Jennifer Lentfer's Blog (176)

Actually, it was my capacity that needed to be built

“Capacity building” has been in every job description or programmatic strategy of every international aid and philanthropic organization with which I’ve worked over the past 15 years. In some form or another, I’ve led, funded, or facilitated workshops, exchange visits, trainings intended to enhance the knowledge and skills of people who live in poor countries. 

Along the way, as an “expat” aid worker, as a grantmaker, as a manager and a communicator, I’ve…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on September 27, 2015 at 4:30pm — 5 Comments

White supremacy, black liberation, and global development: The conversations we’re not having

This post originally appeared on

Below all of the talk of “evidence-based approaches” and “taking it to scale,” there is an undercurrent of disquiet.

It happens when “local partners’ capacity” is maligned. It happens when two people have the same idea,…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on June 28, 2015 at 5:00pm — 4 Comments

For the disruptors

This post originally appeared on

Here’s to the ones who ask “why” openly in meetings because they just can’t tolerate the façade of “doing good.”

Here’s to the ones who ask “why” and are peppered with reactionary questions that reveal the bias of “good enough.”

Here’s to the ones who are learning to…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on November 13, 2014 at 9:30am — 3 Comments

A new venture for girls: Can a development practitioner change the world through business?

I went out with a new friend back in April, for sushi. Just sushi. And it ended up costing me thousands of dollars.

As Melissa Ovard described how they had formed a company to provide products to make girls’ adolescent transitions easier, I was hooked. Her enthusiasm spilled all over our unagi and seawead salad, and I knew I had to be a part of Girl Lux.…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on October 22, 2014 at 5:30pm — No Comments

Stories still hard to find: The local responses to Ebola

This morning when I googled "local response" + "ebola", here's some of the headlines I found:

Nurse's visit spurs Ohio Ebola fears 

Florida: County and hospitals prepare for Ebola

As KU Hospital tests patient with Ebola-like symptoms, Lawrence agencies coordinate response

Denton City Council to be briefed on virus…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on October 20, 2014 at 8:00am — No Comments

Do we need more risk-taking in global development communications?

According to many “horizon scanning” reports for international civil society over the past few years, there are major disruptions ahead in the aid sector. Many predict that if large international organizations are not prepared to adapt, they will not survive.

What is…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on September 10, 2014 at 10:30am — No Comments

Briefcase NGOs: How widespread is this, really?

Definition of a briefcase (or suitcase) NGO: A fraudulent nonprofit organization, set up by only one or two persons, only to obtain money from donors but having no programs on the ground.

I have long suspected that the phenomena of briefcase NGOs is not as widespread as purported. (See robust discussion on the topic of briefcase NGOs via LinkedIn here.) Anecdotal evidence,…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on August 14, 2014 at 9:03am — 2 Comments

Global Poverty: The Joke's on All of Us

This post originally appeared on

Stand-up comedy makes a person incredibly vulnerable. Just you on a stage, with all eyes on you, trying to make people laugh. In other words, asking them to “please like me.”

As L.A. comic Hasan Minhaj’s own story became central to his comedy,…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on May 19, 2014 at 8:18am — No Comments

How much does the US government spend on global development? (And 4 other things you might not know)

Few would disagree that the aim of US foreign assistance to developing countries must be to help people help themselves. But did you know…?

1)   Foreign assistance is a bargain.

For the last few years, the US devoted just 0.7 percent of the federal budget to poverty-focused foreign assistance. In FY2014, the US government spent $23.4 billion on it…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on April 2, 2014 at 8:00am — 3 Comments

Guide to Storytelling

Stories matter to people, and when you get one that really hits, it’s incredibly powerful – irresistible even.

Americans alone spent over 34 billion dollars to watch movies in 2010. 

Story is about connection.

Stories are containers—holding experiences, history, and values.…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on February 18, 2014 at 9:26am — No Comments

40 ways to help your organization survive tough financial times

By Isaac Roy Kyeyune, Director at FIND Partners International in Kampala. (This originally appeared as a guest post on

The year 2013 saw trends that are changing resource politics for civil society. These are a wakeup call to not only strengthen, but diversity your…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on January 28, 2014 at 7:00am — 2 Comments

The global development "players"

"The development landscape has never been more cluttered than it is today," wrote Marc Bellemare in Foreign Affairs last week.

"Oh great, what have I missed?" I thought, as I had already prepared my intro lecture for International Development Communications. The industry exists, fueled by…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on January 13, 2014 at 9:48pm — 1 Comment

How would you teach "international development" to public relations/communications students?

2014 begins a new endeavor - my first foray into teaching. Beginning this week, I'll be leading International Development Communications at Georgetown University's Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program. The class is associated with the Center for Social Impact…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on January 6, 2014 at 8:45am — 2 Comments

“Create” nothing: A new social good mantra

Aid workers and development practitioners, how many times have you seen a paragraph like this in a proposal?

“Community Mobilization: To ensure communities are… community management committees (CMCs) will be formed. Based on accepted cultural practice, CMCs will be chosen by the community members themselves with strong encouragement on establishing a gender-balanced CMC. The CMC will represent the community and be responsible for ensuring effective community…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on November 25, 2013 at 10:47am — 2 Comments

Wanted: Films that illustrate how aid works


The Social Impact Media Awards, organized by DEEDA Productions, have announced their 2nd annual call for submissions for their juried 2014 awards. Filmmakers and do-gooders, show us your video-based products that portray people grappling with the realities of aid programs on the ground!

SIMA is looking for…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on November 21, 2013 at 11:30am — No Comments

Who’s thinking about social change?

We are! Are you?

I’m in Johannesburg this week for the Barefoot Guide 4! Twenty-eight participants from 16 countries are here in a collaborative "Writeshop" to lay the foundations for the next Barefoot Guide. We’re writing a book (or is it?) entitled, “The Real Work of Social Change.”…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on November 20, 2013 at 5:30pm — No Comments

Moving day: An aid analogy

What does it feel like to be a citizen on the receiving end of international aid? Here’s an analogy to try to help do-gooders understand:

Let’s say you’re moving across town. You have to be out of your old apartment by 5pm that day. You’ve got the boxes already packed and the moving van rented. All you need is some muscle to help you move the heavy stuff. You ask your friend to come over early. The plan is to…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on August 23, 2013 at 7:49am — No Comments

From one Cornhusker to another: Peter Buffett, philanthropy, and how we can frame the dialogue

Dear Mr. Buffett,

The charitable industrial-complex, philanthropic colonialism, conscience laundering and inequality – these are topics a fellow Nebraskan like me wants to have more conversations about. So that’s why I was glad to read your New York Times op-ed this weekend, the …


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on August 1, 2013 at 9:00am — No Comments

Time to listen? Time to address our personal barriers

When Time to Listen: Hearing people on the receiving end of international aid came out earlier this year, I was excited to see how many organizations, including my own, were interacting with the multi-year study and its authors. (See previous…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on July 26, 2013 at 10:30am — 1 Comment

Something "knowing thyself" requires

When emotional intelligence is missing in a leader, everyone knows it. Ian Thorpe on KM on a dollar a day yesterday discussed the elements of this and the challenges in developing one's self-awareness in aid work, a subject near and dear to this blog as well.

He describes it as, "recognizing and understanding who you are and…


Added by Jennifer Lentfer on July 19, 2013 at 8:37am — No Comments

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