In 2007, the Global Junior Challenge had particularly good news for projects from poor areas of the world participating at the event. The Cooperazione Italiana per lo Sviluppo, the international aid and cooperation agency of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pledged €425,000 to be awarded to 8 projects selected from this event. The fund was not an automatic prize. Respecting the rules of the Cooperazione Italiana, it would be released on condition of the presentation of satisfactory development plans by the projects.
This pledge was the result of careful brokering done by the Fondazione Mondo Digitale on behalf of projects from poor areas of the world. The Foundation however would neither receive nor handle any of the funding, since it is not accredited with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for these purposes. The funding to the projects would be handled directly by the Cooperazione Italiana through a mechanism to be arranged, since the normal procedure for the Cooperazione’s funding is to fund projects from accredited Italian organisations or to respond to requests coming directly through its offices in the requesting countries. For this reason, the funding to projects selected through the Global Junior Challenge would be a first experience for the Cooperazione Italiana.
In October 2007, during the award ceremony of the GJC 2007, the Head of the Cooperazione Italiana came personally to award the pledge to the eight projects selected.
Representatives of all the projects were present, invited all expenses paid by the Fondazione Mondo Digitale. Our idea at the Foundation was that this could be the beginning of a small but significant source of funding for projects from poorer areas of the world.
Over a year and a half has now passed and the Cooperazione Italiana has yet to fulfill the pledge made to the 8 projects in October 2007. In the meantime, there was a change of leadership at the Cooperazione Italiana as a result of the general election of May 2008 in Italy. The Foundation and the projects have tried to communicate with the Cooperazione Italiana through various means, including the local Embassies in the countries of the projects. Some projects have received replies saying that the Cooperazione was looking at the matter and was trying to solve it. However, this is yet to happen and the projects are still waiting for the pledge to materialize. Obviously this creates problems for the projects that have made plans to use the funds and to the Foundation that must continue to invest time and effort to see the pledged realized.
The Foundation will continue to remind the Cooperazione Italiana of the urgent need to transfer the funding to the eight projects, since the credibility of Italy in the international aid arena is at stake. The Foundation is aware that the amount of funding is not the problem since this is very small in relation to the budget of the Cooperazione Italiana. The problem has been the arrangement of the appropriate transfer mechanism within the rules of the Cooperazione. The Foundation believes that the Cooperazione will arrange a solution and transfer the funding.
In the meantime, the Global Junior Challenge 2009 has arrived and the website is open for projects submissions. Of course, the contest does not include any potential funding pledge from the Cooperazione Italiana, since the first pledge is yet to be fulfilled.
Instead, the GJC 2009 goes back to the concept of Small Fund Award, an amount of €5000 per selected project from poorer areas of the world. The number of awards depends on the total amount of funding the Foundation will manage to gather before the awards. So far, the Foundation has collected €15,000 for a total of three awards of €5000 each. If further funding is collected the number of awards will increase, if not, then the number of awards will remain at three.