Ernesto Sirolli a sustainable development expert who got his start by doing aid work in the 70s in Africa, but he came to the realization after being there for so long. He released a Ted Talk in September 2012 titled “Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!”, and it’s all about how although you may have good intentions when you go in to help people, sometimes you end up just making it worse.
His entire message of his Ted Talk is that it is okay to go into these developing countries to help them, but going in with certain plans of how everything is going to happen exactly is more damaging than helpful. When you go in with all of the projects (and inevitably, your ignorance), you can not truly help those you are there to help.
The example he uses is about him and his fellow Italians trying to help the locals grow food on some of their land. There land was quite fertile, and they all just figured that the local African people did not know how to farm and wanted to show them exactly how to do it. Their intention with this action is to help the locals that they came to help. Without thinking to ask the locals if they farm and why or why not, the men decide to dominate the interactions by doing what they came to initially do. What they did not expect though, was there to be hundreds of hippos rising out of the river to eat all of the ripe food they had just grown. Since they did not take the time to ask the locals as to why they were not farming, they wasted the little bit of time they had to spend in the country of Zambia with the locals.
He leaves the audience with the idea of, “If they don’t want help, leave them alone.” You need to just shut up and not arrive with any strict ideas of how you are going to do everything. He tells a story of how he decided to go in with a notion to do one-on-one mindset, and it shifted how people reacted to him. I agree with what he is saying, although to some, it may seem a little unrealistic. I think you can go in with ideas, as you will regardless. But instead of them being rigidly strict plans, they need to be flexible to your interactions and experiences.