We have thoroughly discussed the problems and successes with the Kony video and Invisible Children. I was mostly impacted by seeing what an essential need it is to have the continual collaboration with those you are attempting to help. Invisible Children, from what I heard from our guest speaker and what I have read, has a very outsider’s approach to development with respect to whom they work with. I spent some time researching what other organizations are in northern Uganda, and I found one involved with ICT and development, and most importantly, westerners are not the only ones directing it.
BOSCOUganda is an NGO working to bring ICTs (mainly Internet access) to Northern Uganda to “foster socio-economic development and peace building in rural communities”. They state their role and their partners on their Internet page. They are strongly linked to the Archdiocese of Gulu, and the staff reflects this. Most are from Northern Uganda, but there is a variation of backgrounds. The natives are the ones implementing the change.
However, there is an American board of directors of BOSCO USA. The President and Founder, Gus Zuehlke, visited Gulu and decided that he wanted to contribute to alleviate their intense suffering. He contacted the Archoiocese of Gulu and together designed solutions with the locals. The role of the westerners is to bring in their ideas and their funding but with the help of the native people. Specifically, BOSCOUganda manages all Internet sites in the Amuru and Gulu districts, develops content focused on education and peace building for BOSCO’s Intranet system, supports expansion through new proposals and partnerships, and manages communications between local, regional and international stakeholders in partnership with BOSCO USA. I believe this is the best way to implement an international project with support from abroad and a combination of ideas.
Our guest speakers both spoke about the role of westerners in development. It is a difficult subject, but there are many organizations, like BOSCOUganda, who seem to be listening to complaints of the western superiority complex and are responding appropriately. This takes us back to an earlier lesson from Unwin about the importance of communication. We all must communicate effectively and figure out the real needs before going forward with a project.