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″ 

 

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?

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! 

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?

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 greenmicrofinance.com – 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!

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?

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!

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO WRITE 100 UNDER $100?

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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

WHAT DO YOU WANT READERS TO TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR BOOK?

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 www.100under100.org. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Career Profile: Tobias Denskus

Career Profiles
Tobias Denskus

Tobias Denskus

WHAT DO YOU DO?

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.

HOW DID YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE?

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!

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE IN YOUR FIELD?

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 “The Tyranny of Experts”

The Tyranny of Experts

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  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

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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).

Development as Freedom

Development as Freedom

Dev as Freedom

Development as Freedom explores the importance of individual freedom in development. Sen pushes us to move beyond GNP as the main measure of development and economic advancement. Instead, he argues, we should use increasing freedoms as the means to achieving development goals and to measure development outcomes. This book explores 5 types of freedoms: political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security. In Sen’s words:

Freedom is central to the process of development for two distinct reasons.

1. The evaluative reason: assessment of progress has to be done primarily in terms of whether the freedoms that people have are enhanced;

2. The effectiveness reason: achievement of development is thoroughly dependent on the free agency of people.

A year before publishing this book, Sen received the Nobel Prize in Economics. He is currently a Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University.

Looking forward to reading this one!

Dead Aid Discussion Questions

Dead Aid, Discussion Questions

1. According to Moyo, why do different approaches to aid fail?

2. What are some reasons we continue to use aid though there is evidence it is not effective?

3. Are free markets a fair playing field and not another instrument of the West?

4. Are African countries hurting each other’s economic growth?

5. What are the benefits of a market approach to development?

Add your questions below.

Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa

Dead Aid

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Dead Aid is one of the most requested books so far. Aid is the primary way the developing world receives assistance so it is understandable that its effectiveness is highly contested. Dambisa Moyo critiques the aid industry for relying on Western institutions that impair the third world under the guise of helping it develop.

Thus far we have read from Easterly that enterprise is better than aid, from Collier that aid is effective in the right way, and Sachs that aid should be increased. Moyo introduces us to another alternative -no aid. She writes that the purpose of Dead Aid is to dismantle the belief that, “the rich should help the poor, and the form of this help should be aid.”

Moyo aims to prove that not only does aid not reduce poverty -it causes poverty. This book offers an exit strategy for stopping aid dependence and a model for advancing economic development through global and domestic markets.

Dr. Moyo is an economist who has worked for the World Bank and Goldman Sachs. She writes regularly about economics and global affairs. You can stay updated on her current thoughts at twitter.com/dambisamoyo.

Find it at a library near you. Discussion questions to follow.

All the International Development Books (Vote)

Books

Here is our grand list of international development books (not lacking in subtitles). I’ve added all the suggestions received so far and have hunted around for additional recommendations. You can also add books to the poll.

Vote for up to 5 of the most interesting, informative, or even ridiculous development books to let us know what we should be reading. These are also listed on our Goodreads page where you can find more information on each title and author.

Happy Reading!


Sources: Development Book Club Suggestions, Women in Aid, David AlgosoAid LeapChris Blattman, The Guardian

August

White Man's Burden

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Next month we start The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly.

“From one of the world’s best-known development economists—an excoriating attack on the tragic hubris of the West’s efforts to improve the lot of the so-called developing world.”

William Easterly’s Website