Al Hammond

A New Model for Success at the BOP: Interview with David Wheeler, Conclusion and Compilation

This is the conclusion of our interview with David Wheeler, author of Creating Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks. The entire interview is available here.

Describe the implications of your research for development strategies. How could development agencies use your findings to get the most impact for their grants and loans?

I approach this question with some trepidation and humility having spent most of the 1980s in the world of ?development?. In my view, our friends and colleagues in the bilateral and NGO development agencies need a new song to sing. Most importantly they need to get over their fear of the private sector and go into a period of deep introspection about their potential future roles as enablers of human development through enterprise. Some of the most progressive ones are actually edging towards this.

Of course we should make a distinction between development assistance and humanitarian aid. The latter is important when there are natural or man-made disasters and we should probably radically increase the world’s resources devoted to avoiding and alleviating such disasters as they seem to be happening with increasing frequency. But if there ever was a case for interfering with developing economies – propping up inefficient health, education and other public services in Africa and Latin America – I think that time is coming to an end. As the 21st century unfolds there will be no real place for missionary work. It is paternalistic, corrupting and even unethical. Also it has not worked.

So wouldn?t it be great if every ?development project? was judged for its likely economic as well as social sustainability rather than just its ?development impact?? Wouldn?t it be interesting if we started evaluating those organizations that still insist on calling themselves donors, as investors? It may sound counter-intuitive, but for me it is not about the OECD countries increasing the size of their development budgets to 0.7 per cent of GDP as the UN prescribes. Within the current development paradigm this may not help at all. But imagine if we had 10 million more social and business entrepreneurs in Africa. Imagine if the millions currently languishing in refugee and IDP camps across the globe were equipped for enterprise rather than abandoned to dependency and convenient passivity. There are 2 million people in IDP camps in Sudan alone with very little sign that anyone is working on facilitating future livelihoods for those highly resilient individuals dealing with the results of war and conflict and (hopefully soon) a post-conflict situation.

We are talking about major shifts in thinking here, from the UN down through to the most earnest local development agencies. But these organizations contain some of the most committed, intelligent and dynamic social change agents around. So I’d like to believe they can also re-invent their business models, just like the rest of us are going to have to.