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Empowered development in poor countries

The trials and trails of a development aid worker

John Ambler, Oxfam’s former VP of programs, shares some of his hard-won lessons from a career in development: lessons about everyday life in a village, about values, resources, power, and about politics--local, national, and global.

John learned about the importance of context and local wisdom when evaluating ideas imported by idealistic and often naïve outsiders. He also learned—from his own failures and others’--that simple models of development hatched in university research centers seldom yield their intended results in communities. John is possessed of the “gift of doubt,” and has used this gift throughout his career to question the fundamental assumptions of development. Yet, he has never been driven by doubt, or cynicism, to reject development efforts. Rather, he has embraced with humility and respect all those who toil in hope for a better world.



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