Developmentistas as psychologists

A fascinating article on a study by Esther Duflo and J-PAL, who suggest that optimism is a powerful ingredient in development. In this case, a microfinance program. (h/t World Bank’s Development Impact blog):

They studied a program that gave people a small productive asset instead of loans. Their results suggested that people who were able to earn something for themselves suffered less depression and expanded their work into other areas. Conclusion: hope helps. 

The Economist’s piece describes the theory:

So getting out of poverty seems to require a quantum leap—vastly more food, a modern machine, or an employee to mind the shop. As a result, they often forgo even the small incremental investments of which they are capable: a bit more fertiliser, some more schooling or a small amount of saving.

I thought a lot about this in Peace Corps. From the rural town of Kornaka in Niger, “Development” seemed like an impossibly huge leap from where they were. The technology was too modern, the challenges were too insurmountable, and there was never enough money for everything. Never mind that they were already using smart phones, everyone had a ton of effort, and all the children were above average.

The big goal was too heavy and far away, and the small, close goals were lost in the fog. Redefining progress as something immediate, something that people in Kornaka could do without outside help (or money), could have gone a long way towards making the bigger goal seem reachable. A journey of a thousand miles… 


About developingnathan
I am a reflective person. I am an introvert, a friend, a brother and a son. I appreciate a well-crafted glass of beer, piece of music and turn of phrase. I am a professional of international development, a good pianist and a Green Bay Packers fan.

One Response to Developmentistas as psychologists

  1. Pingback: Turn the “Africa Rising” debate back towards Africa « developingnathan

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