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Could the economic crisis harm microfinance? It seems possible that high expectations paired with a collapse in funding (archetypical elements of bubbles when bursting) may erode confidence in this development tool, which – for right or wrong reasons – is currently a dominant element of international development governance.

Recently, I got my hands on a publication by Deutsche Bank Research from December 2007, predicting a fantastic acceleration of growth in the microfinance industry over the coming decade. That they would publish such a view is unsurprising, given that DB is the issuer of several microfinance investment funds; in fact, according to this paper, for every Dollar currently invested in microfinance there are a full ten Dollars of untapped demand. DB expect this situation to be remedied until 2015 by a ten-fold increase in investments from the private private-sector, bringing the total volume of investments in microfinance to 20 billion Dollars (about six times the equity value of Commerzbank). Private-sector investments already more than trebled between 2004 and 2006.

Does this kind of prognosis sound familiar, in any way? Certainly, predictions of ever faster growth in a niche market in which most firms have not yet earned a single Dollar, based on wild assumptions about unmet demand, were all too common practice during the bubble of the late 90s. 

Would it be too pessimistic (or just too early) to coin the phrase “microfinance bubble”? Well, maybe it just got coined here, and possibly for good reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

The founder of the organization Creative Commons, Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford and soon Harvard law professer, was one of the first to support Barack Obama’s run for precidency. He endorsed Obama even long before the Iowa caucuses in November 2007 on his blog.  Funnily enough, the first paragraph of his endorsement reads like this:

“‘DON’T DO THIS!’ a friend wrote, a friend who never uses allcaps, a friend who cares genuinely about what’s good for me, and who believes that what’s good for me depends in part upon how easily I can talk to the next administration. ‘He is NOT going to win. She has it sewed up. DON’T burn your bridges before they’re hatched — so to speak.'”

Today, only hours after Obama’s inauguration, Lessig’s risky endorsement seems to pay off. The copyright notice on reads now as follows:

“Except where otherwise noted, third-party content on this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Visitors to this website agree to grant a non-exclusive, irrevocable, royalty-free license to the rest of the world for their submissions to under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.”

Seems as if Creative Commons has arrived in the mainstream by now.

(leonhard) (via)

Last December I was invited to participate in Standord Law School’s Center for Internet and Society (CIS) speaker series with a talk on "The Copyright Dispute: A Transnational Regulatory Struggle". In a nutshell, most of what it was about can be grasped by looking at the stylized figure below:

Stylized illustration of regulation in the field of copyright

Living up to its name, the CIS offers es a podcast feed of its speaker series via iTunes (Feed), where an audio version of my presentation and the following discussion (including comments from Larwence Lessig) is available. This great service leaves me with offering the slides (PDF) and an iTunes-free mp3-download (9,64 MB) of the talk.


“Epistemic Communities and Social Movements: Transnational Dynamics in the Case of Creative Commons” is the title of a new MPIFG Discussion Paper that Leonhard and I released last summer (PDF). The abstract reads as follows: Read the rest of this entry »


A research blog on governing and institution building across borders.


Mostly, we are are members and affiliates of the research group “Institution Building Across Borders” at Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne.


Several reasons: First, we love our work and like to write about it and discuss it. Second, we often meet people in the field or at conferences who are interested in our work. This blog and its feed will make it easier to follow it. Third, a lot of interesting stuff doesn’t make into journals – it is or appears too speculative, too small a contribution, too practical, too theoretical, too special. But still, it may be helpful and interesting for someone, which brings us to the last question:

For whom?

First of all, for ourselves. We believe Weick is right, when he says “people know what they think when they see what they say.” So, blogging can help us think. Second, for anybody interested in (discussing) our work on institution building and governance across borders.

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
January 2009

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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.