Recently I have encountered three wonderful stories from the field of development. They tell us about a power of simple – meaningful innovations that are so essential in reaching Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
First. Melinda Gate’s speech at TEDxChange event in September 2010 is challenging non-profit organisations to learn from a business world how to achieve impactful results in health and development sector. She lays out super logical suggestions. To support the argument she gives an illustration of Coca-Cola – a company that is present at all corners of the world where development aid should be but isn’t present yet.
Second. The New York Times article “D.I.Y Foreign Aid Revolution” where Nicholas Kristof has brilliant case studies on development initiatives rolled out by devoted individuals. These initiatives are not overly idealistically blunt. They are built on meaningful ideals and executed in well thought manner.
Third, a speech by Mechai Virvaidaya at TEDxChange in September 2010. He is running family planning and poverty reduction programs in South East Asia. Also known as “The King of Condom” he shares utterly fantastic case study how Thailand in 25 years managed to improve family planning. In 2000 Thailand achieved 1.5 children per family (population growth 0.5% per annum). That is an incredible result compare to 7 children per family in 1974 (population growth at 3.3% per year).
Each story is remarkable. Also, each story is a polite slap to governments, policy makers and aid donors as a note that they are not innovative and efficient enough, and far behind MDG targets. Fortunately, today’s digital transparency and individual initiatives are pushing more accountability, concrete actions and sound results from the policy makers.
However, it seems that one of the most serious issues is the unawareness of MDGs as such among wider audience. Back in September 2010 Bono, the lead singer of U2 and development promoter, wrote an article “MDGs for Beginners… And Finishers” where he said “The MDGs are possibly the most visionary deal that most people have never heard of”. The fact that MDGs is a buzz-word for few policy makers and development professionals is a considerable reasons that holds back results. Individual initiatives (that are so much needed) and media news stories from disaster areas (that are super essential) are not enough to engage people across nations to be committed to these ideals.
Let’s put this straight. The modern developed world does not have a modern development education. Today we need a comprehensive development education integrated in school curriculums at all levels. Make the development education real. Create it engaging targeted and efficient. Make it impactful on all levels – national, European, global.
Now Europe has a chance to pioneer something significant.
First. It will expand horizon and promote more comprehensive understanding of development issues. It will teach how interdependence of regions, religions, politics, history and culture impacts regional and global affairs. It will answer questions what it means for people both in developed and developing world, the planet and common future. Also, it will help to appreciate own backgrounds and its role of influencing (or being accountable) of events and decisions (made or to be made).
Second. The development education will encourage more participation among citizens. More advance development knowledge and digital transparency will be influential. It will ensure that thoughts, ideas, reflections and actions will spread more rapidly.
Third. It will not only create stronger bonds with the NGO sector and initiatives for cause, but also stimulate more action. We will find more passionate social entrepreneurs in a near future.
Fourth. Development education will influence the decisions people make: when they express, act, get involved, vote and purchase.
Fifth. At the time when Angela Merkel has declared that multiculturalism in Germany has “utterly failed” and ultra-radicals are gaining seats in national parliaments (Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, Finland and Sweden) Europe urgently needs to address the development issues at a broader scope within itself (as it also correlates with immigration matters) to reach more harmonized and respectful integration among all involved sides.