American funding of overseas development initiatives is not, however, limited to official foreign assistance monies. The disintermediating effect of technology has enabled Americans to play an increasingly significant – and direct - role in the provision of foreign assistance to projects of their choice. As Internet and mobile applications become increasingly widespread, a network-centric stance toward leadership that favors decentralization and transparency is enabling Americans to connect with citizen organizations overseas, enter into dialogue with them, and give directly to their support. This relatively recent phenomenon of peer-to-peer giving is now capturing an increasing share of the overseas transfer of goods and services. Online giving as a whole is now the fastest growing fundraising channel, up 40% in 2010 from the previous year.
Many successful US-based online giving platforms, such as Kiva, GlobalGiving, Network for Good, and Donors Choose, utilize the peer-to-peer giving format, whereby general funds are raised on behalf of an organization, or small amounts for projects are raised by multiple individual donors until the total requested amount is achieved. These models provide an opportunity for individuals around the world to connect and give to projects of their choice through the internet. These new models of “direct giving” have extremely low administrative overhead, and essentially, provide people the opportunity to connect directly to projects, causes, and individuals.
Many Americans believe that improved engagement with the Muslim world is beneficial to US interests, and key to building better relationships with the Middle East. However, with much of America’s current engagement with the Middle East still rooted in the application of foreign assistance and defense spending in the region, opportunities for direct citizen-to-citizen engagement have traditionally been limited to facilitated interaction through school-to-school correspondence, volunteer opportunities, or informally through internet-based platforms such as Facebook. Yet by harnessing the opportunities now available through peer-to-peer giving, public-private partnerships, and corporate social responsibility (CSR), Americans can now play a direct role in supporting the upward demand for good governance in the Arab world.
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