noun: an unchallenged belief about international aid or development

About This Blog

What’s an Aideology?

An ideological belief about aid or the process of development. There are too many of them, and they often do a lot of harm.

The world of international aid is home to many folks I call Aideologues: people unwilling to question their approach, examine their priors, and reevaluate their ideas. Beyond that, however, I believe we all feel the pull of prevailing Aideologies from time to time.

What will you find here?

While I may be riveted by reading about the Machine Gun Preacher or the latest Prendergaffe, I’ll use this space to focus on bigger ideas. Specifically, I cover topics that shed light on 1) aid system design, or 2) approaches to development/aid work.

A few underlying themes drive the content here: uncertainty, critical (self-)evaluation, and goodwill. Let me elaborate:

  • Uncertainty: Whether you’re in an NGO, CSO, bilateral aid agency, or the UN, the tendency to insist, no matter what, that your efforts are Making A Big Difference is strong, if not irresistible. I know because I succumb to it. After all, we have to stay motivated to work somehow, right?

    Yet, I believe we have to fight against this tendency. One way I try to do that is by reminding myself to actively embrace uncertainty, both to guard against over-confidence and to spur learning. That doesn’t mean being paralyzed by inaction, but it does mean being open to re-evaluating our beliefs… even if we’ve dedicated countless hours to work based on those beliefs.

  • Critical (self-)evaluation: In that spirit, I critically evaluate. Both my efforts and others. More specifically, I try to use the principles I’ve drawn from my “smart aid” forebears (see blogroll) to discuss current events, international initiatives, and projects on the ground. Occasionally, this means I’ll wonk out about antiquated US laws (did someone say PL 480?) or provisions of the UN charter. But mostly I try to keep it general audience-friendly.
  • Goodwill: I’m not above heaping a healthy dose of scorn on a truly epic aid fail (at least when the person behind it should have known better). That being said, I believe it’s important to keep in mind that nearly all of us in this line of work share the desire to improve people’s lives. Because of that, I usually try to downplay the snark and emphasize common goals. That means showing goodwill toward people who do dimwitted things in poor countries differ in approach from me.

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