Can we go Beyond Good Intentions?

The promise and hope of internet news is still to be financially proven, although, by now, we can see the value socially and culturally in a huge way by how our lives have changed. We can see the impact on the current news industry structure. The end result is still too far off for us to know with certainty how things are going to play out. I suppose that’s part of the excitement for new technologies and exploring new ways of telling a story.

I know that personally, what has been most significant about being able to publish online is the ability to go back to that spontaneous feeling of creating and sharing something that had been lost for me over the years of applying and applying to make it beyond the gatekeepers and “there is no market for that…” to see for myself. In some cases, the gatekeepers were right, in other cases not. Yet, its being in the game that makes the difference because otherwise, one can not grow artistically. Plant without water.

Its been eye-opening for me to see what articles or photos people connect with and feel inspired by – whether out of like or dislike – but inspired. This immediate connection is what brought me into this field in the first place.

So it was that I watched Beyond Good Intentions, a webseries that explores the question of whether good intentions are enough in international aid practices and if not, what we can learn to make international aid policy more effective. Built around an engagement strategy, people can write in with ideas and suggestions and join a dialog. I am curious to know how the discussion is coming along. In the meantime, you can click below to see Episode #2 which questions the impact of volunteerism to ask what good is being done.

Episode #3 looks at Indonesia after the earthquake to examine how home construction aid is impacting local communities. In this third episode, I appreciate that local people were interviewed and offer local assessment of the successes and challenges. I believe this kind of exchange can go beyond good intentions, by communicating locally with people we may indeed be able to scale the heights of good intentions to make a dent today.

A good friend of mine worked for many years in the U.S. on issues of poverty, working on the ground in food banks and other organizations helping to end hunger. After twenty years, she left the field wondering if she had made a difference, and deeply transformed by what she saw of the “soft corruption,” in the sense that her and her coworkers’ jobs all depended on their being hungry people. If there were not hungry people in her city, their programs, and hence, their jobs were in jeopardy. What incentive is there to make real change in those circumstances? At what point do aid organizations become part of a system that requires their mission of ending hunger never be fulfilled? No lack of good intentions on the part of my friend, but she could no longer avoid questioning the impact of her efforts. Not feeling she could really bring up the issues within the system, she went outside to find her answers. How many aid workers are lost, how many people receiving aid have felt worthless in the process or not even had their needs met?

Kudos to Beyond Good Intentions for even asking the question.

Beyond Good Intentions is having a U.S. tour to spark dialog in local communities. In S.F. May 02, 2009. Check out their site for more info.

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