An NGO that 'does nothing'?

By Jenny Lei Ravelo 11 February 2014

The cast of The Samaritans, a Kenyan sitcom where The Office meets international development. Photo by: trailer screencap

“We must not lose sight of what’s important here.”

“Saving Africa?”

That’s Scott Bartley, country director of Aid for Aid, a fictional NGO that is the center of the story in a new TV series titled ”The Samaritans,” replies to the question in a Kenyan mockumentary about NGOs — from how they recruit their country directors and treat their interns, to how they prepare for donor grants.

It isn’t the typical scene we often see or hear in international development, at least in public: the country director focusing his energy on finding an acronym with high recall to win a grant proposal, or staff sipping wine on what must be a busy afternoon for relief work.

Some may take the spoof as it is, but surely some aid groups are going to be appalled. If you’re in Syria and got almost hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, you may even get furious.

This is not the first time though that aid work has been subject to satire. Remember Radi-Aid’s Africa for Norway campaign? But before we raise eyebrows here, the creator Hussein Kurji says the mockumentary is meant to “start a dialogue.”

“We know we’re critiquing a ‘big machine’ … [but we’d like] to get people talking and thinking about in what contexts aid works and for the organizations that are broken, how do you fix them?”

A critical show documenting an NGO “that does nothing”? Now that’s a conversation starter. How do you find the show? Do you think it’s going to help push for some form of NGO reform, and more NGO accountability?

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About the author

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Jenny Lei Ravelo@JennyLeiRavelo

Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

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