Imagine potential aid recipients saying what THEY think

Twenty minutes outside the small town of Masindi, Uganda is a village called Kikuube…The local council member representing the village is none other than my Mum…I was surprised that she—as a village leader—had never heard of the MDGs. Yet she goes about her day fulfilling tasks meant to improve the welfare of her community; from educating her community about the use of bed nets, to regular home inspections enforcing sanitation codes, to empowering women with micro-loan programs. What does it say about the MDGs when the very people that are supposed to be beneficiaries don’t even know about them?

This quote comes from TMS (Teddy) Ruge, co-founder of Project Diaspora, an organization that involves Africans abroad in sustainable development initiatives in their home communities. His musings on his village leader Mum not knowing about the MDGs were inspired by this year’s United Nations MDG Week, a series of meetings and events in New York much more conducive to talking about all the good the West is doing for the Rest than hearing from the Rest.

(It also made us think about how the international aid orgs are now struggling to credibly include the voices of aid recipients—witness this cringe-inducing IMF video and website about how the IMF consulted with “civil society representatives” during their annual meetings. The carefully chosen quotes from the carefully chosen “representatives” in the video praised the IMF for its openness to dialogue with the ill-defined “civil society,” perhaps right after the IMF did some “capacity-building” on them.)

Teddy envisioned instead an event featuring just the voices of the potential aid recipients, a platform for people from his home village and others like it to share their experiences on getting by on $1 a day, and their successes in their own communities. Teddy first considered getting a TED license to build on their well-known brand, but decided to create his own model, which he is calling Villages in Action:

On Saturday, November 27, the microphone will be mounted stage center in this little quaint village. We welcome the world to join us in a frank discussion on the state of poor. We’ll discuss the MDGs and what our role is in achieving them by 2015 (and what we were already doing)...I want to challenge the notion that the sustainability of our communities depends on intervention from the West…

His idea to start public discussions about the development goals throughout villages in Africa is an intriguing one. He is looking for technical and financial support for this new project; find him here.