Building off the previous entry, I ask why, when we think about helping “the poor”, do we have a tendency to focus on our own dreams, but on their needs?
What if instead of doing a “needs analysis” we tried doing a “dreams analysis”?
There are obvious needs, no doubt. According to the Chairman, they bury between 4-5 children a week in this community of refugees, due to: disease from poor sanitation, lack of inexpensive medicines, or even lack of food.
So I’m not saying there isn’t a need to focus on needs.
In some way, however, is it possible that by first (or at least jointly) focusing on dreams we can somehow tap into all the richness that is already there - and magnify the resourcefulness of everyone involved, thus even meeting the needs in a more sustainable way?
As you listen to these videos, resist the temptation to get overwhelmed and/or apathetic. I encourage you to just ask: what one thought, idea, or question might you be able to share with this one person?
You can feel free to post any of the ideas that come to you as a video or audio response on YouTube, or as a comment on this blog post.
I love this quote: “You may not be able to change the entire world, but you may help change the entire world of one person at a time.”
So, to continue to the conversation…
________ Rose’s dream:
So what can you learn from some of the poorest people in the world? What has the struggle with poverty taught them, and is it of any value to helping answer your life questions?
As you seek to really understand those currently in poverty, what surprising and interesting things might you learn that could benefit your own life?
In the previous blog entry, I invited people to submit a short audio or video about a dream they have and what their next question/need is to accomplish it.
I loved the questions people submitted:
* How should I know what to do with my life (e.g. after graduation)?
* How can I get the money and resources I need to start my project/organization?
* How can I help people who are from different groups, even considered enemies, to better trust and understand each other?
* I don’t know what I have to share, so how can I help people in a way that matters?
* How can I inspire others to find their potential and live their dreams?
* How can I help those who are rejected and do not have a voice?
* Is what I want to do with my life ultimately worth doing?
Below are the first responses to their questions from the Karamojong refugees located in a settlement near Jinja, Uganda (pushed out of their native land in the north because of war and famine, now trying to start a new life).
[Soon I will post some of their videos about their dreams and what they think they need next, which I hope you will want to respond to.]
To open a great coffee shop, to travel, to somehow help others, and really to figure out what she ultimately should be doing with her life.
Thoughts from Rose and Lucy on Monika’s first two questions
Q1: I don’t know what I have to share, so how can I help people in a way that matters?
Q2: How can I inspire others to find their potential and live their dreams?
Summary of Advice:
* Help people to help themselves, so they are strong whether you are there or not.
* One of the most valuable things you can give someone is knowledge on how to help themselves.
* Sometimes people don’t believe in themselves at all, they need “sensitization” to the idea that there is more inside of them than they see in themselves.
* Give someone a job or responsibility, to help them see how much they can do for themselves, and to find what strengths each person has.
Thoughts from Lucy, Rose, and the Chairman on Monika’s third question
Q3: I am nervous as I get close to graduation, how should I know what to do with my life after that?
Summary of Advice:
* There is always something important to do with your life, because there is someone who needs your help.
* The trials and life experiences you have gone through can teach you ways in which you might be able to best help others.
* Ask advice from God, He can help you know what to do with your life.
* Also ask advice from others in your life who are close to you.
* Thinking about how you can best help those you love in your family, as well as those far away, can help give your life direction and purpose.
* After university, people should spend their time focused on helping others who were not lucky enough to have education yet.
* It is not in this video, but the leader of the community (the “chairman”) also recommended to Monika that after she graduates, she can marry his son. That was until I told him that she was already married.
To help teachers integrate and give a voice to those with severe disabilities.
Thoughts from Rose, Lucy, and Christine on both Anitra’s questions (with special bonus: an African chief from a tribe in Ghana, who was staying in my hotel, adds a thought at the end)
Q1: How can I help those who are rejected and do not have a voice?
Q2: Is what I want to do with my life ultimately worth doing?
Summary of Advice:
* Many of those children with disabilities are not even in school in this area of the world.
* Actually, it is tough for any kids from this community to be in school, so how can teachers help them if they are not even in school?
* Before children here can even have time for school, they need to have some security that they will have food, or else they will have to spend their time picking from the garbage pits, begging on the streets, or working different jobs.
* Teachers do need further training, to be specialized in how to help those with disabilities. Once they know better how to help, then they will help.
* Do it in a way that is legal, and with the proper support from local authorities
* There are many people without a voice, and they definitely do need support from you, Anitra.
* Keep those good desires and that hope alive and burning in you, always, and you will know what to do.
To start a business/organization that highlights the common humanity in us all, and helps even those who are now considered enemies to better trust and understand each other.
Thoughts from John, Rose, & Lucy on Joey’s first question
Q1: How can I get the money and resources I need to start my project/organization?
Summary of Advice:
* It struck some people as funny that you (driving a nice car like that) thought you needed money, Joey.
* You could get a job, get a loan, or get a friend who can loan money to you.
* Find an unmet need you could help solve to generate some initial income.
* Save, save, save money whenever you get some, then use it to invest in things that can bring more money (e.g. retail businesses, rental properties, passive/residual income sources, etc).
* Be smart and use credit money and your own hard-earned money for different things.
* Maintain a good credit history and great relationship with lenders. When you get a loan, pay it back so you can get a larger loan - and keep building from there, investing in residual income sources.
Thoughts from John, Rose, Lucy, Christine, and Joseph on Joey’s second question
Q2: How can I get people who are from different groups, even considered enemies, to better trust and understand each other?
Summary of Advice:
* To help people from different tribes, get people into groups where they can talk with each other.
* Help people from different tribes or religions overcome labels by getting them to be in one group.
* Don’t label people by calling them “bad” or calling them “wrong” — look at the thing they do and call it bad or wrong — not the person but the action.
* Someone will not be trusted if they are hurting others.
* Find ways to get them to help each other, and to work together to help the helpless.
* Do not segregate people - get them to interact with each other.
* Unite them with “the machines”.
* Involve them in joint projects or some work together.
* Address when there are things people do to hurt each other, but do not exclude them from the group.
* When people ask for help from others, and give help, they will naturally be closer to each other.
* Integrate God into what you are doing.
* Figure out ways for people to be friends, and make friendship with each other.
__________ My Question for Monika, Anitra, and Joey —
How helpful was this advice, honestly? And why was it helpful or not helpful?
If it wasn’t helpful, that is OK. If it was, great.
When we bring back other people’s video responses to the dreams and questions they have (which I will post soon), we can also bring them your feedback on their responses to your questions, if you like.
__________ Potential Challenges: (to continuing this project, if people think it is worthwhile)
At the end of each day, I asked the translators and others what they thought went well and what they thought could be improved. Here were a couple suggestions and questions regarding a few challenges:
1. Ensuring there is a good translator for those who can not speak English.
2. Figuring out a way to have local people take over, or find a way to overcome the way that even the presence of a mzungu (white person) in this community “looks money” and thus naturally evokes different responses to certain questions.
3. On the second day, all the power in the entire area had been shut down after a flood destroyed the cables, so when our batteries died in the camera and computer, our interviews were over.
4. How to have the equipment (computer, camera, battery supply) and person on the ground in each country (with an Internet connection who can capture responses, download and upload videos) to help keep the channel of communication open for the conversation to continue, if people would like.
__________ Two Favorite moments:
Aside from when the chairman recommended to Monika that she marry his son, when Lucy laughed to think that Joey driving his car needed money, and when I recommend to the chairman that he invest in Joey’s business, there were a couple moments that stood out.
1. “What do we have to share?”
When we first showed up to this refugee camp and asked for the leader, he asked us what we were there for (expecting us to be an Aid organization).
My translator explained that we came because we needed their help.
He looked confused, and asked more questions. She told him we thought he and his people had perspective which could benefit others in the world. He said, “What do we have to share? How could we help anyone else, we have so little, and these people have so little in their heads!”
I told him, “Maybe you can’t help, but then again maybe you can. Just let us play the videos where people are asking their questions, and you may end up being surprised how much of value there is in your knowledge and experience.”
That is exactly what happened.
For him, perhaps particularly this happened when he realized that he had something of incredibly value to share in how he helped people from tribes that usually fight up North to live in peace and harmony in this community.
2. “My view of the Karamojong has totally changed”
At the end of the first day, I asked my translator if she was impressed by anything that day.
She told me that she herself had been changed and moved a great deal.
She said that as a born again Christian, she had previously spent a lot of time preaching to the Karamojong, but had never before taken time to listen to them or learn from them. She said she used to think like the leader, that they had nothing of value in their heads and that they were only looking for handouts all the time.
After the interviews that day, however, she said she now knew how much wisdom they had, and how much they had to share.
I suppose when it comes down to it “development” can mean many things, and it can happen in so many ways for each of us as we are trying to better understand, love, and help each other.
As I have traveled and talked with people from every continent, representing thousands of different belief systems and backgrounds, I have realized this…
WE ALL HAVE TWO THINGS IN COMMON
1. We all have problems.
Although I don’t know what it is, I know that you are dealing with some kind of a problem right now.
Let’s face us, who do you know that isn’t? It’s just part of life and a big part of what helps us to grow. A wise man once taught me that you could go up to almost anyone and instead of asking, “How are you?” you could accurately ask “Where does it hurt?”
One of the coolest things I have learned recently from another wise man is the power of rephrasing my problems as questions — sounds so simple, still I was surprised at how it changed everything!
Instead of my brain dwelling on the negative problem, it started working out solutions — especially if I articulated a quality question.
2. We all have something to contribute — some strength, talent, or gift that we can share and use to help others.
Not only can we use our strengths to contribute something meaningful in the lives of others, we actually NEED TO in order to feel alive and fulfilled.
Honestly, among the greatest gifts that any of us can give ourselves and others is asking good questions - which can spark new ideas that can change our lives. Recently I have also become even more conscious of the power in asking our deepest questions (which reflect the problems/needs in our lives) to new people — people with totally different perspectives and backgrounds.
Here is a true story from Nigeria that my friend Esther Nasikye shared with me that is about this exact thing…
NOW THE BIGGER PICTURE - PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD
Among many problems in the world, a huge one I hate to see as I travel is the amount of poverty and suffering in certain communities around the world (and even at times in our own neighborhood), with incredible affluence, waste, and neglect in other areas. How can we see so much suffering in the world and not feel compelled to do something?
Changing this problem into a question - here is what I have asked, which I think many of you also have asked: “How can I best help those who need it most around the world?”
REASONS WHY WE DON’T HELP, OR TRY TO AND FAIL
I realized that the solution is not as simple as it seems - noticing these issues arise in most of the “development” efforts I have participated in or known about…
* Lots of people want to help, but don’t know how
* The suffering often seems so distant and/or overwhelming, that other more minor concerns appear urgent and occupy our time and focus
* When they do try to help, well-intentioned compassion easily becomes patronizing, and fosters dependency
* Part of the reason for this is all of us have so many unchallenged stereotypes and labels through which we see the world
* Another part of the reason is that the digital divide has limited participation in the conversation, neglecting those who should have the most voice
* Too often people seem to know the answer (e.g. computers, or whatever our background is) before they really know what the real questions/problems are
* There is very little conversation with the poorest people - more often others in high positions decide what they need (e.g. the UN Millennium Development Goals)
* Then no one is really held accountable for delivering it
* Often the aid gets stuck at the top levels (of governments, universities, businesses - people who are already the elite of their societies) and not to those who need it the most
* When we talk about “the poor” it becomes too vague and ambiguous, not concrete enough to do anything about, or to see their hopes, fears, and dreams as real as our own
* Meeting “needs”, although a very important, often neglects the more fulfilling part of being human - helping enabling strengths, dreams, and what we can contribute
HOW CAN WE APPROACH IT DIFFERENTLY - AND HAVE FUN DOING IT?
Some friends and I are now creating a way where instead of talking about helping “the poor” you can actually talk with them, finding out what they actually dream of doing with their life, or what they need next in order to get there.
Not only that - but they will be helping you with your problems at the same time!
. Here is THE IDEA:
1. You submit a short video (3 min or less), or just audio if you prefer, that explains briefly:
A. What is one thing that you ultimately want to become/do with your life? (brief one minute or less explanation)
B. What is it that you think you need next in getting there?
(Maybe you don’t think you know what the answer to these question are, which is OK.
If you did know the answers though, then what would you say?)
C. What is one of the biggest problems/questions you currently have?
If you have funny questions/problems, that is OK - and perhaps the stuff that really comes from your heart - and is what you actually need some new thoughts, perspectives, resources on - will produce the best results.
(Once you create your video, you can either email it to me using something like YouSendIt.com — which allows for large attachments, or upload it to YouTube or other video sharing site and let me know the link)
2. In the next few months I will be going back to some of the poorest areas of the world (visiting certain communities starting in Uganda this week, Mozambique next week, Senegal at the end of the month, later Ethiopia, and hopefully Guatemala, Nepal and India too). I will find a contact person who is can translate, and they will show your video to some of the local people, and ask them what their advice is to help you with your problem/question.
3. We’ll record at least a few responses for each question received and you can rate each answer on a scale of 1 to 5 stars on how helpful you find it.
4. Then it provides an easy way to also ask several of them to share their story: what do they ultimately want to do with their life? and what do they think is what they most need next to get there?
5. You can respond to their questions, offering any ideas/thoughts/suggestions you have. And they can give each response a rank of 1 to 5 stars in how helpful they find it.
– I don’t know what will happen after that.
Ultimately, if you like it, we might want to upload those videos to the Internet and try to get as much collective wisdom/resources/etc from my friends and their friends in helping each other with whatever we each need next?
__ WHY THIS, WHY NOW?
The idea initially sparked from realizing that I myself have been trying to help “the poor” — but really haven’t spent that much time actually talking to “them”. (Instead, I sit in an office at a university, reading research reports, and trying to think up the biggest words I can to communicate simple ideas so that I appear to be somewhat intelligent!
And the reality, as you already know, is that “the poor” can include both those in physical poverty around the world, as well as those in Western countries who have a ton of stuff, but still feel poor/empty for whatever reason.
Like I said earlier, I talk to people all the time who want to do something to help in the world, but they just don’t know what to do or where to start.
My hope is that when we can see a specific person talk about their specific dream and what they need next, then we can collectively be resourceful in making something happen for them.
And when we see them also helping us with our biggest need, that there will not be a one-way patronizing feeling — instead we can see each other more as friends (members of the same family - the increasingly connected human family) helping each other. Because indeed, that is what we are.
Dr. Matti Tedre, a colleague from a university in Tanzania who will also be leading up a team there to help with this, told me about a woman who has been working in the AIDS clinic in a rural area of Tanzania for years. I really loved her philosophy, and think it definitely applies here:
—-“You may not be able to change the whole world, but you can change the whole world of one person at a time.“—-
(especially if that one person is yourself)
If you would like to add a video/audio, then just let me know.
Also if have any ideas for how to make this even better, or any other ways you think you might be able to help? — I’m all ears.
I’m sure some of your thoughts can help to make this work even better.
If so much of “development” aid has failed (see previous blog entry), representing brilliant minds and billions of dollars spent on causes which often have done more harm than good, what can we do that will actually make the world a better place? And can one person really make a difference?
Being in Uganda again prompts me to seriously ask: What can I do that will actually make a difference in the lives of these kids (and their community) who spend most of their days begging on the streets? Or more generally, how can I do something good in making the world a better place?
Here are five of my own ideas, general guiding principles for how to go about it - and I am very interested in yours.
1. First, we need to challenge the assumptions, labels, and filters we have come to view the world with.
Vasilis posted a great TED talk that helps with this: (Hans Rosling: No more boring data)
Another example of challenging stereotypes was offered in my previous blog entry.
Easterly shared how the traditional media often has incentives to reinforce the stereotype that all Africans are helpless and need us to come to their aid.
For example, from 1990-2005, the average annual percent of the African population affected by famine was in reality only 0.3%! Sometimes the media, NGOs, and people like me (who visit places like Masese) can influence those outside of Africa to think that all of Africa is filled with famine swept refugees hunted by child soldiers with HIV!
Viewed differently, Africa is one of the richest continents in the world.
So, even well-meaning compassion can lead to stereotypes that often hinder the ability of people to help themselves. To really help, we need to keep challenging the assumptions, labels, and filters we have come to view the world with.
2. Second, just for balance - avoid taking ourselves too seriously. By this, I mean that more resourcefulness and solutions come when we are more playful than remorse. **Reality check: we are not perfect, we are going to make mistakes, we can not do everything by ourselves all at once.
SaraJoy also offered some great perspective by posting a valuable video from Honda on why “failure” is OK and even good:
I’m thankfully at the point in my life that I don’t consider anything a failure. Whatever happens, I just find as much as I can to learn through it, come back from it that much stronger, and leave the rest in God’s hands.
3. Third, ask better questions! So much of our focus, feelings, and even what we are able to see or not see depends on the questions we are asking ourselves.
In this next video I captured William Easterly attempting to help us ask a better question than the one that so many of us ask: “What can we do?”
Really listen to what he says, as the distinctions he makes in what types of questions we ask is really useful.
4. Fourth, focus on your strengths and passions — notice what you are good at and/or love to do, and spend a majority of your time/energy there.
As you will notice when you speak with me, I am often trying to ask questions that help me to know what your strengths are - what are you good at, what are you passionate about? Then frequently I encourage you to do more of those things.
Extensive research done by the Gallup organization showed that the top people in each field (business, sports, education, entertainment, etc) all had one thing in common - they focused most of their time on what they were good at.
Part of the reason for this helping them reach the top is that so much of the quality of our lives is dependent on the emotion we are living in on a regular basis. By focusing on what you are good at, this helps give you the emotional juice to really excel.
5. Fifth, form strategic partnerships. After focusing on what your strengths are, then partner with people who are good at (and even excited about doing) other things you are not as good at, so that together you really can make a powerful team.
You don’t need all the resources or talent to start to do things that you are passionate about. You simply need to be resourceful in forming strategic partnerships that can help get you there. It is way more about how resourceful you are than how many resources you have.
Strategic partnerships are also extremely helpful with point #1 and #3 above, intentionally seeking perspectives which are different from your own, asking good questions and really listening to the responses.
There is so much power in synergy — realizing we can easily creating something better together than any of us could on our own. It is my opinion that most of what we see as competition with others is an illusion. Competition can help stimulate action, but cooperation on a team that really works is indescribably motivating and fulfilling.
For those in the ICT4D Course, you are now working on a question with a partner, where you are trying to find a solution/answer to it that is better than anyone has yet come up with. I hope you will find these thoughts and resources valuable.
I’m not just sharing these with you as “cute” ideas, I’m living it right at the moment — thankful for your part in helping me do that — and excited to report to you the results as they unfold, as well as hear about your experience in also doing so.
Now, again, I’d love to hear your ideas:
* Above are five ideas that I think help answer the question — “how can I make the world a better place?” What are yours ideas?
* Do you really believe you can make the world a better place?
* What are some of your initial ideas regarding what your unique contribution will be?
* Specifically what talents/strengths/skills/ideas can you share which will help those in the world who have the least?
The purpose of this blog entry is to continue some of the momentum from recent discussions regarding development — to add to the discussion and open it up for your most recent thoughts/ideas/questions. It is such a key, central concept in so much of the work we do that I think it is well worth our time.
Why has most of “development” done more harm than good?
Whereas compassion to those that have the least is appropriate, Easterly argues that the way this often turns into “authoritarian paternalism” is completely objectionable — essentially treating poor people like children. Easterly points out that even the original term “development” was a biological metaphor - a patronizing way of describing how “more sophisticated societies” would help take poor people from childhood into adulthood. He takes as example the Millennium Development Goals — suggesting as a patronizing attitude that some know better than poor themselves what the goals should be for those in poverty.
(Sorry the quality of the video on this one is not as good — I think it is definitely compensated for in the high quality of the ideas and questions he raises.)
In essence, he says that paternalism is so objectionable - we too often treat poor people like children.
He also talked about images that he calls “Disaster pornography” - where the media feels incentive to reinforce the stereotype that all Africans are helpless and need us to come to their aid.
For example, from 1990-2005, the average annual percent of the African population affected by famine was in reality only 0.3%. Sometimes the media can influence those outside of Africa to think that of Africa is filled with famine swept refugees hunted by child soldiers with HIV!
Well-meaning compassion can lead to stereotypes that hurt their ability to help themselves.
What is the alternative to paternalism?
Ultimately he suggests economic and political freedom, individual liberty, and an entrepreneurial kind of mindset.
He gave as an example the fact that in 1776 America was more tech backward, more diseased, and needy than Africa is today. He suggests that they were lucky to have been led by those who believed in individual liberty - that all men are created equal. Per capita income in America has increased by 35 times since those words were spoken (with only a little blip in the overall growth representing the great depression)
Are even the poor rebelling against traditional “development”?
William Easterly describes how the poor on their own are rebelling against Authoritarian Paternalism. He makes the case that the poor should have liberty to decide what they need best, just as anyone should. Men are created equal, and even development should reflect that.
Part of the beauty of the world we live in is that we can debate what the solution should be — until we find which are the ideas that lead to the best results.
–Even these videos above are obviously an American talking to a group of Americans. Surely a group of nearly 30 - 50 of the brightest graduate students and faculty from over 20 different countries and different disciplines can find the right creativity, data, compassion, and resourcefulness to add something of value to the debate and conversation that will make a practical difference in improving the lives of the poorest people in the world!
We have already had some great discussions regarding the concept of development. It would be well worth the time to go back and read some of the valuable thoughts shared by everyone up to this point. The evolution of thinking is interesting to me, and the perspectives from each person who is coming from very different backgrounds.
Team Praxis: SaraJoy started it off with some great thoughts, Andres gave some interesting insight from his recent assignment in Kenya, Sören list of five definitions of development as well as mentions GNH - Gross National Happiness vs. GNP - Gross National Product as a potential measure of development, Thai seeks to understand it from his technical background/perspective, Vasilis leading a great discussion. http://ict4dconsortium.rhul.ac.uk/elgg/mod/groups/topicposts.php?topic=1091&group_guid=405
While I was in Guyana I had the privilege of meeting with Len Singh. I interviewed him regarding the state of ICT in the Caribbean, and in the midst of the interview I got this great clip on his definition of development.
Then we just had an interesting controversial session led by Rajarshi Sahai where he shared from India his thoughts on why most of “development” fails. (You can listen to the recording of that session here: http://video.uku.fi/p68445724/)
In an earlier post, Raj asks these questions:
“I am quite shocked by the unnecessary stress on Developing countries context, when infrastructure and penetration of technology is very much an issue even within western Europe! How many of your countries have a good 3G network even in the city centres? How many of our internet services providers have a good service delivery record? How many of poor people are ICT literate there? these are just some of the many questions which can initiate a new debate, of seeing development, vulnerability and poverty as a global issue. We need to see these questions accordingly.
Why can’t global North learn from global South? Why can’t things be seen in a more objective sense than just dividing the world, and hence the wisdom inherent in it, into so called Developed and Developing countries, and thereby giving undue legitimacy to the so called developed to dictate the developing?”
Now is your turn to continue the discussion:
* When you think of the “development” part of ICT”4D” what do you think is should refer to? (maybe you even have a better name for it?)
* Why do you think traditional approaches to “development” have so frequently failed?
* What do you think we should do instead, particularly in ICT4D?
* Do you see any exceptions to the failures — some successes which can give us clues of what actually works?
* What will you do to create an answer/solution to the question you (and your colleague/s) select which will be better than what anyone else has yet has come up with?