Sense-Making Xmas Gifts
Monday December 20th 2010, 22:37h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Private

TearFund Geschenk

People, and even children, work without fair compensation so that we may celebrate cheap Merry Christmas (see an impressive documentary on child work in chocolate production or read this authentic report on cheap t-shirts by H&M). Therefore this year I don’t want to participate in the ‘consumania’ but be a Christmas Revolutionary! Here are several creative ways to give sense-making Christmas presents:

Giving aid
Besondere Geschenke von TearFund Schweiz
Hilfe schenken von HEKS
Kiva - Loans that change lives (remembered through Marcel Widmer)

Fairtrade presents
Geschenk-Sets von
Claro Fairtrade Geschenke
Max Havelaar zertifizierte Geschenke
Geschenke auf
rrrevolve - der nachhaltige Concept Store (hint from Tania Woodhatch)

Do you know of other sense-making gift websites? Please write a comment!

Vote Against Swiss Weapon Exports!
Thursday November 19th 2009, 15:11h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Politics

There hasn’t been a political vote for a long time that has been so important to me: the prohibition of weapon exports. I’ve given several public statements at StopArmut events, discussion panels and party meetings on my opinion to ban Swiss military exports. Below is the ad which was published in several newspapers yesterday. And tonight I’ll be going resp. laying on the street at the biggest Swiss Flashmob ever!

My peace ad

Meeting Micheline Calmy-Rey
Wednesday November 11th 2009, 22:09h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Politics

Hansjörg Leutwyler, Matthias Stürmer, Micheline Calmy-Rey, Martin Dahinden, Walter Donzé

Today was one of my most political days:

First, in the afternoon, I met Federal Council Micheline Calmy-Rey and Martin Dahinden, the director of the Swiss Development Agency, in order to pass them on a petition of our campaign StopArmut 2015. They took 20 minutes to listen to our concern that Switzerland joins the Global Framework for Action on Water and Sanitation. Later in the news Swiss national radio station SR DRS as well as several online platforms reported about the event.

Then later in the evening I participated in a panel discussion about the early vote on the prohibition of Swiss weapon exports. Although only a few people attended the discussion it was an interesting conversation as my opponent was a member of the same party as I’m in, the Swiss Evangelical People’s Party EVP. Therefore we share many similar values but still came to a different conclusion about the impact of such a weapon export prohibition. Fritz Heiniger’s main argument was that GSoA, the originator of the initiative, just wants to abolish the Swiss army - which is true but has nothing to do with the current vote!

Let’s Make Money
Thursday November 13th 2008, 22:34h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, Fairtrade, Politics

Today I went to the first national screening of the new documentary Let’s Make Money which comes to Swiss movie theaters on January 22nd, 2009. The film made by the director of We Feed the World, Erwin Wagenhofer, seeks to explain the enormously complex financial system of today’s world - timing couldn’t be better! In its 109 minutes the movie portraits e.g. the mercyless emergin markets investor Mark Mobius, pictures the declining cotton production in Burkina Faso, demonstrates the strategy of tax evasion through offshore locations and shows in many more illustrative examples the unfairness of the neoliberal system.

Next to the scandalous stories I was particularly shocked by the apparently negative involvement of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Assuming only a fraction of what the movie showed is true, I really worry about the doubtful role these international institutions have played and maybe still do. By so-called economic hit mans such as John Perkins poor countries are basically blackmailed by WB and IMF to liberalize their economies and privatize public institutions (luckily for the institutions, there are voices calling Perkins a conspiracy theorist).

In general I believe Let’s Make Money is a great movie asking the right questions - even if the answers are maybe not always that perfectly staged. More information about Let’s Make Money and its background is documented in the press folder.

Also interesting in this context: Sukuma, a great new competition intends to find the most creative ideas on how to visualize issues of the Millennium Development Goals and on Fairtrade.

Sukuma - submit your movie clip idea!

My First Sermon - StopArmut Sunday 2008
Thursday October 23rd 2008, 14:18h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics

Well, my presentation last Sunday at EGW Steffisburg concerning the StopArmut Sunday 2008 was officially called just an ‘input’ ;) But thanks to all those who provided great feedback on an early version of the text I was able to write it almost like a sermon. Thanks to Stefan Hochstrasser, Joël Lavanchy, Dominic Roser, Anne Barth-Gasser, Barbara Hämmerli, Til Gerber, Gerhard Bärtschi and Markus Meury!

Text | PDF Slides | MP3

StopArmut Sunday at EGW Steffisburg

StopArmut Sunday at EGW Steffisburg

Visiting University of Göttingen
Friday October 17th 2008, 0:35h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, FLOSS, Linux, Private, Research

At the moment I’m visiting Göttingen on a short two-day trip. Tobias Lechtenfeld, a longtime colleague whom I got to know during my US high school year in 1997, invited me to University of Göttingen to present at the cege Research Seminar. The presentation of our Nokia paper with a focus on the Private-Collective model of innovation went well, the participants asked a lot of interesting questions such as “Doesn’t the community feel betrayed if Nokia earns a lot of money once they found the killer application through the Maemo community?”

At tonight’s dinner of the starting PhD seminar on development research I got the chance to talk to Clive Bell, one of the most renowned economists in the field of HIV research. Getting to know his biography I’m very impressed how he successfully managed the move from credit market to HIV research! And interestingly, his newest publications are mostly in collaboration with Hans Gersbach of ETH Zürich.

Tobi, Prof. Clive Bell, Jan and myself
Tobi, Prof. Clive Bell, Jan and myself

Nice students city Göttingen
Nice students city Göttingen

Tobi writing his PhD papers on Vulnerability in Southeast Asia in collaboration with Felix Povel
Tobi writing his PhD papers on Vulnerability in Southeast Asia in collaboration with Felix Povel

Money for the Crowd
Tuesday April 29th 2008, 23:06h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, Research

Today Evelyn, one of my ETH students, presented her master thesis on the role and potential of microfinance at Credit Suisse. While I knew the principles of microcredits beforehand, I wasn’t aware of the great scope of the highly growing industry. Just some number: It’s estimated that already today USD 25 billion are invested in such loans to the poors!

In the evening I was invited to a book vernissage in Zürich. The finance expert Naoko Felder-Kuzu presented her book “Kleiner Einsatz, grosse Wirkung” which was substantially supported by Credit Suisse. (thus I’ll keep my CS account despite their last weeks losses ;)

On my train ride home I read half of the book and may already say the purchase was a successful investment! While providing interesting footnotes and important references, the author accomplishes to fascinate the reader with her enthusiasm for microfinance. Among others Naoko writes a short history of microfinance and compares it with European lending models of the 19th century. She illustrates the fundamental differerence between dependency-creating donations vs. sustainable microfinance (while pointing out not all problems can be solved with microfinance). And she also explains disputed issues such as why the borrowers have to pay high interest rates or how finance institutes are finding the right balance between social assignement and profit maximization etc. I can warmly recommend this new book which provides a brief 100 page introduction into “doing good while doing well!”

How rich are you?
Friday February 15th 2008, 21:45h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Fairtrade, Politics, Private

Do you think you earn too little? Such as Klaus Zumwinkel hiding some millions before authorities (and now paying with his job as German Post CEO). But even I as poor doctoral student am placed on the top 4% worldwide. Do the test yourself and see if you really have to worry for the 3% who earn more than you or if we should start thinking about the 96% other of world population (thanks to Dominik Roser showing me this great link!):

How rich are you? Global Rich List

Swiss Politics and Development Cooperation
Tuesday September 25th 2007, 21:26h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, Politics

Soon Swiss citizens may elect their parliament for the next four years. So what do the major parties say about development cooperation, millennium goals, trading barriers and banking secrecy? A lot - except SVP which declined to answer. The campaign StopArmut 2015 sent a questionnaire to all major parties and compiled all the answers in a short report. What is interesting: EVP, the left-wing Christian party, aligns exactly with the opinion of the Green party of Switzerland and supports all claims of StopArmut where as EDU, the right-wing Christian party, completely objects all the demands for worldwide social justice. So once again it depends a lot which party Swiss Christians vote for. Therefore let’s hope EVP finally gets its five seats in the parliament in order to build an independent parliamentary group and position itself more clearly.

Vote for EVP!

I Love Awards as Incentives for Innovation
Friday September 14th 2007, 14:33h
Filed under: Development Cooperation, ETH Zürich, Fairtrade, Linux, Research

Awards for innovations are a great thing. First of all, you may win. Competition is fun and provides energy to accomplish more than you’d do if there are no rivals. Second, even if you don’t win, you still have done something cool. Because next to the extrinsic motivation of a prize you need also intrinsic motivation to participate in a competition so you feel happy when you’ve reached your personal goal even if you don’t scoop in. And third, if it’s a reward for something good (however this is defined…) then public benefits as well. It benefits from the innovation achieved by the winner as well as the progress accomplished by the entire industry or community.

Two examples: Today the Swiss Development Agency DEZA awards five prizes for the best development projects of young people. About 100 groups participated, among them a students team from University of Bern shipping Linux computers to Africa and another initiative supporting Mexican Fairtrade farmers won CHF 5000. Another example is the just announced Google Lunar X Prize giving USD 30 million to private enterprises reaching and crusing the moon with robots.

What would be other great things that should be awarded? I dream of an Open Source Award for different kinds of groups: developers starting a new, wanted OSS project, firms releasing previously proprietary code as OSS, pioneering government agencies choosing OSS solutions, schools that teach on Linux computers etc. Secondly, I’d love to see more adoption for Fairtrade products: restaurants or cafeterias which switch to Fairtrade coffee, retailers and manufacturers which certify their products on Fairtrade labels such as Max Havelaar, housewifes or -husbands who buy Fairtrade products rather than M-Budget (Swiss low cost product line) etc.

Certainly it’s necessary to find out more about what type of incentives work and which don’t, how such reward systems have to be designed etc. I’ve done some desk research about crowding-out effects, much more will be presented at the upcoming reward management conference.