Translate the Impulses from the Eichholz Conference into Action!!

My question/challenge to politicians: How can you personally help create the paradigm shift necessary to attain real participation from the German “Mittelstand” or mid-market companies in supporting development work around the globe?

Let me explain my question.

Traditionally, German development cooperation has operated on the twin premises of neutrality and altruism. In the minds of the majority of development workers, capitalism and for-profit operation were considered unwelcome at best and anti-development at worst. It was fine to support (for example) a poor farmer or a struggling entrepreneur, as long as he was small. But if he expanded, took on larger properties, became more commercial, or even took over a number of factories (employing hundreds of workers) he suddenly became uninteresting, impure.

I have seen this attitude in managers and employees ranging from the Ministry through the implementing organizations and NGOs. It begins with a strong reaction against interest-based development and continues with policies, programmes and projects that in effect have a strong anti-entrepreneurial bias. This is also one reason why programmes such as PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) have not lived up to their potential (PPP offers relatively small financial support for generally small projects, and its management is distributed among three organizations with different approaches, varying amounts of bureaucracy and limited transparency).

 

Changing this mindset to accommodate real, proactive cooperation with German industry requires modifying the underlying VALUES for development cooperation throughout the entire system and is a major challenge.

Last weekend I was privileged to attend the “Eichholzer Development Days”, a two-day conference held by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Union of Catholic Entrepreneurs in Schloß Eichholz near Bonn. This meeting gathered politicians and leaders of organizations in the development field to discuss directions and trends in development policy.

One recurring theme of the weekend was the role and potential of the private sector, particularly the German Mittelstand. In the meeting there appeared to be universal support for this idea which, although not new, has recently gained political tailwind through the public comments of the new Liberal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

 

 

I believe that if active participation of the MIttelstand is to move beyond lip service and become reality, politicians of all stripes must openly address the need for a change in the values upon which German development cooperation has long been based. Only when an interest-based development policy (evidently with the aim of creating a win-win situation) becomes acceptable will the army of conceptionists, planners and implementers of German development policy truly embrace a partnership with the Mittelstand.

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