Systemic global challenges present serious threats to our world—from a rising tide of isolationism sewing cultural discord and division to global climate change dismantling communities at each rung of the socio-economic ladder to a widening income inequality that is exacerbating poverty, while limiting opportunity among many generations.
Historically, large scale development initiatives have attempted to address issues such as these through projects that are robustly funded and attempt to reach as many underserved individuals as possible with often pre-determined solutions. It’s become evident that, while well-meaning, this approach can have unintentional negative consequences and squander an increasingly scant fountain of public sector resources.
As just one example, looking back at the soaring levels of foreign aid administered to African governments in the 1980s and 1990s, one can easily see in the chart below from economist William Easterly that these economies were doing worse than ever. Trying to help poorer countries, the foreign aid community may have actually contributed to the problems facing many African nations by slowing economic growth and contributing to government corruption.