Let me summarize for you. People from rich countries donate money so this Austin non-profit flys into El Salvador or Haiti and then "prints" this house for poor families without a shelter for a paltry $6,500...
This is one of the most hilarious "tech" stories I have heard so far this year (up there with Juicero). For starters, why would you donate $6,500 for a house built using fancy cement-squirting machinery when you can hire locals and build a similar house using cinder blocks for way less, probably in the low hundreds? And why would you buy them a luxury condo when all their neighbors live in huts?
I read a fascinating story about doing good better which explains the unintended consequences of giving, such shoe drives and homes building because they devastate local merchants and builders. Cash, on the other hand, goes into the local economy and reduces dependencies and unintended consequences. Counterintuitive, I know, at least it was for me. But very enlightening
My first reaction was “wow. Here’s an organization who promotes and thrives on giving and service talking about the pitfalls”. The article was both affirmation and eye opening at the same time. I have long wondered why programs like those that distribute vast quantities of food throughout the third world aren’t really making progress. The article does a good job of explaining, at least partly, why that is.
Which is not to say these programs and efforts are right or wrong in their approach.
I have always believed the success of any aid program must involve those being aided. So that's at least some affirmation. The eye opener was the “give cash” part. In some places, I think this works. But I’m not sure how it translates where cash isn’t king or where “local economy” really isn’t cash based.
Back to the printed concrete houses. They are pretty expensive and seemingly more first world trendy cabin in the woods things. To me, it’s more of a publicity stunt than actual help.
The most amazing success story I've ever heard was when Save The Children tackled the problem of malnourished children in Vietnam. They were under embargo from the U.S. and were suspicious of food-drop programs which had limited success in other parts of the world.
It turned out their mothers were sneaking sweet potato greens and small shrimp to their children, which were not culturally well accepted because, for example, sweet potato greens were for oxen. But once the mothers learned about the practice, they would overcome the stigma because they would do anything for their children. So education about the practice ended up reducing malnourishment by 2/3rds in the country. No expensive food drops, no dependencies, no foods like powdered milk that African and Asian children often have trouble digesting.
US charities are not very good at (in my opinion) determining real need. It seems many want to go in campaign style and make things "right". Where "right" is defined as what they want for the community. So often, it was bags of "food stuff". What I liked about the STC plan was the sustainability. It improved the quality of life without making the people dependent on charities for long periods of time. And when STC leaves, the people can teach others.
Great idea, and it would probably work in some other countries. In most places in the US, it would look nice for about two days, and then will be tagged and smell like urine. Has the US has ever had a successful public housing project?