Skoll Foundation


Building Markets (formerly Peace Dividend Trust)

Skoll Awardee(s): Scott Gilmore
Award Year: 2010
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity

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“What we do is occasionally controversial and unpopular, because it suggests that some of the institutions we love the most, like the United Nations, and some of the things we love the most, like aid, don’t work that well. By putting a light on those inefficiencies, we make donors uncomfortable, but have a fighting chance to shift that balance.”

Sub-Issues: Financial Services; Livelihoods Working under pressure in crisis conditions, humanitarian relief and assistance teams often follow a path of least resistance, sourcing goods needed to accomplish their mission from trusted global suppliers. Local entrepreneurs in the crisis area lose a chance to earn revenue and gain experience from engagement in that business.

The Skoll Awardee: In 2001, Scott Gilmore was on leave from the Canadian diplomatic service, working for the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste. He grew frustrated at how the peacekeepers’ ability to achieve their goals were hampered by policies and practices that, for example, prevented hiring local staff, even though high local unemployment meant that labor was available. He started an informal group of development and peacekeeping professionals to share lessons and experience in the hope of making improvements. In 2003, he launched the organization now called Building Markets, to connect local entrepreneurs to domestic, regional and global supply chains. Building Markets finds and verifies competitive local businesses and matches them with large international buyers. Building Markets teams collect and translate tenders—formal, structured invitations to suppliers to bid, to supply products or services—and distribute them through the network. They train local businesses on how to bid on, win, and execute those tenders. They measure impact, and advocate for aid reform and open markets. At the time of the Award, Building Markets (then called Peace Dividend Trust) had played a major role in the U.S. Government’s Afghan First policy in Afghanistan, and was actively engaged with 12 peacekeeping missions adopting its approach around the world.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2010:

  • Building Markets has verified more than 16,000 businesses; helped create or sustain 65,000 full-time equivalent jobs; and facilitated more than 16,000 contracts valued at more than $1 billion for local businesses.
  • Supported local businesses in Haiti, Afghanistan, and Myanmar, and launched operations in Mozambique.
  • Helped international agencies in Afghanistan increase local spending by $375 million, creating thousands of jobs, through the Peace Dividend Marketplace.
  • Conducted economic research to track donor spending, including a report “Spending the Development Dollar Twice,” leading governments of the U.S., Australia, and Britain, as well as the United Nations, to adopt “buy local” policies.



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