History of International Aid and Development

History of International Aid and Development

Tavia Mirassou-Wolf
Board of Advisors
"The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future." -Theodore Roosevelt


To bring us closer to sustainability it is essential we appreciate the history of international aid and how SSI has developed. To understand where international development started, the course it’s taken, and where it is headed, Rita Mahoney, SSI’s Executive Director, conducted a powerful training for all staff and board members.

All Staff Meeting in Cambodia

While international development is certainly not an easy subject to study, learn or teach, there is a clear progression of how aid is delivered and distinct categories that can be identified. Development is often talked about in the following terms; To the people, For the people, With the people, Through the people, and Investing in the Empowerment of the people. Let’s look at the definitions and specific examples:

To the people -

The best known example is perhaps the Marshall Plan post WWII. Priority was on capital and technical investments to get countries back on their feet. European countries that were devastated by the war had an educated population that lacked infrastructure. The awareness that Marshall plan was appropriate for a specific time and place gave way to more participatory methods of working with other countries. In Cambodia we see the To model used after the fall of the Pol Pot regime when the UN came in and ran the government.  Again, there were specific historic reasons why this model, at this time made sense.

For the people - 

Here, I’m providing the resources for you, you can choose to take them or leave them. An example of the for model might include food programs to provide rice, supplements, and other nutritional staples. While this model is necessary in certain situation, such as disaster response, local sustainable agriculture may not have the opportunity to flourish if this model is continued.

With the people - 

How can I work with you? We’ll use my ideas and training to work together. Let’s look into schools for the with model, head teachers who are teaching with assistants could be an example. This is a great way for teaching assistants to learn teaching techniques and gain new skills but they do not have power over what is being taught in the classroom.

Through the people - 

This program will be run through you. I am providing the the framework, training and resources you need, now please go deliver these services. The train the trainer model of delivering health education programs such as behavior change practices for hand washing can be seen as a through the people model of development.

Investing in Empowerment of the people - 

Increasing capabilities, enabling people to provide for themselves. How can we provide opportunities for you to gain the skills and knowledge you desire. Now you can take these skills to provide for yourself and help your community in the best way you see fit. Providing opportunities for continuing education and livelihood training with a focus on creating power and action among participants is how we invest in empowerment.

Given this information, do you think there is a right, wrong and mediocre model? Perhaps it depends on the development objective.  To us, because our mission is based on creating sustainable impact and training the future generation of leaders, our team believes that we should consistently strive to utilize the empowerment model, even when this is the more difficult option.

Thank you for your continuous support as we empower individuals and communities. With your help, we ARE empowering rural Cambodians to make sustainable change in their communities. Please stay tuned, our next blog will outline our model and how it is moving our programming closer to sustainability.

"What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it." ~C.S. Lewis

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