Posted by & filed under Open Letters.

Hi Katie

Thanks for sending To Hell with Good Intentions” by Ivan Illich.

NB for anyone other than Katie  – the blurb for this says “An address by Monsignor Ivan Illich to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASP) in Cuernavaca, Mexico, on April 20, 1968. In his usual biting and sometimes sarcastic style, Illich goes to the heart of the deep dangers of paternalism inherent in any voluntary service activity, but especially in any international service “mission.” Parts of the speech are outdated and must be viewed in the historical context of 1968 when it was delivered, but the entire speech is retained for the full impact of his point and at Ivan Illich’s request.

It’s a gem of a read. Sadly many of the points Ivan Illich was making are still needing to be made. But you know I think that from my ongoing obsession that It’s time to end this development disconnect

Witness also Let’s get real about International Development and – It’s not just me! – Hear Binyavanga Wainaina on “development”

Back to Illich

I was intrigued to discover  Ivan Illich’s connection with development because I first came across his  work when I was doing my teacher training back in the 1970s, so I am a long-time admirer but from a different perspective.

The three strongest influences on my thinking during my training were Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society), John Holt (“How Children Learn” and “How Children Fail“) and Mr Caudle who was our Language and Literacy tutor. He drummed into us that the children in our classes should be reading and writing “to some purpose”. Mr Caudle taught us that children should see literacy as something they wanted to master, just as they had done with walking and talking.  Literacy should be something that made sense to them. Our task was to inspire them to become readers and writers “because they wanted to” not because adults were bullying them into doing it. And alongside inspiring them, our task was to give them the tools to master the skills.

I guess that’s a bit of a digression, but then our conversations are always wide ranging, and anyhow the topics of Education and Development are interlinked and share similar issues. The example of One Laptop Per Child and how little that connected with reality on the ground leaps immediately to mind..

Back to Illich. I’m intrigued by the way he was  at CIASP giving an invited address, although he was known to be a strong critic of its appraoch. I’m in awe of the way that he gave such a challenging, forthright message. I don’t understand how he fitted ref “insider” / “outsider” status. (Not the best description – but I think you’ll know what I mean)

An upcoming book book telling it how it is

Have you seen Tim Unwin’s recent blog Reclaiming ICT4D: the Conclusion ? (it’s an update on his latest book). It may be relevant to your studies.

I’ve always admired Tim’s ability to “Tell it as it is” while also being “an insider”. That’s how I was first drawn to his work. It would happen that we’d both be in an online forum (regarding some aspect of ICT or development). At first all would be going well (from my perspective). I’d be learning from the posts and maybe making some contributions.  It would seem relevant to me. Then typically things would go in a direction that was completely disconnected from “my reality” and what was happening on the ground in Ago-Are. I’d suddenly realise that the dominant perspective was completely different to mine. It would be so different that I’d be unable to  express the disconnect, so I’d stop contributing.

Often at that point, there would be a response from Professor Tim Unwin, challenging what was being said. To my delight he would be saying, in an academic but forthright way, the kind of thing that was on my heart – so you can understand why I appreciate his work. I’m not sure if you know that he kindly gave the keynote address at Dadamac’s event in January 2015 – this is it

Ref Dadamac Links

There are various Dadamac links above pulled from a couple of archive sites. This may be confusing. At some point all the Dadamac links related to Africa will be neatly together on one site – but it’s taking a while to do that as it is a labour of love by Nikki and Dil and they are both also busy with their full-time day jobs. Stuff is continuing behind the scenes, but not visible the way they would like it to be yet.

It’s a bit of a catch 22 – Once the new website is done it will be much easier for them to attract additional helpers – because evidence of the Dadamac UK-Africa mission, vision, and track record will be easy to access.  Really Nikki and Dil need some new helpers immediately to help them get that website done. (Amongst other things there are loads of posts about different aspects of work stretching back to 2008, which all need reading and tagging before they are added in).

However, until the website is done it’s hard to attract potential new helpers. You know something of what Dadamac UK-Africa is about. If you come across anyone who would be genuinely serious about getting involved I could help them get up to speed on its mission, vision, and track record. But I can’t do it for anyone who just has a casual interest.

I look forward to your next email or skype. BTW – if you feel like writing an open letter in reply I would happily post it up here for you. Hope the links are helpful for you.