You’d be forgiven for thinking microfinance has gone wildly out of fashion. The “development caravan”—defined as the wagon train of poverty interventions that excite donors—has pulled away from micro-lending, drawn to more powerful things like BRAC-style graduation programmes (which aim to “graduate” people from extreme poverty into a sustainable livelihood) and bKash-like mobile money, according to recent coverage in The Economist.
Unmanned aerial vehicles have populated both the imagination and nightmares of people around the world in recent years. In April, the United States Navy announced an experimental programme called LOCUST (Low-Cost UAV Swarming Technology), which officials promise will “autonomously overwhelm an adversary” and thus “provide Sailors and Marines a decisive tactical advantage.”
It’s time again for the once-every-so-often ranking of NGOs, and we’re proud to announce that BRAC has again placed near the top. “The agile giant of the development world,” in the words of Global Geneva, BRAC has been ranked number two out of 500 NGOs in the world.
Friends and supporters have reached out to BRAC with concern and support. In Sierra Leone and Liberia, we have 907 full-time staff, and about as many self-employed community health promoters. Our staff is safe, though sadly, some of our microfinance clients are among the more than 1,000 who have died.
I wrote last week about the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa and what can be done to stop it. Thanks in part to help from supporters in North America, including the actor Jeffrey Wright, BRAC USA has responded with emergency funding to BRAC Sierra Leone to contain the crisis.
Fears are rising in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea that the deadly Ebola virus is spreading out of control. I spoke to Tapan Karmakar, country representative of BRAC Sierra Leone. “People are now afraid,” he told me. Additional funding is needed for community health workers to reach remote areas.
People often ask what BRAC stands for, and why they should support a nonprofit with such a strange name. BRAC is among the most credible and cost-effective nonprofit organizations in the world, but I think people should remain skeptical of such claims, even when they come from a cause that seems worthy.
Last year, I met a few of the Bangladeshi garment workers who survived Rana Plaza. I heard their stories, and today, on the one-year anniversary, I feel the need to share one of them. This is really a story of mothers and daughters. A year ago today, more than 1,134 Bangladeshi garment workers went to work and didn’t come home. Fearful of losing their jobs, they entered a building they knew was unsafe. They died crushed by the rubble.
When people talk about BRAC, often the first person they'll mention is the founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, who sold his apartment in London in 1972 and used the money for relief in post-war Bangladesh. They'll talk about how the organization grew and grew, how it now reaches millions.
I was psyched to read about David Lee Roth and his famous brown M&Ms in Atul Gawande's The Checklist Manifesto over the weekend. It's a favorite story of mine, as I've often considered it a metaphor for Great and Meaningful Things.