When does social entrepreneurship start making more harm than good?

April 6, 2011 at 1:07 am Leave a comment

Pic: PF
A big part from working with social issues is to understand the pitfalls that these convey. Pablo Fernández a business-management alumni from PUC Chile and Master student from Stanford places upfront the controversy on “first world” NGO’s trying to solve some foreign problems. He reports from Kenya:
“I just came back from Nairobi, Kenya, one of the poorest countries in the world (147 of 182 according to the UN within the countries with data), where we had the chance to visit two of the biggest slums in Nairobi; Mathare and Kibera. People told us that in Kibera there are more NGO’s than toilets. Although this may sound funny, it is completely true; there is almost one or two NGO trying to solve one of the many problems you will find, and most of the time they don’t talk or share their success (and even more important, their failures and learning). From education and sanitation issues to human rights there are a broad range of institutions and people submitting proposals to get money for their projects. And at some point you start realizing that the whole village is run by NGOs on foreign aid.

Pic: Stanford Student’s visit 2011 [PF]

The problem seems to be that most of these help is delivered in the way of assistance rather than partnerships looking to develop local capacity. In many cases, NGOs bring their help without further consideration for the local environment, and most of the time without having a deep understanding of the problem and the circumstances. This problem is more broad and usual that what we might think. According to Donaldson [2009]


‘Ethiopia—which have a large number of technical non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and utilize expatriate skills— ironically have a surplus of unemployed or underemployed engineers’.

The local engineers are poorly trained and don’t have the skills necessary to solve the immediate problems, competing in disadvantage with foreign engineers brought by NGOs. The lack of a broader view and a sustainable approach when tackling a problem can inflict huge harm, condemning a country to leave solely on foreign aid, and not being able to build local capabilities to face their challenges.

Don’t get my wrong; I’m not against ”


Entry filed under: BOP, Community, Ethics, Public Policies.

Designing for real autonomy Know your onions, why the digital humanities should give more relevance to the end-user

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.innovacionsocial.cl.

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