Understanding Community Development on a Global Level

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I had the chance to speak with Lara Crampe, Development Officer for IIRR. She has proposed to give the talk titled "Sex, Slacktivism, and How Not to Change the World" at TEDxUChicago. The proposal is one of the many entries participating in the GOODmaker challenge to speak at the conference.

A View From the Cave (AVFTC): International topics do not appear to often feature in TED talks. Why do you think that is the case?

LC: I think there have been some very good conversations about international topics. However, much like the larger development conversation, most of the talks have centered around how the impoverished could be saved with a simple idea if "we" or the government, or humanitarian organizations would just implement it. In the more than 50 years that IIRR has been in community-led development, we have learned one very important lesson. It is not up to us to save the poor. It is up to us to support them in removing the barriers that are preventing them from saving themselves. We see ourselves as true partners with the communities that are saving themselves. After the "KONY 2012" video made the rounds and the backlash started, I got to thinking... what would the people in the villages in Uganda that are rebuilding have done?

AVFTC: Melinda Gates is branding the conversation of family planning as controversial. Do you agree with that characterization?

LC: I agree with her point that it's a sad state of affairs that have made this a controversial topic. It should not be taboo to discuss your plans for your family size, spacing, resources, etc., with your husband or with your friends.

AVFTC: What can Americans learn from people living in Ethiopia about family planning?

LC: People from anywhere can learn from these stories -- the problems facing women and girls in the developing world, what works in development, and how they can best direct their energy to make a difference in the world. The takeaway from this talk is less about family planning and more about how a few motivated people can change their communities from the inside. I think Americans have gotten the idea that you need policy change and large-scale advocacy, and large infrastructure to make a difference. In reality what you need is for the community to work together to accomplish big things.

AVFTC: Why is community lead development important?

LC: If the community is in the driver's seat, they are invested and motivated, the projects are targeted at the real problems, and the effects are sustainable.

AVFTC: How can outsiders contribute to/support community lead development?

LC:The way we have found to be most effective is to contribute technical advice about how to lead community conversations, who should be organizing and leading the community decision-making process, and what they need to do to have a sustainable community organization, how to track results, how to fundraise, and how to ensure sustainability. I dislike the term "technical assistance" but that's one way to describe it. We support communities to reach their own goals.

I hope people will read our description and want to hear this TEDx Talk. It's a simple idea but can change the way we look at development programs. Please vote today!

To learn more about IIRR and Lara's proposal go here.