“The Development Set is bright and noble
Our thoughts are deep and our vision global;
Although we move with the better classes
Our thoughts are always with the masses.
“In Sheraton Hotels in scattered nations
We damn multi-national corporations;
Injustice seems easy to protest
In such seething hotbeds of social rest.”
— Ross Coggins, “The Development Set”
This is what the world of international development looked like in 1976 to missionary and foreign aid worker Ross Coggins. He wrote the poem “The Development Set” to satirize the well-intentioned, but ultimately self-serving, individuals who traveled far and wide to gaze at the poor.
The world deserves better. The stereotypes that Coggins nailed 40 years ago still ring true today. There are too many meetings, in hotels far too luxurious. There are too many photos of sad brown babies with flies in their eyes. There is misplaced nobility in doing work in service of the global poor. And there is way too much jargon.
Medium’s new publication, The Development Set, hopes to change the tenor of the conversation about international development. We want to ask, without ego or presupposition, what it actually means to make a difference in the world.
We will question the status quo. We will report from the ground up. We will make you productively uncomfortable.
Over the coming months, we’ll publish a range of stories about global health and the business of “doing good.” They’ll be in the form of investigative features, photo essays, personal stories, letters from the field, wide-ranging debates, and more.
And we want you to be part of it. Join the conversation. Help us answer questions like: What philanthropic bets have made the most difference in everyday people’s lives? What toll do “global health” issues like mental health and addiction take in the United States? What needs to happen to build a billion toilets this year? Why does development attract so many white dudes?
Finally, a word about journalistic ethics. The Development Set is made possible by funding from the The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Please know that the Foundation’s involvement with this publication stops there. They are interested in cultivating a dynamic space to explore the question, “How do we do the most good?” They do not have any sway whatsoever in our editorial decisions.
In closing, I’ll return to Coggins:
“Enough of these verses — on with the mission!
Our task is as broad as the human condition!
Just pray god the biblical promise is true:
The poor ye shall always have with you.”
Together, let’s create a publication that would make him and millions of other development skeptics proud.
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