Swords to plougshares 2.0-Crocheting for peace & development in Uganda

We are pioneering a movement to make humanitarian aid completely and definitively obsolete. Through a unique model we are empowering the women of Northern Uganda with the assets, skills, and knowledge to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. With this investment into true empowerment we are breaking the cycle of poverty and dependence on outside humanitarian aid. The result is long lasting and sustainable change.
Even though I share Bored in Post-Conflict's initial astonishment about Krochet Kids International ('buy a hat. change a life'), I am still not entirely convinced about this project after giving it some more thought. After all, this is not The Onion or CollegeHumour it is the inititiave to make all humanitarian aid obsolete and probably end all wars, too. 


Although they seem to operate since 2007, there is still no board of advisors on their website and it would be important to learn more about the...well, it is kind of tricky to find out what this enterprise actually is: A for-profit company with 'social responsibility'? A social enterprise? A non-profit organisation (they are using this term in the short ad which is a TV commercial for a search engine)?

The annual report effectively consists of one page (the other 8 pages are stories and 'blurbs') and it is not clear for me how the 8 staff are paid (from the $55,000 they spent on 'administration'?), where the charitable aspect of 'product distribution USA' is and what happens with the net income of $240,000. I have a feeling that expenses are made to look as if 87% is spent on the 'project' and 13% are spent on 'overheads'. In short, there is no transparency to undermine the claim that 'our work in Uganda has proven that empowerment can be sustainable'. It would be great to have more detailed information even if this would make the annual report longer and potentially less 'sexy'.

This does not mean that the idea is complete rubbish or that it does not help local people and I agree with Bored that it is nice to see a jargon-free website, happy local women and a social enterprise (?) that generates some income. But it is still DIY aid with a limited focus. Somewhere on the website they claim that the women make the equivalent of a teacher's salary through the crocheting and the cynical development researcher in me saw pictures of deserted schools and teacher's taking on hat-jobs because of the easier and potentially more regular payment. 
Development (in Uganda) is still a complex process, one that relies less and less on humanitarian aid anyway (no, it is not just academic semantics to differentiate between different forms of aid). 
I just wish there was less hipster-coolness in this project and a bit more of boring development seriousness about it (maybe it is happening in the background-but there are definitely enough people in 'development' already with big egos...)-they received $185,000 in donations in addition to their sales and more accountability would certainly benefit the project.

Comments

  1. you should check this link out. It actually shows what they are doing. http://www.krochetkids.org/2011/empowerment-our-model-unpacked-3/

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  2. Thanks for sharing the link which I had already noticed. Yes, there are some interesting elements in this short post-but there's also a bit of development jargon mixed in between the 'best practice' of working with local communities. Ever since the World Bank wanted to put 'countries in the driver's seat' through structural adjustment I am a bit sceptical about that expression...I don't disagree that 'Relationships are key' and that 'Ugandans helping Ugandans' are good ideas and that 'LOVE' or passion should be involved in a project, but as I said, these are accepted best practices in local development projects. The post does not mention any challenges, conflicts and obstacles nor the broader framework outside the 'community' and once again I would just be interested in learning more about these aspects. I will keep in touch because Adam plans to write about M&E soon which is obviously very important and interesting. And lastly, just a bit more modesty would probably be beneficial to the project of 'changing the face of Northern Uganda'.

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