Haiti: Do You Want to Disrupt the Aid Regime in the Country?

Start by Creating 10,000 Startups! We have heard too often that NGOs will not solve Haiti’s problems; hence creating businesses is the clear alternative. This will not only create jobs, but will put the people on the path to greater prosperity.

Business should be the second driving force after education to bring about economic success in Haiti.

Paul Polak and Mal Warwick, authors of The Business Solutions to Poverty, have made a compelling case for business to be a key component to radically minimize global poverty. Polak and Warwick declared, "We believe there is one sure way, and only one way, to foster genuine social change on a large scale among the world’s poverty stricken billions – by harnessing the power of business to the task."

Too many of us spend our energy, talents, experience, and money on doing things in Haiti that perpetuate poverty when there is a wealth of opportunities that exists, provided we work smarter and harder. Therefore, we need to radically shift our thinking by starting to build businesses and gain economic power to eventually disrupt the aid regime.

Krasner defines the "aid regime" as "sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors expectations converge in a given area of international relations". The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), the International Organization (IOs) and the NGOs are the leading actors in Haiti. Cunningham asserted that these actors:

"…make aid and policy decisions that reflect their self interest, “with an eye to how they influence political survival” (Bueno de Mesquita 2007, 254). Within the humanitarian aid regime, there are competing self-interests among host countries, implementing agencies, and donors. These competing interests limit the harmonization of aid, thereby rendering the regime ineffective".

The only way to combat these aid regimes is to eliminate the need for them.

The question is: what if Haitians in Haiti, the Haitian diaspora, and any friend of

Haiti with an interest in also seeing the rest of the 99 percent of the people prosper took the lead in changing the power structure through business. What if we were to collaborate and start a movement by creating 10,000 startups in the next couple of years? As more startups become successful, others will follow, and Haiti does have the potential to change its reputation in the world from "the capital of NGOs” to “the capital of Caribbean startups”.

Below are three strategies that should be considered as we move forward.

1) Decide to respond to the many opportunities that exist and become part of the 10,000 startups movement similarly to India.

The Headstart Network Foundation in India started this initiative several years ago. The country’s startup ecosystem is primarily designed to boost and promote entrepreneurs. Now, Haitians may not necessarily need to start with a foundation like India, but more individuals can use their talents, skills, and capital to identify problems and create business solutions for the millions. There are approximately four million Haitian-Americans outside of Haiti, and about nine million people in Haiti. If 10,000 Haitians or Haitian-Americans decide to emulate what India is doing, Haiti will start producing the same kind of economic muscle that India has been building in the last few decades. To help Haiti, focus on creating a business that solves a problem. If you need a framework or ideas on where to start, read the book Business Solutions to Poverty. Great examples of what Haiti needs more of are companies like Sûrtab S.A. and Agri-Supply S.A.

2) Start Leveraging the Connection Economy and Create Mutual Partnerships.

Changes in how we do business in the global market will continue to rapidly increase. The imbalance of control and resources of knowledge will continue to dissipate. Technology is altering the power structure and forcing leaders to learn how to share through mutual connection, collaboration, and partnership.

I often hear some of my fellow members of the Haitian diaspora who left Haiti a long time ago grumble that they no longer have connections in Haiti to start a business or people to trust. Trust is a factor, but there are ways to build trusting relationships. First, you have to be someone whose reputation is trustworthy.  Also, with the emergence of social media, anyone can start building a global connection. For example, I have only been active on Twitter for just about a year, and have already received several requests where I was invited to collaborate with others—consistency helps to breed trust. Author Seth Godin, in his popular blog, referenced the idea of the connection economy as rooted in generosity.  According to Godin, "Generosity is not merely giving a discount, or giving what you make away or creating a race to the bottom. It’s far more complex than that…generosity creates trust, but also worth noting that trust is required to provide generosity."

 3) Adapt a Model of Developing Leaders at all Startups Levels from their Genesis.

The mistake that most organizations make, at least from my corporate experience in the United States, is that they invest only in the top one or two percent of the people the organization deems appropriate to develop into leaders or managers. This is a mistake, and firms are failing to grow and scale because they have not invested in the human capital at all levels. Every level of an organization needs leaders and managers, but leaders make others take off and excel.

Imagine what starting10,000 startups initiatives would result in, especially if each were to ultimately create a minimum of 200 jobs – that would generate 2,000,000 new jobs. Yes some startups will fail, just like they do in the United States and everywhere else. The charge is to focus on building businesses, gaining economic muscles to disrupt the aid region in Haiti, and generating startup capital in the Caribbean. 

About the Author:

Daniella Bien-Aime is an adult learning and leadership development specialist, teacher, trainer, and social media enthusiast. She has work experience in international, corporate and nonprofit sectors. She is a graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, with a Master’s in Adult Learning and Leadership. Ms. Bien-Aime is a contributing writer for Haiti Business Week. You can follow her on Twitter @dbienaime.

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