Congress learned something new about the power of cell phones last week – and not what you might think. Mercy Corps hosted an event on Capitol Hill to share with legislators how mobile technology can be a force for positive social change. The reception, titled "Innovation for Impact: How Mobile Technology is Spurring Grassroots Recovery in Haiti" comprised a photo and story exhibit with images from the Haiti mobile money programme. The event enabled Congressional offices to interact with Mercy Corps staff and friends, and to highlight the innovative work with Mercy Corps and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have implemented in Haiti in front of a new audience.
The reception on the Hill drew bipartisan support, and was sponsored by the entire Oregon House delegation (Representatives Blumenauer, DeFazio, Schrader, Walden and Wu). Speakers included:
- Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
- Russell Porter, the Haiti coordinator at USAID
- Michael Catalano, the Chief Network Officer at OpenRevolution, and
- Kokoévi Sossouvi, the Economic Recovery Programme Manager for Haiti
Other notable guests included Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas), Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan), Federal Communications Commission International Bureau Chief Mindel DeLaTorre, and telecommunications leader Pierre Michel Fattouch.
Innovation was the theme of the night. “Our response in Haiti required out-of-the-box thinking,” said Sossouvi in a speech. “We will continue to apply that same determination as we introduce new programming to increase access to financial services for the poor.”
Mercy Corps is currently partnering with a U.S. company, m-Via, to offer a mobile-directed remittances product to Haitians, the first of its kind in that country.
The Mercy Corps Washington, DC team, which hosted a Congressional event on Haiti last May, was pleased with the result. We had an impressive turnout, and greatly appreciated the support of the Oregon delegation and USAID,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, Mercy Corps Public Affairs Programme Director. “We look forward to more opportunities to share Mercy Corps’ unique and effective approach to development programming with our friends on the Hill.”