MIT professor volunteers to help stabilise Ukraine’s economy

When the two expressions business school and crowdsourcing appear in the same sentence, most people would probably think of students raising cash for their latest start-up or social enterprise. But for MIT professor Andrei Kirilenko crowdsourcing has a very different purpose.

Prof Kirilenko, professor of the practice of finance at the Sloan school, has recently spent three-and-a-half weeks in the Ukraine, where he has been advising those in power on how to stabilise the economy and help the country grow.

“I went there [Ukraine] as volunteer,” he says. “Instead of a tsunami or an earthquake, it was a man-made disaster.”

Now he is hoping to persuade others with knowledge and talent to volunteer too. The plan is to crowdsource expertise and he is inviting all those with business, educational, financial and legislative knowledge to contact him directly to help form a network to regenerate the country. “I think the rest of the world could really help.”

He describes the country in graphic terms. “It is like what happened in Britain when the Romans pulled out. When the Romans left they [the Britons] lost everything. For 600 years after that there was the Dark Ages.” He fears Ukraine might face the 21st century equivalent.

Prof Kirilenko’s work with Ukraine has personal roots. Now a US citizen, he grew up in the Ukraine and studied in eastern Europe before getting a PhD in economics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Before becoming co-director of the MIT Sloan centre for finance and policy, where research centres on preventing future financial crises, he was chief economist of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission and before that he spent 12 years at the International Monetary Fund.

Indeed, he says much of his time in the Ukraine was spent giving advice about how Ukraine could work with the IMF, something he is well-versed in doing. At the IMF, he says, the work he did was “financial crisis work”, with countries on the fringe of the global financial system. “I went from crisis to crisis.”

Andrei Kirilenko:

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