5 ideas in 5 minutes


idea is
Kiva, a micro loans portal that allows lenders from developed countries
to connect with entrepreneurs from developing ones.

It’s interesting because lenders are
private individuals who choose which entrepreneurs receive the loan.
Projects originate locally and the web-based system removes the need
for resource intensive on-the-ground administration. Lenders can
develop a strong personal connection with the entrepreneur, the
project and the community while entrepreneurs are given much-needed access to
funds without the often prohibitive hurdles associated with securing

Building on the success of micro finance in general, Kiva has ‘cut out the middle men’ while still maintaining strong accountability and lending standards (so far they have a 0.1% default rate on almost $5 million in completed loans). The one-to-one loans model draws on untapped
goodwill and donations from private individuals while
retaining the important benefits of local ownership and control.

They’ve tried it anywhere you can access the Internet – Kiva has partners all over the world.


Clean Car Feebate

idea is
a Clean
Car Feebate
, a fee and rebate scheme which promotes energy efficient cars.

interesting because
purchasers are either given a
rebate, or charged a fee, depending on the emissions of their vehicle. People who buy cars that emit large amounts of carbon dioxide are charged one off registration fees of up to US$2500. Buyers
who choose cars with low emissions (e.g. Toyota Prius) are given significant rebates.

Although not a mandate for emission
reductions, feebates do encourage consumers to make particular choices that
will hopefully lead to more fuel-efficient cars on the road. From an economic
perspective, the use of a rebate instead of a subsidy or ‘simple’ tax is an
intelligent way to stimulate demand.

might try it in
California where the Clean Car Discount Act is currently
being debated in the state legislature. Feebates have also been used in Canada,
Finland, France and the EU.


Bolsa Familia

idea is
(‘Family Fund’), an anti-poverty conditional cash transfer program that provides low-income families with a cash payment on condition that children go to school and get vaccinated.

It’s interesting because of its size (largest in the world), compliance mechanisms and efficient delivery (the idea itself is not
very new). In this case, municipal governments ensure compliance while the federal government makes payments. Rechargeable debit cards are issued which makes it easy to distribute funds or suspend payment if the conditions are not

The success of Bolsa Familia shows that
such policies can have significant practical benefits (e.g. improved school

tried it in
Brazil, other South American nations
and New York.


Food Miles

idea is
, a concept that promotes consumer thinking about how much energy been
used to get produce from ‘paddock to plate’.

interesting because
it exposes the often-ignored
environmental costs associated with having a large range of non-seasonal and
exotic produce available at local stores. The greater the number of Food Miles,
the greater the distance the food has had to travel and therefore the more
energy it has taken to reach your plate.

While the concept clearly promotes deeper
thinking about the environmental costs associated with having a large range of
food available year round, it is plagued by the difficulty of making accurate calculations. Variables that might dramatically alter the Food Miles
for a particular item include the type of transport, seasonal
variations and the scale of production.

tried it in
various studies around the world.


Sky Trust

idea is
the Sky
, a cap-and-trade carbon emissions reduction scheme where the proceeds from the sale of carbon credits are placed into a trust.

It’s interesting because dividends
from the trust are returned to each citizen in equal measure. This
system compensates consumers for any price increases as a result of
emission restrictions. Because the amount of compensation is equal but individual energy consumption is not, it maintains the incentive to reduce energy use as prices increase – households with low energy use could end up better off, while those which use a lot of energy may have to pay more than they have received in dividends. Because revenue from the sale of carbon credits is redistributed instead of being absorbed in government budgets, the scheme gives citizens a strong incentive to resist pressure to give ‘free credits’ to major emittors. In
addition, the trustees have duties to the beneficiaries of
the trust who are both
present and future citizens, and if those obligations are not met,
beneficiaries could potentially sue the trustees.

Politically, the idea
recognises that the planet’s carrying capacity, including it’s ability to absorb CO2 emissions, is a public asset. By fostering
a collective sense of ownership over the environment a Sky Trust may help individuals, organisations and
governments fully appreciate the need for
intergenerational environmental protection and

They’re promoting it in the United States, where the idea has generated a fair bit of debate, including an endorsement from Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter




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