From the Blog

Posted by brianrants at 12:41 pm

Child sponsorship has been a wildly successful in connecting donors with poor children around the world. Billions of dollars are funneled every year to international organizations through child sponsorship programs. Letters are written back-and-forth and funds are given faithfully every month. But, is it doing long-term good? Or could it actually be perpetuating the problems it claims to solve?

Read this gracious, insightful, balanced examination at: Should I Sponsor a Child? « smorgasblurb.

In 1980 China had a GDP slightly lower than the one in sub-Saharan Africa. By 1993 China took the lead and hasn’t looked back.

In this article, Dr Fan of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) talks about the implications for Africa of China’s Agricultural and Rural Development.

In general, total investments in agriculture should at least meet the target of 10 percent of national public budgets.

Such investments must be accompanied by “pro-poor policies”, Fan pointed out.”Pro-poor policy initiatives in China illustrate that proper scope and targeting of programmes is essential. These programmes should target vulnerable people in both rural and urban areas, and they should not focus strictly on designated poor regions.”

Continue reading at Africa: Continent Should Take Lessons from China – IFPRI.

In international development are we in danger of objectifying the poor? Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen Fund seems to think so in this absolute must read article.

PND: Much of Acumen’s work and investments around the world are focused on poverty alleviation. Traditionally, that’s been the purview of international aid programs and large NGOs. You’ve been fairly outspoken in your criticism of such approaches. What don’t traditional aid experts get about poverty?

Jacqueline Novogratz: I guess I'd say that too often they see the poor as objects rather than as human beings who want to make their own decisions and control their own destinies. They’re not great at understanding the situation on the ground from the perspective of the poor and then coming up with solutions that allow people to be active participants in improving their own lives.

via PND – Newsmakers — Jacqueline Novogratz, Founder and CEO, Acumen Fund.

Mathare Valley Slum

Second hand clothing is a major industry in the developing world (for better or for worse). This amazing story reminds me of so many of the 1010 partners in Nairobi.

If your dream was to become a doctor and you ended up uneducated and living in a slum, would you just give up on life? Some of us might have, but not Jane Ngoiri. Jane dreamed of being a surgeon, but she was too poor to finish school or go to college. However, today Jane is a Mitumba queen from Nairobi’s Mathare Valley slum. Mitumba is the business of selling second hand clothing that arrives in Kenya from European and American regions in massive bales.

via AfriGadget » Blog Archive » Dreams can come true – Janes miraculous Mitumba story.

The 1010 Project, where I am Executive Director, has received attention for its unique development model. Recently I met with an African now living in Denver, who asked: “How did you come up with this model focused on social entrepreneurs.”

It’s simple. We didn’t come up with it.

We came to this model by listening to our partners, by observing the creativity and innovation of the poor in solving their most pressing issues.

So if there is an essential posture for effective international development, it is: “listen to those whom you seek to serve.”

Do you agree or disagree? Why? Leave a comment below:

In our own society we struggle with “save for it” versus “borrow it.” This debate becomes much more precarious for the poor. Many Micro-Finance Institutions (MFI’s) are looking at adding and even integrating savings to their lending services.

It will take more than good intentions and a recognition that the poor want places to deposit the money they squirrel away to make microsavings work. Part of the problem with trying to mobilise deposits from poor people is simple economics. It is hard to make a profit from customers who make lots of tiny deposits without massively trimming transaction costs.

…Saving…is often “what didn’t happen”—the accumulation of decisions not to consume. Consumption, by contrast, is an active decision to buy something. One product he is testing in India involves collaborating with banking agents to sell “savings cards” in shops, so that saving becomes an active purchase and can compete with other impulse buys.

via Savings and the poor: A better mattress | The Economist.

Justice: the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness
Social: of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community
I will not deny that justice is the responsibility of all institutions in a society (families, churches, corporations). However, I believe people of faith have a special responsibility to share the prophetic voice of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets, one of whom spoke against “those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the court … ” (The prophet Amos)

So I’m proud to support “righteousness, equitableness, [and] moral rightness” “pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community.”

I’m also proud of my friend Michael Hidalgo who wrote a balanced, beautiful response to some unfortunate words spoken this week by Glenn Beck

A Pastor’s Response to Glenn Beck’s Call to Leave ‘Social Justice’ Churches – Michael Hidalgo – God’s Politics Blog.

We had these challenges too

Recently a friend asked about African culture, and specifically our Kenyan Social Entrepreneurs: “does their laid back attitude actually contribute to their poverty?” Now I know this friend well enough to know he was genuinely asking, not trying to pass judgment. In answer to this question, I present to you: a washing machine.

When I see that pile growing in my laundry basket I feel a dread come over me. I will have to budget time to address the burgeoning pile or risk wearing gym shorts as my underpants (not that I’ve ever done that).

I will have to throw the clothes in the washer, be around an hour later to move them to the dryer, and…the part I always screw up…remember to take them out of the dryer before they are a wrinkled mess (sorry honey). Oh ya…and folding. So, all in all about 30-45 minutes of work spread out over a 3 hour period.

Now let’s contrast this process with the work of a prototypical Kenyan social entrepreneur named Joy:

  • Water: the more fortunate might have indoor plumbing which works 3 or 4 days out of the week. The less fortunate go to a community filling center, and can only purchase what they can carry (this is almost certainly a woman doing this work)
  • Bucket or tub: pour the water in the tub
  • Soap: If you’ve ever washed your clothes camping, you know hand washing isn’t glorious. There’s no hand-friendly organic soaps available, and you certainly can’t afford the luxury of gloves
  • Hands: It strips your hands of oils, and getting out those tough spots requires more than a little elbow grease
  • Drying & Folding: Drying is done on outdoor lines, which leaves clothes stiff…not to mention the rain conspires to set back the drying process several days

All in all, I have to guesstimate, a 6-8 hour process spread over 3 days. “Ok,” you say, “they have a harder time washing their clothes.” But this isn’t an isolated incident, this is every basic task of living

  • Without online or telephone banking, going into town to check your bank balance could take 2-4 hours
  • Getting to the market for food could be a 30 minute to 2 hour walk
  • Preparing food over a charcoal fire, with most elements starting from “scratch” could take 1-2 hours
  • If a child gets sick, and you can’t afford health care, everything else could go on hold for days

Now imagine you are trying to run a social venture with the rest of the time you have left? If you are trying to be productive and task-oriented, how long would you last? Is being strictly task-oriented unquestionably a good thing, even in our culture? The fact is, the utter lack of what we would consider “basic infrastructure” conspires to complicate every basic task.

Every time you throw some clothes in a rinse cycle, remember the cycle of poverty and ask yourself how you can responsibly intervene.