This framing of the real challenge to development and poverty alleviation comes from Ken Wong writing on his experience in Malawi:
We can only win the war on poverty and hunger in Malawi by targeting the real enemy – and that enemy is the system of how the world tries to help. Specifically:
— The system that demands foreign aid be funneled through the government or large NGOs
— The system that creates a hierarchy of aid and government workers whose job security and quality of life depends not on their wanting what is good on the ground, but pleasing whoever is above them in rank
— The system that discriminates against on-the-ground, local initiatives because of a lack academic credentials, English-speaking skills, and the ability to complete unwieldy applications and fulfill misguided metric targets
If we are to win the war against poverty, we need to face the truth and admit that the system has not only not worked in Malawi, it has made the situation worse.
The system itself is the barrier to progress. The System Monster, as I dubbed it, is quite a nice fellow really, rather well meaning and all that, but he doesn’t see how he’s just stuck there inbetween, unable to adapt to the context on the ground.
Here’s is a 5 minute video where I introduce the concept, from the BankInter Foundation’s Future Trends Forum on Inequality and Technology held in Madrid in early June 2016.