Acton Institute Powerblog

The Boring Work Of Development

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tillingHelping people get out of poverty is hard, dirty work. It isn’t glamorous. Most of those involved do not get to wander around the developing world wearing cool blue shades and giving sound bites. In fact, the Campaign for Boring Development is so insistent on this, they’ve written a manifesto to drive home the point: development work can be…boring.

    • Development Does Not Photograph Well. Watching a family till their land does not make for riveting video. It’s just plain ole hard work.
    • “Making the Lives of the Poor Better” is not the same thing as ”Fighting Poverty.”

The only way you can fight poverty is by boosting poor people’s incomes. Incomes. For the bottom billion, the road to higher, more stable incomes is anything but easy. Anything but glamorous. In the short term, it can involve working harder and consuming less. But it is vital.

  • Sustainable, but not sustained.

Far too often, Development Interventions seek to skip the boring part and jump directly to providing the benefits of development. Rather than trudging through the hard, boring work of investing in the productive capacity of the poorest so they can make more money, they jump directly to providing the things the poorest would gladly provide for themselves if only they had a little bit more money to spend.

The gains such interventions achieve rarely outlive the project’s budget. As aid workers leave, village life quickly returns to the way it was before. Improved cookstoves sit in the corners of huts, unused. Water wells run dry for lack of simple spare parts.

  • Development Bloat is the Imperialism of the 21st Century.

Development Bloat is what happens when First World People look at their own lives, ask themselves what they like about them, and think, “isn’t it terrible that poor villagers in Africa don’t have this?” without stopping to ask themselves what relevance that thing might have to people in an African village.

Development bloat is ethnocentrism in action.

Read “The Boring Development Manifesto” at The Campaign For Boring Development.

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Elise Hilton Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.