Even though this is a pretty new project, I (Miriam) have been talking about this idea for years, and I have noticed that the same questions and objections have come up.
I would like to thank everybody who took the time to listen and to ask these questions which forced me to think things through: you all helped to make this a better project.
The reason for calling this project The 5th Village Project should be clear from the foundation story.
The result of my father’s efforts to do some good in our district, by donating a small library to various villages, seem to indicate that only one out of 5 villages would take full advantage of this resource.
There is, of course, no way of knowing (at this point) why the other 4 villages could not, would not, or did not take advantage of the information that was offered them. To be fair, most likely reason might have been that there was nobody in the village literate enough to read the books.
I am, however, well aware that even with our technological library, it is fair to assume that not all people who could use the information, will in fact access and implement the information.
For a lot of people considering a project that has a built in ”failure rate of 80%” immediately raises the question of how these percentages can be improved. However, I believe the Pareto Principle to have proven itself sufficiently to be happy with a possible 20% success rate!
To make it easy let me extend the metaphor and tell you who I think lives in the 4 villages that might not participate.
Village One: Maybe we just can't reach them by cell phones or the internet!
The spread of cell phones throughout the world has defied all predictions.
However, there are people, villages, regions and nations with no (or severely limited) access which would make this project of no direct use to them.
However, people living in poverty do not live in isolation, and are regularly visited by healthcare workers, NGO workers, missionaries, micro loan officers, and the like, and it would be possible for them to distribute the information, printed out in their offices.
In the ordinary course of events I trust the Internet and cell phone usage will eventually penetrate to even the furthest corners of the planet and the 5th village project will be ready to help.
Village Two: people are not willing to make an effort.
There are many religious systems that blame the poor for their poverty and it is easy to see why you would have little belief in being able to affect change.
These thought systems, and many others like it, can contribute to a lack of willingness to try something new.
Village Three: not all people are able to make changes.
There are at least 3 categories of people might not be able to fully utilize the solutions offered: the very young, the very old, and the very sick. It is self-evident that they always depend on, and clearly deserve, the help of those who are able-bodied.
The other people who need immediate help are those who have been victimized by natural disasters, manmade disasters, war and by beomming a refugee. Emergency services are the correct response here.
Village Four: there are people who do not want new solutions because they offend their customs or who feel that it will lessen the legacy of their customs.
As an anthropologist, I am well aware of how strongly culture informs our behavior and I have no doubt that it is this particularly sensitive area which will result in the most debate.
However, there are organizations (for instance Heifer) which have insisted on cultural values that might have been foreign to the culture where they were working and have managed this with excellent results.
These are our customers, our end users, our clients, however you want to name them. Our people are the ones we we can reach with technologically, they have the energy and optimism to be willing to try something new, they are not too young, too old or too sick, and (providing the solution is not culturally offensive) they are willing to do something they have not done before., to bring their lives and that of their families and communities, into higher levels of prosperity.
They in turn will be the people who will touch the lives of many others, who will teach and inspire, who will be the ones their communities will rely on to make things better.
One must be willfully blind not to recognize the fine work these people are already doing in the world. 5V will simply offer one more tool they will be able to use.
It is not true that no progress has been made: much poverty has been alleviated. But when the aid organizations need to raise money,it is in their best interest to show you compelling pictures of suffering!
However, top-down solutions rarely work well, and even though this is glaringly obvious, most aid organizations keep re-creating that model. (If you are interested a list of the mistakes that aid organizations DO make, contact me for my paper on this subject)
Aid organizations that come in with their ideas of what they feel needs to be changed, rarely meet up with what the people themselves want or need or what might be sustainable.
The 5th Village Project avoids both mistakes: we leave people free to decide which of the solutions (if any) they want to implement and we will spend considerable effort to ask them how they would like to ‘consume’ the information
We don't claim to be; we are is a place which aggregates field tested, sustainable, low or no cost, regionally appropriate solutions for the bllion or so people who live on less than 2 dollars a day.
What we will be is a trusted place for information, so there is no need to go through a long (data intensive and therefore expensive) internet search (with the additional complication of weeding out the junk information,).
No, not at all. If the person in front of you is hungry, please be a decent human being and give her something to eat, so she can live to fight another day.
The response to famine is not a business plan; it is a crisis response.
The way we see it, the correct response is to teach a man or a woman how to dig a pond and stock it with fish and maintain it sustainably.
The family can now fish, so they can have high-quality protein and they can sell the extra fish (or allow their neighbors to fish) for extra income.
And then they can market themselves as a ‘pond construction consultant’ and create a bigger business. That is what we are proposing.
There are lots of ways that we can, and will, do this.
The fastest way to get known in any field is to have influential people, from popular soap opera and movie stars to talk show hosts, become our ambassadors. This will make people pay attention and that will ignite the 'word of mouth' engine, which is the most effective way to make your product known.
We can also create incentives for those who work with people who could duse the 5th village site, such as microloan organizations and medical volunteers.
Ultimatily I envision entire villages banding together and working for the common good and I think this can be accomplished by creating contests. This methodology has already been proven successful as you can see here with the stunning success of the Paani Foundation who managed to solve the water crisis in a village in 45 days!
Eventually I hope that this will be a trusted resource that people automatically turn to.