Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Patient Optimists for Incremental Change

Tim Ogden at Philanthropy Action just wrote a great manifesto for patient optimists, contrasting the impatient outlook of those like Bill and Melinda Gates. He states that a patient optimist understands that change comes in increments, not as a "silver bullet" solution or a giant social push that ends poverty and solves all the world's problems. (The "silver bullet" in vogue right now seems to be microfinance.)

Ogden says:
Patient optimists...have lowered their expectations of any particular program or intervention, but not their belief in a better world over the long term. If we’re going to succeed in making the world a better place, we need to convince more people to lower their expectations, too. Then we can get about the work of trying, failing, learning, improving—and truly making the world a better place.
While I might use "realistic expectations" rather than "lower expectations," the point is well taken that social investments must be made for the long term. It is easy to think that your individual contribution--whether that be time or money--can create transformative, society-spanning, poverty-ending change, in reality it is just a small part of the collective action needed. That does not diminish your contribution, but it does extend the time-frame out a little bit further.

We'll just have to be patient.

1 comment:

  1. Jeff, I've enjoyed the blog so far! Great stuff.

    I agree with you that some people see microfinance as a silver bullet, but I do think that it's easy to take the view that microfinance is a great incremental change as well (and arguably the more accurate one). Both the social benefits (empowering women both economically and socially within the global community and their local community) and the attempt to open the world of business financing where it was previously unavailable are slow goals to achieve, but ones that microfinance has the ability to improve.