“We must not lose sight of what’s important here.”
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?
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a staff writer for Devex. She covers breaking international development news in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific for the Development Newswire, often focusing on aid worker security. Jenny is also a regular contributor to the GDB and other Devex publications.