Elsewhere online
January 15, 2016

Opinion: Privileged Young Westerners 'Seduced' by Developing World's Problems

In the online forum The Development Set, Courtney Martin warns against a line of thinking she calls the "reductive seduction" of other people's problems, which leads privileged young Westerners to think they can solve serious social problems in developing countries. The attitude is naive and reckless, she argues. 

Ms. Martin points to failed international development efforts like the now-infamous PlayPump, a piece of playground equipment that was meant to also pump underground water in remote communities. It was embraced by the development community — though the pumps didn't, in fact, work. 

The author says that if young people want to go abroad to help solve problems, they need to make a long-term commitment, remain humble, and recognize the limited significance of their good intentions.