The day was flowing quite smoothly. I had even had a proper breakfast. Then, out of the blue, Pierpaolo came and invited me to team up with him and help on the PiFoPi crowdfunding campaign.
Now, I get what crowdfunding means, and I also have some clues about how such campaigns work. But when he told me that Pig for Pikin is a project targeting the Lower Fungom region, well, my back shivered with panic.
“Hey, no worries” Pierpaolo said “you have no idea where Lower Fungom is and this is just perfect!”.
“But how can I help you on this if I cannot even find it on a map?”
“Look: we want to do international cooperation, right?”
“Right. I guess”
“Good. So how would you describe, in very simple terms, what an international cooperation project looks like?”
“Well, I’d say like: some western organization, NGO or whatever, commits itself to helping communities in some developing country”
“Okay. But do you think that doing this, I mean helping others, ‘doing good’ is that easy? One sends money, technologies, and some tough field guys with a cool idea in mind and bam! we get a lot of people happier?”
This is how I discovered the immense literature on failures in projects aimed at development in developing countries. Failures, it must be kept in mind, that were not caused by carelessness or evil priorities on the part of the promoters. That would be far too easy. To the contrary: failures of projects led by good-willing, intelligent, and knowledgeable people.
It was inside these paradoxes that Pierpaolo asked me to dig–as a seeker of macabre details in the ruins of a wrecked ship–so as to be able to have people realize why Pig for Pikin is different.
“Okay, I think I get you. But, and I’m sorry to insist: how can I help you if I do not even know where this Lower Fundom is”
“It’s called Lower Fungom and it is a small region in NW Cameroon. It’s special to some people, including myself, because it’s one amongst the linguistically most diverse micro-areas in the world: no less than eight languages spoken in 240 square kilometers. But this is of no importance here. What is important here is that I need your ignorance”
“Yes, I need the viewpoint of someone who knows little or nothing about all this stuff. I need the average man’s viewpoint. Well, an average man who can write well, and who is able to transform what he sees and feels in appealing, moving words. And you are that man.”
For a moment I was speechless, confused. I mean, he said I am an ignorant. But also that I am someone who is good at telling stories and, therefore, who would know how to turn what was no longer surprising to him into exciting discoveries.
I went back home and started searching on the internet. At first I thought he was wrong as very little did I manage to find which resembled a possible literature on philanthropic failure. But after a while I discovered the right stream, and ended up flowing in gold… So to say.
The first nugget I found was, in fact, a blue sweater.