As you may have noticed, this blog has been a bit dormant of late and I am delighted to share the reason why: I have started a podcast! The Development Dilemma podcast is a place for starting the conversation between expats and Kenyans on the issues in the international development space from both perspectives. Whilst speaking in relation to Kenya, it is generally about the challenges of two people from different cultures collaborating to make meaningful change. As blog followers, I hope you will follow the podcast as well and you can now find the first three episodes up to try on Itunes, Spotify & Stitcher: https://kite.link/the-development-dilemma
I would really appreciate your support if you can give it a listen, subscribe & share with two friends who might find it of interest! A review on Itunes would be particularly helpful. You can also follow on instagram (thedevelopmentdilemma) or twitter (@dev_dilemma).
Since 2019, I have become interested and curious about the narrative of the international development space and why it seems not to have as great an impact as expected. Something I heard directly from countless people in the space itself.
I began to write about this in my blog posts: beginning with the poem Uninvited which questioned the difference between colonisers, missionaries and expats like myself; followed by the story It is not me, it is you which drew contrasts between two very similar individuals who lived very different lives and the narrative which explained it all away; the analysis piece Smothered by Narrative which questioned by the story we tell ourselves that enables the system to continue in ignorance; the historical piece The System of African Dictators and our role in it which looked at one manifestation of this system and its consequences; and lastly, The Do-Gooder Complex: Holier Than Thou which questioned expats like myself and the sacrifices we do & don’t make for impact – revealing our Holier Than Thou image.
I realised that what had informed these pieces and where I had learnt most was from conversations and the subject’s complexity was too difficult to capture (for me) in written form. The podcast world is special in that you are given more time, people will listen for 40m but will rarely read an article of the same length, and one is also given a license of ambiguity and error that helps bring nuances to the topic. So, cue a podcast!
The world of international development is not lacking in ideas, nor confidence in them; it is lacking in a humility and curiosity to implement them well. Traditionally, these funds are managed by expats who fly in & out of countries designing programs. These practitioners, with good intentions, prioritise ideas over contextual understanding and bring with them a heavy sense of superiority. Where development is ultimately about people, this lack of strong relationships and local knowledge means that much aid leads to little impact. Living in Kenya as an expat, I have observed this in my work and those around me.
Format: This is not a new idea but because these are uncomfortable truths, these conversations are not currently being had. This podcast features one-to-one interviews between myself and a mixture of expats and African locals (as I am based in Kenya, this will largely be Kenyans initially) who work in the international development space. Creating one space to engage expats uneasy with their realities and local staff who feel ignored. I hope we can document the biases that shape international development but also chart a way forward by examples of what has worked well. The tone is a hopeful one, but nonetheless requires recognising the issues in the current system.
Promoting greater humility in the international development space wouldn’t change what we do, it would change how we do it and therein lies the potential for more democratic, collaborative and, ultimately, impactful work. Join me for the journey!
An even larger change has been that I quit my previous job with Triple Jump in December 2020 and began a new position as of January 11th 2021. Leaving Triple Jump was hard but came after 3 years where initially I found it deeply enriching and later on, the learnings began to slow. Whilst I continue to believe the right to financial access is a value in itself, I am less convinced on its transformative impact. As my thinking evolved, manifest in these blogs, I also began to question my role and wanted to work to address the problems directly rather than just write about it.
So as of this month, I have begun a new venture. Working with two Cambridge professors, we are working towards launching a company in mid-2021 that gives organisations the communicative power to unlock the value that lies in-between them and the people that matter to them. The hope being this improves the dialogue, programs and accountability between organisations & their beneficiaries. At the moment, it is a core team of 4 so very early stage!
I would love to hear from you, how has the beginning of 2021 been? Any big plans for the year? Add your thoughts in the comments or email me.