Stop Trying to Save the World: Big Ideas are Destroying International Development

November 19, 2014
A close friend just yesterday forwarded an Article to me by Michael Hobbes critiquing international development efforts. I found it very thought provoking — and it is comforting to see someone put into readable words and logic much of what I myself have felt for decades now. Therefore, I think it should have wider circulation than it might otherwise receive; so here is the link and I encourage you to click and read it — Stop Trying to Save the World.
In the classes I teach here now at Armstrong State University, one of my primary messages is that all political interactions result in unintended consequences. That is so as the result of a multitude of human behaviors and environmental circumstances all interacting in ways that individually might be predictable but together are unfathomable. So one needs to pick an objective, put it out there, provide opportunities for those who share those objectives to apply them in their own idiosyncratic ways, and hope for the best — while guarding against the worst through continual assessment of “how we doing” (Mayor Koch’s measurable indicator of how “beneficiaries” thought things were working out).

I was quoted in the book “A Singular Woman” by Janny Scott to the effect that the old saw about giving/teaching a person to fish didn’t have it quite right — lots of people already knew how to fish and didn’t need us to teach them that. Instead, they don’t have access to places where they can “fish” for any number of socio-economic, political and locational reasons. Therefore, my view is that “development” — a poor term to begin with —  is more about opening access to opportunities rather than “training” or “capacity-building.” . I think Michael Hobbes’ perspective is consistent with that view.


Google’s Africa Connect Competition – Uweza Foundation selected as one of 10 Finalists

February 23, 2014

As many readers of this blog already know, I am a volunteer Board Member of the Uweza Foundation supporting community-based empowerment programs that build upon already-existing capabilities and resourcefulness of Kenyans, especially women and children, in the very large non-formal Kibera settlement near Nairobi, Kenya. In that capacity, I am very excited to announce that Uweza Foundation’s Student Art Gallery and its art director Steve Kyenze have been selected by Google as one of ten finalists in its continent-wide “Africa Connected” competition! Five winners will be chosen by Votes (without any financial costs) cast on Uweza’s dedicated webpage for the Africa Connected competition.

Cast your FREE VOTE before March 6th  HERE or HERE (if you click on the second of those links, you will need to click again on our webpage labeled “Steve, Kenya”).

Since this is a social media “vote” — NOT a fund-raising competition — no financial contributions are solicited on the “voting” webpage. All you need do to support Uweza’s chances to win one of five Africa Connected $25,000 prizes is to VOTE by clicking HERE.

You will also be able to see a short video that Google produced to showcase the Uweza Student Gallery’s work and how it helps support our young Uweza students to pay their school fees and continue their primary and secondary educations is also provided on the webpage. It is well worth a view.

So………….. to view the Video and/or TO VOTE, just click HERE.

You will need a Google Account to vote (that’s the catch I guess) so when you click the tab to vote you will be prompted to sign in with your google account username and password or to create a google account.

With Thanks in Advance, Jerry


Nelson Mandela — A Most Profound Loss

December 5, 2013

Having worked at the margins of the constitutional transition in South Africa from 1991-1994, I believe that in one way or another every person on Earth has benefitted directly or indirectly from the life and leadership of President Nelson Mandela today. His personal example, moral political leadership, and persistence  has not been paralleled by anyone during the last 40 years. He will be missed even by those who are not aware of their debt to him.


Protecting Indigenous People: Recent Recommendations for UN Conference 2014

June 21, 2013

 

Greetings from Honduras.

The “Alta Outcome Document,” described in a VOA headline as “Indigenous Peoples Stand Up to Exploitation” and more circumspectly by The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) — an official advisory body to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) — as “a set of recommendations,” was signed in Alta, Norway on June 12, 2013 with the expectation that it will serve as the basis for the upcoming UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September 2014.

Two of the main themes of the Alta Declaration are directly related to approaches strongly advocated in this Blog site: (1) participatory involvement of persons directly impacted by “development” interventions and (2) the need to understand, acknowledge, and respect non-formal parallel governance systems to achieve more effective, efficient and properly targeted assistance to poor people.

For further information on the UN-sponsored World Conference for Indigenous People, September 22-23, 2014 (New York, NY), see http://www.wcip2014.org/ — a very good source of information about “indigenous people” worldwide and, in particular, http://www.wcip2014.org/background .

For UNPFII’s description of the “Alta Outcome Document,” see http://social.un.org/index/IndigenousPeoples/tabid/70/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/151/Preparatory-Meeting-in-Norway-Declares-Common-Position-for-2014-World-Conference-on-Indigenous-Peoples-to-Be-Held-at-Headquarters-22-23-September.aspx .

For VOA’s background coverage of the meeting in Alta see http://www.voanews.com/content/indigenous-peoples-21jun13/1686379.html .

Best, Jerry


Help Change the Lives of Young Girls in One of Africa’s Largest URBAN Slums

April 24, 2013

Help the Uweza Foundation meet the “Raise for Women Challenge” sponsored by The Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation, and Half The Sky Movement by donating any amount through Crowdrise at either http://www.crowdrise.com/UwezaGirls or http://www.crowdrise.com/uwezagirls/fundraiser/uweza . A donation is any amount whatsoever will be very much appreciated.

If you believe as I do that developing girls’ self-esteem and providing them with advanced formal education is an important contribution to breaking the cycle of poverty, please donate today. The Challenge is open for only a short period of time – from today (April 24th) to Thursday, June 6th.

The sponsors of this Challenge will donate up to an additional $25 thousand depending on the amount raised by Uweza (or other NGOs) during the short time available under the terms of this fund-raising competition.

Information, films, and photos focused on Uweza – a US tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Foundation registered in the State of Illinois – supports several “demand-responsive” programs assisting children and women in Kibera, a slum neighboring Nairobi, Kenya, is also available at either of those two websites.

Uweza has very low overheads and accomplishes an awful lot of good on an annual budget of only about $150 thousand a year. As a former World Bank staff person used to dealing in much larger sums, I cannot express how impressed I am by the due diligence, record keeping, and fundamental accomplishments of this small NGO.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I am one of only five (5) completely unpaid volunteer Uweza Board Members, the only male, and by far the oldest.

Best Wishes, Jerry


Kenya Election Results: Empowering Kenyan Girls is the Next Step for a Peaceful Kenya

April 10, 2013

As many of you know, I am on the Board of a US-based Non-Profit (the Uweza Aid Foundation) that assists women and children in Kibera, the largest “slum” — or preferably non-formal settlement — at the periphery of Naroibi, Kenya. With that in mind, I believe you will find this article  — …Empowering Kenyan Girls is the Next Step for a Peaceful Kenya both interesting and informative.

Written by fellow Uweza Board member Amy Augustin, the article focuses primarily on the need for, and results of, Uweza’s collaboration with No Means No Worldwide to provide a two-day self-defense and life skills training course to more than thirty girls at Uweza’s Kibera community center. This is an important program in the face of an epidemic of gender-based violence in non-formal settlements like Kibera throughout much of the world.

Clearly, Uweza’s work in Kibera is entirely consistent with the “demand-driven” approach advocated my blog International Development Should….


UPDATE — Interview of International Scholar in Cairo 2 Years Later

February 15, 2013

This Post is a follow-up to one published two years ago (February 6, 2011) entitled “Interview Internatl. Scholar Cairo Today (Sun. Feb. 6)http://internationaldevelopmentshould.com/2011/02/06/interview-international-scholar-in-cairo-today-sunday-feb-6/. Although at that time the scholar interviewed was not identified for “reasons of personal security,” this time she is revealed as Dr. Ann Lesch, professor of political science at the American University in Cairo, who has lived in Egypt for nearly seventeen years now. This follow-up interview was conducted by Dr. Ja Jahannes; as was the case the first time. If interested in this update of her views two years later, just click here on http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/global/jj_cairo_2013.html.


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