Scott Gilmore founded Building Markets to promote economic growth in conflict-prone countries. By connecting local entrepreneurs with business opportunities, this global development organization is helping to not only build markets and create jobs, but to sustain world peace.
“Our projects were creating jobs, allowing fathers to send their daughters to school and mothers to pay for food. With real faces attached to our impact numbers, it made it much easier to understand that this was a fight worth fighting.”
The philosophy of Scott Gilmore’s NGO hinges on one core concept: opportunity. He’s not in the business of giving out aid; for him, the key to economic development and stability in destabilized regions is the chance to succeed, and the empowerment to do so. Rather than relying on aid—an exhaustible and indefinite source—local economies are strengthened to become more robust and sustainable. “I was uniformly met with resistance from the aid establishment who would said our idea wouldn't work,” says Scott. “It was demoralizing, but at that stage I kept going out of sheer stubbornness and a strong conviction that there were better ways to fight poverty.” Scott believes that a strong economy and good jobs not only reduce poverty, but promote peace, and Building Markets (formerly Peace Dividend Trust) has already helped millions of people worldwide to move in this direction.
Scott’s model was influenced by years spent abroad as a Canadian diplomat. Stationed in some of the world’s most tumultuous zones, including Afghanistan, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia, he witnessed the barriers that prevent economic sustainability in countries recovering from conﬂict and disasters. Building Markets works to remove these barriers.
Through its Sustainable Marketplace Initiatives (SMI), his organization provides a suite of services that help scaffold fledgling industries, find them markets, provide tender distribution, and train them to apply for contracts from organizations like USAID and the United Nations, where much of their product winds up.
Key to this is the matchmaking service. From boots manufactured in Kabul now being worn by U.S. solders, to Haitian-harvested sea cucumbers bound for Chinese New Year feasts, the service connects global supply with demand. Building Markets also maintains a database of verifiable companies that they’ll vouch for, instilling confidence in international buyers seeking to work with businesses in conflict-prone areas.
In just 6 years, Building Markets has created a global network of over 16,000 local entrepreneurs, redirecting over $1 billion into some of the world’s poorest nations, and helping to create the full-time equivalent of over 65,000 jobs. By 2015, they plan to operate in 8 markets with over $2 billion in projected local spending.