Whenever we post a video the temptation is to preface it with our opinion but it’s talks like this that really form the opinions in the first place. This is a TED talk by journalist Andrew Mwendan I’d love to here your thoughts on it.
Archive for the ‘Aid’ Category
It was recently pointed out to me that there are many who could benefit from Community Development projects here in the UK. The statement was followed by the short question, “Why Africa?” It is an excellent question which affords the opportunity to make a point which is fundamental to the thinking of the COINS Foundation.
But first, I want to point out that the COINS Foundation does, and will continue to fund projects in the UK. However, it would be disingenuous not to make clear that we do intend the majority of our work to continue to be in Africa.
The way I see it, the magnitude and severity of the problems in the developing world, far exceed those found in the UK; and because ‘globalisation’ is bringing those issues ever closer to us, the expression, “Charity begins at home” is becoming increasingly inappropriate/meaningless. I believe we should expand our thinking to appreciate that the poor, wherever they are in the world are effectively our neighbours now.
Michael Sandel, Harvard Professor of Government, delivered a beautiful lecture entitled Markets and Morals as part of the BBC’s Reith Lectures this week.
Sandel considers the expansion of markets and how we determine their moral limits. In this age where “Markets have might so Markets are Right” Sandel reflects on the effects of applying market principles to all systems. He asks us to examine the ‘mark’ left by markets and asks if the influence is always a good or moral one.
Whilst he doesn’t specifically talk about the effect of substituting paid workers for volunteers, his arguments have compelling implications for this trend. I am interested in this because right now we are trying to engender a ’spirit of community’ in a region of northern Zambia where we are attempting to research the needs of the community and motivate them to form and engage in voluntary groups to debate the needs of their region and help develop a prioritised plan for sustainable community development.
There is a pressure and a great temptation to ‘incentivise’ the very poor people of this community to participate in the programme by offering small payments. Instinctively I want to resist this. Sandel in his lecture gives some interesting angles on why our instincts might be right.
I was watching a TED talk by Barry Schwartz. His talk was called, “The Real Crisis? We Stopped Being Wise” In his talk, Schwartz dissociates “wisdom” from the idea of ‘being smart’ and defines ‘practical wisdom’ as the ability to see the right thing and the will to do it. He argues that this ability to see right and then do it for no other reason than it IS right, will help to re-build our world. We live in a time when views about aid to the developing world raise strong emotions and arguments. It is by no means clear that aid is “the right thing” or that it is always done for “the right reasons” or that its effects are good for the people it is intended to help. The COINS Foundation has some pretty strong reservations about a lot of aid. Just today, the Archbishop of Canterbury called on Anglicans to “pray, fast and give” to highlight Zimbabwe’s slide toward starvation. Dr Williams and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu said people should give now rather than wait for a political solution. – I was prompted to hope that this, perhaps outmoded response to the troubles of the world, would nonetheless deliver a healthy dose of ‘practical wisdom’.