When we aim for something more ambitious than transferring our wealth to those in need, we’re often implicitly assuming that we have superior knowledge, compared to the people we’re trying to help. This seems to me to be the sort of thinking underlying this comment: “how does handing out cash build community, solve macro problems, provide a base for effective activism?”
One thing I believe the developed world can teach the developing world is facts about medicine. For example, many people in developing-world communities do not know as much as we do about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, how diarrhea is contracted, and what to do about it. We can share and promote facts about these diseases that do not depend on local politics, customs, etc. (for example, wearing a condom drastically reduces the risk of transmitting HIV). So far, so good.
What else do we feel confident that we can teach the developing world?
Do we have superior knowledge of how to run a business? Within their political, cultural and economic environment?
Do we have superior knowledge of how to build a healthy civil society? Of how to run their community?
Before we insist on “teaching” others about these things, we have to ask why we think we have things to teach. I’m not convinced.