Around the World in Six Ideas

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Dickey

The Missing Middle

The notion that entrepreneurs will somehow salvage the economies of crumbling countries has gained a lot of intellectual currency in recent years, not least because governments have failed so miserably. (Hey, somebody's got to make things work.) But moving from buzzwords to business in the real world demands critical judgments by local authorities and international aid donors, and they've never had a great feel for the marketplace. A report last year from the Council on Foreign Relations, Entrepreneurship in Postconflict Zones, noted the tendency of Western benefactors to focus on microenterprises. Big corporations, meanwhile, presumably take care of themselves, one way or another. The problem is precisely in the middle. Medium-sized enterprises could--and should--be turbochargers for weak economic engines. But most face massive problems with access to markets, finance, networks, and skills. Now some successful businessmen and women from troubled regions are coming together in organizations like Wamda, in the Arab world, to develop what Wamda chairman Fadi Ghandour calls "corporate entrepreneurship responsibility." The goal is to create exactly the kind of entrepreneurial ecosystem the council's report calls for, where that missing middle can get the nurturing, guidance, mentoring, and financing needed to succeed.

Hunting the Hunters

Most African nations have strict anti-poaching laws to protect their wildlife. And most of them prosecute ... (wait for it) ... nobody at all. But in 2002 Ofir Drori, an Israeli freelance writer who was outraged by the slaughter of gorillas in Cameroon, founded a nongovernmental organization, the Last Great Ape organization (LAGA), to help officials there enforce their own laws. It's been an uphill battle. The booming Asian economy has driven up prices for contraband ivory, rhino tusks, baby gorillas, and chimps. But LAGA conducts sting operations, follows up on arrests to stop bribery (attempted in at least 85 percent of the cases), and then follows up again in prisons to make sure criminals don't buy their way out. Big-time crime and terrorist organizations are increasingly prevalent: jihadists recently kidnapped a French family of seven in a Cameroon game preserve; the infamous Janjaweed militias from Sudan are involved in many cases. And one new trend in the underground trade is especially sinister: traffickers selling the meat of apes have been caught with caches of human body parts for use in occult rituals. On the upside? Cameroon now prosecutes on average one case a week.


Maybe because political correctness is so last century, there's increasing recognition among young people that they really possess a lot of hard-wired prejudices. Twenty years ago when Harvard social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji asked her intro-psych students whether they held any biases, 95 percent would say no. Now, 80 percent admit yes. This recognition of unconscious attitudes is largely the result of work that Banaji and her colleagues have done with the Implicit Association Test, which measures the way we relate symbols and faces to other information. The test has been taken by millions of people, many of them online at Unrecognized biases can affect, among other things, the bottom line of corporations where prejudice prevents the best personnel from advancing. So what to do? That's the subject of Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, which Banaji co-authored with Anthony G. Greenwald. Some methods are simple: when musicians started auditioning behind a curtain that made it impossible to see their gender, the number of women hired by major symphony orchestras doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent. But other "mindbugs," as the authors call these unconscious biases, require more complicated solutions. …