What’s Your ‘Gateway Drug’?

We owe much of the perennial growth of the drug market to a collection of substances known as ‘gateway drugs’— relatively quick, harmless highs that open the door for progressively stronger, more expensive drugs. But perhaps social enterprise can help turn this insidiously successful tactic to more productive ends…

Like junkies, successful change agents fixate on their cause. They crave it, sacrifice for it, and are willing to expend ever greater effort, against ever greater odds, to move it forward. Leaping headlong into that life would leave just about anyone exhausted, overwhelmed and cynical.  That’s where the ‘gateway drug’ comes in.

For example, a recent survey from DigiActive suggests that online activists often come into that community through other, more run-of-the-mill social networks. Social networks are a gateway drug for online activism. Once you’ve learned the norms, mastered the tools, and made the connections in facebook, creating online petitions or leading a discussion board comes pretty naturally.

The same could be said of disaster relief drives that cultivate life-long volunteers, the flickr comment that inspires an amateur photographer to start booking portrait sessions, or the sporadic blogger who ends up spearheading a massive social media campaign.

Metaphorically speaking, every cause needs addicts, junkies, even dealers. What current utilities, networks, or platforms could be the key to ‘hooking’ your next evangelist?

Advertisements

What IS Development?

I’ll be honest, I got a little annoyed with the results of my google search on this subject. Most of the sites I got to (including this potentially great one from the world bank targeted to primary school children) all basically said the same thing; Development is about rich countries giving money to poor countries to help them become rich countries. Some were full of buzzwords like sustainability and economic mobility. Some were sappy, some were dry and some were downright condescending. Most were pretty oversimplified. And none of them, for me, captured what I think development is all about.

Development to me, is about releasing potential energy. Like a drawn bow, or a loaded spring, or just an arm pulled back to throw something, developing communities (whether they’re in Bamako or Boston) are FULL of potential energy—they vibrate with it. But there are things about living there that prevent this force, this generative energy, from being released.

Continue reading

Failing Forward

A friend shared a video with me (well, with the world) a few days ago, that makes some interesting connections to development. You can see it here.

The video is about failure. About its role in innovation and competition. About its consequences (both painful and productive) and about how it can transform our view of the past and shape our futures.

Easterly talks a lot about failure in White Man’s Burden. And I have to agree that most of the efforts of international aid have done little good, and in some cases, a great deal of harm. But if something as relatively simple as designing a race car entails such dramatic, such profound, such persistant failure, how can we expect something as complex, convoluted and nuanced as “development” to come without it?! Continue reading

Castro on Globalization

“Globalization is an objective reality underlining the fact that we are all passengers on the same vessel, that is, this planet where we all live. But passengers on this vessel are travelling in very different conditions.

Trifling minorities are travelling in luxurious cabins furnished with the Internet, cell phones and access to global communication networks. They enjoy a nutritious, abundant and balanced diet as well as clean water supplies. They have access to sophisticated medical care and to culture.

Overwhelming and hurting majorities are travelling in conditions that resemble the terrible slave trade from Africa to America in our colonial past. That is, 85% of the passengers on this ship are crowded together in its dirty hold suffering hunger, diseases and helplessness. Obviously, this vessel is carrying too much injustice to remain afloat.”

– Fidel Castro

Touche, Fidel.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some classic Castro moments in this little speech; “The wealthy nations can afford to pay any price for the energy they waste to sustain
luxurious consumption levels and destroy the environment.” for example. But, there were some concepts that really rang true:

“In the hands of the rich countries, world trade is an instrument of domination.”

“A special and differentiated treatment to poor countries has been considered not as an
elementary act of justice and a necessity that cannot be ignored but as a temporary act of
charity.”

…and so forth.

Still, I found myself questioning every fact and statistic he presented, looking for footnotes [and discounting assertions in their absence] and frankly wondering if I would be doing the same if it wasn’t Castro I was reading.