In the first part of this series, I made the case that the international aid sector recognizes the value of “locally-led development” but has yet to meaningfully roll it out. Here I consider how we need to change our mindsets – and our ways of working – to tap that potential.
A growing critique of the Western mindset (and its international aid models) is that it is driven by capitalist assumptions that don’t encompass the whole human experience. Because the West has successfully produced vast material wealth, we over rely on business models. These frames have produced profitable companies and products, but are not appropriate to produce transformative, inclusive social change. In contrast, today’s capitalist models produce growing global inequities and environmental catastrophe. How should we seek inclusive well-being for all? We can start with a few basic premises, based on a growing body evidence from examples of successful transformational social change.
Start with listening. Then co-create solutions.
Mauricio Lim Miller grew up in poverty in the United States, dedicated decades to social work, and concluded that common beliefs about poverty, and its alleviation, are actually backwards. He pioneered new approaches and groundbreaking advocacy (for which he received a MacArthur Genius Award among many others). In his book The Alternative: Most of what you believe about poverty is wrong, Lim presents his basic premise:
To get positive change… outsiders must first recognize the thousands of right things that people are doing for themselves. Those are the changes most likely to grow and sustain in the long term. The policy-makers, non-profits, and funders must learn how to learn from the people themselves. Find out first what people are already doing for themselves and keep those efforts central.
This blog is part of CDA’s From Where I Stand series, designed to listen to people most affected by aid as they explore and amplify their leadership experiences, stories, and lessons for the aid sector.