Why Nick Kristof is wrong about the ‘D.I.Y. foreign aid revolution’
Nick Kristof of the New York Times recently wrote a popular article about individuals launching humanitarian efforts that he celebrated as the “D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution.”
The humanitarians he profiled (most were women … Kristof’s thesis is that women are more focused on helping the most vulnerable, which are usually women) were an impressive lot. One was a Seattle couple, Eugene and Minhee Cho, who ask people to donate one day’s wages to help fund certain causes they vet and select.
Many of my friends said they found the article inspiring and encouraging. As Kristof put it:
“It’s striking that the most innovative activists aren’t necessarily the ones with the most resources, or the best tools…. Rather, what often happens is that those best positioned to take action look the other way, and then the initiative is taken by (these lone activists) of the world, who are fueled by some combustible mix of indignation and vision.”
All of these efforts are admirable, but something about this DIY aid idea bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read this article “Don’t Try This Abroad” by Dave Algoso in Foreign Policy magazine.
Algoso says he, too, gets all “warm and fuzzy” reading about these people trying in some small way to make the world a better place. He acknowledges that many great movements begin with a single step taken by one person.
But Algoso said he was disturbed by Kristof’s simplistic description of the problems of poverty and the “implicit arrogance” that a groundswell of well-intentioned outsiders represents a solution.
ALSO BY TOM PAULSON OF KPLU’s HUMANOSPHERE: