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Bringing New Voices Into Development Discussion

“At a 2012 TEDxChange conference in Berlin, African Women’s Development Fund CEO Theo Sowa turned the spotlight on an uncomfortable truth: African women may be the focus of many development campaigns, but they are rarely represented as drivers of the discussion,” Andrew Quinn, director of the New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute, writes in an opinion piece in The Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network” blog. “Of course, experts from Africa and other parts of the developing world are pioneering solutions to a vast range of development challenges on everything from improving maternal health to boosting sustainable crop output,” he continues, adding, “Bringing their perspectives to light should be an integral part of development work, particularly as the international community contemplates the next steps in the global development agenda beyond the 2015 [Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)].”

“Celebrity advocates, government officials and major funders all have ready-made platforms for spreading their views — the power of their brand is often enough to build an audience,” Quinn states, adding, “But for those without immediate recognition, the task is harder.” He writes, “The explosion of online and issue-driven media over the past decade has created a wide range of outlets, many of which are eager to bring new voices to light,” and he continues, “Add to this the increasingly crowded schedule of conferences and meetings ranging from the Clinton Global Initiative and Skoll World Forum to TEDx events held around the world and it’s clear that there are a wealth of opportunities to reach important audiences with new stories.” He highlights the Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship, launched this year with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, writing it “is one attempt to start figuring out an answer by providing both media coaching and contacts for development experts from Africa and, eventually, other parts of the developing world” (8/23).