“I think we need to remember that we are more valuable as individuals than the sum of the notes in our pocket.”

Ken Banks recently launched Means of Exchange to look at how everyday technologies can be used to democratize opportunities for economic self-sufficiency, rebuild local communities and promote a return to local resource use. 

“If you look across the globe, there are severe inequalities in how people access and use finance.”

As director of the Global Financial Inclusion Initiative at Yale University and Innovations for Poverty Action, Aishwarya Ratan’s goal is to ensure that the financial products, services and tools available to the poor to manage and grow their money are affordable, efficient, secure and welfare-enhancing. 

“There are some problems that we can solve. But we have to be pragmatic about it and figure out what is actually working and what is not.”

Dean Karlan is President of Innovations for Poverty Action, a non-profit organization that creates and evaluates solutions to social and development problems, and works to scale-up successful ideas through implementation and dissemination to policymakers, practitioners, investors and donors. He is a Professor of Economics at Yale University. 

“Most crises are endogenous. They are not coming out of the blue, like a black swan. They are knowable. They can be diagnosed in advance.”

Watch now: Didier Sornette is a professor of entrepreneurial risks in Zurich. He explores data patterns to help predict crises and extreme events in complex systems, like global financial crises. 

Watch now: First stage talk from PopTech Iceland released—undercover economist Tim Harford!

Economic commentator and author Tim Harford presented a creative, challenging perspective on financial systems, drawing upon examples from oil rig explosions to nuclear disasters to make his point. He believes that by studying the triggers of major engineering accidents, we can draw lessons on how to help prevent crises in the financial world.

Imagine the impact on security by reducing poverty by half. Imagine the impact on security of universal primary education. Imagine the impact on security in eliminating the digital divide. Imagine the impact on security in drastic reductions in hunger and sickness. These changes would take power from terrorists and dictators in ways that weapons never could.

From the Shareable Economy, the Tools to Rebuild

By Van Jones (PopTech 2007)

The shareable economy is home to some of the economy’s most inspiring practices and promising tools. But the shareable economy’s share of the total economy is still very small—greatly below its vast potential. The 99 percent can help to scale and popularize “shareable economy” tools to drive sustainable and collaborative consumption. Hundreds of thousands of 99 Percenters could work together to facilitate innovation, entrepreneurship, and build distribution systems to tackle their economic and financial problems together. They could be encouraged to act together in their own economic self-interest, such as driving Zipcar, shopping at farmers’ markets, living in cohousing, buying goods from Etsy, and sharing tools instead of purchasing them.

The shareable economy includes technologies and practices that center on barter, gift, direct exchange, and peer-to-peer loans. These include high-tech solutions such as Kickstarter and Kiva, platforms that support crowd-sourced funding and people-powered finance. It also includes “high-touch” solutions such as “resilience circles,” which are small, face-to-face support groups. Members of resilience circles help each other meet unmet needs by offering each other their skills, talents, resources, and unused time. Such circles enable people to achieve their American dreams by helping one another.

There are countless sources of inspiration, from the success of farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs) to peer-to-peer marketplaces like Etsy (for handmade goods) and Airbnb (for accommodations), and even peer-to-peer lending services such as Prosper, Lending Club, and Zopa.

Through Airbnb, anyone with a spare room can now earn extra money by renting out their space. Through Kiva, the poorest of the poor can now have access to the capital needed to start a small business. Through Culture Kitchen, immigrant women can now earn an income by teaching others to cook in the style of their homeland. Having discovered that the average American uses her or his car just 8 percent of the time, new platforms like Getaround, RelayRides, and Zimride have sprung up to enable the sharing of autos owned by individuals. Some users of RelayRides make enough to offset their car payment each month. The shareable economy has been launched on the resource-full shareable.net.

Excerpted with permission from Rebuild the Dream, by Van Jones.  Available from Nation Books, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2012.

The business of human trafficking

One-time investment banker turned author and human trafficking expert, Siddharth Kara began his quick but compelling talk at Harvard’s Social Enterprise Conference with a rather obvious point: slavery and human trafficking are illegal. The fact that there are currently twenty nine million people in slavery worldwide is a clear indication of an enormous failing of our contemporary culture. 

Though Kara approaches the incredibly difficult topic of human trafficking from the business and economic side of the story, he is quick to point out that “it is not intended to lose sight of the human side of these crimes.” In fact, his approach makes the urgency around abolition even more compelling, since often the personal stories evoked in the rhetoric around these atrocities are too overwhelming to comprehend.

Arvind Subramanian (PopTech 2011) explains that China’s ascendance is not approaching but already upon us. The country’s growing dominance will be more imminent, broader in scope and greater than previously imagined. He asks us to imagine a world with, not the G20, nor even the G2, but the sole G1: the reality is that China will rule the world. What does this mean for an increasingly vulnerable United States?

Today Subramanian follows up with reflections on impact from Beijing on the PopTech blog.