15 Ailments of the Development Sector – with apologies to Pope Francis

Inspired by to Pope Francis’ list of 15 “Ailments of the Curia” delivered in his Christmas address yesterday I have compiled the following 15 Ailments of the Development Sector. Thank-you Andrew Hewett for the stimulus.

Pope Francis
Photo: Getty Images

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable. “An NGO that doesn’t criticize itself, that doesn’t update itself, that doesn’t seek to improve itself is a sick body.”

2) Taking Yourself too Seriously.Taking the Mickey is important and a weapon of the weak

3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. “It’s dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are suffering, and celebrate those who are making change happen.”

4) Planning too much. “Preparing things well is necessary, but don’t fall
into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the front
line practitioner or activist who are more flexible and adaptive than any
strategic plan. This may result in obsessive measurement disorder.

5) Working without coordination, collaboration & partnership like an
orchestra that produces noise. “When the field office tells the head office,
‘I don’t need you’ or the head office tells the field ‘I’m in charge.'”

6) Having ‘Developmental Alzheimer’s.‘ “We see it in the people who have
forgotten their encounter with the Poor … in those who depend completely
on their here and now, on their passions, development fads and manias, in
those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the blueprint
best practices – as opposed to ‘good fit – that they have built with their own hands.”

7) Being rivals or boastful. “When one’s appearance, the color of one’s
branding and the size of one’s income become the primary objectives of
life, and collaboration goes out the window.”

8) Suffering from ‘existential schizophrenia.’ “It’s the sickness of those
who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and
progressive emptiness that log-frames cannot fill. It’s a sickness that often
affects those who, abandoning developmental practice and activism, limit
themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete

9) Committing the ‘terrorism of snark.’ “It’s the sickness of cowardly
people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people’s
backs or on twitter or blogs.”

10) Glorifying one’s bosses & donors. “It’s the sickness of those who court
their superiors, and donors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims
of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who are powerful and ignore
those who aren’t .”

11) Being indifferent to other agencies. “When, out of jealousy, competition
or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping them up
and encouraging them.”

12) Having a ‘cynical face.’ “In reality, theatrical severity and sterile
cynicism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The activist must be
serene, enthusiastic and transmit a sense of justice & positivity
wherever he goes.”

13) Wanting more. “When the Agency tries to fill an existential emptiness in
its heart by accumulating income, not because it needs it but because they
will feel more organisationally secure.”

14) Forming ‘closed circles & cliques‘ that seek to be stronger than the
whole. “This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes
by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony
of the sector and causes so much unhealthy competition.”

15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. “It’s the sickness of those who
insatiably try to multiply their power and to do so are capable of calumny,
defamation, poverty-porn and discrediting others, even in newspapers and
magazines and particularly on-line, naturally to show themselves as being
more capable than others in making a difference.”

Happy Seasonal Greetings from the Institute staff and best wishes for 2015!

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