By Andrew Quinn, Director, New Voices Fellowship, The Aspen Institute
The global development discussion, like global development itself, often appears to be a one-way street: experts in the developed world discuss different strategies for uplifting the world’s poorest communities. It is a worthy but limited conversation, and too often does not include the perspectives of those on the receiving end of development policy.
This needs to change.
The New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute is one program designed to broaden the discussion by amplifying the voices of experts from Africa and other parts of the developing world. The New Voices Fellows are public health specialists, social entrepreneurs, literacy advocates and technology champions who are tackling development challenges where they live.
Business is increasingly central to development work, and the Fellowship’s inaugural class includes a number of young entrepreneurs who are building organizations designed for social impact. Salif Niang, from Mali, has joined his brother in setting up Malô SARL, a company that adds vitamins and minerals to rice grown by smallholder farmers, combatting vitamin and mineral deficiencies that lead to diseases that cause millions of deaths across the world each year.
Regina Agyare moved from a career as the only woman IT specialist at a major international bank in her native Ghana to become the founder of Soronko Solutions, a start-up company aimed at using the power of technology to find solutions to social problems. Soronko Solutions has helped develop computer applications aimed at integrating deaf children more fully into a society where use of sign language is limited, and encouraging girls to pursue careers in computer science.
Entrepreneurship is also central to the work of Mohamed Ali, who established the Iftiin Foundation in his native Somalia to match young Somalis with business opportunities as a way of encouraging employment and engagement within a fractured society emerging from a long civil war.
Other New Voices Fellows work on expanding educational opportunities for women and girls in Kenya’s crowded slums, strengthening African health systems to cope with the expanding roll-out of AIDS-fighting medication and encouraging the production of African children’s literature to promote literacy among young people across the continent.
Through the New Voices program, Fellows will make connections with key media outlets and spread their message on development with op-ed articles, blog posts and speaking engagements. The objective is to bring more balance into the global development conversation—and expand the pool of expert commentators who will help to define the next phase of development priorities.
The New Voices Fellowship was launched in 2013 with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is designed for development experts from across the developing world with a strong record of professional achievement in their field. Nominations for the 2014 class of Fellows will open in October 2013, and may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take a look at what the New Voices Fellows have to say, and follow them on Twitter @AspenNewVoices. The stories they tell will provide a more nuanced picture of the opportunities and challenges ahead.
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