Tag Archives: Success

How to Ask (the right) Questions?

Through the Global Citizen Program by Credit Suisse I’ve been exposed to some serious coaching and have received the opportunity to reflect on the power of questions.

First thing I realized: questions carry the risk of bringing me into trouble. “What’s your name, sir?”, “What is it you like doing in your spare time?”, “When will I receive the status update from your team?” Continue reading How to Ask (the right) Questions?

Demining Rats from Tanzania – A Success Story

There are apparently 56 countries and 4 territories around the world that are affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war that pose a structural barrier to development and economic growth. Civilians become casualties long after the conflict has ended. Clearing mined land is a dangerous and time consuming task. Continue reading Demining Rats from Tanzania – A Success Story

Salt, Soap and Shoes for Tanzania’s Elders – A Success Story

Old people in rural Tanzania face a difficult life. While health and strength deteriorate they can not hope to be supported by one of their many children, who are either unwilling or unable to help or have been consumed by AIDS.

In addition to being less and less able to provide an income they sometimes become primary caretakers of their orphaned grandchildren. Continue reading Salt, Soap and Shoes for Tanzania’s Elders – A Success Story

Judging a Country by Happiness or Unhappiness?

Gross Domestic Product has become the yardstick by which we measure a country’s success. But, says Michael Green, GDP isn’t the best way to measure a good society. The Social Progress Index determines what it means to be a good society according to three
dimensions: Basic Human Needs (food, water, shelter, safety); Foundations of Well-being (basic education, information, health and Continue reading Judging a Country by Happiness or Unhappiness?

What I Learnt Before Even Starting My Assignment

As the time of departure is approaching I get a bit antsy. It’s a bit like before jumping off a cliff (with a parachute, I hope). And I noticed that I’ve been handling some things differently lately.


Take the recent reorganization, where members of my boss’ team were divided and ended up in three other teams. Where my
workload had been just about right before, it became insane to learn Continue reading What I Learnt Before Even Starting My Assignment

A Fabulously Successful Health Project in Tanzania

TEHIP was a Tanzanian initiative to improve medical service in some of the poorest areas of the country.

Some 2 $ per person were set aside to tackle the largest health burdens in the community. Initially it was not even known what would help people the most. Then a survey was conducted. Malaria turned out to be the most neglected burden. It accounted for 30% of Continue reading A Fabulously Successful Health Project in Tanzania

Some Examples of Successful Development Projects

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Abhijit Banerjee and Ruimin He have undertaken a rigorous study of the relatively few independent evaluations of aid program successes and failures. They suggest the following interventions are usually highly effective forms of aid in normal circumstances:

  • Subsidies given directly to families to be spent on children’s education and health
  • Education vouchers for school uniforms and textbooks
  • Teaching selected illiterate adults to read and write
  • Deworming drugs and vitamin/nutritional supplements
  • Vaccination and HIV/AIDS prevention programs
  • Indoor sprays against malaria, anti-mosquito bed netting
  • Suitable fertilizers
  • Clean water supplies

(source: Wikipedia and “Making Aid Work”, A. Banerjee and R. He, MIT 2003)

I’d be happy to discuss further successful projects in the comments.

(photo by OXFAM International on flickr)

Microfinance Reality Check

Microfinance promises a lot to many people. It depends on which promise we’re looking at: fight poverty, generate profits, provide financial services to the poorest, empower women, support entrepreneurs and create jobs.  Each has its own merits and each only provides a sliver of the “truth”. 

Take “fight poverty”. Only 50% of the loans are productive to start with. The other half don’t generate revenues and are used to buy food, pay school fees or medical bills. Obviously a non-productive loan is not considered a success in the narrow sense. But looking at the broader picture it might make sense to provide financial means to smoothen the income of the poor. And from an entirely different angle it is somewhat surprising that the poor repay their debts more easily than they save money beforehand.

Then there is the question of whom you ask: practitioners tend to have a more positive view based on anecdotes while quantitative researchers have a hard time proving positive impact and usually have to slice and dice the data to find impact, e.g. among rural female users of productive loans.

The existence of strong competition, market entry of traditional banks, new technologies and favorable regulatory environment all point to a potential success story, where efficient companies produce profits and operate in a sustainable manner.

To summarize: Microfinance services are helping, just not in the way microfinance’s foundational belief system says it does. If few clients actually use microfinance services in the way the original designers of microfinance programs expected them to, that doesn’t mean it is a failure. Microfinance does address the problem of income unpredictability. A stable, reliable source of credit, combined with savings, allows clients to meet their spending needs even as income ebbs and flows.

Hat tip to jaysupetran from Access Advisory for an in depth commentary oft the situation: Microfinance reality check.

(photo by Jovan J on Flickr)

Saving the World – Millennium Style

I was wondering how the development industry wanted to make this world a better place in the year 2000. Here’s what the global community wanted to achieve between 2000 and 2015: Millennium Development Goals (MDG)

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Promote gender equality and empower women
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Improve maternal health
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

(source: Wikipedia)

Do you want to know how well the world has done in 14 years? Here is the latest 2014 chart showing some very real progress. Compare it to 2005 (below) to see how the number of the red cells has gone down. 2014: 6 elements in the red; 2005: 34 red cells. That’s a whopping 75% improvement!

Currently the strategy for the future is being discussed. Find out more in the next post.

Status 2014
Status 2005