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.

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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….


The geo-branding war

May 22, 2012

This is the first time I have re-blogged a post from another site (and yes, with permission). I have done so because I find it both provocative and something about which I largely agree.

Thanks to David Levine for sending this to me.

Jerry

Africa is a Country (Old Site)


Geo-branding is a serious thing. It is particularly serious when people from other geographic areas decide to brand your geographical area and the people in it, the way they see fit and the way that fits their purposes. No other country, region or continent, I’d argue, suffers from other peoples’ nonsense as much as the continent of Africa. Actually, the reason why people generally and casually talk about Africa as one place is because of what Nigerian-American author C. P. Eze refers to as “their geo-branding war”.

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