There’s a snippet of dialogue from Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” that I’m reminded of often. “How did you go bankrupt?” one character asks. “Two ways,” the other replies. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
Life, it seems to me, is full of experiences like this. We see the writing on the wall but it doesn’t really hit us until, all of a sudden, something we had predicted all along actually comes to pass.
That’s how I feel about the new era of global development we find ourselves in. We knew it was coming: Talk of social enterprises, impact evaluations, venture philanthropy — none of this is new. But drops here and there — another billionaire-turned-philanthropist, a high-tech company creating a lab in sub-Saharan Africa, an international NGO shifting authority to national staff — have become a flood. What we once called the aid industry is no more. It’s time we faced it: The future we’ve envisioned for quite some time is actually here.
This idea — that global development has inexorably changed — is the core premise of what we are aiming to make, ahem, “the global development event of the year.” Called Devex World and just days away on June 14, 2016, in Washington, D.C., this event is the most ambitious we’ve ever undertaken. We are bringing the idea of a new era in global development into physical manifestation.
Forgive our immodesty for we are trying to make a point. It’s time we drew a line in the sand and stopped talking about a changing development community, about traditional and nontraditional stakeholders; it’s time we acknowledge the reality of a new, changed industry. Let’s make the most of the novel era, rich with possibility and opportunity, that we find ourselves in.
Perhaps you have witnessed the changes. But prior to Devex World, I have never seen a hall filled with the true diversity of our community, all presented as peers: Venture capitalists next to aid agency chiefs; randomistas with corporate executives; foreign policy advisers alongside technologists; social entrepreneurs mingling with NGO leaders. (I could certainly go on.) We are honored by the lineup of presenters and luminaries joining us, by the nine sponsoring partners, and by the more than 200 organizations that will be represented.
That outpouring of support for an event built around the idea of fundamental change makes us feel we’re on to something. Certainly a big part of it relates to technology, and technologists from Silicon Valley to Nairobi will be well represented at Devex World. We’ll hear from everyone from Uber to Facebook to Google and even the White House’s chief technology officer and NASA’s chief scientist.
And we’ll consider in-depth how key crosscutting themes emblematic of this new era are influencing all of our work: how business is transforming development; what it means to innovate at scale; the challenge of not just telling stories but building movements; and what new models of funding will mean for our fast-growing and dynamic ecosystem.
We’ll do all of this — in a single long day, complete with an evening celebration — with a sense of promise and inspiration. Because while we at Devex extensively cover the rising inequities, the warming planet, and the growing conflicts that characterize our world today, we also get to see up close the innovators, activists, and passionate leaders who refuse to give up or give in.
At Devex World, we’ll hear from the head of Malala’s pioneering organization, a special forces soldier-turned-humanitarian, and a Syrian activist imprisoned and now a refugee why even in a troubled time there is reason to believe this new era can be the moment when our community does more good for more people than ever before.
Stay tuned for continuing coverage of Devex World, the global development event of the year on June 14 in Washington, D.C.
Raj Kumar is the founding president and editor-in-chief of Devex, the media platform for the global development community. A social entrepreneur and digital media executive, he chairs the Humanitarian Council of the World Economic Forum and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community.
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