Being an effective aid or development worker
Being a worker in aid, crisis management or international development means you can potentially make a difference. This is not automatic, though - things can and do go wrong. What are the ingredients in being effective?
- You see your initial experiences as cultural exchange, rather than charging in to "set things right."
- You learn the language and spend time with locals - unless you have exceptionally good reasons (such as security), you live among locals.
- Acceptance that you are playing the game by someone else's rules. You are a guest in the place where you are working, and you do not set the agenda, rules or even the 'game'. Talk of 'cultural acceptance', etc, is easy, but often foreign workers end up very sheltered from the realities of ordinary people's lives. This distance makes it easy to look down on the culture and make assumptions.
- A commitment to community participation, even when it means your suggestions are not acted on.
- See also Spotting Community Ownership and Sorry but it's not YOUR project which contains a useful community participation ladder on how-matters.org
- You stay informed. Start with the aid and development workers page.
- You know where your strength lies, and are comfortable saying that you don't know.
- You seek out people who know the answers.
- You know you are not there to solve problems as much as to enable locals to solve problems, and empower them to do so, effectively, after you have long gone.
- Resources for aid and development workers - an map of useful resources on Appropedia.
- How-matters.org explores the skills and knowledge needed by all international “do-gooders” (professional and amateur alike) to truly raise the level of human dignity within international assistance and put real resources behind local means of overcoming obstacles.
- See Good intentions, disastrous outcomes for some specifics. It should disturb you, but come back to this page and learn how to take steps towards positive outcomes.