Since the 1960s, Thomas W. Dichter has worked in the field of international development, managing and evaluating projects for nongovernmental organizations, directing a Peace Corps country programme, and serving as a consultant for such agencies as USAID, UNDP, and the World Bank. On the basis of this experience, he has become an outspoken critic of what he terms the ""international poverty alleviation society"". He believes that efforts to reduce world poverty have been well-intentioned but largely ineffective. On the whole the development industry has failed to serve the needs of the people it has sought to help. To make his case Dichter reviews the major trends in development assistance from the 1960s through to the 1990s, illustrating his analysis with 18 short stories based on his own experiences in the field. The analytic chapters are therefore grounded in the daily life of development workers as described in the stories. Dichter shows how the development organizations have often become caught up in their own self-perpetuation and in public relations efforts designed to create an illusion of effectiveness. Tracing the evolution of the role of money (as opposed to ideas) in development assistance, he suggests how financial imperatives have reinforced the tendency to sponsor time-bound projects, creating a dependency among aid recipients. He also examines the rise of careerism and increased bureaucratization in the industry, arguing that assistance efforts have become disconnected from important lessons learned on the ground. Ultimately, Dichter calls for a more light-handed and artful approach to development assistance, with fewer agencies and experts involved. His stance is pragmatic, rather than ideological or political. What matters, he says, is what works, and he maintains that the current practices of the development industry are simply not effective.
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Thomas W. Dichter holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Chicago and has taught at Tufts University, Clark University, and Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School.
"A literate, entertaining, and soulsearching critique of the international aid business, by an insider who will make other insiders think hard about what they are doing and where they are going." - Ian Smillie, author of Patronage or Partnership: Local Capacity Building In Humanitarian Crises; "I can think of no study as comprehensive and grounded in such wide experience and knowledge as Dichter's.... The presentation is amazingly effective, especially the alternation of narrative accounts of hypothetical (but very believable) examples of technical assistance projects with factual discussions of aspects of developmental assistance....A highly readable and literate book." - Barbara B. Burn, author of Expanding the International Dimension of Higher Education
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