Our Work is Needed

The Region’s citizens need our work. 83% of women leaders surveyed state that they NEED training on leader skills and how to collaborate to make an impact.

Mexico needs our program. Poverty rates and wage inequality are extraordinarily high and remain largely unchanged or maybe even increase despite a rising social development budget. It would take 120 years to reduce the gap between the poorest and the richest in Mexico. Development planning in Mexico clearly needs to change.

The global debate on how to reduce income inequality and to defeat poverty needs our work. William Easterly, a respected American development economist argues that successful sustainable development of poor communities must be bottom-up oriented, forward thinking and founded on individual economic and political rights (The Tyranny of Experts).

Easterly’s “Free Development” requires free individuals exercising such rights freely. This leads to a successful problem-solving system that encourages broad community involvement and consistent, respectful engagement between citizens and government.

Yet, top-down development initiatives implemented by “outside experts,” be they from a Mexico City or foreign, continue to be the dominant development theory (see The Wilson Center 2015 Report as an example). These efforts are based on an illusion: poverty is a technical problem amenable to technical solutions best implemented by outside actors.

Technical problems of the poor, such as food insecurity, illiteracy or inadequate access to potable water, are real and demand attention from those on the ground as well as national and international experts. But, they are only symptoms of poverty.

The root cause of poverty, of growing inequality between the rich and poor, in democratic Mexico (and countries like the USA) is something different. It is a miseducated citizenry unaware of their potential human development reality, their civic responsibilities and their inherent abilities, as individuals and in economic and political rights-based collaborations.

Tom Nichols, Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in his recent piece in Foreign Affairs Magazine, “In the absence of informed citizens … more knowledgeable administrative and intellectual elites do in fact take over the daily direction of the state and society.”

Faced with the harsh realities of poverty and lacking deeper understanding in these areas, it is not surprising that poor citizens struggle to organize around their specific rights.

It is not surprising that poor citizens struggle to create solutions to their problems or, as important, lobby government and the private sector to help them create the generative environment in which the invisible hand works on their behalf.

It is also not surprising that in the face of this struggle, the state or foreign actors step in to fill the void too often without transparency, local citizen accountability or sustainable development as goals.

History, Easterly states, is clear, “the cause of poverty is the unchecked power of the state… the absence of political and economic rights, the absence of a free political and economic system” where informed citizens negotiate with the government on smart solutions to problems.

Easterly suggests therefore that development actors and citizens need, now, to get ideas on freedom-promotion right before taking more ill-conceived action.

Nichols, for his part, goes one step further. “Experts”, he writes, “need to remember, always, that they are the servants of a democratic society and a republican government. Their citizen masters, however, must equip themselves not just with education but also with the kind of civic virtue that keeps them involved in the running of their own country.”

PSYDEH encourages and orchestrates the dialogue that Easterly and Nichols identify as necessary.

Truth: our poor women partners want to learn and work. They want to make smart demands of government. They want to use their economic and political rights to create their own solutions to problems, i.e., to drive their own development. Truth: they face myriad challenges to achieving their wishes.

Our multi-year, forward-looking, citizen empowerment program is designed to meet their demands. We strengthen their leader capacities and understanding of civic virtues and the civil society networks they want and need. Moreover, we accompany them in the difficult early period when challenges are the most daunting. And, while just a small Mexican NGO, our model is designed to scale countrywide and beyond to other republics like the USA.