About Me

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Policy provokes me to think and write. I currently work in ivory towers inspiring people to engage in their world. I am a student of the human condition and my classroom is the world. I don't need credentials to have an opinion but I've got paper to prove I know a few things about public health, social welfare and economics. I'm coming out of the tower and taking the words to the people and hope you will send some words back at me.

Monday, August 4, 2014

New Name, Same Game: The Africa Summit and "Global Resilience"

I am not a fan of 'summits'. And this first ever African Leaders Summit is not changing my mind any. That it's the first time anyone considered Africa worthy of this kind of attention is telling but I will give someone credit for FINALLY acknowledging that Africa is a market ripe for umm.... exploitation(?). Though it isn't a far leap to think that the Chinese invasion into Africa has 'nudged' the USAID machine into action. Like Dambisa Moyo, I question if another 'aid program' is the solution but I leave those arguments for her and Bill Easterly to do it justice.

Summits get folks all fired up then they go away and come back a couple years later and have a another go at it, reporting on what happened and what didn't and what they are going to do next time (which is usually more of the same with a new name and another big splash out of media attention) and everyone travels far far away in business class and say what they could skype in and reports get written and written and written and .... yeah.... anyway....

There's a new program for Africa and the Global South called Global Resilience with #globalresilience as it's Twitter hashtag and @grp_resilience as it's Twitter handle. (The marketing of aid initiatives is a whole marketing subspecialty and the 'cuter' the names the more annoyed they make me). As usual these projects are run by the aid gods (with local partners... uh huh....) that uses development economics language that may sound cool to them but reads like a mixed pile of horse, goat, cow and pig poo in 100%humidity at 100 degrees Fahrenheit to everyone else.  Especially if you're one of the local partners. It's all newname/samegame.

Quotes below are from the USAID press release announcing the new USD$100million collaboration between USAID, the Rockefeller Foundation and 'local partners':

"the Resilience Partnership will enable communities to prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from shocks and stresses in a way that reduces chronic vulnerability and keeps them on the pathway to development." HUH??

"“The Global Resilience Partnership will help communities and individuals capitalize on the resilience dividend—the difference between where a region is after a shock where resilience investments have been made, compared to where the region would be if it hadn’t invested in resilience,” said Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Judith Rodin." WHAAA??

And of course there are 'new' proposals with a new name:

"An essential feature of the Global Resilience Partnership will be a competitive Resilience Challenge—a call out to the best and brightest to present bold and innovative solutions to the toughest challenges facing the three regions. The Challenge will launch later this year and be open to non-profits, academic institutions, and the private sector, with a focus on local and regional players.".

As if that isn't what they are always saying they are doing.... Saying it again and again - competitive, innovation, local - is just [expletive] annoying. Same crap, different package. (Actually the package seems the same too: a short-term grant to do stuff that requires long-term evaluation).

I am hoping for talk of family planning because one cannot talk about desertification and other impacts of climate change without considering the numbers of people that vulnerable geographic areas must support. But I wont get my hopes up because economists don't speak much of family planning but a growing family income doesn't have much impact if the family is also growing.

My favorite line: "The need for the Resilience Partnership is clear: Over the last 30 years, total development losses as a result of recurring crises represent $3.8 trillion worldwide." Which is basically an admission that all the previous 'challenges' taken on by the 'best and brightest' to create 'bold and innovative solutions' have not worked. 

I wonder what makes them think it will work this time. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The 'Good' Tourist: 6 best practices for visiting the world

Tourism and Development
Many developing countries in the world (and communities in the USA) depend on tourism as their primary source of economic income and development, but the good intentions of tourists can have a negative impact on a community and leave them at the will of far-away-owned hotels, cruise-ship companies and tour organizers.

Happy Holidays
So as you plan your holidays you may want to consider the country/people you are going to visit and the impact you will have on them and their communities. If you don't want to contribute to the degradation of the environment but want to promote social and economic justice, here are a few ways to making your sustainable contribution to local economies that reduces global inequalities and builds personal, community, and organizational capacity.


  1. AVOID CRUISE SHPS. (If you're going to Alaska, you are forgiven as there's no other way to see much of it). Cruise ships are the biggest tourism offenders in destroying our natural resources - the very same ones you go to visit on their ships. The volume of waste they produce (and dispense of in the water!) is phenomenal and in general, their impact on host sites skews the economics in their favor (i.e they discourage guests from buying from locals and encourage them to buy from cruise ship approved vendors). Furthermore, they significantly change the local culture when they disembark thousands of people in one place at the same time for no more than a few hours.
  2. AVOID ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORTS. These places have no connection to their locales, very little economic impact on local communities and usually puts the local economy at risk by sucking in all the money (and sending it back to their home country or tax haven) and human resources that otherwise would be spent on building local capacity with much less infusion of capital.
  3. GO LOCAL. Buy your goods and services (hotel, food, travel & souvenirs) from locally owned businesses.  Scared of eating local? Buy/Eat it hot and fresh. Spread the wealth. Build the capacity of people and communities worldwide with your travel budget, no matter how small it is. You will contribute to the growth of sustainable economies instead of the growth of surreptitious companies.
  4. MAKE A FRIEND. Get to know at least one local person that is not serving you or are paid to be nice. Knowing people gives you a great inside perspective to the country and culture and also makes the world smaller in meaningful ways.
  5. BE A GREAT GUEST. You are a guest of the country so act in the way you would want a guest in your country to behave.
  6. LEARN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. Learning even a few words of the local language shows goodwill. If you learn a few basic words/sentences ('travel fluency'), you will find your experience to be less stressful and more enjoyable. You will find it goes a long way in going local, being a great guest and making new friends.