Wednesday, February 17, 2010

GDI premiers at W&L

Its Wednesday evening, and so far this week the W&L community has been incredibly receptive and responsive to what the General Development Initiative has to offer them. There is always a level of hesitancy on my part as to how people are going to react to a new concept that so much time and effort has been invested into. Any such minute worries have been quelled, and GDI is well on its way. I am incredibly excited about the formal organizational meeting we will be having on March 4th. I expect a great turnout of ambitious students from an array of academic backgrounds.

Professor Casey is scheduled to be making (several?) appearances at W&L alumni event(s) over the break to talk about the direction education at W&L is heading. With some luck he will be able to slip in a sentence or two about the concept of the General Development Initiative, and perhaps drum up some much needed support from the extended W&L community. Things have been moving quickly lately, its very exciting. The future is full of promise for W&L students and the General Development Initiative.

On a final note...lets go Virginia Commonwealth, we need that legal incorporation.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Big Week for GDI

This coming week of February 14th, we at GDI will be officially introducing the Initiative to the W&L campus. As Jarrett was talking about recently, GDI has undergone significant changes since the close of the fall semester; we believe that it is time to open our idea up to our fellow students and faculty. Many hours of work have gone into how to best present GDI to the campus, and I believe that we are now prepared.

We are still waiting on a response from the Virginia State Corporation Commission regarding official legal recognition as an established corporation, but the red tape is not slowing down the evolution of the project. Who knew that the government was so bureaucratic?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The General Development Initiative: Romer is Right

Paul Romer has written extensively over the years about his views on the greatest driver of economic growth and improvements in the quality of life: IDEAS. The General Development Initiative (GDI), although still in its infancy, is now a reality. Once upon a time it was nothing more than an idea.

I began teaching development economics in the fall of 2001. I was vaguely familiar with the concept of service-learning and thought it highly relevant for the teaching and study of development. As part of the first course I taught, I asked students to volunteer at a local organization that worked with people suffering from the consequences of living in poverty. My thought was that the only way to truly understand development and poverty alleviation theories was to see them in practice. In addition to working with "the poor" students were required to write a short paper relating their personal experiences to a theoretical construct from class. The most common service provided was tutoring a young person in the local schools and then relating this experience to human capital theories. Students were able to see how their time spent with a young person could potentially be related to that person's future income and well-being. The most common papers used a Solow-Growth framework to discuss the long run implications of investing in a child's human capital.

I continued to use this service component for three years. During that time period students at Washington and Lee gave over 1000 hours of service to our local community. Based on comments from course evaluations - they also gained invaluable insights into what in means to be poor and how theories from our class cuold be used to alleviate the condition. In 2004, I took a semester away from the classroom and thought about how we could expand our local service projects....

to be continued.........

The General Development Initiative, Inc. is now on Dvelo

Its been a while since our last post, and a lot has changed here at the General Development Initiative.

Starting this year, myself, Ben Ersing, and Cailin Slattery along with Professor James Casey have taken the GDI from a class project to beginning a 501 (c) 3 corporation filed under the name The General Development Initiative, Inc.

Along with a new official title, the GDI has begun to invest through One of the goals of the GDI is to raise new funds to invest in microfinance loans. Currently, the GDI has some funds in However, the structure of Kiva is not as transparent as we would like to see, and we cannot receive any return on our investment. While our goal is not to turn a profit, we would like to see our investments grow so we have larger amounts of capital to invest in other loans. We have now, as previously mentioned, moved to Dvelo allows for higher interest rates, in addition to providing risk ratings and information about the MicroFinance Institutions (MFIs) that are partnered with Dvelo to administer the loans across the world.

To view our current loan portfolio, as well as the loans that our friends have made, visit If you are interested in getting involved with the GDI, email us at or message us on Dvelo.