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    Spaing partners

    Virginia Postrel links to a true story with the kind of happy ending that can literally make you cry: Afghans get a new industry that provides environmentally-sustainable work and brings cash into the economy…and affluent Americans get access to a broader array of fabulous beauty products!

    Anyone who writes to ask which part moved me more will be ignored.

    Of course, every narrative like this needs a villain to add drama and make our heroine’s eventual triumph sweeter, and this story has a great one:

    The letter I received from him a few days later confirmed my premonition. It requested a ream of further documentation, such as a breakdown of the raw-materials cost of a bar of soap and our financial accounts from previous years. “Maybe even more importantly,” the letter went on,

    we need to show the real raison d’etre for all of this. It’s because there’s real demand for your products. Demand is not your problem, Sarah, satisfying it is. You’ve already established a vibe in the market. You’re selling in Manhattan and sundry other swanky places. You’ve had plenty of free publicity in media with the appropriate reach to capture the attention of the chattering class whose hands you’re washing. The wind is now behind you and you’ve an opportunity to make a significant contribution to establishing Afghanistan as something other than a squalid state exporting only smack and terror. This is what USAID wants to hear.

    Peppering this and subsequent communications were colloquialisms like “the first thing we’ve gotta make plain …”

    I replied, providing the requested information, but also a statement of frustration. I was swiftly scolded for my tone: “unbusinesslike, unmannerly, and just plain unaesthetic.”

    Ick. No one who uses gotta in a business context–who would, indeed, use gotta for any purpose other than transcribing soul lyrics–should be passing judgments on the aesthetic value of someone else’s prose. Especially when he himself appears never to have met a cliché he didn’t like. Guy should be sentenced to wash with Duane Reade soap (“Compare to Irish Spring!”) for the rest of his life.

    Anyway, seriously, Sarah Chayes’s piece confirms what you hear elsewhere about funding provided by big-guns organizations for entrepreneurship in developing countries–namely, that it has a way of vaporizing in the pipeline from the West to the target population. It’s a very good read.

    2 Responses to “Spaing partners”

    1. Janis Gore says:

      I wonder what part of “you crazy, lazy, stupid motherf^*\ers” they considered “unaesthetic.”

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, really. But, of course, a lot of bureaucracy works that way: reflexively doing everything it can to keep things in the planning stages. The minute you start actually doing something, you may produce results, which you will then be held accountable for and expected to match or exceed in the future. Very dangerous.

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