global development, the industry

01 May

I know that we all think that we’re experiencing the world at its pinnacle, constantly witnessing some significant fulcrum in history. We always are fascinated when something happens for the umpteenth time, as long as its the first time we’re seeing it. It’s in our nature to be self-centered, in that we are quite literally centered on ourselves. We can only see history, as well as the present, through one perspective. And we can’t apologize for this, it’s just the way things are. Awareness can be helpful, but difficult to maintain.

That said, I’m going to use that opener as a disclaimer and go ahead and indulge in some 2012-centric, and therefore me-centric, rhetoric: I’m pretty astounded by the global development & aid community. It seems to me (from my lofty & learned 2012 point of view) that it has taken us, collectively, an astounding amount of time to get to move from learning the lesson (over and over again) of a failed approach, to trying a new approach.

What lesson? I recently read a blog post that summarized it quite nicely:

If I were to do it all again, I wouldn’t design a solution. It isn’t my place to do that. What I’d do is try and be a useful resource for a group of people or a community that have a much better understanding of their problems than I do, and want to work together toward finding solutions. I wouldn’t come in as the guy with the answer. I’d come in as the guy willing to try and help them in any way possible as they find their own answer, and act as the bridge between that answer, and the money and resources needed to make it happen.
Or, perhaps if I really wanted to help, I wouldn’t ever come to Haiti to begin with. I’d keep my fight at home in the United States, rallying people to try and build awareness that places like Haiti suffer because of policies benefitting our government, our corporations, and ultimately, ourselves. Policies created by our politicians, sometimes with our consent (the Iraq War) and sometimes as a result of special interests (the Supreme Court’s campaign finance reform ruling), result in massive problems for other people in the world. Sometimes I wonder if that truly ever can be remedied.
The crazy part? This blog post is from April 22, 2012. Last f’ing week. This blows my mind. That he learned this lesson, and is able to articulate it – this is great. But this isn’t about him. This is about the fact that he had to learn this lesson by himself, and that this learning clearly isn’t reflected in the organization he supports, much less the industry of global development.

So are we really at a fulcrum in history? Are we starting to absorb this lesson and adapt our strategies? Pursue innovations and use new methods? It seems so, to me. But maybe thats just because I can only see it from where I’m standing. But maybe not!

ps – I know, the fact that it’s an ‘industry’ deserves its own lengthy conversation, but I think its undeniable that it is, in fact, an industry. So rather than debate the merits of it’s existence, lets figure out how to make it a functional industry with fewer and fewer negative externalities. Now, if we can just figure out what progress looks like…


1 Comment

Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized


One response to “global development, the industry

  1. whatsupsmiley

    May 2, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Well said.


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