Initiative for Global Development


This high-powered, low-profile Seattle gang fighting global poverty means business | 

I’m not easily surprised, but I have to admit to being surprised at how few folks in Seattle appear know about the Initiative for Global Development.

You’d think an anti-poverty organization started by leading Seattle philanthropist Bill Clapp, founding EPA head Bill Ruckelshaus, Bill Gates Sr. (yes there are lots of jokes about the predominance of Bills), former US Senator Dan Evans and late former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili would get a lot of public attention. Nope.

“We’re more well known in Washington, D.C., than we are in Seattle,” chuckled Jennifer Potter, who is stepping down as president and CEO of this powerful but locally off-the-radar organization launched here in 2003. Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green, who just started this week, is taking the helm.

Jennifer Potter and Bill Clapp celebrate a decade of the Initiative for Global Development, a uniquely Northwest contributor to the fight against global poverty
Jennifer Potter and Bill Clapp celebrate a decade of the Initiative for Global Development, a uniquely Northwest contributor to the fight against global poverty

The project, IGD, was first conceived by Potter and Clapp largely in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept, 11, 2001. Continue reading

Making it work for multinational corporations and smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe | 

In the debate over how best to help poor farmers in Africa, the tendency is often to pit the interests of smallholder farmers as necessarily opposed to the interests of large or multi-national corporations.

One fellow in Zimbabwe, who recently spoke in Seattle at the invitation of the Initiative For Global Development, thinks that ain’t necessarily so.


Pat Devinish

Pat Devenish is CEO of AICO Africa, a sort of corporate-cooperative of farmers in Zimbabwe.

As this story today by Interpress notes:

The presence of an agro-industrial company with headquarters in Zimbabwe on a list of sub-Saharan Africa’s 30 best-performing companies might surprise some, but not AICO Africa CEO Pat Devenish.

AICO Africa has taken advantage of favourable agriculture policy across Southern Africa to expand its business, in the process strengthening some 200,000 small scale producers in the region.

As Devenish said in Seattle, in late July, during an event held at the Rainier Club:

“Agriculture is the key to Africa’s success because we have so many resources in place. We have excellent land in many African countries and vast water resources. We have a large small-scale farming sector, who require agriculture as a way of making a living, and are very good at it.”

The majority of Africans depend on agriculture as a primary source of income and investments that benefit smallholder farmers have a direct impact on poverty reduction. AICO’s cotton business has achieved regional success through a “bottom of the pyramid” business model that provides financing, advisory services, and access to markets for over 100,000 smallholder farmers. Mr. Devenish explains to business people that smallholder farmers are “a hugely underrated resource and will contribute tremendously to the growth of the African economy.”

A(nother) guy named Bill creating Seattle’s do-gooder community | 

Bill Clapp

Some of the most amazing people I know on this beat — covering Seattle’s role in global health and poverty reduction — are named Bill.

There’s Bill Gates, of course, his bold and insightful (and often funny) dad Bill Gates Sr., Bill Foege, the local doc who figured out how to beat smallpox, and then there’s Bill Clapp.

I can’t really quantify this, but I don’t think many would argue with me if I said that Bill Clapp has probably done more than any other single person (named Bill or not) over the years to try to promote the culture, the emerging community, of do-gooders in Seattle and throughout this region.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is the 8,000-lb gorilla on the scene today, of course. The Gates Foundation and its primary mission of global health tend to dominate the do-gooder conversation and media coverage.

But Clapp and his wife Paula were active philanthropists fighting poverty years before Bill and Melinda Gates got into the act — and well before most of us were really paying that much attention.

Flickr, papalars

This is the second of three parts in a series looking at how Seattle’s burgeoning humanitarian “sector” is coalescing, coming together. As noted in the first post, it’s a bit of a hodgepodge right now, with hundreds of groups working on their own, often unaware of others with shared interests and missions.

Moving from this creative chaos to community has long been one of Clapp’s primary aims.

“I believe in synergy, the power of collaboration,” he said.

He and Paula have launched or helped launch several initiatives aimed at creating this kind of synergy — the Seattle International Foundation (subject of my first post), Global Washington and the Initiative for Global Development.

Arguably, all of them are different means to the same end — bringing people together to figure out how to make the world a better place. Continue reading