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Bad news – Award-winning Timor Marketplace Project Shutting Down

[UPDATE BELOW] We have a cool and innovative economic impact project in Timor Leste, and its about to close.  The Marketplace Project has a simple goal: redirect or accelerate international spending into the local economy of Asia’s poorest nation.  It does this by distributing international tenders, maintaining an on-line directory of 2700 local entrepreneurs, advocating to “Buy Local – Build Timor”, and matchmaking international buyers to Timorese vendors.

The Marketplace Project's successful "Buy Local" campaign

The need?  Huge.  Only a fraction of aid money is spent locally, and unemployment numbers range from 20-40%.   In spite of massive amounts of international assistance and incoming oil revenues, in many ways the economy has deteriorated.  According to the World Bank:

“…the proportion of people living below the poverty line (US$0.88) increased from 36% in 2001 (around 266,000 people) to 49% in 2007 (around 500,000 people).”

And the impact of our project? Huge. Since launching in 2007, it redirected or accelerated over $16 million of confirmed new spending on Timorese entrepreneurs. The estimated result is as high as $23 million. The project facilitated more than 10,000 contracts through its matchmaking services with a total value of nearly $8 million. Of these nearly $7 million were directed into Timor’s poorest rural areas. In addition to this the Tender Distribution service successfully closed 261 tenders with a total value of over $8 million.  The annual economic impact of the project is comparable to 0.41% of GDP in 2007; 1.51% in 2008, and 0.91% in 2009.

Project staff helped this rancher find an international buyer for his cattle

This project was also groundbreaking, especially in its efforts to link the poor and disconnected rural economy to the international aid dollars that are largely spent only in the capital of Dili.  We are now planning to replicate it in Haiti and Africa. The President, Nobel Prize Winner Jose Ramos Horta loved it, declaring that it “changed the way the international community operates in Timor Leste.”  And based on an in depth review of the project,  PDT won this $750k prize in the form of the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship:

So why is it closing?  Lack of funding.  We have several smaller donors supporting it, including the governments of Norway and Canada, the Arsenault Family Foundation, and the ENI corporation.  But our main donor AusAID decided to cut its funding dramatically.  Without a last minute miracle, we simply don’t have enough money to keep the whole project running.  It happens.  AusAID has a big portfolio but unfortunately this project doesn’t fit.  The aid industry isn’t quite a free marketplace of ideas yet, and good projects don’t always attract the funding they deserve.  Which is unfortunate, but we can be proud of what this project and our Timorese staff were able to accomplish in 3 short years, the money injected into the economy, the jobs created, the tax revenue generated.  It was truly remarkable.

ADDENDUM:  Needless to say, before we shut the doors, any suggestions on other funders are always welcome!

Press Release Here

UPDATE:  Thank you for the amazing outpouring of support. We were frankly surprised at the public reaction, in Timor and Australia.  Overnight this became a story in newspapers, TV, and on the radio.  Right now we have some tentative offers of additional funding from a couple of donors.  Not enough to avoid downsizing the project, but perhaps enough to keep the lights on.  Unfortunately, there will still be a reduction in services, and a reduction in the number of districts we serve, but it’s better than closure.  We’ll keep you posted.

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  1. Sherrie Zollinger says:

    Scott and the PDT Team, I’m really sorry to hear this, since the project has had such a positive effect. Although I realize that the project may not be complete in your eyes, hopefully the good work that you’ve begun and done will have the ability to sustain itself in some form going forward.
    Have you tried the Grameen Foundation (, and the Grassroots Business Fund ( and USAID?
    Best of Luck going forward —

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sal B, Peace Dividend Trust. Peace Dividend Trust said: Our award-winning Timor project is losing AusAID funding. Any suggestions for other donors welcome! […]

  3. Magda says:

    It’s such a pity… The world needs more projects like Timor Marketplace, more organizations like PDT and more people of great skills, energy, passion and involvement like Scott and PDT amazing Team! Miracles happen so maybe one of these influential personnages with financial capacity will read an article and will come into conclusion that the project is really worth continuing! If I was one of them I would definately help but for the time being the only thing I can do is to support you with warm words and guarantee that I will be keeping my fingers crossed! Don’t give up up for a sake of Timor and its citizens! Keep on trying and keep us posted how the situtaion develops! We do care!
    PS. Have you thought of cooperation with the EU/DG Development? (The EU gives money in East Timor inter alia for rural development, trritorial planning, agriculture and food security)

  4. JOhn says:

    I wonder if AusAid is holding back due to the dispute with the Australian oil company and the Timorese government regarding the massive project in the Timor Sea?

    There must be other foundations who can appreciate the work you are doing and will be willing to help even in these difficult times.

  5. This is such a great pity. We are just starting out in our tour business hoping to invest some money in East Timor and introduce motorbike riders to the country. We were really looking forward to assistance from Peace Dividend Trust people in the more remote areas to help us partner with small hospitalities businesses. We really are very disappointed, PDT made such good business sense.

  6. Scott Gilmore says:

    Sherrie: Thanks for the suggestions, we will be in touch with them. Though on such short notice….

    Magda: We’ve been working on EU funding, and had a meeting with them recently. Will let you know what happens.

    We really appreciate the tremendous support we’ve been getting by email, on FaceBook, and with calls. It’s nice to know the project was as well liked by others as it was by us.

  7. Gareth Lewis says:

    Have you considered charging for it? If the Timorese businesses are benefiting from it, then perhaps they would be willing to pay to be part of it? Or perhaps NGOs which support those Timorse businesses could pay to be part of it? The money raised might be enough to keep at least parts of the programme running.

  8. i am Domingos Estelita Alves i would like to apply for the position that you have perfomance in your office and i have any skills to do the work in your office
    i have interested to apply for the any position and i am ready to interview if you call me this is my phone number +670 7417159
    please contact me in any situation and thank you very much for your atantion .

  9. Scott Gilmore says:

    Gareth: Great minds think alike. We’ve been planning to charge and have accelerated those plans. But the revenue would only be a small fraction of costs. Nonetheless, it will help.

  10. i am Domingos Estelita Alves i would like to apply for the positon tha you have perfomance in your office because i have any skills conect with you announce and i am ready to interview never you call me this is my phone number : +670 7417159 thank you very much for your in formation .please contact me any time because i am free.

  11. great information : i would like to say this bussness is great oportunities because this plaining to help east timor to come out from the poverty of human in timor leste and i am happy with this bussness because this bussness to help youth people in timor leste and also in other country thank you very much this is my masage from AMMEU.

  12. Kevin says:

    This is another dissapointing example of where AusAID Timor-Leste does not seem to believe private sector development priorities of the Government at the core of generating human and national security are a prioirity, even though it is clearly stated as such in the Australia Country Plan for Timor-Leste and a policy supported by Australian Federal Cabinet friends of Timor-Leste.

  13. I’m Antonio da siva I would like to applay for this position because I skills conect with this position, I think that I can funcing well for this area.thank you. I wait your respond, this is my phone number +6707429005

  14. anibal says:

    I doubt why AusAid changed their mind to support you. Try USAID! who knows they can help you.

  15. Nelia says:

    my name is Nelia, i just want to ask, do you have a job for graduate architect???, i’m a fresh graduated.thank’s

  16. Tommy says:

    Hello i am dissapointed with AusAID , i think it is related to the rejection of the planning of the Australian Goverment to build a refugee camp in Timor leste, This project is very good to keep it running. If you need someone that knows informatic servces, i can donate some of my time for free, I WANT TO BUILD A BETTER TIMOR LESTE. I can colaborate with you, From America. You friend Tommy.

  17. Que Vadis says:

    I’m Que Vadis, I ‘m disappointed with this web site because it was opperated just for few months and now close again.

    a lot of Younth Timorese people looking for the opportunity but they have lack of information.

    My recomendation may the donors can invest their fund for this project? It is very helpful if donors and goverment give pay attention for this and it also help the goverment to reduce poverty in this country.

    Thanks a lots

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