“do it with joy”

“Do it with joy.”

That’s Muhammad Yunus’ seventh principle of social business. It should be equivalent to the first principle of the development business, but does become increasingly hard to remember after a while. And frameworks for sustainable livelihoods analysis – they really do kill the joy.

Dear god of acronyms, let me never, never say “PoP” when referring to the “poorest of the poor.”


I scribbled that as a little post-it for myself on a particularly uninspiring day. Sometimes, when you want to do things right, it involves a lot of feeling wrong along the way. As an earnest young “development worker” striving to earn the label, there is little one can do but to follow instructions, learn the frameworks, and hope that the “outputs” and “outcomes” have been categorized correctly.

As a still-earnest not-as-young person, the tradeoffs between passion and progress seem less painful. The categorization becomes neater, the jargon rolls off the tongue. This is the way the world works. To be heard and taken seriously, one has to learn the language. And think less, and show more.

Maybe I’ve come all this way to realize that all I really want to do is to write a children’s book.


But that makes me think some more, and I find that I really also want to teach them to read. If I must have a mouthful of letters, then that is what I want to do with it.

So, other development workers of the world, if you’ve had a long day involving proposals and paperwork, salad and Stata, I would recommend grabbing a cup of ice cream and making your way to the more colourful corner of the local bookstore. Or a cup of soup, maybe, and taking it to wherever it was that you first found your joy. If it’s not too late, maybe you’ll be able to find it there still.


11 responses to ““do it with joy”

  1. Pingback: Don’t forget the Joy! | developingnathan·

  2. Yes! Yes, yes, yes. This sentence, especially: ” And I thought, these processes are divested of joy. Maybe I’ve come all this way to realize that all I really want to do is to write a children’s book.” Let’s write a children’s book together? 🙂

  3. “…taking it to wherever it was that you first found your joy.” Sage advice for development workers all over. Discovered your blog and enjoying leafing through it. Especially interesting: your work with the Pehli Kiran teaching system. Fascinating.

  4. Pingback: thoughts on diving in | the write thing·

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