Another Day in Tamale

A short word on Intangibles
August 19, 2007, 10:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Development often seems like it is simply a big money business littered with big money international players who have no real intent to bring change. It becomes very easy to forget that development is about people. Development is about communities. Development is endogenously defined and is a PROCESS people go through, not simply something that happens to them. While many people fully recognize the fact that development is not simply restricted to the ‘transfer of technical skills’, this month it became clear to me how important the intangible is in development. Imagine growing up in a place where the majority assume that life will always be the same and that they will never be ‘whatever they’d like to be’ when they grow up. As well as providing people with the means to improve their lives, it is also important to provide people with inspiration and hope that their lives can change if they want them to. To bring change, people need to believe in themselves, but first they need someone else to believe in them.
The NGO I am working with, Africa 2000 (A2N), does an excellent job of valuing people as people. A2N staff become part of the communities’ they work in, always treat ‘beneficiaries’ as equals and even recognize they become enriched, challenged and ‘assisted’ by those they work with. Showing an inspirational video to a group of women in a Shea butter processing group in rural Northern Ghana may not have the same ‘impact’ as providing a school to the community, but I would argue, might even have greater value. Getting women to role model how they would walk if they were managers of a prosperous Shea butter producing factory, is not the type of activity UNICEF would undertake, but nonetheless remains extremely beneficial.
With so many development organizations assuming a ‘service delivery’ role, I worry that the true goal of development becomes obscured behind all the jargon and the value of the intangible becomes lost.