Optimizing Impact

The sheer amount of life in this world terrifies me. 

As I delve deeper into my studies of international development, the amount of life I continue to encounter grows and grows and begins to become this overhwleming pressure of obligation weighing down on me. 

Not only life as in people, but all the things that come along with people: ideas, material objects, discussions, institutions, challenges, social contracts, informal markets… just to name a select few that happen to be at the front of my mind in this moment. 

For example, I’m thinking of the multiple policy think tanks and development agencies we have met with over the course of this trip. My mind then wanders to the immense amount of similar organizations back in D.C. I begin to think of the fact that these amounts are replicated in all major intellectual hubs across this entire world. And then I think of the individual discussions each organization has; sometimes in conversation and coordination with others but oftentimes secluded within their own little worlds. And lastly, my mind wanders to the fact that with this immense supply of such organizations then exists an inexplicable demand of problems and challenges which these people are trying to solve. 

Perhaps this stems greatly from my fascination with the vastness of the world (not perhaps… clearly it does, haha). But as someone hoping to enter this precise field of work, with my own set of problems I visualize daily and will spend my life working to solve, it is all rather frightening.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is at times, it becomes extremely difficult to simplify my vision of the world in order to focus in on what I can do to make an impact.  

And at the same time, I can’t help but think there must be some more simpler way for all of these people to conquer all of these challenges. Sometimes I feel as though there are vast inefficiencies separating all of us, with the best intentions, from actually accomplishing the development we so passionately wish to see. 

In a meeting today with the Swedish Ambassador for Humanitarian Affairs, we discussed how, in a system characterized by implementation inefficiencies, the only way to optimize impact is through increasing cooperation and coordination and decreasing competition. This thought really resonated with me and I believe it will be crucial as we attempt to combat the reality of today’s world where the “global ask” for humanitarian and development assistance continues to grow exponentially, and a world where the current system cannot keep up with such vast demand.  
The talk today ended on an interesting note, one which I find to be a unique perspective. He said: “It’s not the system that’s falling apart, it’s the world that’s falling apart and the system is not suited to cope with the current situation.” 

I don’t have an answer to this dilemma. I don’t have any wise words to relay at the moment, and am lacking any optimistically inspirational thoughts. Problem solving is hard, especially in a global context. There never has been, and as it still remains, an easy way to get through it all.

I suppose being aware of this vast inefficiency is the first step. Only from there can we work toward a more coordinated, cohesive effort. 

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