Welcome metafilter visitors

Welcome Mat

Hello to everyone coming in from metafilter. For the record, I don’t consider myself to be an iconoclast. I am fairly certain that my ideas are 1) very ordinary and 2) shared by most people who work in international development. I’m just the person who’s willing to take the time to blog about it. And while I know I am critical, I do believe that international development can – and does – work. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be working in this field.

I know this blog isn’t all that searchable (I am working to fix that) so here are some links that might help you get a sense of what I am about:

Positive deviance, and why I like it

Why we should care about global health

Oral rehydration solution

The list of things I believe in

Learning from failure

Monitoring and evaluation

I am working a lot right now, so I don’t update that often. I have been blogging for a long time, though, so the archives run deep. (If you do go into the archives, you’ll notice I occasionally contradict myself. That’s because I’m still learning.) The best way to keep up with this blog is the RSS feed.

If you want fresh content, these are some international development blogs that say everything more eloquently than I do, use data more effectively, or both:

Tales from the Hood (currently blogging from Haiti)

Good Intentions Are Not Enough

Owen Barder’s Blog

photo credit: Jason-Morrison

Me, in other locations

I’m writing less often for Blood & Milk because I am writing in other places now. Some recent stuff that might interest you:

The Lancet is Off-Base About Aid Agencies – at UN Dispatch

Nobody Wants Your Old Shoes – How Not to Help Haiti – at Aid Watch

Teaching Americans What Haiti Needs
– The New York Times (I didn’t write that one, I’m just quoted)

Should We Be Vacationing in Haiti Right Now? – at UN Dispatch

A disclaimer of sorts


This blog – and my writing in general – is starting to get more public attention, so I think it’s a good time to remind everyone of something. I’m not special. This is not false modesty or some self-esteem issue. It’s a fact, and it’s a fact that makes me happy. I like working with brilliant people. I don’t know anything that everybody else who has worked in development for ten years or so doesn’t. When other people who work in this industry read the blog, they’re not amazed by my insight or any such. Mostly, they nod in agreement. (That’s why the comments section is so friendly.)

I am the person who has the time and inclination to write down the stuff that everybody knows. I’m not ashamed of that. Codifying accepted wisdom is a useful role. It helps outsiders understand the system, and helps insiders find their common ground. It gives everyone a clear, shared view, and that can catalyze change and system improvements.

In health systems, I believe that the people already in the system – doctors, nurses, patients – already have most of the information they need to make the system better. That’s the core of continuous quality improvement. In our international aid system, I believe that the people who actually implement projects hold a lot of valuable information. I am proud to be part of bringing it out and recording it.

I’ve got the time to write this blog, and I think that writing it makes me better at what I do. It’s a constant examination of my work – the assumptions behind it and the impact it has. I benefit from that, and I think that the projects I work for also benefit. I hope that reading this is useful to other people. But don’t mistake this for something unique.

People who work in development are amazing people. They think about their work all the time, obsessively. They try to figure out how to do as little harm as possible, and they search all the time for ways to improve their impact. Most of them are smarter than me, and know more. Most of them are too busy doing their work to want to blog about it. I’m the one who likes to write. That’s all.

photo credit: tellumo
chosen because it’s a truly awesome disclaimer