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The Lexicon of Intervention I

February 7, 2009

I have a feeling this will be a recurring series: words and phrases used by aid communities, rights groups, or other NGOs (or for that matter, governments, or the UN), that you’d never use anywhere except the contexts of crisis in which they’re applied.

If you have entries you’d like to contribute to the little lexicon I’m building, do let me know.

Today’s entry: “income-generating activity”

I was doing an interview the other day with a Rwandan who talked about the “income-generating projects” that his organization will help finance.

It’s micro-credit lingo, and it’s supposed to mean very, very small-scale enterprise that–wait for it–generates income. “Income-generating project” is not a Kinyarwanda phrase. It’s an NGO phrase, part of the vocabulary of Western interventions. It is usually proffered as an “income-generating activity,” though “project” is a nice touch.

And now, for the cynical kicker…
Back home, where white people engage in income-generating activities, it gets called “business.”

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