I have always had a little dose of ill feeling concerning development opportunities like all-expense paid fellowships, conferences, workshops and other such fanciful opportunities offered by international development organizations to young people in Nigeria and across Africa.
To be clear, these opportunities are good and in fact, very good and usually well meaning.
I have just been concerned as to how distracting the “good opportunities” can also be to young people who are trying to achieve one thing or another in their local environments, be it in the business-related or civil society-related sectors.
In fact, in the wake of the new year celebrations for year 2017, one of my resolutions was to substantially cut down or even completely not to apply for any such opportunity (be it business grant or fellowship) in the new year.
I sat down at some point and decided to reflect and be frank with myself before taking that decision.
I discovered that I wasted a lot of time and energy in the previous years trying to pursue opportunities.
Filling out one application can be so time consuming, energy sapping and mind boggling.
Having to do such for several applications can send you to the hospital!
I just had the believe that my venture could have been more productive if I had invested that time and energy directly into it, instead of on pursuing opportunities.
And truly, five months of leaning towards my resolution for year 2017 has proven that believe to be correct.
Aside the stress involved, I have started suspecting (perhaps rightly) that these opportunities have the capacity to substantially change who people really are, including what they originally set out to do (without their knowing it).
It is possible that Nigerian and African youths, in a bid to secure awards or such wonderful travel opportunities (and the beautiful experience that comes along) end up changing their thought patterns, and start thinking just like the organizer/sponsors of such programs want them to.
When filling out one of those applications, it is common to find yourself trying to adjust your thoughts and qualifications to suit the particular scenario that is desired by the organizers.
Then by the time you go through the application process up to the interviews, and even securing and attending the fellowship (or whatever opportunity), you may find out, if you care enough, that you have become a different person.
However, let me repeat that the opportunities are good if well harnessed. My opinion here is that the stress and cultural sacrifice may not be worth it, as one can actually survive (better) if one works hard enough.
So recently, I came across a post shared by a Facebook friend, John Oluwadero, which I think was originally written by Oyindamola Johnson.
Considering the content of Johnson’s write-up, as well as the views of the people that made comments on that Post, I could see that I am not alone in my line of thinking.
By the way, I and a majority of the people that commented on that Post, including John Oluwadero, have participated in at least one of those development opportunities.
Feel free to read Johnson’s thoughts below and use the comment section to air your opinion.
Sometimes, the real development champions are deep in the field, in remote areas, and busy doing the real, hard, dirty, and tiring work of bringing about change in their communities.
They have no time for, or have even never heard of fellowships, conferences, workshops, accelerators, and all the fancy names society often gives to the opportunities available.
Some of them might even never qualify or meet the high eligibility requirements often imposed on participating in those programs, yet they seem not to mind or even care cos they are truly commited to what they do.
Often, a young impact driven individual starts out concerned about creating lasting impact in the community, but soon starts getting consumed with the many opportunities that comes with working in the development space.
Soon enough, attention is concentrated on crafting that winning pitch, nailing that fellowship application, winning that fancy award, and the list goes on.
“Development” soon becomes measured how many countries visited, how many accelerators accepted into, how many newspaper features and radio interviews, and how many awards won.
The beneficiaries of those interventions become “photo opps” and only captured to be included in that next conference, fellowship, or grant application.
When you’ve visited every country, won all awards, featured in every media, you get tired one day and ask yourself real, brutal, and honest questions like – is my involvement in the development space a fast rising career or a true passion and which I’ll remain commited to when you strip me bare of all awards, medals, fellowships, international trips, etc.”