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One of sustainability's biggest paradoxes is the cities of Europe that energise me as a tourist seem so civilised but history shows Europe hosted 2 world wars and Putins Euro of 2022 may be no safer than Stalin's or Hitler's 1920's E. At we wonder if you could time machine to one year in E-history what year would you choose and what report for humanity would you search for? WHAT GOOD CAN PEOPLES UNITE IF THEY HAVE FIRST ACCESS TO 100 TIMES MORE TECH PER DECADE? Back in 1951 my father found this biggest scoop of his life at It was given to him by Hungarian-American John Von Neumann at Princeton
2006: In dads last 2 years age 84 he hosted a 40 person debate at Royal Automobile Club, a few minutes walk from the Royal Palaces - if the greatest human development advance of his lifetime since meeting Von Neumann was networked by a 1billiongirls (Asian Village mothers 2020-1970) - did anyone in the west or at The UN really know how they did this? 16 journeys to Bangladesh by Graduate Journalists has chalked up 2 resources & where both women empowerment luminaries requested we open learning networkers interpret C for Cooperation (not C for Certification) . We enjoyed more than a little help from many people such as Japan's Ambassador. As Diarists out of St James and alumni of Brother James Wilson have recorded: The UK Royal family left most of the human development of two thirds of beings in Asia to Prince Charles. As a 16 year old he had been assigned the duty to attend the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. 3 happy-good natured seeds were planted from that day on - good relations between Japan Empire and some of Europe's Royals; Sony as Japan's first inward investment in Europe; the birth of whether worldwide sports celebrities are tele2's blessing or a curse as next generations greatest heroines (Tokyo was the first satellite broadcast to a global audience). What if it turns out that in the 21st C European royals value sustainability of millennials more than soundbitimg politicians or professional bureaucrats whose Intel rules have no mathematical or human transparency. This strangely unpopular question is the purpose of events diaries by and education's 3ed co-creative revolution - thanks Glasgow University Union for marking up one of 2023's main QOH events 265th Smithian Moral Sentiments . If you have an event for our diaries to cooperate around please mail me It may be that us far north diaspora scots are more interdependent on you all Europeans than anyone apart from whomever angry nature or angry purtins hurt next??. Sample some Future History Good/bad News Reports? ...1955 report what was Messina (birthing EU) for? 1945 report what was british language world service for?; 2022-1945 what was UN & ITU for; dad. The economist's norman macrae, spent his last days as teen navigating air planes bomber command burma; he tried his best at reparation ever since- wind assisted, so to speak, by the most valuable question media men were ever given - von neumann 1951 asked dad: to ask anyone/everyone what goods will peoples do with 100 times more uniting tech every decade to 2020s? In 1951, VN had 6 years left working on good (ie way above zero sum human development exchages) after the Goats of maths (including einstein turing ..) had spent moist of their life on the bad on nuclear arms racing. They had a reason to defeat hitler. I am no genius (just a listener who ,oves transparent maps/maths) ---but can anyone tell me why are we currently using nuclear races to defaeal all 8 billion of our beings. MUCH MORE IMPORTANT FROM 9/9/2022: if you have time to add positive thinking to our survey - please do

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

no country valued fazle abed - a great among servant leaders - more than the netherlands

as scot sir tom hunter once said  in applauding an end poverty pioneer- the least we could do to thank a man like this is to act on what he asks- and yet even in britain the first place to give sir fazle a knighthood and probably aid's biggest investor in his schooling system- public servants never learnt to do what he lived

some notes from netherland journal the fat blue

european students wanting to study fazle abed's life work may well find his college partnership central european university vienna optimal- sir fazle's last world ranked visitor in dhaka ban ki-moon came to dhaka also to linkin brac university with vienna's world leading curricula - global climate adaptability and empowering youth's local to global civic engagement

july 2017

Fazle Hasan Abed: architect of poverty reduction

 6 juli 2017, 09:00

Photo's Fazle Hasan Abed: copyrights by Edwin Venema | De Mooilichterij (
Photo's Fazle Hasan Abed: copyrights by Edwin Venema | De Mooilichterij (

He holds the number 37 position on Fortune’s List of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and has won an incredible number of prestigious awards. He is the founder and chairperson of the world’s largest private development aid organisation, with 100,000 employees in 11 countries and a budget of one billion dollars. He is 81 years old, and his biography reads like an adventure novel. After 45 years, the ongoing success of his NGO called BRAC offers a convincing response to those cynics who declared development aid a thing of the past. His name is Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and De Dikke Blauwe spoke to this architect of poverty reduction during his visit to the Netherlands in mid-June.

The original text was written in Dutch by Edwin Venema
Photos: ©Edwin Venema | De Mooilichterij

English translation by Andrew Rogers, Writewell
2017 Lenthe | De Dikke Blauwe 

Agile mind

Fazle Hasan Abed is briefly in The Hague to visit the Dutch BRAC International satellite and, very smartly dressed, he appears right on time in the lobby of his hotel, less than 100 metres from the seat of Dutch government, where we agreed to meet. Although he now needs a cane to support himself physically, his mind is as agile, energetic and self-mocking as ever. ‘The fat blue’? The quirky name gets a generous laugh. The Dutch have a special place in his heart, he says during the photoshoot: he is a great admirer of both our art and straight-forward mentality.

Accounting in London

Abed was born on 27 April 1936 in Baniachong in what was then still British India. His father Siddiq Hasan and mother Syeda Sufya Khatun ­– who died at the young age of 44 – made sure he received a good education. After attending Dhaka College, Fazle Hasan headed to the University of Glasgow in 1954 at the age of 18 to study naval architecture. Then he went to  London to study accounting.  Soon he was working for royal dutch shell company and his career took off when he was appointed regional ceo for east pakistan

Return to Bangladesh

A. This introduction to the corporate business would define the future course of Abed’s life, which took a crucial turn in 1970. In this disastrous year, nearly half a million of his fellow countrymen and women perished in a catastrophic flood that touched the world. Shortly thereafter, Abed was forced to leave his country when the war of independence broke out. He temporarily moved back to London.  Abed sold his apartment and returned to his new motherland Bangladesh together with many other refugees and exiles.

Echternach procession

Abed decided to invest the money -then about 30000 dollars- from the sale of his London apartment in a fund that would help the poorest residents in his country; initially with emergency funds, and later structurally to help improve their living standards in the long-term. As a home base, he chose remote Sulla in the northeast of the country, and in 1972 established an NGO he called BRAC: Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. Abed was aware of one thing: it would be a long and difficult battle. And it was and still is today – he emphasises: development aid is like an Echternach procession, in which the steps forward are slightly greater than the steps back.

Shameless self-enrichment

Abed: “When I started BRAC in 1972, my colleagues and I were rookies in the field of development aid. The history of aid in South Asia was brimming with well-intended but hopelessly unsuccessful attempts to help the poor. We were very aware of that and quickly realised the reasons behind it: corruption and mismanagement winning over good intentions. We saw that the local elite – the land owners, profiteering banks, village elders and police, often in collaboration – developed a variety of oblique constructions to steal money from the poorest of the poor. They shamelessly enriched themselves to the benefit of their friends, family and politicians at the expense of progress.”

An idealistic bachelor

Abed’s eyes glow when he talks of the early days: “I was an idealistic bachelor in my mid-thirties, and had the cocky idea that I could develop an approach that would be effective. My friends and family thought I was mad, but I was sure: I can make the difference, mainly based on very down-to-earth management skills. I based this on my knowledge as an accountant and experiences at Shell.”

community dynamics

Abed’s story is the perfect example of development aid which is entirely based on the actual needs of the grantees. A problem found in many types of aid is that it is more of a projection of the do-gooders than a solution to realistic problems. This meant that Abed and his team initially focused on observing and analysing the community dynamics: what are the power relations? Who influences whom? Which factors have the most impact? How and in what stages does the poor-poorer-poorest process work? Armed with this valuable information, BRAC started developing a method that focused on real life problems, culture, relations and gender.

Door to door for ten years

Abed gives an example from the 1970s: “On average women had seven children. We saw infant mortality in Bangladesh going through the roof and recognised that we would never be able to reduce the number of births without first dealing with infant mortality. To achieve this, we invested heavily in providing information on the importance of fluids when dehydrated by diarrhoea, which was the number one cause of death at the time.
“For ten years we went door to door to inform and train mothers. The results? Initially they were discouraging: less than 17% of mothers applied the knowledge and skills to keep their infants alive. But we didn’t give up. Door to door we mobilised the nation. A decade long, until we had reached every household in the country. Infant mortality due to diarrhoea dropped by 80%, deaths of children under five dropped from one in four to 38 in a thousand.”

Giving women a choice

Abed looks at me triumphantly to see the effect of these figures. A light and historically explainable rivalry with neighbour India pops up: “The income per capita in India is twice as high as in Bangladesh, but infant mortality is twice as high there as in our country… Our health care has improved, our food production has tripled, our economic growth is 7% and the average number of children per family has been reduced from nearly seven to two. Yes, indeed: two… When it comes to having children, women now have a choice; a choice which we presented to them on their doorsteps.”

Abandoning failed methods

Now, 45 years later, with his ambition undiminished, Abed is everything but naive: “The world has changed and, in many ways, we have seen significant progress. At the same time, we are still fighting some of the same battles. In particular, the approach to development aid in Africa failed miserably in various aspects during the early years. Corruption is still rife in our society, yet the fundamental indicators of human life have improved considerably. I think that’s because we learned to focus on the right indicators: hard facts and figures, such as the infant mortality rate, the under-5 mortality rate, family incomes and literacy. If we don’t remain focused on these issues – the figures that tell the story of how people’s lives have actually changed – we will never be able to abandon the failed methods from the past.”

Advanced measurement methods

“What ‘works’ in development aid is a question that has to be asked and answered time and again. I am proud that we have been a learning organisation from the start; a group of people who learn from their mistakes. This learning never ends. It’s never ‘finished’. I am happy to see that other organisations are taking a similar path of research and evaluation. New, more advanced measurement methods for the impact of development aid interventions – such as random sampling with control groups – are gradually becoming the norm.”

The attribution problem

Abed fully understands critics of impact measurements and also recognises the dangers of the ‘donor darlings’ when only aiming for results. He is also aware of the so-called attribution problem: how can you determine exactly whether changes are the result of your interventions when they involve incredibly complex chain problems with a seemingly infinite number of variables? Abed: “It’s all true and it especially applies to small organisations with limited interventions. In large, more holistic projects it is relatively easier to measure one’s impact on the aforementioned hard indicators.”

The need for patient capital

Not taking the effort to determine the impact of your interventions based on the complexity or practical issues is not an option, according to Abed. “Before measuring your social impact, it is important to understand that social investments will often not have a direct result. Development markets require ‘patient capital’: money invested based on the concept that a direct financial return doesn’t apply. And sometimes there will not be any profit at all.”

Ecosystem for business

Abed provides an example: “In the 1990s BRAC started investing in maize seed in Bangladesh. The goal was to help smaller, often female poultry farmers with a higher quality animal feed. At the time, the maize market was nearly non-existent: we even had to give smaller poultry farmers a buy-back guarantee to convince them to plant the new seeds. The ultimate goal was to create an ecosystem for business. The maize market in Bangladesh is now up and running, with a large number of private companies – including ours, which is called BRAC Seed – competing for the favour of the farmers. We have thus created our own competition, but in our view, that’s a great success!”

Having an impact

Abed laughs when making that statement. He is familiar with the criticism of BRAC, which in Bangladesh only depends on donations for around 20%, generating the other 80% of income via its own social enterprises and micro-financing. This has become a business model and the development organisation is said to have become too commercial and focused on profit; a concept in line with the image of an out of control aid industry. Abed responds coolly: “All income from our enterprises is returned to our projects. And I personally believe that you must always aim to have an impact, socially and/or financially.”

Blurring boundaries

Chinese walls between pure for profits and NGOs – if they ever existed – are no longer applicable. Abed: “The boundaries between big business and social impact are blurring, partly due to the pressure from corporate shareholders of listed companies to look at sustainability and corporate social responsibility. On the other hand, NGOs and civil society organisations have turned a few pages of the business book themselves, and sometimes function as normal companies with a triple bottom mentality: focus on people, profit and planet.”

It begins with business

“Look, when young people ask me for advice about starting development work, I often say – to their surprise – that they should first work in business for a year or so. It didn’t do me any harm. I was tried and tested as an accountant and employee at Shell, and am still grateful for that today. I learned valuable lessons on how to realise plans in an operationally efficient and large-scale way.”

Income from own activities

The development of various hybrid organisation types, in which business and social impact are linked, is a hopeful one Abed says: “Because you want to generate sustainable impact and not always depend on donors. And let’s be clear: while BRAC is eternally and deeply grateful to its donors, I have always emphasised that we should try to be as self-sufficient as possible. It is no coincidence that the majority of BRAC’s income in Bangladesh comes from our own activities, such as various social enterprises and micro-financing, and companies for textile, seeds and dairy products.”

Revenue models lead to dilemmas

This more entrepreneurial approach also generates intense debates on the course of the organisation within BRAC itself. Revenue models lead to dilemmas, because they often introduce the same perverse stimuli that may easily result in creeping corruption of the initial goals. Abed: “We are currently looking at ways to recover our schooling costs. Our education programmes are self-financed for 35%. Public education in Bangladesh is not especially high-quality and it is mainly the middle class that is willing to contribute to private schooling. Four-fifths of this group is willing to spend a small amount – around 20 dollars a month – on access to our BRAC schools, which have an excellent reputation in the field of primary education. The 20 percent with the lowest income who cannot afford it are admitted for free.”

Dinner with Steve and Laurene Jobs

The success of the BRAC methods developed over the decades and measured independently by prestigious universities in the US and UK. Catching the attention of leaders and businessmen abroad, the UN and World Bank approached Abed with a request to implement the BRAC programmes in Afghanistan after the military invention by the West there. And so he did.
 Abed: “And then I met Apple’s Steve Jobs in 2002 after being on a discussion panel with his wife Laurene. During a dinner at his house, Steve asked me: “How come it took you 30 years to bring BRAC to different countries?” My response: “Bangladesh was my universe for 30 years. I never considered that it could be an export product.” But now I think it might be, partly based on our experiences in Afghanistan. Although we’d obviously have to incorporate changes related to culture and traditions, I believe the basic elements, such as health, nutrition, education, family planning, women’s empowerment and the like are globally applicable.”

BRAC as an export product

Since the start of the century, BRAC has become an ‘export product’. The organisation is currently active in 11 countries in Asia and Africa with social development programmes in the field of education and health, and is working on economic enhancements via micro-credit, savings programmes and social enterprises that should eventually help BRAC become (more) independent of donors.
Abed: “We are not yet well-known in these export countries and still have to prove ourselves. We now primarily depend on donors, but here too we will establish and support small social enterprises – which we initially call programme-supported enterprises – to become self-sufficient.”

Donors remain crucial

Abed suddenly seems concerned that his enthusiasm for these entrepreneurial ambitions of BRAC may give the wrong impression. “I want to underline that the role of donors was and remains crucial. The family planning programme is fully financed by donors, and wouldn’t have been possible without a consortium of donors, led by UNICEF. And UNICEF is also funded by the Dutch!” 

Dutch flavour

The (as yet) modest BRAC International satellite in The Hague also has the task of making the methods of the organisation – which doesn’t have a clear image in our region except among development aid connoisseurs and could be characterised as a ‘sleeping giant’ – better known and to attract potential donors and social investors. The ‘Dutch flavour’ is represented in BRAC’s international Supervisory Board, which includes Sylvia Borren (Director of Greenpeace until September 2016).

Playing the long game

Sir Abed hopes his organisation can interest donors who are triggered by the results – which are independently checked by three prestigious universities – but not the instant results: “We are playing the long game. We hope to convince donors to see our main ambition: banishing poverty worldwide. For the first time in the history of humanity we have a realistic chance to remove extreme poverty from our planet. I probably won’t live to see it, but I believe it’s possible in 30 to 40 years, in line with the ambition of the SDGs. The primary goal is: ‘no poverty’.”

“I could have stayed small and sweet with BRAC, but I’m not interested in small and sweet. I always wanted to be large and impactful.”

►More information: and

RED: measuring is knowing
The Research and Evaluation Division (RED) of BRAC was established in 1975 and has since developed into a multidisciplinary, independent research unit within the BRAC organisation. The studies and evaluations it performs play an integral role in the development of BRAC activities, monitoring progress, documenting performances and realising impact studies. The findings provide an analytical basis for the programme decisions by BRAC, the option of fine-tuning to enhance performance, and ensure that development aid is evidence-based and effective, as well as aligned to the needs of the target group.
RED carries out research into agriculture, health care, (non-)communicable diseases, education, environment, extreme poverty, food security and nutrition, micro-financing, social development and human rights. Independently and together with renowned academic institutions and international organisations, it also focuses on issues of (inter)national importance. REDs research is used to support the programmes of BRAC International in Asia and Africa.

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