Career Profile: Betsy Teutsch

Career Profiles
Betsy headshot microphone Great-Dames 8 x 10

The last profile in this series is here! Meet Betsy Teutsch, author of “100 under $100″ 




My day job is as a Judaica artist specializing in Hebrew wedding contracts. Running my own art business made me excited about the potential of microfinance to help women earn better livelihoods. For the last dozen years, I have branched out into a wide variety of interests, focusing on sustainability and women’s empowerment. I now see that we can accomplish both goals at once. Helping women gain access to sustainable green tech will help them improve their lives, health, and financial bottom line. It will liberate a lot of their time for more productive pursuits and it will also decrease carbon emissions and increase forest cover! 


I started blogging and writing a monthly column on greening our lives and community. I live in Mt. Airy, a very socially conscious, lefty neighborhood in Philadelphia, USA where these ideas resonate. I eventually decided to launch a second career working in sustainability. For a time I served as Director of Communications for – their vision was to utilize microfinance to help disseminate green technology. When I learned the impact just one solar panel or improved cookstove can have on a household – literally jumping from the 19th century (cooking over a campfire and utilizing kerosene lamps for lighting) into the 21st century with tech like solar LED lights and cellphone charging – I couldn’t believe people were not talking about this. 

I also noticed, over time, that women were insufficiently involved in the whole process of rolling out clean tech – absent from the design process, the market analysis, the financing, and the supply chain straight through to sales. Hence, the products were not well-aligned with what women wanted and needed. I set out to research this disconnect and discovered an incredible array of great tools for low-resource areas, with fabulous female engineers, designers, and social entrepreneurs working to bridge this gap. I began posting images (there’s the artist in me!) on a Pinterest Board and within weeks, I had dozens and dozens. I was wowed by this whole new look at development: women taking charge of their lives. I decided more people need to know all the good work being done, and set out to curate 100 tools under $100 in book form, illustrated with these beautiful full-color photos featuring women at work. And I did!


There are many paths in. I say, look around and go through the open door. If one approach doesn’t work, try another. Think broadly. There are 2 billion people living lives devoid of the modern infrastructures we take for granted: electricity, sanitation, health, education, transportation. You can’t solve it, but you can make your own difference!


book cover smaller

I wanted to share all the cool things I was discovering!  The collection is varied and each entry has suggested actionable activities. It is a great resource for:

  • Students and educators
  • Donors – from microphilanthropists to foundations
  • Practitioners, those in a position to implement and tinker with the tools directly
  • Activists/do-gooders – people who want to do something beyond financial contribution. That could be volunteering, advocating, doing a collection drive.

Find out more about the book and purchase it here


Hope! We know so many ways to help end extreme poverty, and empowering women is a very effective strategy for implementing these solutions.

You can read more about Betsy’s current work at You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


Career Profile: Brendan Rigby

Career Profiles
Brendan Rigby

Brendan Rigby

I currently juggle a number of different global developments balls. At the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, I’m a PhD candidate in the Language and Literacy Education department. I’m trying to understand the literacy practices of out-of-school children in northern Ghana from the perspective of ten children and their communities. I invited these children to document their literacy through digital photography, and they produced an amazing 4,000 images, which I will use to explore questions of education service provision, complementary education and literacy. In addition, I act as an independent education specialist and consultant for organisations including Plan International, UNICEF, DFID and Victorian Curriculum & Assessment Authority. I’ve provided technical support to projects ranging from education in emergencies and safe schools in Indonesia to the digital assessment of languages in primary schools. Last, I’m the co-founder and Managing Director of WhyDev, an Australian non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting individuals and communities who want to get development right.
Similar to most development professionals, I started in a volunteer role. Going back before volunteering, I studied as an archaeologist, working on dig sites in Australia and Uzbekistan. I followed this by entering the teaching profession, acting as a primary and secondary school teacher in China and Australia. While completing a Masters in Development Studies at the University of NSW, I took on volunteer roles at Centre for Refugee Research and ActionAid Australia, while working as a researcher and project manager at Macquarie University. I moved back to China, worked in a microfinance NGO and picked up consulting work on World Bank grant applications. Next, I took on a role as an education officer with UNICEF Ghana, in their field office in Tamale. My support of an education intervention for out-of-school children inspired me to pursue a PhD.
If you want to work in education, study education. It can be in teaching, research or policy. A firm foundation is a technical one. Then, build on this foundation. Pursue volunteer opportunities that will expose you not only to education, but also to how organisations operate. Find opportunities to build your management skills and experiences. A technical background combined with management experience is a strong resume. This can be complemented through international (field) experience, which can best be gained by a willingness to go where others will not. Last, build an online presence through LinkedIn, Twitter and other platforms.

Career Profile: Tobias Denskus

Career Profiles
Tobias Denskus

Tobias Denskus


The official answer is: I am a teacher, researcher and academic manager for our Communication for Development MA program at Malmö University in Sweden where we are currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of our program!

The less formal answer is: I am a passionate advocate for critical engagement with international development and of how people, media and organizations communicate about development in the digital age.


This could be a perfect space for a catchy Richard Branson quote or one of these quotes that can be attributed to basically everyone from Bill Gates to Mother Theresa…but all jokes aside: It was a healthy mix of traditional education, pro-active self-promotion and, well, a bit of luck.

I have had a passion for development since my undergraduate days and a good ten years later graduated with a PhD in the subject. I also launched my social media profile, linked development blogging to my research, extended networking from traditional spaces to the virtual sphere and was finally offered a great position in Sweden!

I would not describe myself as a radical, but I have a, however small, critical voice and like to raise it here and there. My blog has proven to be a very good outlet for that critical engagement. Not everybody agrees with my research, but if everybody is still your friend after a few years in a project or organization you are doing something wrong!


It depends to some extent what you mean by ‘your field’. The academic industry is and will continue to be a very difficult space for sustainable long-term opportunities. Any linear thinking along the lines of ‘I enjoy teaching and research, so I should get a PhD and then apply for an academic position’ will most likely not yield satisfactory results.

I am a bit more optimistic about the ‘field’ of ComDev or C4D. No matter where you will be working in the aid industry, you will dedicate a substantial amount of time telling people what you are doing and why you are doing it. Even if your work is technical, bureaucratic or seemingly self-evident, e.g. humanitarian aid, you will have to explain, defend and be authentic about your and your organization’s work. The development organization of the future will likely be a mix between a technical agency, a public education institution and a media outlet. Communication for Development is an important crosscutting subject.

Good work may not automatically speak for ‘itself’, but doing good work unnoticed for a while is better than looking for shortcuts that may look good on your CV but cannot be backed up by substance and sustainable work! The aid industry is small and you never know who may contact your references.

In a recent interview with my colleagues at Örecomm I concluded:

“At the end of the day, when all ‘white Land Cruiser’ jokes are told, all ‘white elephant’ projects are evaluated and all voluntouristic photos by white people are uploaded to Instagram, development in general and development communication in particular will continue to have an important role as witness to injustice and marginalization, as an amplifier of dissent and as a connector between cultures, stories and those who need a virtual or physical hand that reminds them of humanity.”

If this reflects the sector you want to be engaged with-welcome aboard!

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Poor Economics

It’s been one year since we kicked off with The End of Poverty. Our final book for the Development Book Club will be Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty; a well-known book with great reviews. Written in 2011, this book draws on the works we have already read. It should be a good place to end, leaving us with more material to connect the development theory dots.

Poor Economics is written by Professors  Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo of MIT and J-PAL. This book doesn’t argue for or against aid and does not claim to have the best solution for ending poverty. Instead it focuses on the choices poor people make in different situations (like choosing a smaller amount of better tasting food over having more not-so-great tasting food). The authors have set up an awesome website with chapter breakdowns and relevant lectures to watch.

Happy reading! Share any thoughts on this book in the comment section below.

Thanks to the many people who have reached out over the last year- it’s been a pleasure. I hope you’ve learned as much as I have! You can still stay updated on globaldev book news by following our Twitter account. Be on the lookout for a few more career profiles.

What to Think About While Reading “Geek Heresy”

Geek Heresy

1. The author isn’t against technology, as illustrated in Chapter 6. According to him, under what conditions would a technology project make sense in development? Do you agree?

2. In development, people often speak of needs-based approaches versus rights-based approaches. The book raises the possibility of an aspiration-based approach. How might an aspiration-based approach differ from the others? How might it be the same?

3. If you had to do without all of your education or all of your electronic gadgets, which would you pick?

4. If you are interested in an ICT4D career, has Geek Heresy changed the way you will approach your work? How, if so?

5. In what ways does Geek Heresy support the main arguments of The Tyranny of Experts?

Thank you Kentaro Toyama for your input!

Geek Heresy by Kentaro Toyama

Career Profiles, Geek Heresy
Kentaro Toyama Portrait

Kentaro Toyama

Kentaro Toyama is the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology, a new book that aims to challenge our over-dependence on using technology to solve global problems. While technology has improved the world in many ways, Toyama argues that it is human capacity that can produce the social change we need.


I am originally a computer scientist and former researcher at Microsoft Research in India. Prior to founding the team in India, I found myself getting bored of my job. It was intellectually challenging but I wanted to do something that contributed to society in some way. I was aware I had a privileged background, and that a lot of people in the world didn’t have what I had. I tried volunteering for non-profits and I liked it. When I got to India, I was able to do something that merged all of these things professionally.


Get international field experience. In the absence of that you can do a lot of great work but without on-the-ground experience it will be disconnected from reality. Field work gives you a feeling for the real challenges and the realization that no amount of planning can really anticipate reality on the ground.

For those interested in ICT4D it’s important to remember that technology amplifies social forces. It helps where human forces are already working in the right direction. Find organizations doing what you believe in and that are also doing their work well. Doing work well means being managed well and meeting goals on the ground.


What still surprises me is that while everyone agrees with the saying, “if you give a person a fish, they eat for a day; if you teach them how to fish, they eat for a lifetime,” so few people spend their time and resources on teaching.


Fiction: The Child in Time by Ian McEwan.

Non-fiction: The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker

Geek Heresy is our book for the month of June. Stay tuned for discussion questions and check out for more info on Kentaro Toyama and what he deems a “misunderstanding about technology’s role in society.”

What to Think About While Reading “The Tyranny of Experts”

The Tyranny of Experts


  1. Why do development practitioners work with “benevolent” autocrats?
  2. How can the World Bank and other agencies ensure individual rights are incorporated into development plans?
  3. What makes market-driven solutions incompatible with extractive, authoritarian political regimes?
  4. What are some of the “upsides” to brain drain?
  5. What are the perils of our nationalist obsession?

What did you think of The Tyranny of Experts? Share your thoughts below.

The Tyranny of Experts

The Tyranny of Experts


This May we are reading The Tyranny of Experts by William Easterly. While some governments intentionally exclude their citizens from the political process, development experts can unintentionally do the same thing by creating solutions that exclude the rights of the poor -the people the solutions are supposedly designed to help.

One feature of weak states is little transparency between the government and people. By assisting autocratic regimes in the name of development, experts are an active part of a system that prevents political freedom (and development).

So far The Tyranny of Experts features a similar thought process as Why Nations Fail, arguing for strong and free political institutions.

This book argues that the cause of poverty is the absence of political and economic rights, the absence of a free political and economic system that would find the technical solutions to the poor’s problems. -Page 7

Easterly, a recovering expert, has also written White Man’s Burden which we read last year. He is a professor in the economics department at NYU and a former employee of the World Bank (they are the first target in this book).

More about “Why Nations Fail”

Why Nations Fail
 (h/t @Gavan_Stockdale)
Government, Geography, and Growth: The True Drivers of Economic Development by Jeffrey Sachs in Foreign Affairs

This tale sounds good, but it is simplistic. Although domestic politics can encourage or impede economic growth, so can many other factors, such as geopolitics, technological discoveries, and natural resources, to name a few. In their single-minded quest to prove that political institutions are the prime driver or inhibitor of growth, Acemoglu and Robinson systematically ignore these other causes.

Response to Jeffrey Sachs by AuthorDARON ACEMOGLU AND JAMES ROBINSON

Second, we never said that geography is irrelevant — how would one otherwise explain why there aren’t holiday resorts in Antarctica? We argued and demonstrated that the geography hypothesis, which links the huge cross-country differences in prosperity to geography is wrong and unhelpful…

Reply to Acemoglu and Robinson’s Response to My Book Review by Jeffrey Sachs

Politics can be important for some kinds of comparisons (particularly between next-door neighbors, where geography is similar and therefore can be “held constant” in the comparison), but might also explain little of the differences between countries situated in very divergent geographical conditions.

Other Reviews:

Why ‘Why Nations Fail’ Fails (Mostly) by Duncan Green

Notes from Bill Gates

(And of course) What Bill Gates Got Wrong About Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson

What to Think About While Reading “Why Nations Fail”

Why Nations Fail

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1. Was the message convincing – why or why not?

2. How will knowledge of inclusive and extractive political institutions be of practical use for you in the international development field?

3. What are other works worth reading related to this book? (Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel comes to mind)

4. What are the strengths and weakness of the methodology (and emphasis on history)?

Here’s what USAID thinks you should think about while you read Why Nations Fail:

5. How do institutions create the incentives that lead to sustained development and poverty reduction?

6. Do you think that institutions explain all of the differences in development across countries, or are some of these differences due to geography, culture, ideas or even just luck (good or bad)?

7. The book argues that China has so far developed with extractive rather than inclusive institutions, and therefore China’s rapid growth cannot continue and may even collapse. Do you agree?

8. What are the implications of the arguments in this book for USAID and how we direct our assistance?

See if it’s at a library near you