Author: Lance McNeill

World Bank Report Misses Needed Substantive Analysis for Crowdfunding’s Potential in the Developing World

Recently (October, 2013), InfoDev, a program of the World Bank, commissioned a study on crowdfunding’s potential for the developing world. This is an important report because, to the best of my knowledge, it’s the first on crowdfunding as a tool for development commissioned by the World Bank or any entity of similar international authority. While this report will act as a much needed catalyst for a very important and lengthy conversation to come, I believe there is additional research and analysis warranting the World Bank’s immediate attention and resources. The report analyzes a sample of known crowdfunding portals (CFPs) from...

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Democratizing Foreign Aid

  In one of his first presidential directives, President Obama called for more transparency, participation, and collaboration between the government and its people. The state of our democracy is under question because of money in politics, political inequality, and opaque backroom deal making that creates conflicts of interest in public policy. Advancements in technology and innovations like crowdsourcing, crowdvoting, and crowdfunding present an opportunity to improve the democratic process. The foreign aid process is ripe for improvement through these innovative technologies. According to the United States Agency for International Development, U.S Official Development Assistance (ODA) totaled $30.8 billion in 2011. Top recipients included: Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Pakistan, Iraq, Kenya, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Gaza, Haiti, and South Africa. Various sectors of aid disbursement include action relating to debt, administrative costs of donors, agriculture, construction, tourism, etc. Although this level of transparency might satisfy some, if the average voter sought to learn more about specific projects funded, they would have to sort through data scattered throughout USAID’s website.   Transparency aside, there is no opportunity for a voter to choose which countries, which sectors, or which projects receive funding. Of course a concerned and active citizen could write and lobby their representative, but the time, bureaucracy, and inefficiencies of the current process are discouraging. On their website, USAID published its commitment to innovative transparency, but they may...

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The Truth About Payday Lending

Next time you drive around town, count the number of payday lenders you see. Signs for title loans are likely to pop up every other block. If you have never used a payday loan before, then you might be as ignorant as I was about how they operate. The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released its report "Payday Lending in America: Who Borrows, Where They Borrow, and Why."  According to the study, approximately 12 million Americans have used a payday loan in the past year. You might have seen commercials advertising payday loans as short-term loans designed to free you from an unexpected or emergency financial situation. The reality, however, is that seven out of ten borrowers are using the loan to pay for recurring expenses, such as rent, utilities and other monthly bills rather than for unexpected or emergency expenses.  Furthermore, because of the way payday loans are designed, most borrowers end up having to take out or renew a loan eight times a year on average. Let me explain how this works: First, let's take a look at the scenario of one person – let's call her Betty Borrower. She is part of the demographic most likely to be a payday borrower: she's African American (African Americans are 105 times more likely to use payday lending compared to other ethnic groups), 28 years old, divorced, making under $25,000 a year,...

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