InterAction Forum Inspires New Thoughts On Development

Photo by: InterAction

The InterAction Forum, held recently in Washington, D.C., explored solutions to improve the lives of the world’s poor and marginalized. I was able to participate as a panelist on the session, “Mind the Gap: Creating Economic Opportunities for Youth.”

As a consultant who works on youth employment issues for FHI 360’s Workforce Connections project, spending time with like-minded peers from the development community helped me to gain a fresh perspective on my work.

Through diverse panels and provocative presentations, the forum offered a platform that encouraged development practitioners to do better by challenging the status quo.

One such presentation was by William Easterly, an economist known for his book, The White Man’s Burden. Easterly underscored the dangers of technocratic rule, which can sometimes be far removed from the needs of its intended beneficiaries. In the very worst of situations, this top-down form of development is not people-centered and can harm communities.

Easterly made the point that sometimes studies are undertaken only to collect dust in filing cabinets or cloud storage. As an example, he cited the many products that have never been downloaded from the World Bank’s Knowledge Bank. Millions of dollars go into developing these reports. How can we improve upon that system?

Forum participants enthusiastically explored issues in development and announced a call to action for improvement. And, organizations and individuals received recognition for actions that are making a positive impact.

Combining the voices of development practitioners and beneficiaries with the business world created a diversity of opinions that brings us closer to answering the question: Why do development? Sam Worthington, CEO of InterAction, provided focus by aptly stating that as development practitioners, we should strive to work ourselves out of a job. Thoughts like these will inspire me in the coming year. I am anxious to learn how development practitioners will have progressed at next year’s Forum. 

By Tadzoka Pswarayi, a youth consultant for FHI 360's Workforce Connections project. Pswarayi was a panelist for the UPS-sponsored plenary "Mind the Gap: Creating Economic Opportunities for Youth" at InterAction Forum 2015. This piece was originally published by the Alliance for International Youth Development.