Bad development projects are worse than no help at all. A bad project can break a local economy, create a culture of dependency, and damage a community until community members cannot even imagine attempting to solve their own problems. This is what the do no harm approach is all about. This the lesson you should learn from James Shikwati. He lumps all aid together, true, the good and the bad, but he’s right about how dangerous bad aid can be.
Those of us involved in international aid should take our role seriously. When your project takes criticism, you shut up and listen. You act like any other professional, and you examine the criticism to see if it is accurate.
Here’s what you don’t do. You don’t say, ever “Why would you be so mean when we are just trying to help?” If you find yourself about to say that, it means you have failed. Pack up your souvenirs and go home.
Lesson: There is no free pass for good intentions.