Monday, June 24, 2013

What's Wrong With NGOs? (Part 2)

By Pascal Dennis

Some time ago I asked the above question.

I've spent a good deal of time volunteering my time & energy to aid agencies.

Their response? "Just send money..."

Why are NGOs so uninterested in Continuous Improvement?

I may have found at least part of the answer.

Just finished Paul Theroux's splendid book Dark Star Safari, which chronicles the great traveller's overland trip from Cairo to Cape Town.

Theroux had worked in Uganda & Malawi as a Peace Corp teacher in the '60's & had made many friends throughout west Africa.

He is appalled by what he finds -- deterioration, despair, widespread apathy among Africans.

Things are far worse in than when he left forty years ago -- despite a trillion dollars in aid from well-meaning donors.

And he cites NGO's as a root cause.

NGOs, Theroux argues, foist untried top-down 'solutions' on Africans without grasping the situation or engaging them in any way.

Africans have been thereby infantilized, their society corrupted by "oafs driving white Range Rovers & staying in 300 dollar a night hotels".

And who are the beneficiaries of all this aid?

NGO bureaucrats on expense accounts, flying to high-level conferences in Davos, Paris & the like -- as well as, brutal dictators whose corrupt rule NGOs aid & abet.

Theroux supports his thesis with a number of damning books, including Lords of Poverty and The Road to Hell - the Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid.

Any lessons for Lean thinkers?
  1. Listen to the front line.
  2. Don't jump to conclusions. Grasp the situation & clearly define the problem.
  3. Engage the people closest to the work. Run small pilots to confirm test countermeasures before applying them broadly.
  4. Be humble, be humble, be humble.
All for now,


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