Mission of the International Collaborative

  • Striving to enable people in the developing world to improve their health and lives, and to provide a cleaner environment for all

 Value statement of the International Collaborative

 International Collaborative Founder Robert V. Lange shares his philosophy of international development work, based on his experience as a scientist, science educator, activist, and twenty years working with international development:

Maasai clothing

“Worthwhile, successful projects need to focus on objectives that are truly beneficial. They are often exciting and stimulating because they involve challenge, evaluation, planning, and problem-solving, but above all, they must be achievable.

How shall we and our collaborating populations choose the projects? Should we try to find out what the people want and work together with them to achieve those goals?

  • People living successfully, but near the edge of survival, are not very experimental in their approach to life improvement. This is understandable
  •  Although there may be aspects of their lives that are unhealthy, unsafe, or tedious, they don’t have the margin of safety and security that might allow them to use resources to experiment with solutions that might lead nowhere

Those of us who live in relative wealth, comfort, and safety, have the margin in our lives to imagine different approaches. We are used to experimentation that would be too risky if we were closer to the edge of comfort and survival. Creativity requires security.

When we work  together with a community, and not just deliver to it, we have a gift to give our colleagues in that community. Our gift must be tailored and sensitized, and based on respect. It is the gift of imagining, of visualizing, of sharing the vision of different possibilities leading to a better life.

Of course, we must come to know what people would like to change in their lives. But we also know there will be differences that are possible, and highly valuable, that will not occur to the people. This is because they can’t waste their time, resources, and energy dreaming and hoping for the impossible.

The dynamism of a culture is its most interesting feature. Dynamism has an implicit element of unpredictability. But no culture is static, and when we approach people with humility and respect, but also with our imaginations afire, we need not fear the impact we might have on their practices. We can suggest ideas. We can raise new possibilities. We can get a bit of dreaming and visualization started, as long as we stay committed to the people, resolve to live through the common experience together, and work hard.

A brilliant musician and ethnomusicologist once said to me,  “You don’t have to worry about introducing foreign music to people. People never hum a tune they don’t like.”  As long as we sing along, and in mutual respect see just how much better we can make life together, we need not fear damaging something fragile.

At the time of my first meeting with the Maasai of Eluwai village,  I had no idea how to design any stove and certainly not the stove the people needed. And they were totally accustomed to living in the smokiest and most uncomfortable and unhealthy houses imaginable. But when I blurted out “We are going to get the smoke out of your houses,” they burst into applause.

None of us had any idea how to do it. But at that moment, the wonderful  adventure of the Maasai Stoves & Solar Project was launched for us all.”