Austin Bay

Via the Internet, EESR provides "business development advocacy" and what Kaplitt calls "customized matchmaking" to help entrepreneurs in "targeted countries" (e.g. Afghanistan, Pakistan) find business partners and resources. "We solicit business proposals from entrepreneurs," Kaplitt said, "then try and match them with partners in the U.S. private sector, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and philanthropic foundations."

Translation: An entrepreneur in Kabul or a nurse who wants to open a clinic in Peshawar can get support, advice and financing from around the world.

"We call these business proposals instead of business plans," Kaplitt continued, "because some proposals will be straightforward for profit, some might be philanthropic. Say we have a proposal for a hospital -- that might be a hybrid (i.e., attracting private, public and philanthropic interest and support). Our key requirement is that a proposal produce sustainable private-sector jobs" in areas plagued by conflict.

Kaplitt emphasized that a proposal seeking direct U.S. government funds must meet all current funding requirements. "We're not offering or providing any kind of mechanism to have a fast track to get around those processes. We simply sort the opportunities and the entrepreneurs with potential partners."

Kaplitt added that this is a "free market approach," where the idea succeeds or fails based on market interest (in this case, investors and donors). The Internet, however, casts a wide net.

A proposal that meets basic criteria will be passed on to a team of volunteer MBA students for analysis and comment. The MBA teams work directly with the project's principal to refine the proposals. After polishing, the proposal is posted on the EESR Website and then "actively marketed" to public- and private-sector individuals or organizations who may ultimately become partners, investors, sources of advice or donors.

Kaplitt credits Dan Sullivan, the State Department's assistant secretary for economic, energy and business affairs, for pushing EESR as a concept and program. Sullivan served a tour as a Marine reserve office on the CENTCOM staff and saw the critical need for this type of local talent-developing initiative.

America needs more ideas like this. See

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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