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  • On Help, Advocacy and Power Imbalances
    Mar 30, 2015

    ‘So did you help the people there?’ It is a question that many people in The Netherlands asked me whenever I told them about my research project in Korail slum. Although this well-intended inquiry about the impact of my fieldwork seemed harmless enough, the question started to get on my nerves after a while. Partly because the honest and unequivocal answer was ‘No’. No, I did not help the people ‘there’.

  • Targeting and Fine-tuning Change
    Mar 19, 2015

    How to find a middle ground between destructive cynicism and shallow feel-good philanthropism? It is a question I grappled with ever since I started a degree in development studies. My choice for this subject was driven by a deep-rooted indignation over the grave inequalities that so perversely divide the world we live in. On the one hand I desperately wanted to believe that good intentions mattered and that, unitedly, we could bridge the cracks of injustice.

  • In a Country Well Governed…
    Mar 11, 2015

    The Chinese philosopher Confucius once said: “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of!” Clearly, there is an unmistakable relationship between governance and poverty. For, the act of governing ultimately relates to the distribution of wealth and opportunities.

  • Stuck in Slums: (Im)mobility and Poverty
    Feb 23, 2015

    I saw the wall grow a few inches taller every day. Construction workers with their lungis pulled up over their knees dutifully added layer upon layer of bricks. The erection of the wall was meant to separate the main road from the adjacent slum settlement, Korail, where I was doing my research.

  • Shaping the City: The Role of Urban Policy
    Feb 15, 2015

    Urbanization sometimes seems to be an almost mystic force that shapes, disrupts and ultimately derails our cities according to its own obscure logic. In the face of accelerating urban growth the city makes and remakes itself without taking much account of its inhabitants, planners or rulers.

  • Poverty, Work and the Private Sector
    Feb 2, 2015

    When thinking and talking about poverty reduction, the potential role of the private sector is not exactly the first thing that springs to mind. Probably because reducing poverty is still very much seen as an act of charity, deriving from the ostensibly noble desire to ‘help’ rather than the wish to produce economic gain.

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