youth that expressed an interest in becoming an entrepreneur as compared to its neighbors in the region.  The Silatech Index report, Qatar’s Rising Entrepreneurial Spirit found that Qatari 33% of youth reported their intention to start a business in the next 12 months which continues an increasing trend since 2009. Compare this result to the median figure of 9% across the rest of the Arab world and it demonstrates a clear difference. The US by comparison in 2012 had a stable trend of 43% of youth between grades 4 through 12 (10 – 18 yrs.) who wanted to start a business according to a Gallup survey. Many factors obviously are necessary to encourage this spirit of entrepreneurship in any country. Still these figures are encouraging as youth’s enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is rising, giving hope for future economic prospects.

Is Solar Power Coming of Age? Crowdfunding Investing

Posted on March 7, 2013 by Terrence Isert

The New York Times’ David Bornstein thinks so. Apparently so does Warren Buffet. His MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company floated a first-ever $850 million bond offering for Topaz Solar Farm, a U.S. photovoltaic power project — which was reportedly oversubscribed by $400 million.   The article in the Times profiles Mosaic, a start-up investment start-up in Oakland, CA that rolled out an online crowdfunding platform for small, non-accredited investors to pony up as little as $25 for solar investments for a 4.5% return. The star-tup raised the $313,000 in 24 hours instead of the 30 days the firm had projected.

Solar energy has become an increasingly cost-effective option. The article cites reports that innovations in solar panel technology and manufacturing has dropped the retail price of panels by 80% over the past 5 years. This development and other key strategic partnerships have allowed First Solar, a solar energy generator to provide power to El Paso Electric, a Texas utility at around half the price per kilowatt as compared to coal-burning power plants. Is Solar energy finally coming of age? If it hasn’t already, it appears to be on a horizon that is fast approaching. Read the entire NY Times article here.