In an earlier post on our website Caroline Brundin talks about her experiences in Togo in a video interview. In this interview we discuss her experiences even further and talk about aid work and Action10.
Caroline Brundin in Togo
In late 2014, Senior Officer for our Evaluation Planning work group, Caroline Brundin, visited Togo to evaluate the work of Action10. More specifically she wanted to examine our first two actions (Needs driven program and Equal partnership) and see how they were implemented in practice. “It’s one thing to theorise and another to follow up on it”, she says.
I was interested in extracting the conclusions from her study because her report examined how our two core principles function at ground level. Needs driven is the principle that each program exists only because of a need by the locals for it. It entrusts target partners with the responsibility of identifying, designing and managing the activities that Action10 sponsor because we are convinced that locals are more suited for this task than external actors. For many people it’s a self-evident truth, yet a multitude of aid programs are still conducted through a top-down approach. Consequently, the development agenda is defined by western aid organisations that fail to consider the local knowledge and experiences. “The problem today is that aid work is determined by what donors consider important, but how can a donor know what locals in Togo need? It’s a waste of resources”, Caroline says.
One may even argue that these types of arrangements are remastered forms of colonialism that perpetuate the idea that poor Africans can not help themselves and must be saved by the West – a legacy of colonialism that has persisted into the 21st century. To avoid falling into the same neo-colonial trap that pervade the work of many other aid organisations, Action10 emphasize the importance of establishing relationships based on equal partnership between all program partners. “We [Action10 and S.E.VIE] collaborate on everything, at an ideological level and at a practical level. Cecilia carries a lot of knowledge and experience, she’s visited a lot of countries and S.E.VIE has the local expertise. In our social enterprising program, S.E.VIE takes care of everything from the logistical bits to teaching people how to manage their private economy. But we help each other out… Equal partnership”, she adds.
Caroline in Togo for the evaluation planning
Caroline examined the Action10/S.E.VIE social enterprise partnership and had daily interactions with the recipients of our support, the local community. She observed the many benefits that our investments had for the community. In 2014, our partnership with S.E.VIE helped supply 318 women and 30 men in seven villages through financial assistance in the form of micro-loans to support business start-ups and initiatives. “Our money allowed these people to enter trading. Our capital helped them to travel to other towns and get the equipment they needed to set up their businesses. We gave them the initial capital required to buy for example oil or sewing equipment. One of these women, Ablavi, opened up a shop selling a wide range of products thanks to our help… More generally, the village market place had become a more vibrant and lively place”.
“What makes Action10 such a functioning organisation on the ground is that there are no ulterior motives. We don’t have any vested interests nor any political interests. We are an intelligent organisation and because of our needs-driven principle we guarantee sustainable programs. And when you conduct all programs on an equal partnership basis you maximise everyone’s capacity since all experiences are equally valued”.
“I wish that more people looked into what aid organisations really do. It’s easy to give money to charity, but much harder to take a step further and understand what you really need to do to make a difference. I wish more people would read about us and understand the good things we do”.