Yesterday, we had the opportunity to have a Skype conversation with Morgan Wack. Morgan graduated from CC in 2015 with a degree in Sociology and minors in African Studies and International Community Development. He is now getting his PHD, but what he spoke to us about was his time as a fellow at the program Princeton in Africa.
I am skeptical of the work of international NGOs. While they often have good intentions, many NGOs are seen as a new version of colonialism, with little regard to local culture and customs, and often creating a dangerous cycle of dependency. However, Morgan’s description of his work gave me renewed excitement about the potential of NGOs.
First, Morgan echoed my concerns about NGOs. He acknowledged that often, NGOs create a disconnect between the community and the government by taking away that responsibility of the government to provide basic resources for its people, under the (correct) assumption that NGOs will fill in the gaps. Furthermore, NGOs often don’t have a structure set up for evaluation of their impact, and they are very connected to their ideas and policies. Combined, they have a hard time recognizing when their programs aren’t working.
The most effective NGOs, however, Morgan explained, are those that work directly with the government to increase its capacity. The hope is that this, in turn, allows individual people to take control of their lives. This is, of course, complicated by corruption and conflict, but working to empower the government to then empower the people, should be the goal of the most effective NGOs.
He also made sure to credit his education at CC for a much of his positive experience. “CC taught me to produce work rapidly,” said Morgan. “Be sure to explain that in your cover letters!”