Feed the Future
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Connecting to Diaspora Communities Through Web Portals: Opportunities and Limitations

Oct 23, 2012
institutional sponsor: 
United States Agency for International Development


Diaspora communities have played a longtime role in the development of their countries of origin in areas as diverse as business development, financial investments, philanthropy, volunteerism, advocacy, etc.

For instance, the amount of money diaspora communities send to their home countries as remittance far exceed that of official development aid. In 2010, the globally recorded amount in remittance flows to developing countries was $325 billion and the World Bank estimates that amount to reach an estimated $404 billion a year by 2013. Regionally, African diaspora communities contribute an estimated $40 billion in remittances annually to the continent. Similarly, philanthropy from the US to developing countries was estimated at $39 billion in 2010 by the Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances.

These staggering amounts have triggered a change in recent years among the formal donor community as diaspora communities are increasingly recognized as a credible and meaningful contributor to development. Given the significant contribution of diaspora communities, a key issue facing the donor community has become how to engage and partner effectively with diasporas? In this area of technological hyper-development, web portals have become omnipresent in any development venture and diaspora-driven development is not different. This seminar will present two such portals—Homestrings, a private investment platform, and Africa Rural Connect , an online global philanthropic network—and examine their effectiveness in engaging diasporas in development.


Headshot of Eric Guichard
Eric Guichard
Headshot of Eric Guichard
Headshot of Eric Guichard

Eric-Vincent Guichard is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GRAVITAS Capital Advisors, Inc; He is the founding member of GRAVITAS Capital (1996-current). In 2010, Guichard founded Homestrings.com, an electronic investment platform that caters to members of the Diaspora. Homestrings.com showcases vetted investment projects and funds that focus on development objectives chosen by the Diaspora. These projects and funds range from infrastructure to healthcare. Prior to GRAVITAS Capital, Guichard was Portfolio Manager at the World Bank (1990-1996) where he also served as technical adviser to sovereign and multilateral institutions worldwide. He is a graduate of the University of Dakar Senegal, of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and of the Harvard Business School where he earned his MBA (World Bank Scholar and Harvard Fellowship award). He serves on several non-profit boards, including: the Center for Financial Policy – an academic think tank on policy reform; Capital Partners for Education – an inner city mentorship program; and OIC International – an initiative that encourages economic self-reliance in Africa.

Headshot of Molly Mattessich
Molly Mattessich
VEGA Alliance
Headshot of Molly Mattessich
Headshot of Molly MattessichMolly Mattessich launched the Africa Rural Connect program (ARC) in 2009 while working as the Manager of Online Initiatives at the National Peace Corps Association. She also led the Association’s branding, marketing, and public relations campaigns, and oversaw the launch of a new website and social network. In 2012, she presented ARC at the Secretary of State’s Global Diaspora Forum and the World Food Prize’s Borlaug Dialogue. Molly served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali from 2002-04. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College and is pursuing a Masters in Communication at Johns Hopkins University.


Photo Credit: IICD, Community Information Centre project, Ghana