Cracking the Nut

26 Jun


I was in Washington, DC, for the first couple of days of last week attending the Cracking The Nut conference.  I had the opportunity to meet and learn from a wide range of players in the development finance sector, including representatives from multi-national organizations (IDB, World Bank), National Governmental Donor Orgs (USAID, GIZ), Non-Profits (One Acre, World Vision), Impact Investors (Root Capital), Specialized Financial Intermediaries (Calvert Fund), Companies (Ecom Agribusiness), Government Orgs (MoFA, Cocoa Board), etc…

Major Conference Themes:

· The FAO has estimated that $75B/year is required to ‘Feed The Future’ through 2050.  Speakers from the large institutions stressed that this money could not all come from donors, so commercial lending must be engaged. People also said that we shouldn’t be in ‘crisis mode,’ as we need long term coordinate development.

· There seems to be a shift in interest away from Micro Finance (sense amongst some that it is “played out”, perhaps stemming from a JP Morgan report on the sector) towards finance for the ‘missing middle’ of SMEs (small to medium enterprises , whose requirement of between $25k to $2MM in funding is too small for traditional banks, but too big for Micro Finance), although several people pointed out that there is still much good work to be done in Micro Finance, especially extending its success from urban to rural customers.

· It was stressed that there is a need for a comprehensive suite of financial services, including credit, insurance, savings facilities, remittance, informal, leasing, franchising, etc… There was lots of talk about bundling and different specialized players in the space becoming better coordinated.

· There was lot of great discussion about the need for capacity building on the ground and customizing approaches for different regions/cultures/situations,/etc…

My General Thoughts:

The conference left me thinking that there  may be interesting opportunities for EWB to connect our Overseas value chain work work and our In Canada Fair Trade work, which is really just working on the other end of the value chain for major export crops like cocoa, coffee, shea butter, even potentially non agricultural products  like the relatively new Fair Trade gold.


After the conference, I wandered down to the White House to try and share some of my new incites with Barack.  However, according to the surly marines at the gate, he wasn’t home…

I also had about an hour to quickly run through a couple of the Smithsonian museums (which are totally free, by the way!) to see the Wright Brother’s Kitty Hawk, the Hope Diamond, a replica of the lunar capsule and a bunch of other amazing stuff. 

I was really impressed with Washington, DC.  It is a beautiful city and there is an embarrassment of riches with respect to historical sites to see – and most of them are located within easy walking distance of one and other.  If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend that you check it out.


I returned on Wednesday to enjoy the last 3 days in our 366 Adelaide office.  Many people had returned from the Farnberger wedding (Dave and Robin’s, at whose place I am currently staying), which gave me the opportunity to get to know many more of my new coworkers.

After following up with new contacts from the conference, I spent the rest of the week helping the Canadian Programs team to prepare for the regional retreats next weekend.  There was lots of great talk about starting to incorporate come of our Overseas methodologies into our In Canada programs.

IMG_20110624_211515  IMG_20110624_205720

After ‘Wine Down’ on Friday afternoon, which is a really cool tradition where the office staff sit around George’s favorite round conference room table and toast with Fair Trade wine the great accomplishments from across the EWB network from the past week, a group of us went over to check out the new office space (pictured above).  It is only a couple of blocks away from the current office and it looks amazing!  Can’t wait to move in next Wednesday.


Also next Wednesday, I will be moving into the furnished sublet that I found for July and August.  It’s located in Liberty Village just off King West and a short jog from the lake shore.  It’s a one bedroom located in the middle of the top floor of the building pictured on the left above.  The view looking north through the big windows is pretty spectacular. 

So next week is shaping up to be another good one.

One Response to “Cracking the Nut”

  1. Penny Heaslip June 26, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for the updates on your life and the changes that you are experiencing. I hope that T.O. is not too hot this summer. You will miss the cool ocean breezes if it does heat up. Penny Heaslip

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