Development Musings


The job search of a young, still-not-sure-exactly-what-I-want-to-do twenty something can lead to many interesting places. Over the course of my RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) career search, I’ve come across a number of interesting news wires, about 26 different careers I could pursue, and quite a few remarkable people. One of those remarkable people was Melissa Lamson, the founder and president of Lamson Consulting, LLC. Melissa is an award-winning global cross cultural consultant, specializing in cultural transformation. She has worked with everyone from Cisco to MTV to the embassy of South Africa (to name a few).

When I came across Melissa’s site, my first thought was “This is a career?! Awesome.” The second, after about an hour of research and devouring Melissa’s website, was “How do I become her?” I researched more and became a bit disheartened at my finding another career path to obsess over that seemed to be one of the smaller niche enterprises (read: difficult to break into). Discouraged, I emailed Melissa asking for more information on her background, her career path, and any organizations she admired. Amazingly, she wrote me back and a week later we chatted on the phone for about 45 minutes.

Our conversation left me smiling – this was really a career I could see myself in, and with Melissa’s guidance, I now had a solid place to start. To make things better, at the end of the phone call, she asked me to write a post for her blog “The Globalist Blog” on my experience working with Stomp Out Malaria this past year. After a week of many drafts, below is the final result. Enjoy!

 

Lessons on International Project Management in Developing Countries

Or, How to be an Effective Program Coordinator for 17 Countries, 3 International Organizations, 60 Field Representatives, and 3,000 Volunteers Across Africa

When I accepted a position as the Communications Manager & Field Representative Coordinator for Peace Corps’ Stomping Out Malaria in Africa initiative, I had no idea what I was doing. It was one of those jobs where my boss gave me a two-line position summary, a 50-page initiative project plan, and a week to write up a job description complete with a timeline and indicators of success.

Looking back, that vague of a start seems a bit sparse given the magnitude of our initiative, but it also illustrates how projects tend to operate in the developing world. If your organization wants to do well, flexibility and patience are the name of the game when generating your program and coordinating your employees.

My inaugural year operated on a steep learning curve strewn with missteps, but by the end of that time I developed a foundation of principles to follow when coordinating such an initiative. Here are three things that will set your international program off on the right foot, especially when working in developing nations:

 

1) Prepare for failure. The training that our field representatives (or employees for the purpose of this article) received was arguably the most thorough of any program in Peace Corps. We flew them into Dakar for an intensive 10-day training led by top professionals in international malaria prevention; we covered everything from malaria science to behavior change to program management; we gave them endless online resources and access to experts in the field and in the states. What we didn’t do (for our first training groups at least) was talk about what could go wrong and how to deal with it. Instead, our employees left ready to dive into their work the moment they touched down at post. For some, this approach generated good results, but for those who were met with continuous roadblocks, the frustration was enormously de-motivating after such a fervent build-up at training.

Though discussing aspects of projects that could go wrong can be intimidating, it is essential to the durability of any program. Indeed, if someone had not told me to “plan for projects to not go as planned” in the beginning of my time as a field volunteer in Senegal, I would have assumed that I had done something abnormally wrong to have failed. But failure can be imperative: it often reveals insights to our programs that we would have otherwise missed.

There was a noticeable change in our employees’ resiliency once we talked about failure. Their attitudes during troubleshooting conversations went from disheartened to resolute, knowing now that their projects not going smoothly was to be expected. This attitude was crucial when it came to our organization meeting its goals – undoubtedly teams that are irrepressible in their drive to overcome can propel a project towards its desired outcomes at an extraordinary rate.

 

2) Cultivate a team, even if you have to don virtual pom poms. International programs do not lend themselves to a tight-knit “office culture.” Employees often work alone, at posts that are separated not only by international borders but also logistical obstacles such as power outages, dial-up internet, and transportation strikes. If open and continuous communication is the backbone of an effective team, developing countries seem to be built to incessantly thwart employee bonding and therefore the success of a program.

Having our employees consistently talk to each other about what they were doing and how things were going seemed like an easy part of their job to me, but my employees soon taught me otherwise. I realized that if I was going to get my team to exchange information, it was going to take daily coaching before it became a habit.

My strategy for cultivating this routine was through daily Google chat check-ins and monthly phone calls. During these conversations, I encouraged our employees to share their ups and downs: if people told me about things that were going well, I asked them to proclaim it on our private Facebook group; if I was approached with a problem, I’d connect that employee with one in a different post that was dealing or had dealt with the same issue; if someone had developed a great project, I asked him or her to upload and share the plans though our Google docs folder.

The pom  poms came out when I would emphasize employees’ efforts in order to build momentum towards a group conversation. For example: “Hey look at this great project Team Ethiopia is doing – I bet a few of you could adapt this for your own initiatives,” and so on. At times I felt silly with my relentless “sunshine” cheerleading, but eventually the group began uploading their project reports and discussing frustrations on their own. Result: a cohesive team that sustained their international conversations even after I had left the initiative.

 

3) You are a guest, so build some clout before you implement something new. After arriving at their posts, some of my employees were constantly frustrated when their fellow Peace Corps Volunteers wouldn’t take heed of their calls to action. This was especially true for those implementing our program in countries that had never focused on our goal (malaria eradication) before. It didn’t matter that my employees were also Peace Corps Volunteers – it mattered that they were coming in trying to start something new, and the local crew was not having it. 

Why should the established local groups do as my newly installed employees said? My team may have been experts in their field, but the local working crews were experts in their environment. Sure, we could have relied on their boss ordering them to do as we said, but in terms of sustaining the change we were brought in to initiate, that plan did not have much longevity.

This is especially true in developing nations. When you are starting a project in a new country – even if it’s through the same company you worked for elsewhere on the globe – you are still entering the work culture of a different group, and that makes you an outsider. Western styles of business will not bode well in, for example, many African countries. If you were to walk into a boardroom and jump directly into your meeting (as one might do in America so as not to waste anyone’s time), the local population would consider you rude for not greeting them and engaging in small talk before you began the meeting.

Obviously, the principle here goes beyond small talk: if you, as a guest in a country, want people to care about what you’re trying to do and say, you need to first make the effort to show them that you care about how they operate and exist. This means spending your first few days (or week) of business getting to know people, learning how their officer operates, even gaining a few business proverbs in the local language. After that, you will enter your project not as an outsider who acts as he or she knows better than the local workforce, but as a new business partner who will build something with the established crew. This approach gives local work teams the opportunity to take ownership in your initiative, which means employees who care and thus will work harder towards your desired outcome.

 

Successfully managing projects that operate internationally requires a profound approach. Companies that work in developing nations are often in some way trying to better a population’s wellness while they meet their own goals. In these situations, it is important to keep the adage in mind that it is not enough to be well intended in your efforts to do good – organizations must be critical of their own work and constantly adapt in order to achieve the greatest possible outcome for all parties involved.

These are principles that worked for me, but as each country and culture is different, so will be the avenue organizations need to take in order to get their job done. If these ideas do not work for your project, then let me then suggest empathy. As our initiative was trying to figure out the best way to function, what led me to the above foundation was constantly putting myself in the shoes of my employees, my managing team, and those we worked for. Coordinating international projects means coordinating a wide spectrum of people, and when you can align their needs with the goals of your company’s, you will not only realize your goals, but also enable their results to last.

This past December, I had an interview posted on my friend Mike’s website, Bushkids.org. We discussed my role in malaria prevention and awareness work throughout my Peace Corps service, what I’ve been doing in my 3rd year for Stomping Out Malaria in Africa, life as a 3rd year, GAD work, etc. It’s a lengthy interview so this post is simply to give you the link to the page: here. Enjoy!

Did you know that pregnant women are four times more prone to malaria infection than at any other stage in their lives?

What will YOU do this year to Stomp Out Malaria?

And now an anecdote from my friend William who is currently in Vietnam:

I’m in Vietnam right now, went out for lunch and saw this fruity watermelon cocktail at the table next to me. So i asked the waiter if i can get that too and she just laughed at me… Turns out, they only give that to women cus its women’s day.
As they should. Another good tale: read about Africa’s Girl Power.

Watch closely – two RPCVs from Senegal are featured! Wicked cool. So happy to be where I am in my life right now.  Enjoy the video!

This is a post about the last project that will come to Fodé Bayo before I leave country – if – it gets completely funded before I leave.  Below is the story of how over 35 volunteers are working together to bring over 22,000 books to more than 35 villages in Senegal.  Here is the website: Bringing Books to Senegal where you can donate and help see that this project happens.


A bit over a month ago, I received an email from my good friend in country, Jessie, about a project she wants to do, but needs some help with.  She found an amazing organization that ships books in French from Europe to Senegal, but the thing is that they only ship large amounts of books.  Like, a massive amount.  As in too many for her village of 300, but a pretty prefect amount for say thirty-five different volunteers and their villages.  That’s where my village comes in, and your philanthropic selves as well.  But I get ahead of myself.   Here’s the project information via the horse’s mouth… aka Jessie:

So there’s this NGO called Books for Africa. They, of course, send
books to Africa. But the way they do it is particularly nuts. They
ship a 40-foot container weighing about a bazillion tons, chock full
of around 22,000 books — books in French for kids.

Books for Africa is different from a lot of the organizations I’ve found for two reasons. First off, they’re able to ship French books from Europe, which is much more useful to Senegalese students than English books. Secondly, they ship massive amounts of books. When I saw this, I thought I could never partner with Books for Africa. That’s just way too many books for my village of 300.  But then I started talking about it with other Senegalese volunteers, many of whom expressed interest in receiving books and starting libraries in their communities.

As a result of all these conversations, Peace Corps/Senegal is partnering with Books for Africa to bring textbooks and reading materials to schools and community libraries throughout the country. Volunteers in about 35 communities are working with teachers and village leaders to open libraries and reading spaces, to start or supplement literacy programs, and to incorporate more books and reading comprehension into classrooms. It’s a really big project, and I’m excited that it’s happening.
In order to get these books to Fodé Bayo and the other villages in Senegal, we need help with the shipping costs. As you can imagine, the cost is huge – about $8,000.  Thankfully, all 35 volunteers involved will be asking their families and friends to help donate to our cause, but so far things are not looking great.  We’ve had the donation site up for about a month and so far have only received $100.
I know I recently hit you all up to help raise funds for the Senegal Moringa Fund, specifically the Kolda Donkey Rally.  The project that I am emailing you about is equally important, and like the Donkey Rally/Moringa Fund will benefit villages all over Senegal, not just in my area.  When you think of charitable donations you would like to make this year, just please think of this: of all organizations that you can donate to, PCV facilitated projects, like this library initiative, guarantee that your money will be going to a worthwhile cause.  There is no mystery intermediary dealing with your funds or a generic photo of an African kid saying “Thanks!” for your $20.  Instead there are people you know (like me!) who are able to tell you a story about where they money is going, who are involved in the process when the funds and materials arrive, and who will email you anecdotes and photos once the project is underway.  In other words, donating to projects such as this one and the Senegal Moringa Fund are the most beneficial types of donations you can make because 1) you know exactly what you’re donating to, and 2) can see exactly where the money is going.  No Santas on the corner ringing little bells here.
Anyway, venturing away from my soapbox, here is the website that you must go to in order to donate to our amazing library project: Bringing Books to Senegal.  All donations are of course tax deductible, but more importantly, will help bring over 35 little libraries to Senegal.

Remember this blog entry from February 2010 about the beginnings of my food security project? And this one from May 2010 about waiting for people to get motivated about doing this project?  And this one from December 2010 where I may have gotten on my soapbox during a post about the frustrations of this project?  ALHUMDULLILIAH the wheels are officially turning a bit faster as the Fodé Bayo School and Health Hut Garden Project’s grant is written and sent in. By the end of this month, the Peace Corps SPA committee will review all submitted grant proposals, and (hopefully) by the beginning of February, let me know whether or not my project has been approved.  Then, it’s usually another six week waiting period for the grant money to come in, and then the fence construction actually begins.  I know, difficult to believe at this point but let’s throw up a collective WOO either way!

Below is the basic information from the SPA grant proposal.  I didn’t include all of the little numbers (budget, persons effects/involved) in this post, but if you’re interested in that information you can email me and I’ll be more than happy to zap you the whole nitty gritty.  Be gentle on my writing – I realize that the longer I’m here the more my english skills fail, but after three days working on this application, crossed-eyes won over perfect syntax.  I’ll keep you updated as to if/when the project gets approved. Hurrah!

 

Small Project Assistance (SPA) Grant Proposal

Country: Senegal
Fiscal Year: 2011
USAID Program Element: 4.5.2, Agricultural Sector Productivity
SPA Project Title: Fodé Bayo School and Health Hut Garden Project
Community Group: Mere d’Eleves & Groupement de la Case de Sante
Project Start Date: 24-Dec-10
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Questionnaire:
1) What community-identified priority does this SPA Project address?  What is the goal of the project?
The priority of the Fode Bayo school and health hut garden project is to increase nutrition standards by providing secure areas for year-round school and health-hut gardens.  The target populations are the students of the elementary school and the residents of the five communities that the Fode Bayo health hut serves (Bantan Kilin, Sarre Hoba, Sarre Ansu, Sarre Pathe, Sinthian Aly), specifically: pregnant mothers, children, the elderly, and sick members of the community.  The goals of this project are (1) to decrease the community’s levels of malnutrition, and (2) to increase local human capital in gardening techniques and improved nutritional practices. In order to achieve these goals, we will: (A) use the proposed garden spaces to establish moringa beds for nutrition trainings and consumption; (B) demonstrate improved garden techniques such as permaculture practices that will improve the variety of vegetables grown and increase the garden yields, (C) enhance the nutritional value of school lunches.

2) What are the objectives of this project?  List the principal tasks you and the community group will undertake to reach your objectives.
As stated in the PROSPERE project framework, the over-arching purpose of any project throughout a health or environmental education volunteer’s service is to “improve the health and environmental conditions of Senegalese communities in order to have a positive impact on their well-being.”  The Fode Bayo school and health hut garden project has two main objectives: (1) to specifically address PROSPERE’s second project goal of improving communities’ nutritional status, and (2)  to enhance Fode Bayo’s and the surrounding communities’ food security through “integrated, effective, and sustainable approaches” to gardening (as stated on http://www.pcsenegal.org/food_security/).  The principal tasks that me, my village of Fode Bayo, and the five surrounding villages will undertake to ensure that this project reaches its objectives revolve around the “three key aspects of food security: availability of food year-round, economic and physical access to food, and utilization of nutritious options” (as stated on http://www.pcsenegal.org/food_security).

To reach the first objective of improving communities’ nutritional status, we will: (A) use local experts (e.g. trained gardeners, Eaux et Forets workers, master farmers in the Kolda region) to establish and teach other community members how to create moringa beds for intensive leaf production, (B) create demo moringa beds to allow health relais and community health workers to continue to lead nutrition trainings on cooking healthy foods and preparing nutritious meals using moringa – trainings will be for community members with particular emphasis towards mothers, pregnant women, and relais, (C) use local experts and agriculture PCVs to train community members on permaculture gardening techniques in order to increase the variety and diversity of the types of nutritious foods grown in the gardens.

To reach the second objective of enhancing Fode Bayo’s and the surrounding communities’ food security, we will: (A) scrupulously construct the permanent-grilage fencing so that the gardens will be secure from animal destruction year-round (local livestock being the biggest threat to local gardens), (B) use local experts and agriculture PCVs to train community members (e.g. relais and the women’s group) on permaculture gardening techniques in order to create more self-sustainable, durable, and diverse gardens that will generate higher yields.

3) How will the project contribute to building skills and capacity within the community?
Though the Fode Bayo school and health hut garden project is a simple one, from the beginning, the organization of this project has taken longer than expected because of my village’s commitment to being involved in every step of the process.  From our first planning meeting with local masons in June of 2010, our women’s group, health hut group, and my counterpart have wanted to discuss and go over every price, garden “blue-print,” and idea for our community contribution to the project with a fine-toothed comb and many glasses of tea.  By the time the planting season arrived, a consensus was still not reached, so the project got put on hold until after the harvest.  While at the time this pace was frustrating for me because I wanted to see  the project get off the ground, in retrospect, my village’s dedication to be involved in every aspect of project is cause for celebration. Naturally, there were a few people that wanted me to just take over, write the grant, and get things done with, but those people were a minority; my village and the key groups involved have taken ownership of the fact that this project is theirs, not mine.  The fact that most people see me as a facilitator to bring the project to fruition (i.e. write the grant as none of my community members are literate enough to do so themselves) and not its driving force is a rare perception in aid-receiving communities.  Among all of the capacity building that has and will take place throughout the duration of this project, the slow change in the mindset of “Give us something development group!” to “Help us do something we want to do development group!” is a behavior change that will enable members of my community to take ownership and control of future projects instead of laying back as un-involved receivers.  This “skill” of having the confidence to ask for a voice in projects and the drive to see projects that the community identifies realized, is rare in Senegal; I am confident that this collective attitude will allow my little community to bring their lives into the higher standard of living.

Members of the six communities involved in this project will be receiving an array of new skills as they participate in the process of turning the school and health hut plots into functioning gardens.  Grilage fences in our area are notorious for being flimsy and poorly installed, so the local mason who is constructing the grilage, doors, and pickets in a nearby Mandinka village has agreed to meticulously oversee and teach the community members how to properly set up the fencing. In addition, relais from the Fode Bayo health hut who are already active and knowledgable in conducting causeries about the benefits, uses, and cooking possibilities with moringa, will be able to take advantage of new, abundant resources in order to teach a whole new population of mothers, pregnant women, and children about moringa.  In the gardens, local experts and agriculture PCVs will bring the concepts and practices of permaulture to my community – a gardening practice that until this point has never been introduced in my area.

4) How will the community be able to sustain the activities and/or benefits of this project?
From this project, the permanent fencing around the school and health hut will be new addition to my community, but the idea and enthusiasm towards a garden in these areas for better nutrition throughout the community is not a new concept.  In fact, this project in essence began four years ago with the previous volunteer in my village, Kirsten Bloomberg.  While she was a health volunteer living in Fode Bayo, she worked with our women’s group, health hut group, and counterpart to bring the six villages that feed into Fode Bayo’s school and use our health hut together through being involved in the gardens.  This task, as anyone who has worked with groups from different villages in Senegal will understand, is a monumental one in-and-of itself. As the gardens began to come alive, she was just able to get Aide et Action to fund bamboo fencing for the school garden and held a village contest to put up bamboo krinting around the health hut before she COSed.  While these enclosures kept the gardens running for a time, bamboo is not sufficient to withstand the intense rains of Kolda, and the gardens were all to quickly unprotected and overrun by weeds and animals.  After six villages put so much effort into the two garden plots, seeing it all crumble so quickly was disheartening and many people returned to their personal gardens.

When I moved into Fode Bayo and traveled throughout my village and the surrounding communities, I began to realize that the interest in maintaining these community plots never altogether disappeared.  When the communities saw that I was serious in helping them see these gardens work again, they sprung to action (as described in my response to question three).  This, in my opinion, is indicative of a commitment to sustain and continue work in the gardens, especially as they gain new gardening skills and understand the value of the plots planned for these gardens (moringa and permaculture).  I am excited for what the future of these gardens may hold, considering also that my replacement will be an agriculture volunteer – hopefully one that will be able to work with community leaders to take the ideas of permaculture and the three key aspects of food security (described in my response to question one) to new levels.

Though the school and health hut gardens will primarily be used to enhance school lunches and provide nutrition trainings and moringa leaves for patrons of the health hut, there remains a possibility of income generation.  Since both plots will cover a total of 2138 square meters, there will be excess land to rent out to individual gardeners.  Money from the rented garden plots can not only be used to buy seeds for the gardens, but also to fund any repairs in the fencing.  In addition, the women’s group and health hut group will be able to sell vegetables sold from rented plots to increase the incomes to their respective groups.

Environmental Assessment:
1) What are potential negative environmental impacts on the project activities?
Being that the space in where the permanent fencing will be constructed previously contained bamboo fencing and a garden, the negative environmental impact from this project will be minimal, if any at all.

All things considered, there are two possible negative environmental impacts concerning water: (1) that such a dramatic increase in water usage from the wells near the school garden and in the health hut will lower the water table in the area, and (2) that due to changes in the soil slope as the fencing is installed, water may collect in the areas dug up for the fence supports and doors. Apart from effects on water, it is possible that community members may see grilage fencing as a “fix-all,” or the only way in which they can securely enclose their gardens.

2) For each of the impacts described above, please describe the measures the community will adopt in order to monitor and mitigate against potentially harmful effects.
In order to monitor and mitigate the potential negative impact the permanent fencing will have on the garden areas’ water table and flow, community members will be trained extensively on the innovative and sustainable princliples of permaculture.  Permaculture methods (used to create permagardens), in essence turn gardens into mini, self-sustainable ecosystems.  Permagardening practices take a holistic view to gardening; community members will be trained to consider sun travel, animals on site, different plant and vegetable varieties, weather, and space utilization to achieve the maximum benefit and yield of a garden space. In mitigating the potential impact that the fence may have on water in the garden area, permagardening also considers the natural water flow in the garden area in order to manipulate water (by micro-irrigation, burms etc.) to the benefit of the garden.

Mitigating the belief that grilage fencing is the best option for enclosing garden areas will be more challenging, and will be a battle-of-beliefs fought by the future agriculture PCV in Fode Bayo.  Grilage fencing is not sustainable, as metal eventually rusts and cement inevitably crumbles.  Since out-right telling community members that they are wrong in thinking that grilage is the end-all-be-all of garden enclosures, we will team up with local agrofrorestry and live-fencing experts in order to plant the optimum varieties of live-fencing and wind-breaks around the gardens.  These areas will then serve as demo plots that will be used to teach community members about other, more sustainable options they can use instead of grilage.

I’m in crunch time.  Little projects and the day to day musings that take place in the life of a health volunteer, those I’m not worried about. That kind of work I do every day, and will continue to do until I leave Fodé Bayo in May. What has my nerves on end is that big food security/gardening/fencing project I’ve been talking about since about a year or more ago –  remember?  (There are two 1 and 2 old blog posts about the beginning and re-beginning of this project.)  If that one doesn’t get off the ground by the new year, it may not happen, and this situation is one of those where I really need to remind myself of my philosophy as a development worker.

I have until the end of the year to know if this project will happen or not, because I have to write a grant for the fencing/food security project and you cannot submit grants without five months in which to complete them. I will be leaving my village in May… so as I said, crunch time.

Seeing this project happen can play out in two situations: me giving my village something versus facilitating something. While I could easily run around and talk to masons, getting prices to complete the grant, I would be doing most of the work and then one day appearing in village with fencing supplies – it would appear as a gift since the village not something they got on their on. I would be, [dundundun] just like (almost) every over aid group that likes to announce that they develop the “3rd world.”  Let’s be honest though: at this point, especially under the time crunch I’m in, this option is extremely tempting. I don’t want to leave my village with this project not happening. All Peace Corps volunteers like to talk about how tangible outcomes are not as important as the sustainable impact (intangible outcomes) we’ll have via things like teaching our village new ideas and methods, and working with them day-in, day-out… but I also cannot name one PCV that isn’t a tad self-conscious about leaving their two years in site without something physically standing for their time. Example, a well. (Ahh ha!  I fall into this category as too.)

The other option then – the one I’ve been trying to follow – is to work with my counterpart and village as they drive the project on Africa time (inch Allah and “tomorrow”): talking to brick-makers, organizing transportation, getting all of the numbers organized has been taking weeks while I know I could muscle my brother into doing it with me in two days. Instead, the beginning buds of this project poked up over a year ago and we’re still sitting around talking about it. Frustrated as I get though, I keep coming back to “us” when trying to find someone to blame.

It’s actually an example of my biggest gripe with development in places like Africa; aid agencies and NGOs, being pressured by donors and the numbers game, rarely talk to village and towns when they move into do a project. They create some sort of “solution” algorithm in their offices to decide (for example) what villages need wells, what areas need schools, and so on, then swoop in one day with all the fixings to get the project done, leaving two weeks later, patting their backs for enriching the lives of the poor, ignorant, helpless villagers.  Usually they don’t even talk to a village beyond telling them what they’re doing. And why would they – villagers (or anyone who is approached by someone saying, “Hey! I want to build this big cool thing for you that you may not be your biggest need but I’ll do all the leg work, so…”) will always say “yes, welcome,” and be thankful.  I’m not saying that schools and wells are not needed – indeed, massive uneducated populations and non-potable water are two of the most prevalent issues in developing countries. My dispute lies in the attitude that this kind of development method breeds among Westerners and the develop-ees; develop-ees believe that they cannot do things for themselves, that they need foreigners to rush in and do things for them, and that if they do need something – if they want something –  to just sit tight because some white man will eventually come and empty his pockets and they won’t have to lift a finger beyond maybe doing some “tribal” drumming to give the foreigner his “African experience;” Westerners think that as long as they are well intended and doing something they think is right (even if it has no back up) that it must be good regardless so whatever let’s just do our project and bounce and think our shit doesn’t stink for the next year.

This is an attitude that Peace Corps Volunteers confront and combat daily.  “You’re white, you have money, give me this.”  It is a mind-blowingly frustrating attitude to face, but let’s think about it – didn’t we as a development community have help to created this attitude in the first place? If so, how much can I justify wanting to punch people in the face when they approach me this way?

I know, I’m on my soapbox, excuse me for getting carried away.  This is something that I feel very passionately about and frequently deliberate over during idle hours.

If you’re interested in the ideas and realities of development along this line of thought, the history of why it’s hasn’t been meeting it’s goals for so long, and so on, I recommend two books: The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly and The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier.  These two books make up my development creed. Another good resource is Good Intentions Are Not Enough.

Anyway, I’ll keep  you updated on how/if the project progresses.  My fever is not 102.3 anymore, so assuming the position of the exasperating “let’s do this let’s do this let’s do this!” person should resume tomorrow.