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Why am I in Development? (Craig)

March 3, 2010

I have had the pleasure of writing this piece after reading posts by Andrew and Rajni on the same subject. At the risk of abusing this position somewhat, let me take elements of their sentiment and ‘stir things up’ a little. Let’s begin with one of Rajni’s cherished Gandhi quotes,

“Truth resides in every human heart, and one has to search for it there, and to be guided by truth as one sees it”

And apply this to a rejection of the role of the expat/development worker lifestyle as a motivation for entering the field, such as Andrew’s.

Now, are these two positions really compatible? Can we say that we are telling us the truth when we reject the glamorous and rewarding nature of development? Are we being guided by the truth as we really see it? Have we actually searched for it or did we stop looking without venturing too far from our 4x4s?

When considering my motivations for working in development I enjoy pondering on how I am acting on an obligation to address the vast inequalities that create extreme poverty. What sits less comfortably is that a large part of my motivation for working in the sector is to satisfy my self interest; I am excited by the prospect of an ‘exotic’ and rewarding career, I enjoy the autonomy experienced working in Africa, I have enjoyed both learning about African cultures and aspects of the ‘expat’ lifestyle.

I believe we must be true to ourselves when considering our motivations for entering development and that involves acknowledging the role of both self-interest and altruism. Does this mean that I don’t have a legitimate place in the development sector? I don’t think so.

The more fundamental issue is the ability to truly justify one’s role as an outsider in a development setting, to have skills that are required, that can be utilised, and that aren’t available locally. If this can be done then I believe there is a role for outsiders like me in development. A fundamental role if you listen to Teddy Brett. Does this mean I have to deny the fact I may enjoy myself while carrying out this role? I truly don’t think so.

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