Saturday, January 22, 2011

best practices in international development || post-in-progress

Three case studies:
Enron pipeline. NGO: tells enron, keep pipeline away from communities, preserve their culture. Cultural anthropologist says that when he visits, the villagers want the pipeline to come. (where is the disconnect? why did they not get buy-in?) (because we're human)

Malawi fertilizer. Government successfully promotes fertilizer use by optimizing subsidy program. Great, farming yields go up, people lifted out of poverty. But perhaps the fertilizer is actually chemically based. Twenty years from now, the land turns out to be ruined.

Community, the young generation: want TV. But other (very close-by) community, the older generation there says that TV has replaced original culture. (but cultural changes happen all the time. people in the US were afraid of the radio, that it would replace singing on the porches. people in the US are afraid of the internet, instead of being united by TV, we are split everywhere.) (So I come down on the side of technological change, but is that because I am young? As I learn more, will I naturally come to the conclusion that local is everything?)

Tolstoy answered some of my questions in his short story:
It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.
(credit to "What Tolstoy said to the development worker,", for talking about "analysis paralysis" and linking to Tolstoy's story)

("Good luck, bad luck, who knows?"塞翁失马) (google for the full story, e,g.

The only thing I can do: a holistic optimization. It takes a long time to do so properly, and not on scales of student time, but real-life time, where a year is nothing. (yet a year is everything -- funding, competitions, gathering support, finding a team, momentum).

We play the role of bringing knowledge to a community, not making their decisions for them. "Stakeholder analysis"
I'm not some savior, even if I'm sacrificing our time, money, effort -- my life -- ultimately, it cannot be about me.
Even if we are hardworking, intelligent, skilled -- but we aren't not open minded, then we can't always reach a consensus within a reasonable timeframe. (UPOP and Leadershape, both gave me newfound respect for and insight into the difficulties of being a negotiator, and common failing points. And watching William Ury's TED talk, his happiness amazes and inspires me).

Support from the community is essential. In the Malawi case, if I was the program director. If the community knew I tried my best, if they agreed with my decision at the time, even if both they and I were completely unaware that more research needed to be done. Well, at the end, we are still friends, and we can move forward and fix and learn from our failures. But if we didn't agree, at the end, we are enemies, and then I can't do anything to help the community. I can try to fix the consequences of my failure, but likely anything I do still won't be enough in the eyes of the community.

What I thought D-Lab Dissemination would be about:
studying how to distribute knowledge, how to scale. Studying questions such as why, even though the cure for tuberculosis was developed 60 years ago, tuberculosis still kills millions of people today. I suspect that what's needed is a ton of hard work.

instead: case studies of cool projects, also work on our own projects (developing and submitting a proposal) (fun class still)

Everything is interconnected. That doesn't mean that it's hopeless if we don't change everything all at once (e.g. health, education, income). Rather, (according to Paul Polak) it means that if we focus all our attention and really effect positive change in one area (e.g. income) the others will change as well (more income, spend more on health, more health, more education, more education, more income...). (e.g. Paul Polak, focused on income, worked on irrigation, now two harvests, one in the dry season with crops worth more, health goes up, ...)

Where I can go from here: pick a community, any community. Listen to them, find what they need. I will pick up the skills along the way, driven by my passion. (not "Can I" but "I will").

What I'm worried about: Not being capable of hard work. Not being skilled enough. Being a daydreamer and not a doer. (stop worrying so much and just do?) (am I destined to be a HASS major and never learn technical skills? For Leadershape, I picked elementary school education, specifically changing attitudes and collecting best practices, not any concrete technical magical bullet. Who am I to try to change this, anyway? And I certainly won't be learning skills to work on cool MEETERS-worthy projects while I do that, which in theory to accomplish I should be spending all my time on) (stop worrying! just do what I want to do at this moment in time, and be happy)

One measure of the success of an NGO:
If, over time, it has shifted from being mostly outsiders to being mostly community members.
For any group of people, outsiders (people from community who connect to outside world, and/or people who come in from outside world) are needed to bring in fresh knowledge and skills. However, for those knowledge and skills to persist, need to be community based. Either teach people the skills, or enable them

Talk more to people at MIT, because everyone here is amazing and open and helpful.

Perhaps the answers to the things I want to learn can't be taught. They can only be learned; I can only learn by doing.

In conclusion:"Just Do It."

No comments:

Post a Comment