Well, I started a blog hoping to engage people and had 3 hits on my first day. I’m pretty sure two of those were me on my phone, but to be fair I haven’t told my mom about this yet – I’m sure I’ll get a lot more hits/day once she knows…
Changing the world (or, for that matter, bringing change to a continent) seems like an ambitious undertaking, so I thought I’d start by laying out where we’re coming from.
A lot has been written lately on the ineffectiveness that seems to have inadvertently crept into many of the currently operating models of charity. Books like Walking with the Poor, When Helping Hurts, and Toxic Charity look through the eyes of wisdom and experience at the waste, lack of sustainability, inefficiencies and dependency created by much of today’s charitable system, while books like Dead Aid and The Trouble with Aid do the same for Government to Government foreign aid. Of course this does not include mismanagement and ‘misallocation of funds’ (which seems to be a nice way of saying that someone in government just got a new sports car/house/jet/Swiss bank account). Having worked within this system and seen the good and the bad, but also desiring to be the most effective in what we do, we thought this blog might be a good avenue through which to explore better models, or perhaps even find the best model.
The truth is that trillions have been given, through foreign aid and through charities, to governments and projects in various African countries. Just last year Africa received some $50 Billion in government aid (almost a quarter of which was given by North America), and another $310 Billion was given by North American donors through charities. Why is it then that poverty in Africa has barely been dented? North Americans may be generous, but this system is obviously broken. What could we be doing differently that could bring lasting change? What is being done out there that is working? If you happen upon this blog and have an answer to any of these questions, I would really love to hear it please!
Meanwhile, here’s where we are: we really believe that change in Africa won’t come as a result of pouring more money into it. No duh. The path taken by that money – how it’s spent and what it ignites – has to change. The current, most prevalent system is too akin to a tap pouring water into dry sand – the sand will drink it up and be just as dry once the tap runs out of water. You can’t irrigate a desert that way. How does one tap the aquifer? Dig deep enough to find water under the desert? Engage the average Tanzanian/Malawian/Congolese/South Sudanese/Libyan into working for the betterment of their own country, and not just what they can get out of it (which leads to corruption), what works for the immediate term (which leads to poverty), or what’s always been done?
And ultimately for us, what can we do to catalyse change, where do we start?