Development Model Crisis 391 F2016


Thanks for running through your thoughts on the solar cooker project and Aid Africa with me on Thursday. You addressed a lot of the questions I have about that project in particular, but I still have this uneasy feeling about our endeavor (and the grand endeavor of ‘development’) overall.

I plan on stopping by your office hour again to understand your perspective some more, but I thought that in the mean time I’d send you one of the articles that have made me question the idea of ‘development.’ Perhaps you’ve seen it before. It’s only about a 10 minute read.

I appreciate that we start this class with the discussion about development models, and entertain the idea that maybe ‘NGOs should decide themselves out of existence,’ and think about the existential dilemma this poses to people interested in helping other people …. but I feel like we kind of dropped that train of thought without sufficient consideration. Maybe we have to… maybe to study appropriate technology we can’t get hung up on those ideas.

Or… maybe these ideas are exactly what we need to be focusing on in order to promote sustainable development. I imagine your previous student who commented complaining about not focusing on communities in this class and instead focusing on technology would agree with me. I know it’s a sticky situation — it sounds like you agree with that student as well, but don’t see a realistic way to implement this human-centered approach. I don’t necessarily see a way either.

I’ve already gone off a little more than I planned… My opinions and ideas about this subject are still forming. I’d appreciate talking through it all a little more.

Anonymous Student #1

Hi Pete,

I ran across the article below and thought of you. I have not finished the whole article yet (it’s much longer than I expected..) but the beginning of it is very relevant to class, especially what we were talking about today.

In class today you asked something along the lines of, “So what should we do right now to start making changes in these undeveloped countries.” I wanted to say, “Stop only considering making changes in places we don’t really understand, and start working on the problems within our own community,” but I hate speaking in large groups so I resisted.

After reading 3/4 of this article I wish I had said what I felt. Mark Zuckerberg saw a social connection problem within his college campus, so he built a solution. He has scaled this business to solve the same problem world wide. Now he is capable of going to undeveloped countries with rapport, and the local people are both comfortable and capable of telling him exactly what he can do to help the people countrywide.

I believe it is not about the country, but the people within the country. Their individual voices need to be heard from a friend or mentor/mentee relationship rather than a poor person/rich person relationship. Most of us in America feel we are capable of helping others around the world. I believe it is necessary to prove, like Mark has, that we are capable of helping the people in our community first.

We may have a world wide vision, but to be successful right now I believe we must scale down locally. The development of all humans proves no matter how hard we hit the ground and want to run, we must first crawl.

I hope you don’t mind this excessively long email. The article simply reminded me of what I was too shy to say in class.

Have a good weekend,
Anonymous Student #2