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Development – if it feels good you are doing it wrong!

If however you feel frustrated then you are properly doing it right! If you think that sounds odd, then you properly do not actually work in development.

The thing about development is – that it is really complicated. In order to successfully and sustainably develop an area you will need to do everything, health, education, environment, governance, justice, human rights, agriculture, water and sanitation, livelihoods etc. all with a gender/racial/religious equality cross cutting theme! Sounds complicated? Well then add on the usual aspects of lacking human resources, slow procurement, bureaucracy, violence (both actual and structural), access, political ups and downs, donor fatigue, donor fetishes and fads, financial crisis’ etc.

The thing is that almost all NGOs, UN and Donor agencies are essentially trying to do the same thing; make the world a little bit better and sell the idea to the public that this is a possible thing to do. And by doing this we create a disconnect between the complicated situation in the field and the communication to the public. We are selling the idea of development by simplifying complicated situations and making you, the general public, feel good about helping to make the world better. In short, we are making it about you, it is not all about you, development is not and should not be about the donor/contributor/supporter/buyer of campaign t-shirt-bracelet etc.

Development is, however, about people and their communities, and working with them to make a lasting and profound impact and change, and that takes time and lots of it, money, human resources, commitment, patience and will, and it is not easy and most of all a slow and frustrating process.


About nonitalu

Cultural and linguistic mishap traveling the world in search of that warm fuzzy feeling called home...

One response to “Development – if it feels good you are doing it wrong!

  1. The best piece of advice I got in grad school (when I was supposedly studying how economic development occurs – ha!) was from a professor that assured us that we as aid workers might never be able to determine if we are doing things “right.” But she drilled into us that if we weren’t questioning ourselves, we most certainly were doing it wrong.
    Yes, the aid paradigm can break our hearts. And it often does.
    But everyday, we have a choice. Will we slump into the system? Or will we challenge the parts of it that prevent us from fulfilling our deepest motivations?

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