I have heard so many NGOs, regardless of size, country of origin, or location where they are working, say something along these lines: “the local government is a shambles, corrupt, and/or dysfunctional; we can’t work with it, we are here to help the people, we’ll just work around the government”. Yet, their sustainability plans frequently end up having a “handing over” process in which the key player is the same government everyone was complaining about.
It all started on a hot day in a small village in rural Bangladesh four years ago. We began the morning chopping garlic and potatoes, and had hired a rickshaw wallah to cart five big pots of curry to a nearby school. When we arrived, there were questions, shy giggles and, suddenly, lots of hands – making mounds of rice, passing spoons to serve a friend’s meal and scrubbing bowls clean.