Debunking the Gates Foundation story of poverty

There is an initiative currently underway you may or may not have heard about called The Narrative Project.

There is an initiative currently underway you may or may not have heard about called The Narrative Project.

It’s essentially a communications strategy, organised and funded by the Gates Foundation, and designed to get non-profit organisations from across the Global North – from the big NGOs like Save the Children and Oxfam to the UN Foundation to pure campaigning groups like the Global Poverty Project – to focus on foreign aid (ODA) as the principal solution to global poverty and inequality. And it’s using – or, more accurately, claiming to use – frame analysis to guide it.

There is a far better, truer, more powerful alternative. One that isn’t paternalistic and old fashioned, and doesn’t deny the structural causes of inequality and poverty.

But look at the evidence and judge for yourself.

1. This is The Narrative Project. The central idea is to rally lots of big organisations across Europe, the US and Australia behind the idea that poverty and inequality can be fixed with a little more charity and aid (ODA), and that’s all anyone should talk about.

2. This letter has been sent to the CEO and relevant Directors of all the participating agencies. It spells out why The Narrative Project is so misguided and dangerous. It lays out how The Narrative Project is based on inauthentic “science”; why its surface-level aid and charity messages not only bound to fail but are so counter-productive to global development; and what the alternative looks like.

3. And here’s an authentic frame analysis of the 2014 Gates Foundation Annual Letter. As context to help assess the above, here is a linguistic analysis of the 2014 Gates Annual letter. The consistency of frames found here and in The Narrative Project are . . . well, judge for yourself.

If you think something is going wrong here, we suggest you talk to your colleagues about it, and maybe start to ask questions of the people driving this strategy.

See if you’re convinced by their answers.

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.