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Is &%# allowed in aid?

My wife and I visited the village of Goyire yesterday, about 30km from Bolgatanga in northern Ghana, home to the Builse subgroup of the Talensi ethnic group. We were looking at a malaria bed nets project that I will discuss more in a future post.  The community had organized a skit to dramatize why bed net utilization is so important to prevent malaria. The amateur community Thespians doing the skit really hammed it up and the villagers and us almost died laughing. Hilarity increased further when everybody started performing music and dancing after the skit. A certain middle-aged white male blogger displayed a deplorable lack of self-restraint and attempted to execute various jerky dance maneuvers that might have not been perfectly in time with the music, which most of the audience seemed to find deeply amusing.

A certain three-letter word not usually associated with aid projects seemed to be happening: f-u-n. We were all having a lot of fun, and I think malaria awareness increased more on this occasion than on other deadly boring health education lectures I have seen other times. As someone once advised me, take your work seriously but don’t take yourself seriously. Fun is allowed in aid.

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  1. Word_Bandit wrote:

    “&%# happens!”

    Great entry. Thanks.

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  2. Thank you for asking the such a great question. The ligitamacy and effectiveness of an aid or development project should not be measured by it’s lack of fun or humor. It is a form of cummunication that crosses all language barriers.

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  3. William Easterly wrote:

    Comment I got on Facebook:

    Great post; it reminded me of this beautiful book

    I just hope the aid bureaucracy doesn’t hear about this and start the Mainstreaming Fun in Development Initiative

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Permalink
  4. People sometimes wonder about the name of my blog, A Humourless Lot. Part of it has to do with that famous quote from Alexander the Great, of course — but this post explains wonderfully well one of my other reasons.

    I hope that your anonymous Facebook respondent is not too prescient and we will not have to deal with another humourless lot attempting to squeeze all the fun out of fun.

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  5. fun and art …. and the element of surprise …

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Permalink
  6. Update News wrote:

    God bless you all

    Posted July 24, 2010 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
  7. Soledad Muniz wrote:

    Completely agree! We use FUN as a key element in our participatory video projects. For us, having fun and celebrating are essential parts of a successful process.

    Posted July 25, 2010 at 6:15 am | Permalink
  8. Anna wrote:

    Good reminder. I am currently in Zambia and recently attended a chief’s meeting where a drama group performed skits on male circumcision and PMTCT. The audience was almost exclusively men and they were all roaring with laughter. The discussion on male circumcision became much easier following this skit.

    Posted July 26, 2010 at 1:37 am | Permalink

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    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

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