Archive for the 'aid industry' Category

“We are here” – The Skoll World Forum 2008 in Oxford

The start of Skoll World Forum 2008 has been as unpredictable and refreshing as the (much discussed) weather in Oxford.

The rain was drizzling down on the front door steps of the Said Business School as newly arrived delegates gathered to complete their registration and begin the first of a 3 day forum on Social Entrepreneurship. The drizzle continued as delegates were seen mingling, shaking hands, chatting in gentle murmurs, and sipping cups of organic tea in the lobby. A sense of anticipation simmered through the crowd as more and more people arrived, together with the occasional shaft of sunshine the sound of enthusiastic voices of friends and acquaintances greeting one another broke through the crowd.

The theme of this years Skoll Forum is culture. Asking the question: if social entrepreneurship is truly about changing the world, then what are the cultural and contextual barriers that social entrepreneurs need to overcome to create sustainable change in the areas where they work?

Amongst the speakers at the opening plenary, was an impressive panel of women, each telling their story about how they have had to having to overcome challenging cultural barriers to be successful, and thereby having a profound global impact.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Jody Williams spoke of communication being the key to success. That everyone needs the same information to be empowered.

Karen Tse, Founder and CEO of Bridges of Justice told a story of warriors before a battle to illustrate what was needed to overcome cultural barriers. The warriors were told that were 2 things that must be remembered throughout if they were to be successful: compassion and interconnectedness. Both of which remain important in our growing global village.

As we left the prestigious Sheldonian Theatre the rain thundered down – as if in confirmation of Jeff Skoll‘s opening remarks of the forum “We are here”.
We are here, as social entrepreneurs, to cross cultural barriers and make a significant and lasting impact on the discourse of social change and development.

The Skoll World Forum can be followed online.

Line Hadsbjerg

They come in the name of helping

Last night I saw “They come in the name of helping”, a film (coming to me via Global Giving. The film originally appeared in Peter Deitzs blog about micro-philanthropy, which features individuals, organisations and platforms using Web 2.0 applications to enable micro-donations and social change) by 22 year old Political Science student Peter Brock. Shot in Sierra Leone, the second poorest country in the world, it portrays young students voicing their views about development aid.

It took quite some time to load, but the authentic voices are worth the wait.

Tales from Mali

malischool.jpgOne of the people behind The Mali Initiative, Jürgen Nagler describes in an interesting blogpost some of his recent experiences with the aid system in Mali. In January my family and I had the chance to visit their pilot school in Bamako and are happy to support their work on betterplace. Jürgens tales from the fourth-poorest nation echo William Easterly’s theses about the failure of the Western aid system.  

There is, for example, a project supported by the World Bank, which diverts water from Kalabancoro (the suburb of Bamako, in which the school we visited is located) to other more central suburbs: now the latter have water, but Kalabancoro is drying out and its inhabitants need to bring water in containers from a distant well.  

Money is flowing from the large Western aid organisations to large Southern governments – only to disappear in the Bermuda triangle between ministers, regions and communes without ever trickling down to the intended recipients – the poor.  

Corruption is everywhere. On our trip we witnessed many times how taxi drivers stop for policemen and at road check points only to be allowed to continue with their trip after handing over a few well-used CFA notes. In an article in the German weekly DIE ZEIT, a village elder bitterly complains to the journalist:

If we had our way, we would kill these civil servants! They feed on our blood! The foreign donors should give the money to us directly, not to the government and not to the bureaucracies. Whatever they give them, they might as well not give at all. The bureaucrats only want to develop themselves, not the country.   

Aid disappears, but because donors and recipients thrive on the existing system and manage to support their own interests, they have little reason to reform it. Using manipulated statistics, they manage to hide many obvious defaults:

Thus when Nagler spoke to mayors and teachers in the rural communities where the Initiative plans to establish new class rooms, he was told that 99% of all primary students pass the test for secondary school. Nagler and his collegues were impressed – until they found out that only 5% of these students spoke French. Yet French is the language of instruction at secondary schools and the test had been rigged in order to satisfy the expectations of aid agencies and their backers.