donderdag 27 december 2012

Christmas with the Samaritan Trust

A lovely little film from Malawi, best wishes for 2013!

maandag 17 december 2012

How Effective Is Overseas Aid?

Some quotes from a very interesting discussion in the Guardian last Saturday between Clare Short (former Development secretary UK) and Ha-Joon Chang ( economist, born in South Korea) :

CS: "The UK spends about ₤8bn on aid, we spend more than ₤40bn on defence and ₤600bn on public expenditure so ₤8bn is a tiny part....Funding that helps countries speed up their development is just about decency, and also about the world being safer and more secure in the future."

HC: "In all the recent debates on aid, there is an implicit assumption that aid more or less doesn't work. However, there are many examples of aid working. My own native country, South Korea, is a great example. In the 1960s, it was one of the poorest countries in the world; now it's a donor. In certain periods, foreign aid played a critical role in allowing us to build infrastructure, resolve housing crises, build particular  fertiliser factories and so on- if you use it well, aid can be a very good thing. So let's talk about how to make it better rather than talking about getting rid of it."

CS: "42% of children in India are stunted. That means 42% of little brains and bodies are not getting enough nutrition and clean water to grow. So you can't say: Oh, India's rich now- and walk away."

HC: "Well, you need to do so many things to pull some countries out of their poverty, so giving individuals a goat is a good thing. But it's not enough, so I don't want that kind of private aid to be considered a replacement for building infrastructure, installing sanitation systems and so on."

CS: "I don't think food banks are the answer to to poverty in Britain, but in the mean time it's good that people (and companies-RvdK) are giving aid."

HC: "Unfortunately, with the austerity drive, Britain is becoming a bit of a Scrooge. This country used to be very decent, and now it's becoming narrow-minded and stingy."

Let's hope Scrooge (in this case most rich countries) will see the right ghost and direct its mind to world development. Improve rather than get rid of aid, Chang couldn't have said it better.

dinsdag 11 december 2012

Material Change II

Halfway I am, reading this book by Eve Blossom. It's good; she says some very interesting things about (social) design. I can relate to her practice with Lulan Artisans through the craft projects in Malawi. Even with many differences, for the craft projects in Malawi are focusing on a local market, which is essential in this case. Still, we can learn from all of these projects.
Here's a few issues worth quoting:

Good design is creating enduring values. For good design sustainability and social good are new values. Essential is that local culture is partner in the ownership of a project.
Indeed these things are essential.  Enduring value has to do with beauty, longevity, material sources and social circumstances for production.
Social design and fairtrade don't work if you come in from abroad and push some 'design' into the community. That won't last, and has little to do with local strength.

For a strong development of social design we need disruptive entrepreneurship. 
Entrepreneurship that has a strong vision, that is grassroot, that doesn't wait for official canals to be ready. Indeed we, those with ideas, just have to do it. Make it happen. In Malawi we, the women and me, just started. I brought in the ideas, curated their skills, they were eager to just do it.

maandag 10 december 2012

In the Bleak Midwinter

This old English song is one of the most beautiful winter songs I know. It's written by Harold Darke (1888-1976).  The photo's are made by my father last weekend, when I walked with my father and brother. This landscape is utterly beautiful, and the pureness is stunning with the snow....

        In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, 
 earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; 
 snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, 
 in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

 Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; 
 heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. 
 In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed 
 the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. 

 Angels and archangels may have gathered there, 
 cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; 
 but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, 
 worshiped the beloved with a kiss. 

 What can I give him, poor as I am? 
 If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; 
 if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; 
 yet what I can I give him:  give my heart.

vrijdag 7 december 2012

Material Change

I've just started reading Material Change, by Eve Blossom. A book in which she tells the story of how Lulan Artisans was established as a sustainable business in Vietnam. Design Thinking and the Social Entrepreneurship Movement - is the subtitle.
It's about design rooted in local culture, sustainability rooted in traditions.
The book has a wonderful poem by Fausto Contreras Lazo as a dedication:

"Our Forefathers"
In our hands they deposited
the tools that interweave our dreams,
what we see, what we feel, what we live.

In the weaving they taught us how
to weave with yarn the rainbow,
colors, with the fragrance of our country
from this, we cultivate and harvest.

They, too, did it this way, like this they flowered,
today we, their children, mark new trails,
together with our greatest teachers.

The photography by Mark Standen is beautiful, inspiring and clarifying.
Later more about the content.