Have you every wondered what African entrepreneurship really looks like? How poverty stricken slum dwellers can achieve middle class status quickly, with minimal skills and almost no resources? An NPR article I read recently tells us exactly how.
Let’s get rich with sitting fees!
In Kenya’s sprawling Kibera slum, residents are demanding sitting fees to attend the latest poverty eradicating experiments from the newest crop of NGOs. I love the entrepreneurship of newly-minted “professional attendees” – bored locals who’ve figured out how to make a living off of per diems and sitting fees at “capacity building” meetings:
Accurate statistics are hard to come by in Kibera, but by one estimate, roughly four in five groups pays sitting allowances. There are enough groups having enough meetings, and handing out enough cash, that some locals make something of a living going from meeting to meeting. They’ve become known as “professional attendees.”
“I know the professional attendees,” Okoth said. “I celebrate their ingenuity of taking advantage of people who have come to take advantage of them.”
T.I.A. brothers! Go and get paid!
When you live in a slum and the White Savior Complex has calculated your earnings potential at $1.25 per day, you could achieve middle-income status by attending a few meetings per day:
Take your neighbor’s photogenic child with flies and a distended belly to maximize the potential of a poverty porn bonus.
Show that while you’re poor, you’re also innovative by demanding payment via MPESA.
Raise your hand at each meeting and ask the same practiced deep question about the resource curse.
Please the donor at any cost by sitting back, nodding politely as they try to fish for an answer.
Remember to stick your civilized pinky out while you have a fourth cup of tea! You’re not paying.
I nod to myself. This is genius. Pay us to do nothing. I could imagine a whole village of women dancing and clapping for an arriving fleet of Land Cruisers coming to introduce yet another goddamn cookstove. Why sweat over that stove cooking ugali when you can just eat out from your professional attendee fees?
Let’s scale this innovative innovation!
I am wondering how many NGO’s with an unpronounceable acronym it takes to implement the latest USAID strategy? How many village meetings it would take to achieve each programs logframe? What would happen if all participants demanded to be paid to attend skills-building workshops at the closest workshop venue outside the capitol that qualifies for per diems?
Women working in development are fearless. Our families and friends marvel at our courage to travel around the world, making small talk at holidays with questions such as, “Are you afraid of anything?”
The answer: Yes!
We may not be afraid of being kidnapped by rebel leaders or contracting Zika, but there is one fear that nearly every female development worker has had… airport security officials finding your sex toys. And from the many times its happened, including the photo above, comes the JadedAid answer card, “Getting your vibrator confiscated at the airport.”
A fundamental rule of humanitarian work is you must take care of yourself in order to take care of others. Whether stuck in a compound in Afghanistan or just taking a long and lonely trip to the bush (heh heh heh), a vibrator or dildo can be the difference between becoming the crazy bitch that derails the project or a chilled out leader that gets shit done. Take care of your human-itarian needs first and foremost!
While there is no shame in traveling with handy self-help tools, no one wants to have their toys paraded in front of a line of impatient travelers (which may include coworkers)! So we at JadedAid have compiled a list of 5 things you can do to mitigate against unfortunate airport discoveries…
Invest in a more discrete devices. If you travel a lot, consider purchasing toys that will fly below the radar such as a lipstick bullet vibe.
Take the batteries out. Nothing will draw attention to your bag like an audible buzzing sound or mild vibration. Duh.
Bag it. Put your dildo in a clear plastic bag. Even if it is discovered, you’ll avoid that uncomfortable look on the Ugandan official’s face indicating he regrets leaving his latex gloves in the break room.
We know the pain of USAID proposals. The intense RFP jargon, passive RFI sentences, and endless pages of obtuse contract requirements that spring forth around holidays. Oh and its not just your imagination – GovTribe found a conspicuous increase in USAID solicitation postings just before holidays and in proposal due dates just after.
We also know that deep in the midst of writing a proposal to USAID, you are dying to get cheeky and tell USAID exactly what you think of their Expression of Interest. So we did.
The JadedAid Proposal to USAID
Deep in the midst of our Kickstarter last year, we submitted a crowdsourced proposal to USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) funding mechanism that runs a year-round competition for innovative innovators innovating innovation.
Please specify the DIV staff member who referred you to submit this LOI, if applicable: Unpaid intern behind the DIV@USAID Twitter account who tweeted this.
Project Information Please review the information available on our website and any stage-specific expectations before answering the following questions.
What is the problem your innovation addresses? We see a crisis in the Development-Industrial Complex. Hardworking staff are not laughing enough. Instead of enjoying luxurious housing, limitless mobile data plans, shiny new luxury SUVs, and global shopping trips like government ministers, they are overwhelmed by delusional fits from antimalarials as they swerve around corrupt cops looking for a bribe while trying to get the perfect picture of an ex-child soldier attending a donor-branded school.
Describe your specific innovation and the outcomes you expect. Who are your customers/beneficiaries? How will your innovation significantly address the problem at lower cost in a way that has not been feasible before? Note: Some might describe this as the theory of change. We believe that by introducing JadedAid, a card game for aid workers to be the cynicism they want to see in the world, in conjunction with copious indigenous refreshments and fat per diems, we will save more humanitarians than mefloquine. This unique combination will induce belly laughter that melts away the frustrations of working tirelessly for little pay.
What are the possible avenues (public, commercial, hybrid) for scaling up over the next 3-10 years, and what are your plans to achieve greater scale? We see JadedAid scaling to millions of past, present, and future aid workers through unique and innovative local community sensitization sessions in every USAID presence country. We will utilize a global network of consultants to parachute into self-organizing teams of local development leaders, training them on grassroots outreach best practices that will unleash personal initiative to be the cynicism they wish to see in the world. This activity is currently being piloted. Initial pilot testing has proven quite fruitful thus far with further design parties scheduled to take place in more than 5 countries on 3 continents.
What are the characteristics and estimated number of direct and indirect beneficiaries? Provide the most appropriate estimate of who the innovation will directly affect, including income groups and other demographics. Please explain your calculations, including relevant assumptions. DIV recognizes that precise estimates may be difficult, especially for early-stage applicants, and is most interested in the underlying assumptions to generate what you think represents a reasonable number. We expect to impact just over 7 billion people. Our key target market is development professionals, which includes all underpaid staff and unpaid interns with international development actors (donor, implementer, self-funded, and religious organizations, Beltway Bandits, gap year kids, and disillusioned lost souls trying to find themselves in Africa). Our secondary market is the 1.2 billion people in fully developed countries that achieved societal perfection, who support development workers through direct donations or federal taxes. By directly impacting these first and secondary markets, we will increase their effectiveness in developing a sense of humor among the entire global population.
Describe current solutions that exist in the geographic area where you will implement your innovation and outline how your solution will be a better alternative. JadedAid knows no geographical boundaries. We are Cyniques sans Frontières and we see a global problem. Aid workers everywhere resort to offline emotional releases like dating beneficiaries or humble bragging on social media like Facebook and Snapchat. JadedAid seamlessly integrates with all of these options, increasing their efficacy and through repeated use, expanding the aid worker community’s resilience against persistent clouds of pessimism. Or in some cases, users that have emotional angst may choose to use JadedAid to serve as a distraction from such behaviors.
What activities will you execute under this grant and what results do you anticipate achieving with DIV funds? The DIV funds will be leveraged to engage in innovative community sensitization and capacity building sessions in select high per diem locations in partnership with self-organizing teams of humanitarians. We will motivate our unpaid interns to upskill themselves to become Train-the-Trainer consultants who will support the humanitarian teams in deploying our proven JadedAid methodology across development sectors, breaking down inherent power structures that are restraining humanitarian innovation, like micro-loans for village brothels or iPads for poor schoolchildren.
Explain how you intend to assess the innovation, given your stage and scaling path (e.g.. how you will assess proof of concept, commercial viability, causal impact and cost effectiveness, etc.) Through the proven JadedAid methodology, which includes a triptych of feigned optimism, cynicism, and alcoholism, humanitarians will be able to access intrinsic innovation and motivation resources, such as trying to pee while an audience of children watch or successfully navigating the World Bank’s online proposal submission interface.
What are the relevant metrics you will use to judge the success of this grant and how will you convey those regularly to DIV? We will develop our M&E plan in the last 6 months of the program based on the number of helpies (selfies while helping poor people, preferably with flies in their faces) taken by overly-earnest youth or hipsters on the Humanitarians of Tinder network. Helpies will be disaggregated by number of Facebook likes and Twitter favorites. We will send every crowdsource-verified sexy helpie to DIV as part of routine monitoring. This will contribute to a number of Mission level indicators under DO3: No one died and DO5: all photos make USAID look good.
Explain how this innovation can be sustained and scaled (operationally and financially) while maintaining impact and cost effectiveness, and how you intend to support the next step in the transition to scale? JadedAid is already financially sustainable, as evidenced by our Kickstarter which was funded in less than 48 hours and is currently nearly 250% funded by date of proposal submission. By the time you even respond to this proposal, the card decks will be printed and shipped, and if you do fund us, we expect your funds to clear our accounts while we’re developing the 23rd expansion pack. Really, this is about how quickly your support can be scaled and sustained. You don’t want the one success story to slip through your hands so the Gates Foundation gets the credit again, do you?
Lead Organization: Briefly describe the lead implementing organization, including their mission statement (if applicable) and any relevant experience. JTW Productions’ mission is to transition ourselves into sweet jobs with donor organizations so we never have to write proposals like this one again. Until then, we seek to scale JadedAid into a profitable business that will support our indigenous alcohol addiction. Oh yeah, and help humanitarians hate their world a little less by laughing at it.
Project Team: Describe the composition of the project team including key personnel, discussing the skills and experience they contribute to the proposed objectives, and how they can address potential risks and challenges associated with the proposed project. Specify their % level of effort for this project. JTW Productions is the equal efforts of TMS Ruge, an honest-to-God African working on delusions of relevance, Wayan Vota, who found his calling in convincing poor schools to buy shiny gadgets, and Jessica Heinzelman, a noted expert in cultural appropriation of African dress.
Partners: Describe partner organizations (if any) and what skills and experience they contribute to implementing or scaling the project. Please distinguish between partners that have already agreed to participate, organizations (or types of organizations) that you will target, and organizations providing financial support. We are in the process of identifying local resource organizations who are foolish enough to promise to organize local capacity building sessions and provide indigenous refreshments, and a live goat, as cost-share without dedicated budget line items in our proposal. We promise to adhere to industry standards of keeping a minimum of 20% to feed our NICRA, and 70% for our staff salaries and per diems, leaving them 10% or less to accomplish what we are asking.
Please provide up to three past performance references that can speak to the ability of the applicant to work effectively as part of a team, achieve results, or successfully implement projects similar in magnitude, complexity, objectives and in contexts within the past three years. Please provide applicable awards numbers or other details if relevant, as well as contact information for the primary point of contact. Newer organization or applicants will little or no prior related grant awards may provide alternative references, e.g, professional references for key personnel. When applicants have received a previous DIV award, DIV will also consider the applicant’s past work with DIV. – USAID reserves the right to obtain past performance information from all relevant sources, including those not named here. Principal staff past performance indicators include Teddy Ruge’s 14,100+ Twitter followers, 1.5 times as many as USAID DIV, Wayan Vota’s United Airlines 100K status, maintained for 6 years now, and Jessica Heinzelman’s naming as “most likely to be a game show host” by her 8th grade peers. Obviously, they are over-qualified to attend any school or clinic opening without at least two rounds of indigenous singing and dancing. References include the 800+ JadedAid Kickstarter backers and the principles’ loving parents, especially Ms. Sarah Vota, as evidenced by her liking every single one of Wayan’s Facebook posts.
CitationsPlease list citations for above sections below (only content written in the LOI will be reviewed as part of the application; these citations will be used to verify factual accuracy if necessary).
When we first envisioned JadedAid, we thought we’d make a fun little game we could play with friends while we shared a few beers. Along the development process, we realized that JadedAid had the potential to catalyze real transformative dialog at various development institutions and industry confabs.
JadedAid isn’t just a distraction to keep you from remembering how many beers you (probably shouldn’t have) had, it is a prism into our everyday frustrations as worker bees in the DIC.
In April, I gave a talk at Switchpoint, the premier collision point of dialogs on “humanitarian innovation, global health, and technology.” The title of my talk was “JadedAid, jargon, and real innovation.” But I decided to deviate slightly from the topic to focus on the personal.
As I’ve talked about in a previous Card Story, we all have a role to play in making the world a better place. However, it continues to be the case that there are limited roles for members of the Global South to have meaningful careers and roles in international development.
One of the cool things that happened later in the day in the break out sessions was how organizations and practitioners in speak and represent the work that they do. A lot of the themes our game touches on are around how we communicate the work that we do. Do we insert ourselves into the story, as the voice for a cause or are we there to elevate local capacity and voices that are actually working on those issues?
It was a great discussion and an opportunity to watch communications professionals at high powered aid organizations grapple with their organizations mode of communicating and representation.
If you haven’t yet, have a watch and let us know what you think.