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Human Nature

Why Won’t Babu Move?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Much of what we do in international development as a field of practice is designed to make Babu move, yet more often than not Babu does not make the move we would like her to make, a move that we are convinced is clearly, evidently, certainly, demonstrably in her overall best interest. As a result, we are, at turns, surprised, frustrated, angry, resigned, cynical even.  The fault is with Babu, we are convinced, and not with us.

As you must have guessed by now, Babu is the prototypical intended beneficiary of many of our development programs and initiatives. Depending on how you pronounce her name, she could be from any of the continents to which most developing countries belong. We work in development largely because we want to improve Babu’s life. We have a passionate concern; we want to do the very best that we can for her. We bring money, expertise and oodles of benevolence to Babu’s hometown. But we know that for the initiative to go well (and produced those magical ‘development results’) we need Babu to play her part. We need her to make a move of some kind. Perhaps we want her to:

"Out of the crooked timber..."

Sina Odugbemi's picture

There is a global debate going on concerning why the global financial crisis erupted. The technical debate is what it is; so far there is far more heat than light. But in addition to the technical debate is a debate about how certain underlying assumptions about human nature entertained by economists and even famous central bankers have turned out to be incorrect. It turns out that human beings - as consumers, investors, bankers, stock traders - have not behaved in precisely the ways "rigorous" economic theories predicted that they would. Even Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, showed his surprise at human nature at a congressional hearing late last year: "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms."