It’s hard to rely on my good intentions

I just discovered Beyond Good Intentions, a short documentary series covering several different topics in the development agenda. Given the lack of quality coverage on the issue, I was surprised to find that the series avoids many of the trappings of the development documentary:

  • There is a disturbing lack of distended bellies
  • Western aid/NGO workers are, for the most part, not treated as saviours
  • Poor people are portrayed as determined and active, not helpless and doe-eyed.

It is well worth a watch. Tori Hogan has gone out of her way to cover a nice range of topics, although there is a slight micro bias to the whole thing. Absent are discussions on larger issues concerning aid effectiveness or less tangible areas such as governance. Even though Hogan manages to insert a healthy dose of skepticism from time to time, there’s a lack of a devil’s advocate for several of the pieces (the randomistas get off a little too easy). There’s also that post-MTV obsession with constant, uplifting music in the background.

Still, quibbles aside, it’s a great first step towards more thoughtful discussion. You can view entire the series on Youtube here. Especially cringy is, during the discussion on faith-based aid in Mozambique, the moment where a missionary admits he will only exchange assistance for guaranteed Christian conversions.

If nuance isn’t your thing, you’re welcome to check out The Invisible Children Project or watch two women discuss development over popsicles (thanks Aid Watch).

2 thoughts on “It’s hard to rely on my good intentions

  1. Sara

    September 2, 2009 at 5:51pm

    Hey Matt, I just found your blog today, and was happy to see that you found Beyond Good Intentions. I’m interning for Tori at the moment; I found her last year while I was in grad school for Sustainable Development at SIT in Vermont and the title of her website really hit me, as I was having a sort of major ideological crisis at the time (the WHAT THE &^%$ ARE WE DOING AND WHY ISN’T ANYTHING WORKING problem). Anyway, I’ll be traveling to Madagascar to do some research for future case studies for BGI, mainly focused on the impact of the political crisis on the development sector (I was a Peace Corps volunteer there a couple of years ago…), and I’ll be joining the ranks of development bloggers as well; I thought I should connect with you as we seem to have some things in common 😉


  2. Matt

    September 5, 2009 at 12:49pm

    Hi Sara, glad you enjoy the blog – yes I was quite pleased with BGI as I mentioned. Just checked out some of your videos from Madagascar – do you plan on doing more video work in the field?

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