Development Goals and the cool factor

Development Goals and the Cool Factor

Posted on Posted in community development, poverty, sustainability, video

When you think about it, we all want to be cool. Women wear painful high heels to look good, men wrap a noose (tie) around our neck to feel powerful. Fashion trumps comfort when we head out on the town. We upgrade our phone, not because it is broken but because it is a generation behind the latest and greatest. That is why your development goals also need to be super-cool.

We all know it is somewhat ridiculous, vain and self-centred … and totally human. This is a universal feeling for everyone on the planet. That everyone, also includes the materially poor. 

That is why international aid programs that allow people to feel cool – work a lot better than those that just pay attention to a problem.

Why Cool Matters (a lot)

Programs are started every day in places where there is perpetual poverty. They might be started by well-meaning outsiders who see the horrible states of infection of malaria, or STIs and want to change the terrible stats of unemployment.

Even as outsiders, we KNOW these are the major issues that the community wants to face.

But, when we jump in gung-ho-style with our great solutions, we are shocked by the lack of interest.

Local people know that the problem exists, they might even agree with your solution, but it is frustrating to find out that people won’t just quickly change everything just because you told them to.


That’s when we can blame the people.

We can focus on the people who are not doing what we say they should do. We grow mad at how they are not contributing to the success of our program. Unchecked, this can lead to a racist sense of superiority. “My development goals would have totally worked if they had just listened to me!”

It is easy to forget that the problem may be more complex than our simple solution. An example might be a lot closer (and uncomfortable) than you think.

In fact, we deal with the exact same issue at home.


A human-sized problem

At home we also have serious problems. To name a few, obesity, depression, heart disease and diabetes are all fine examples.

We also have unlimited information to cure those problems.

  • Fashion magazines and Hollywood celebrities promise miracle cures
  • Your doctor will always advise you to try and lose that 20 lbs …
  • Entire forests have been harvested to write up peer-reviewed studies about better nutrition.

There is no lack of information about the problem and what we need to do.


The Solution is not the Solution

In the end, everyone knows we should “eat less and exercise more” and many (not all) of our health problems would disappear overnight.

But knowing the solution and doing the solution are different things

Shame and guilt doesn’t work to get people to change, it is hard to keep motivated to eat less and exercise more

So where does it work?

If you convince people to get together in a cool new gym. When you make it a club, a place to meet friends and listen to good music. When you gather people together in community … something interesting happens.

The side-effect is that by making it fun to gather together, you can watch a bunch of those health problems start to disappear.

People say they want to lose weight and be healthy, but they are much more interested in being part of  movement and a community.

To be in the ‘in-group’.


If you want your development goals to work … don’t forget to be cool.

Interested? Intrigued? I was inspired by this article and you might want to check it out:…/turning-maslow-s-hierarchy-on-its-head…

Think that the guy in post pic looks super fly? I bet you will like this short 5 min documentary by Guiness:


Do you think that fashion impacts the success of your development goals or not?

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