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Raymond Fisman

Raymond Fisman, the Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise and Research Director of the Social Enterprise Program at the Columbia Business School, along with Edward Miguel, takes readers into the secretive, chaotic, and brutal worlds inhabited by lawless and violent thugs in their acclaimed book, Economic Gangsters: Corruption Violence and the Poverty of Nations.

In Economic Gangsters, Fisman and Miguel use economics to get inside the heads of these gangsters, and propose solutions that can make a difference to the world’s poor, including cash infusions to defuse violence in times of drought and steering the World Bank away from aid programs most susceptible to corruption.

These two sleuthing economists follow the foreign aid money trail into the grasping hands of corrupt governments and shady underworld characters around the globe, and invite audiences to witness ingenious black marketeers game the international system; follow the steep rise and fall of stock prices of companies with unseemly connections to Indonesia’s former dictator; see what rainfall has to do with witch killings in Tanzania…and much more.

Professor Fisman was a consultant in the Africa Division of the World Bank for a year before taking his position at Columbia in 1999. His current research focuses on corruption and more broadly on what makes people do bad things (he also sometimes thinks about why people do good things).  He also writes a monthly column for Slate magazine.

Program Descriptions:

Corruption…is it nature, nurture or the price of doing business?:
The economics and psychology of why people do bad things

Professor Raymond Fisman, a leading forensic economist and writer, gives us a glimpse into the dark side of government and business in this discussion of the ‘who,’ ‘what,’ and ‘why’ of global corruption.

In looking back on the unraveling of America’s financial sector, we’ve heard a chorus of allegations of Wall Street corruption from Presidential candidates, business pundits, and many others. Now, with a trillion dollar government bailout in the offing, concern has shifted to possible future corruption: will these funds serve Main Street’s economic interests or line the pockets of special interests instead? But how much corruption is there really? And was it really to blame for the current mess? In reality, it’s hard to say – corruption, by its very nature, takes place out of sight (at least when it’s done right). Yet researchers in the rapidly expanding field of “forensic economics” are figuring out ways to find the fingerprints left in the data by bribe-taking politicians, smugglers, and other lawbreakers.

Why do people take or offer bribes? And what lies behind seemingly senseless acts of violence? There aren’t simply a few bad apples out there doing all the lying, stealing, and cheating. Rather, there are circumstances that make people choose virtue, and circumstances that make them choose vice. Sometimes it’s the cold, rational calculation of Economic Gangsters…and, sometimes the somewhat irrational (but still entirely predictable) foibles of human psychology. Fisman presents a lively discussion of the economics and psychology of what makes people lie, cheat, and steal; and maybe also a little about what might make them do the right thing.

Best Practices in Non-Profit Governance and Philanthropy:
Measuring and Sustaining Success

How are nonprofits governed? What is the role of the board in helping organizations achieve their missions? What are the common failings in achieving these goals? Fisman draws on survey results on non-profit governance and recent research to discuss a framework for diagnosing the effectiveness of nonprofit boards, and for producing a high-performing board. These concepts are essential for those charged with the task of running non-profits (board and executive) and also the donors and foundations that fund them.

Given the current market conditions and the tenuous state of many organizations’ endowments, givers have to be a lot more careful with both their investments and with their giving strategy.  Non-profits, particularly, have to be especially wary, and good governance really is now more important than ever.

Fisman has extensive teaching experience in the area of non-profit governance. He has been an instructor for the past 5 years in the Stanford Executive Education program for Philanthropy Leaders, given two-day seminars on governance for arts non-profits through National Arts Strategies, and teaches governance in the Columbia Business School program for art curators.

For more, see Fisman’s article at Forbes.com entitled The Way We Give Now: Philanthropy in Times of Meltdown.

Bio

Raymond Fisman is the Lambert Family Professor of Social Enterprise and Director of the Social Enterprise Program at the Columbia Business School. Professor Fisman received his Ph.D. in Business Economics at Harvard University. He worked as a consultant in the Africa Division of the World Bank for a year before taking his position at Columbia in 1999. Professor Fisman’s research focuses on corruption and more broadly on what makes people do bad things (he also sometimes thinks about why people do good things). His work has been published in leading economics journals, including the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, and Quarterly Journal of Economics. He has had work published in such popular venues as Forbes, The New York Post and elsewhere.