Opinion – Re: “Stop Trying to Save the World” article

We are starting a new section of our PARSA blog and newsletters called “Opinions”. We will be sharing our thoughts and ideas about the current situation, and responding to relevant articles and current affairs.

Our first piece is written by Alyssa, our Communications Manager, in response to an article entitled “Stop Trying to Save the World” which discusses the problems with international development and ways to fix it. Read the original article here.

Quote: “What I want to talk sh*t on is the paradigm of the Big Idea—that once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket.”

This is why I am proud of our approach at PARSA – we design projects unique to a specific community to suit that community’s individual needs, and we always ensure that the community plays a key role in the project design. MarnieYasin and PARSA’s leadership realized early on that “Big Ideas” do not solve complex problems – even using the same idea for nearby communities might not work, let alone using it for countries that are continents apart.

If donors – especially large scale donors and governments – would stop encouraging the quick fix Big Idea approach, international development would be a hell of a lot more effective, and a lot more progress would be made towards solving the problems that Big Ideas intend to (but never do) solve.

The article goes on to lay out a major problem that nonprofits are facing with the common donor tendency to judge an entire organization by its overhead costs: “this obsession with overhead keeps charities from reaching the scale required to take on large problems….It’s one number that allows you to compare the soup kitchen with the anti-corruption think tank” but it means that for a nonprofit to have any chance at successful fundraising they have to hide or minimize their overhead costs in very counter-productive ways.

The world really needs to change the way that they judge nonprofits, and the way they look at development. Great article.


SONY DSCAs one of our newest members of our PARSA family, Alyssa Hoseman has been with PARSA for nearly two years now. She is our Communications Manager and is in charge of sharing PARSA and everything we do with the world. Contact her at alyssa@afghanistan-parsa.org.

One Reply to “Opinion – Re: “Stop Trying to Save the World” article”

  1. nader seddiq

    I shared this article on development with relatives and students. I was a bit surprised by some of the informalities but thought it was informative and interesting. After reading the article, I again read your own reaction to the article. I wrote a relative that I loved Parsa and the work you did. I found your reaction as well placing the article here very appropriate.

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