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“Change a life. Change your own” : child sponsorship, the discourse of development, and the production… Ove, Peter 2013

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“CHANGE A LIFE. CHANGE YOUR OWN”: CHILD SPONSORSHIP, THE DISCOURSE OF DEVELOPMENT, AND THE PRODUCTION OF ETHICAL SUBJECTS by Peter Ove  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY  in  THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Sociology)  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver)  April 2013  © Peter Ove, 2013  Abstract  This project explores the practice of child sponsorship and its role in helping construct ethical subjectivities in the North. Employed by organizations like World Vision and Plan International, child sponsorship is one of the most prominent and successful fundraising techniques for development efforts in the global South. Child sponsorship is more than an effective marketing tool, however; it is a powerful apparatus for the conveyance of representations about the global South, the North, and the relationship between the two. Using a discourse analytic approach, this project examines Canadian sponsorship programs, the advertising they produce, and sponsors they attract. This analysis addresses not only the representations contained within sponsorship promotional material but also the contexts in which this material is produced, interpreted, and acted upon. Drawing on in-depth interviews with 31 child sponsors and 18 sponsorship staff, this research explores how sponsorship programs and sponsors are represented – and represent themselves – as trying to “make a difference” in the world, and how these representations relate to contemporary understandings of poverty and development. In the end, it is argued that the success of child sponsorship is not related as much to the way it focuses on the needs of poor children as it is to the way it constructs a vision of ethical action in the work of international development that coincides with the personal development of Northern sponsors, the “natural” bio-psychological development of Southern children, and the organizational development of sponsorship programs. In other words, child sponsorship and its advertizing (re)positions what it means to live ethically  ii  in an unequal and unjust world. Through child sponsorship, the desires to become better people(s), secure appropriate childhoods, and raise lots of money end up taking priority over the goal of living together well on a global scale.  iii  Preface  This research was reviewed by the University of British Columbia’s Behavioural Research Ethics Board. The Ethics Certificate number is H07-01145.  iv  Table of Contents  Abstract .............................................................................................................................. ii Preface ............................................................................................................................... iv Table of Contents .............................................................................................................. v Acknowledgements ........................................................................................................ viii Dedication ......................................................................................................................... ix Chapter One: Introduction .............................................................................................. 1 Studying child sponsorship .......................................................................................... 5 Developmentality and the (trans)formation of the sponsor ....................................... 10 The discourse of development ................................................................................... 15 The problem with child sponsorship ......................................................................... 26 Methodology: From critical cultural studies to discourse analysis ........................... 28 A note on terminology ............................................................................................... 46 Chapter Two: The Developmentality of Child Sponsorship ....................................... 51 Histories of child sponsorship ................................................................................... 56 Contexts of child sponsorship.................................................................................... 70 Child sponsorship in the context of (neo)liberalism .................................................. 75 Governmentality and the Analytics of Development ................................................ 79 Global governmentalities ........................................................................................... 92 From governmentality to developmentality .............................................................. 97 Chapter Three: Organizational Development within Development Organizations 113 The problematization of child sponsorship ............................................................. 118 Child sponsorship as a fundraising tool ................................................................... 124 Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: International divisions ...................................... 128 Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: National divisions............................................. 137 Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: The value of misrecognition............................. 148 The discourse of development revisited .................................................................. 154  v  The developmentality of child sponsorship programs ............................................. 160 Conclusion: Powerless to “change the conversation”… ......................................... 164 Chapter Four: Consuming the Child Imaginary ....................................................... 168 Typical ads and typical critiques ............................................................................. 174 “…little more than props” ....................................................................................... 182 Generic representations for formulaic advertising .................................................. 186 From the social construction of “black” children to the ethical constitution of “white” sponsors ................................................................................................................... 193 Conclusion: Selling the sponsorship experience ..................................................... 197 Chapter Five: “Change a life. Change your own.” .................................................... 200 Meetings whose needs? ........................................................................................... 205 Perceptions of child sponsorship ............................................................................. 212 Wanting to “make a difference” .............................................................................. 220 The rewards of sponsorship ..................................................................................... 226 Questioning sponsorship organizations ................................................................... 232 Themes: Poverty in the global South ....................................................................... 234 Themes: Race and Nation ........................................................................................ 240 Themes: Religion ..................................................................................................... 244 Conclusion: The satisfaction of sponsor needs........................................................ 249 Chapter Six: Conclusions ............................................................................................. 255 The problem of child sponsorship revisited ............................................................ 257 A future for child sponsorship? ............................................................................... 260 A future for child sponsorship research? ................................................................. 266 A future for developmentality? ................................................................................ 269 Works Cited ................................................................................................................... 276 Appendix A: List of sponsorship promotional material contained in sample ......... 295 Appendix B: Staff Interview Schedule ........................................................................ 297 Appendix C: Sponsor Interview Schedule .................................................................. 298 Appendix D: Sample Recruitment Letter ................................................................... 299  vi  Appendix E: List of Staff Participants ........................................................................ 301 Appendix F: Sample Recruitment Items .................................................................... 302 Appendix G: List of Sponsor Participants.................................................................. 303  vii  Acknowledgements  This dissertation could not have been completed without the guidance, patience and support of many individuals. I would like to thank the faculty, staff, and my fellow students at UBC’s Department of Sociology for the help they provided along the way. In particular, I would like to thank my committee members, Drs. Thomas Kemple, Renisa Mawani, and Sunera Tobani, for their insightful comments. This dissertation has undoubtedly benefited from their wealth of experience, and any faults that remain are mine alone. I owe a special debt of gratitude to my supervisor, Dr. Dawn Currie, for all the knowledgeable feedback, helpful advice, and personal encouragement that she provided throughout this project. I am also grateful to my family for seeing me through this process. Finally, I would like to thank all the participants who made this research possible through the generous gift of their time.  This dissertation was completed with financial assistance from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.  viii  Dedication  For my wife and sons, who are my life.  ix  Chapter One: Introduction  In May 1995, Lisa Anderson began sponsoring a 12 year-old Malian girl named Korotoumou Kone through the American branch of Save the Children. Lisa sent the organization US $20 a month in return for a picture of Korotoumou and assurances that the sponsorship would help “change her life and make it better” (Anderson, 1998b: 1). However, when Lisa went to visit her sponsored child two years later, she found out that Korotoumou had died shortly after the sponsorship began. She had been struck by lightning while working in a rice patty. Although the local representatives of Save the Children had been informed of the incident, Lisa never received any information about Korotoumou’s death. What she did receive, after her visit, was a letter of apology from Save the Children’s vice president of international programs and a check refunding the $480 that she had contributed. As sad as it is, the sensational circumstances around Korotoumou’s death turned out to be beneficial for Lisa, who is a journalist with the Chicago Tribune. At the time, she was one of a number of reporters and editors from the Tribune working on a “Special Report” on child sponsorship. Child sponsorship is a fundraising technique primarily used by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that specialize in issues of international development and children’s welfare. Ostensibly, child sponsorship works by pairing poor children in the South with donors in the North. These sponsors contribute approximately a dollar a day in order to support development projects in their sponsored child’s community. The Tribune report, indelicately titled “The Miracle Merchants: The Myths of Child Sponsorship,” was undertaken to examine the practices of child sponsorship  1  agencies in order to determine the accuracy of their advertising and the effectiveness of their intervention. Four organizations were included in the Chicago Tribune report: Save the Children USA, Childreach (also known as Plan USA), Children International, and Christian Children’s Fund.1 Over a two year period, twelve children were sponsored by reporters from the Tribune, and then without the sponsorship agencies’ knowledge, these reporters set out to find their sponsored children and assess the impact of their contributions. The results of this “inquiry” cover almost 30 pages and appear in two separate weekend editions in March of 1998. Throughout the report, child sponsorship organizations are accused of commonly misrepresenting the state of sponsored children and the benefits they receive through sponsorship. They are also criticized for having overly expensive and bureaucratic administrations that allowed children to fall through the cracks. At a more fundamental level, sponsorship agencies are charged with duping Northern donors into a relationship that is largely a “marketing myth” (Anderson, 1998a: 1). On the first day of the report’s publication, Korotoumou’s disembodied and washed-out face appears on the front page of the paper beside the bolded heading “Relentless campaigns of hollow promises”. Her sad eyes accompany the reader through the introduction of the inquiry. The story of her death – and of Lisa’s ensuing search to find out what went wrong with Save the Children’s Mali operations – occupies the next four pages. Another full page is dedicated to the results of a follow-up investigation conducted by Save the Children that found an additional 22 cases in which donors had been sponsoring children who had died. In one of these cases, an American family  1  World Vision USA, the largest American NGO offering child sponsorship, is strangely absent from this list.  2  discovered that they had still been receiving letters from their sponsored child even though he had been dead nearly three years. Apparently, the letters were written by a member of the organization’s local staff. According to the Tribune, this case illustrates how “donors can be betrayed by the sponsorship system” (Dellios and Anderson, 1998: 6). Taking up more than a third of the first set of articles, these stories of death and “betrayal” not only provide a compelling lead-in to the Tribune report but also offer a glimpse at some of the worst organizational problems associated with child sponsorship. Both the tone of these stories and the results of the follow-up investigation, which ended in several local staff being “reprimanded”, draw attention to a supposedly shocking problem with child sponsorship. As in many critiques of child sponsorship (e.g., Hancock, 1989: 16, Maren, 1997: 136), the problem is presented as an appalling lack of efficacy, transparency, and oversight on the part of sponsorship agencies. Whether wilfully negligent or not, these organizations are depicted as failing to live up to their responsibilities to sponsored children and to sponsors. In placing the blame squarely at the figurative feet of the sponsorship agencies, however, these articles not only describe the problem of child sponsorship as one of organizational ineptitude, but they also infer a predominantly administrative solution. The clear message from the sad tale of Korotoumou and her counterparts is that, in order to “fix” child sponsorship, these organizations need to improve their “development” practices in the “South” and their accountability in the “North”2 (see the section “A note on terminology” for a discussion of the use of scare quotes and the terms North / South).  2  The terms North and South refer to what are sometimes called “developed” and “developing” countries respectively.  3  The fact that Lisa and others had not been informed about the deaths of their sponsored children is a dramatic illustration of the potential problems with child sponsorship, but the Tribune’s focus on sensational examples of organizational negligence avoids many interesting and challenging questions. While it is important that sponsorship agencies are held accountable for their actions, seeing the central problem and solution of child sponsorship as chiefly administrative neglects the influence of broader social, cultural, political, and economic contexts on the past and present practice of sponsorship. For example, knowing that some organizations have not provided the advertised benefits to each and every sponsored child does not tell us what it is about child sponsorship that has made it – and continues to make it – so remarkably successful in attracting donors. Furthermore, knowing that some donors have been misled, intentionally or not, does not help us to understand how child sponsorship fits into either the contemporary development industry or the current politico-economic climate of neoliberal globalization. Addressing issues like these involves looking beyond the faults of sponsorship agencies, although these cannot be ignored, to the ways in which child sponsorship is marketed by organizations, and perceived by sponsors, as a reasonable response to Southern “underdevelopment”. That is to say, instead of only exploring the misconduct of child sponsorship organizations, it becomes necessary to examine how the problem of development is constructed such that child sponsorship is seen to be a rational and ethical solution. In shifting the critical lens from the problem of sponsorship organizations to the problem of development, the results (or lack thereof) of specific sponsorship programs become less important than the way that the practice of child sponsorship reveals how  4  individuals and institutions think about development and act in its name. Such an emphasis on the relationship between child sponsorship and what is commonly called the discourse of development3 makes it easier to formulate a critique of sponsorship that not only comments on organizational difficulties but also addresses the enormous historical and contemporary complicity of Northern societies, governments, and businesses in the current state of global poverty and inequality. This move toward a more general critique of child sponsorship and its relationship to contemporary development thought and practice can then help us make sense of the appeal of child sponsorship without tired references to the overuse of emotion-laden advertisements and the guilt they supposedly foster.  Studying child sponsorship The present research project emerges out of these concerns to better understand the relationship between the practice of child sponsorship and the broader material and discursive contexts of international development. Rather than emphasize extraordinary examples of problems with child sponsorship, this study analyzes the everyday activities of sponsorship and how they are ordered, negotiated, and rationalized by those involved. It is grounded in a desire to shed light on how particular ideas about development are produced and reproduced at organizational and individual levels and in a recognition of the importance of child sponsorship and its associated representations to the (re)production of these ideas. Consequently, the aim of this study is to explore child  3  The “development discourse” or “discourse of development” has become a common phrase in the critical literature on development. Principally (if a bit simplistically), it refers to the way that relations of power define the “appropriate and legitimate ways of practicing development as well as speaking and thinking about it” (Grillo, 1997: 12). See below for more explanation.  5  sponsorship both as a prominent feature of the contemporary development industry and as a significant facet of mainstream development discourse. In other words, this study examines child sponsorship not only as a successful fundraising tool but also – and more importantly – as an influential component of identity formation in the North. A focus on what happens in the North may seem counterintuitive, but it fits well with the contemporary nature of child sponsorship. Most of what goes on nowadays in relation to sponsorship is more about opening Northern wallets than feeding Southern bellies. Basically, there is an underappreciated but substantial divide between how sponsorship programs raise money in the North and spend it in the South, which is one of the reasons that the Tribune journalists referred to it as a “marketing myth” (Anderson, 1998a: 1) (see Chapter Two for more discussion on this point). Although a direct social and financial relationship between sponsor and child can be inferred from sponsorship advertising, this is not often the case. With most sponsorship agencies, money is pooled at the national level and sent in bulk to “partner” agencies or local affiliates to be spent on community and regional level projects. There are no guarantees that these projects, funded by sponsorship dollars, will meet the specific needs of the children being sponsored. On a related note, the content of letters and reports coming from sponsored children, their families, or local field offices is often generic and superficial. Although it is possible for meaningful relationships between sponsors and sponsored children to exist, these seem to be a rarity and are not essential to the process. These features indicate that child sponsorship is better understood as an elaborate fundraising technique than as a comprehensive development strategy (see Chapter Three for more details regarding the  6  argument that child sponsorship is principally oriented towards raising funds from sponsors). As a fundraising technique, child sponsorship is remarkably successful. In fact, it is one of the most lucrative fundraising tools in terms of private donations for development assistance in the South (Smillie, 1995: 136). It is used by a bewildering array of both “faith-based” and secular NGOs, the largest of which have annual revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, the international networks Plan International and the ChildFund Alliance reported revenues of around US $600 million in 2011 (ChildFund Alliance, 2012; Plan International, 2012). World Vision, the world’s largest relief and development network that offers child sponsorship, had a worldwide revenue of about US $2.8 billion in 2011 (World Vision International, 2012). While a portion of these funds now comes from corporate donations and government grants, child sponsorship is often the central element of these organizations’ fundraising strategies. With millions of sponsors across the globe (World Vision Canada alone has more than 300,000 sponsors) giving upwards of CAN $450 per year, how could the situation be otherwise? We should not forget, however, that child sponsorship is more than a means to garner donations; it is also a powerful apparatus for the conveyance of representations of the South (and the North). It is no coincidence that images of destitute children are often the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of the global South. Years of sponsorship advertising have made the hollowed-out faces of “black” children an iconic symbol of poverty in the world and have arguably taken the place of colonial imagery in Northern popular culture (see the section “A note on terminology” for a discussion of the  7  use of the work “black” in this instance). The images in these ads are heartrending and the language seductive. The overwhelming use of these kinds of images has even resulted in many commentators arguing that people have become inured to them and now respond with apathy and even resistance, so-called compassion fatigue (e.g., Moeller, 1999). Others have argued that these images are one of the foremost factors perpetuating stereotypes about the South and its people (Smillie, 1995: 136) (see Chapter Four for more information and arguments on the role of representations of the South in sponsorship promotional material). Whatever the case, child sponsorship and its associated imagery are now a regular feature of the cultural landscape in the North. Sponsorship appeals can commonly be found in newspapers, magazines, and on the Internet, and sponsorship infomercials are a standard element of daytime television in North America. These marketing campaigns are independently publicized by the news media, churches, and other development organizations and are more often than not endorsed by high-profile spokespersons. Child sponsorship has now become so powerful and so commonplace that it has been described as “not only the most successful fundraising tool in the North, but the pre-eminent lens through which a very large and growing majority of northern citizens view the South” (Smillie, 1998: 30). This understanding of the enormous power of child sponsorship to influence thought and action in the North – irrespective of its actual contributions in the South – is central to the way this project is formulated. It is based on a vision of child sponsorship as first and foremost a fundraising technique with serious implications for the way Northerners view themselves in relation to the world. Such an emphasis on the subject positions of Northerners in relation to child sponsorship, and international development  8  in general, is not completely novel. There have been several critiques of sponsorship that address such things as the role of organization staff in sponsorship scandals, the emotional state of sponsors upon signing up, or the stereotypical portrayal of Southerners within sponsorship advertising (e.g. Hancock, 1989; Jefferess, 2002a; Maren, 1997). Unlike such analyses of child sponsorship, however, the present project focuses more generally on the way sponsorship is constructed as an ethical practice in contemporary society. Rather than analyse specific sponsorship ads for example, this project focuses on the broader discursive mechanisms through which sponsorship staff and sponsors (are able to) position themselves as doing something that is almost unquestionably good. An emphasis on the ethical nature of sponsorship, and its relationship to the subject positions of Northerners involved in sponsorship, fits well within the previouslymentioned focus on the relationship between sponsorship and the discourse of development. After all, what is understood by the term development not only has an enormous influence on the staff members who produce the promotional material of sponsorship programs and on the sponsors who interpret this material, but it is also inherently tied up in particular visions of progress and the values associated with those visions. Based on these analytical priorities, then, the present project sets out to examine why child sponsorship is commonly seen as a rational and ethical response to global poverty. Stated more precisely, this project is guided by the following overarching question: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the practice of child sponsorship such that it produces a situation in which sponsoring a child is seen as both a rational and ethical response to global poverty?  9  Within the scope of this question, the following chapters explore the relationship among Canadian sponsorship programs, the promotional material they produce, and sponsors they attract (Chapters Three, Four, and Five respectively). These three components of sponsorship represent specific sites within which different aspects of the discourse of development can be usefully seen to operate (see Methodology section below for a general discussion of the methodological perspectives that guided this project and a detailed account how the research was undertaken). Consequently, apart from an introduction to child sponsorship and a discussion of the theoretical framework used in this project (Chapter Two), these chapters form the core sections of this project. Drawing on in-depth interviews with sponsorship staff and sponsors, these chapters present a discourse analysis that highlights how sponsorship programs and sponsors are represented – and represent themselves – as trying to “make a difference” in the world, and how these representations relate to contemporary understandings of poverty and development. Accordingly, the theme that is used to tie together the various components of this project is that of the ethical (trans)formation of the sponsor.  Developmentality and the (trans)formation of the sponsor Representations of sponsored children and the South they symbolize are probably the most conspicuous feature of child sponsorship and its promotional material, and these representations make sponsorship a central site for the construction of Northern worldviews. More than this, however, sponsorship represents a significant force in the formation of Northern identities. Not only do representations of Southern “Others” play a formative role in the way Northerners view themselves (Levinas, 1969; Said, 1992), but  10  sponsorship advertising also places significant emphasis on the sponsors themselves and how they should think and feel about the act of sponsorship. As with many commercial products, sponsorship marketing is often more about the buyer and his or her (potential) lifestyle than about the object or service being sold. Although images of children are a necessary ingredient of sponsorship promotion, the narrative of child sponsorship often revolves around how the sponsor transforms both the life of the sponsored child and his or her own life in the process. This transformation is a major selling point of sponsorship advertising, and it is captured in the long-time World Vision slogan “Change a life. Change your own”. Through the “magic” of child sponsorship, individuals are not only transformed from simple donors into sponsors, but sponsors are also (supposedly) transformed into better people. The key to this transformation is that it occurs in an ethical realm largely removed from the respective lives of the sponsor and the child. Even if the sponsorship funds have no bearing on the well-being of the child (as in the case of Korotoumou) and even if the sponsor donates for less than altruistic reasons (as in the case of Lisa), the act of sponsorship itself is seen to be undeniably good. After all, it is almost impossible to dispute the ethical nature of helping support a child who is poor. Why else should it seem so appropriate that Lisa be offered a refund when her sponsorship was as conceivably “fraudulent” as the organization’s portrayal of Korotoumou’s life? This ethical quality of sponsorship is not only transformative but also formative; it helps constitute Northern subjects (or citizen-subjects) who are always already good.4 As part of a movement that  4  The term citizen-subjects is borrowed from Cruikshank (1999), who makes use of it to discuss a similar process. The rationale behind her use of this term, which could reasonably be applied here, stems from the common discursive imbrication of national and ethical aspirations. This worthwhile point, however, falls beyond the scope of this project as it is presently formulated, and so the term “subject” will be used instead.  11  sees people doing good by enjoying or improving themselves (as with marathon runs that help cure cancer and massive rock concerts that help save the environment), child sponsorship presents individuals with an almost instantaneous way of becoming better people – possibly better than they have otherwise made themselves. Because of the apparently miraculous capacity of their donations to forever alter some poor child’s life, sponsors are able to attain the status of an extraordinary person that is so desirable in modern Western culture. In this way, child sponsorship and its advertising help (re)position what it means to live ethically in an unequal and unjust world. The relationship between the representation of Southern Others and the production of ethical subjects in the North did not, of course, originate with child sponsorship. This relationship is rooted, at least in part, in the racialized interactions stemming from the colonial era and its civilizing mission. By focussing exclusively on the help provided to the child and the corresponding generosity of the donor, these historical relationships, which undergird the very categories of North and South, are elided. Even though the contemporary structure of the world is based on this legacy of imperialism and colonialism, the racialized aspects of these relationships are absent from many presentday discussions of child sponsorship. Consequently, rather than say that the ethical (trans)formation of the sponsor is wholly removed from the lives of sponsor and child, it is perhaps more appropriate to say that this (trans)formation is situated in a very particular manner such that it simultaneously draws on and negates the racialized relationships associated with these lives. Even though categories of race are too often (and paradoxically) invisible nowadays, they still maintain an organizing frame of reference for most international activities, including child sponsorship. Therefore,  12  processes of racialization – and the (neo)colonial relations that are supported by them – provide a powerful but largely unacknowledged context for the ethical (trans)formation of sponsors. In particular, it should be kept in mind that the construction of good (white) people(s) is predicated upon an historically oppressive association with helping poor (black) Others. In this way, the work of international development in general, and child sponsorship in particular, can never truly be separated from the perspective of “the white man’s burden”.5 By examining the way sponsors are (trans)formed through sponsorship into ethical subjects, it is possible to highlight the relationships among the structures and practices of sponsorship programs, the thoughts and actions of sponsors, and the representations of sponsorship that unite them. An appreciation for these relationships, in turn, helps clarify the connections between the practice of child sponsorship and a discourse of development that is historically constructed and indelibly racialized. In order to facilitate the analysis of this connection, this research employs a theoretical perspective labelled “developmentality”. A modified version of Michel Foucault’s (2003[1978]) concept of governmentality, developmentality is a portmanteau of “developmental rationality” or “development mentality” (see Chapter Two for a more in-depth discussion of both governmentality and developmentality). Developmentality primarily draws on Foucault’s later work on the ethics of the self, focusing on the way individuals constitute themselves as ethical subjects within a particular moral environment (see Foucault, 1990[1984]). In this light, developmentality draws attention to the way in which the various meanings or uses of the term development (such as international, personal, biological, even  5  For a discussion of the modern incarnations of Kipling’s well-known title, see William Easterly’s (2006) book on contemporary foreign aid.  13  organizational) articulate with each other in important and disturbing ways. The most obvious instance of this articulation is the organic metaphor underlying the concept of development, whereby the development of the individual human body – not to mention the evolution of the entire species – “naturally” progresses through time just as international (or economic) development is often seen as the unfolding of innate laws of human behaviour. Another aspect of this articulation is the way in which modern knowledges and practices of development have become increasingly centred on both the level of the population (state, community, etc.) and the level of the individual. An easy illustration of this trend can be seen in the “UN Declaration on the Right to Development”, which declares that the “right to development is an inalienable human right… which every human person and all peoples are entitled” and that states’ policies should “aim at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals” (United Nations General Assembly, 1986). As with all cases of such articulation, this understanding of the apparently inseparable relationship between individual and collective development must be seen as more than the natural expression of the meaning of development. Instead, it is a product of a “deep historical link” between a variety of movements associated with the expansion of liberal arts of government (Foucault, 2003[1978]: 243). The link between these movements, which include such things as an increasing emphasis on the theme of population and an increasing separation of the sphere of economics from social life, has resulted in a particular vision of what progress is and how it can be achieved. This vision of progress, in turn, has resulted in particular understandings of ethical action in contemporary society. Through this process, perceptions of what makes a person good  14  are tied to a specific pattern of relationships with others (or in this case Others) and, consequently, to broader fields of knowledge and power related to development (see Chapter Two for a more in-depth discussion of these issues). These broader fields of knowledge and power are often referred to in terms of the discourse of development.  The discourse of development Writing about international development in terms of discourses is a relatively new and specialized practice with the broader field of development studies (and the sociology of development in particular). It is largely a product of the so-called cultural turn in the social sciences that arguably began with the postmodern movement, but became solidified in what is commonly labelled poststructuralism. Jacques Derrida’s (1978) (in)famous paper, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences”, is often seen to herald the poststructural movement even though it was first presented at a 1966 conference in the United States on structuralism. In typical postmodern fashion, this paper critiques the traditionally rigid use of structures to explain social phenomenon as reliant on an imagined foundation that is not actually present. Poststructuralism, which is also now largely associated with the work of Foucault, represents this notion of a lack of any foundational structures with which to study the social world. Poststructuralism is associated with a variety of theoretical perspectives, including such things as the fragmentation of the self, the end of truth, the relationship between knowledge and power, and the importance of intertextuality. The influence of poststructuralism on both sociology and development studies has been profound, and while it is perhaps still more common to see “traditional” (structural) analyses of development and its difficulties,  15  there have been a host of recent works that employ a discursive approach to international development (e.g., Crush, 1995; Rist, 2002). What exactly does it mean, however, to discuss the discourse of development, and what does this discursive approach look like? Although there is little agreement on the meaning of the term discourse, it is generally used to indicate conversation or debate and, within linguistics, to encompass all verbal or written communication that is longer than a single statement and that has some degree of cohesiveness. Foucault’s notion of discourse is both broader and more specific than these conventional meanings, and it is inseparably related to his ideas about power, knowledge, truth, and subjectivity. For Foucault (2002[1969]), discourses are not only “words and things” but also “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (54). In other words, a discourse is not just a “groups of signs” and what they signify; it is also the “group of rules” that both determines the meaning of words and, crucially, the truth of statements in any given context (54). This feature of discourse as truth-practice comes from the relationship between knowledge and power, which is circular and inseparable. Foucault does not say that knowledge is power (a common and unfortunate misreading) but that the “production, regulation, distribution, circulation, and operation of statements” always occurs in a field of power relations (Foucault, 2003[1977]: 317). These relations of power are supported and extended, in turn, through the resulting configuration of knowledge. Because of this relationship, truth is not something external to discourse – something against which discursive elements can be measured. Instead, truth relies on discourse for its very production, and the resulting “‘regime of truth” has a subtle yet powerful influence on the way people understand the world and act within it. Consequently, discourses are both “an instrument and an effect of  16  power” relations, and as such, they are more than a linguistic component of social interaction (Foucault, 2003[1978]: 101). Not only are discourses specific to particular social formations, locations, and time periods, but they are also inseparably related to the multitude of everyday practices that define these situations. This understanding of discourse led Arturo Escobar (1995), one of the best known importers of Foucault`s work into the field of development studies, to focus on what he calls the “three axes” of development: the forms of knowledge that refer to it and through which it comes into being and is elaborated into objects, concepts, theories, and the like; the system of power that regulate its practice; and the forms of subjectivity fostered by this discourse, those through which people come to recognize themselves as developed or underdeveloped (10). In structuring his analysis around these “axes”, Escobar indicates what he means by the discourse of development and how he studied it. Although the theme of development can be seen as encompassing a wide range of elements – including such things as a particular conception of time and space, a particular way of representing ourselves and Others, and a particular regime of governance (Rojas, 2001) – Escobar (1995) stresses that to “understand development as discourse, one must look not at the elements themselves but at the system of relations established among them. It is this system that allows the systematic creation of objects, concepts, and strategies; it determines what can be thought and said” (40). An emphasis on the system of relations that coordinates thought and action around development is a shift away from the common practice of development studies, which centers on studying the economics of projects and policies in order to figure out best how to “unleash” the latent forces of development. Because of this emphasis, the discourse of development is best “characterized not by a unified object [a reified vision of what development is and how to achieve it] but by the formation of a 17  vast number of objects and strategies” (44).6 The discursive connections among these objects and strategies are so pervasive that it is almost “impossible to conceptualize social reality in other terms” (5). Wolfgang Sachs (2000) underscores this point when he writes that development can be understood as nothing less than “a secular salvation story”, which for fifty years “has been much more than just a socio-economic endeavour; it has been a perception which models reality, a myth which comforts societies, and a fantasy which unleashes passions” (7, 13). Like Escobar (1995), Sachs (1999) places the origins of international development – the concept as it is generally, albeit loosely, understood today – with Harry Truman’s 1949 inaugural address. This speech was not only the “starting-gun in the race for the South to catch up with the North”, but it was also a defining moment in the creation of an all-encompassing economic worldview – a particularly American worldview (4). With a few words, Truman conferred upon a majority of the world’s population the status of “underdeveloped” and thus fundamentally altered the semantic terrain of international politics. For this majority, Truman not only turned development into “a reminder of what they are not” but also imposed the principal goal of their lives: “to escape from the undignified condition called underdevelopment” (Esteva, 1992: 10, 7 emphasis in original). This is not to say that the concept of development did not exist prior to Truman’s “Point Four Program” or that the age of development heralded by this program had no connection to the colonial era that preceded it. As noted by Teodor 6  Because of this diversity with development discourse, some scholars have argued that there are multiple discourses of development and not just a single discourse (e.g., Grillo, 1997; Rojas, 2001). Escobar (1995) does mention that the elements of development discourse change but that these changes “always occur within the confines of the same discursive space” (42). Both of these positions have some merit, and in reality, the issue is one of semantics more than of theoretical disparity. For reasons of clarity, however, this project uses the term development discourse in the singular except when referring to different meanings of the term development and their associated discourses (as in international development versus biological development). See Chapter Two for more information.  18  Shanin (1997), the idea of progress inherent in development is a “major philosophical legacy left by the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries” (65). This idea resolved the apparent problem of cultural and material differences between societies by answering the questions: “What produced diversity? The different stages of development of different societies” and “What was social change? The necessary advance through the different social forms that existed” (67). This philosophical legacy, which became one of the central ordering principles of modern development, dictated the subsequent work of all politicians and social scientists. If societies could be easily placed on a track from less to more “advanced”, then almost all social quandaries could be reduced to one simple question – how do societies advance, or rather, how can we (advanced societies) help others (less-advanced societies) progress? Even though the concept of development owes a philosophical debt to Enlightenment thought, what happened in the Truman era represented a fundamental shift in the understanding of societal progress. No longer were the colonial objectives of “economic progress” and of elevating “natives to a higher level of civilization” two distinct areas; after World War II, these two areas collapsed into the all-encompassing concept of international development (Sachs, 2000: 5). The former distinction between an economic and a moral realm vanished, a sign of a conceptual shift. From now on, not only resources figured into the development formula, but people as well. Inversely, the moral concern for people was eclipsed by the economic concern for growth. This shift indicated that a new worldview had come to the fore: the degree of civilization in a country can be measured by its economic performance level. (5) This foregrounding of the economic arena turned economies into wholesale proxies for societies in which “the economy overshadows every other reality” and development specialists see “not a society that has an economy, but a society that is an economy” 19  (Sachs, 1999: 17). It also turned social life into a “technical problem” to be solved by these specialists; development was thus not a “cultural process” but “a system of more or less universally applicable technical interventions intended… to make societies fit a preexisting model that embodied the structures and functions of modernity” (Escobar, 1995: 44, 52). This sweeping emphasis on the economic aspect of progress is linked to the particular “problematization of poverty” that became pervasive at the time (44-45). Although relative deprivation has existed since pre-history, the phenomenon of mass poverty in Asia, Latin America, and Africa was “discovered” as if it were a novel condition the existence of which could suddenly not be tolerated. Poverty was thus “used to define whole peoples, not according to what they are and want to be, but according to what they lack and are expected to become” (Sachs, 1999: 9). This “globalization of poverty”, which homogenously constructed two-thirds of the world as poor, came with its own solution that was not only obvious but also unquestionable. “That the essential trait of the Third World was its poverty and that the solution was economic growth and development became self-evident, necessary, and universal truths” (Escobar, 1995: 24). While the discourse of development has come to be dominated by political and economic issues, particularly that of poverty, the importance of historical and sociocultural features within and around the discourse should not be overlooked. Truman may have succeeded in “freeing the economic sphere from the negative connotations it had accumulated for two centuries, delinking development from colonialism” (Esteva, 1992: 17), but we should not so easily dismiss the “important connection between the decline of the colonial order and the rise of development” (Escobar, 1995: 26). In fact, the entire discourse of development can be seen, in many ways, “as a response to challenges to  20  imperial power” (26). Consequently, despite many changes in the outward relationship between colonizer and colonized after independence, “there are very strong lines of continuity between colonial and development discourse and policy” (Biccum, 2005: 1006). Because of this continuity, many emerging countries in the South “reinterpreted the power gap” of the colonial order “as a development gap” and, in many “developed” countries, “economic disdain has thus taken the place of colonial contempt” (Sachs, 2000: 8; 1999: 9). Even though many of the overt manifestations of colonial power have been whitewashed out of prevailing development narratives, Escobar (1995) stresses the foundational influence of “patriarchy and ethnocentrism” on the configuration of the development discourse (43). Through this influence, “[f]orms of power in terms of class, gender, race, and nationality7 thus found their way into development theory and practice. The former do not determine the latter in a direct causal relation; rather they are development discourse’s formative elements” (43). These “forms of power” link development to imperialism not as much through equivalent discriminatory practices – although this does happen – but through their respective “regimes of representation” (Escobar, 1995: 10). Representations are the fundamental building blocks of discourses, and because of the relationship between power and knowledge, they are often organized into those that are accepted / acceptable and those that are unaccepted / unacceptable. The resulting exclusionary effects, which help maintain the historical divisions among perceived races among other things, are reproduced despite changes of wording or character between the discourses. In this way, critiques of international development  7  Religion might also be added to this list.  21  draw on, and add to, discussions of colonial exercises of power and their relationship to the classification of individuals and populations. In theorising the transition from colonial orders to regimes of development, it is important to remember not only that many developmental categories are the result of a historical legacy of colonialism but also that these categories are presently located within ongoing imperial relationships. What is commonly referred to as the “new imperialism” (for example, see Harvey, 2003) describes the discursive and structural relationships that principally represent the expansion of American dominance across the globe and its consequences for people(s) in the South. These relationships include overt elements, such as the Truman Doctrine or The Project for a New American Century, and less straightforward aspects, such as the Chicago Boys or the so-called Washington Consensus. The contemporary “work” of international development was formulated within, and cannot now be separated from, this context. While the relationship between imperial motivations and development practices have a plethora of effects on the ground in the South, they have an equally important influence on perceptions in the North. Just as the discourses surrounding “old imperialism” and “the Orient” had more to do with British, French, and American worldviews than with the actual lives of “Orientals” (Said, 1979), the discourse of development tells us as much about the way Northerners envision people in the South as about the vast complexity of what occurs around the world on a day-to-day basis. Many scholars writing about imperialism and development in terms of discourse have focused on the impact in the South, but we should not forget that equivalent discursive processes take place in the North. Apart from being the site where much of the world’s “development knowledge” is constructed (or at  22  least institutionalized and legitimized), the North is also a place where social and cultural perspectives on development and so-called developing peoples are (re)produced (see Chouliaraki, 2006; Hall, 1992; Jefferess, 2002a; Lutz and Collins, 1993; Moeller, 1999; Nederveen Pieterse, 1992; Smith and Yanacopulos, 2004). Whether through news media, promotional material from development-oriented charities, documentaries and feature films, magazines such as National Geographic, governmental development agencies, or other sources, individuals in the North are exposed to a variety of ideas and values regarding international development and the people who are seen to be principally in need of it. Besides having to interpret these representations of the world and react to them psychologically, they are often called on to respond to them externally through personal discussion, charitable donation, and political action. These responses, together with the activities of policy-makers, academics, activists, and NGO staff, shape the perspectives that determine the political and economic practices of the development industry. As Northerners interpret and respond to representations of the South, (re)producing particular perspectives of themselves and other in the process, they are commonly called on to reference historically-rooted ideas of race. The racial classifications that figured so prominently in colonial discourse may have become muted or transformed – now commonly taking the guise of ethnic categories rather than biological ones (Barker, 1981) – but their legacy is starkly evident in the discourse of development. After all, it is no coincidence that the very division of North and South that underpins the logic of international development reflects a global configuration that is equally rooted in perceived racial (and now cultural) difference as it is economic difference. Emerging out of historical practices of colonialism and set with contemporary practices of imperialism,  23  processes of racialization lie at the heart of the way Northern interventions in the South – in the name of development or humanitarianism – are rationalized (for example, see Razack, 2004). Stated in another way, it should not be forgotten that the discourse of development is, at its heart, a racialized discourse, one that not only helps structure Northern understandings of Southerners and their problems but also helps constitute Northern people(s) as “legitimately” different. Development occupies the centre of “an incredibly powerful semantic constellation” (Esteva, 1992: 8), and the description of development as a discourse gives the impression that it is a totalizing and unified force acting on individuals in the North and the South. The idea of development does have an enormous influence on the way people perceive of and act in the world, but it is neither totalizing nor unified. “Within development there is and has always been a multiplicity of voices… even if some are more powerful than others” (Grillo, 1997: 22). Different understandings of development have affected the field as much as different conceptions of how to achieve it. These differences are constantly being negotiated within the discourse, making development a contested terrain both semantically and politically. These differences have been at the heart of paradigm changes within development thought over the last sixty years, and have been the source of many “alternative” movements in development policy and practice. According to Escobar (1995), though, the overarching discursive formation has been quite stable with so-called development alternatives never quite reaching the scale of true alternatives to development. Escobar and the other scholars referenced in the section above are, for better or worse, often lumped together as espousing a “postdevelopment” perspective. Academics  24  writing from this perspective not only treat development as a discourse but also often advocate for the removal of the term development from use. They see the field of international development as largely, if not completely, bankrupt and argue for a reinterpretation of the idea of progress. A single quote by Wolfgang Sachs (1999) neatly summarizes much of the postdevelopment platform: the idea of development stands today like a ruin in the intellectual landscape, its shadows obscuring our vision. It is high time we tackled the archaeology of this towering conceit, that we uncovered its foundations to see it for what it is: the outdated monument to an immodest era (3). Many of the critiques levelled by postdevelopment scholars are thought-provoking, especially the concern with very notion of development to describe the differences between the North and the South, and the present project largely follows a postdevelopment perspective. After all, the concept of developmentality used in this project (and discussed in depth in the latter half of Chapter Two) directly addresses the significance of the idea of development and its relationship to global poverty and inequality. However, we must also be wary of characterizing all that goes on under the rubric of development as homogenous or inescapable or universally negative. The view of development as a (bankrupt) discourse has tended, albeit for some good reasons, to lead down that road (see the section “A note on terminology” for a discussion of the continuing use of the term development). Even though it is slightly out of context here, a well-known quote by Foucault (2003[1983]) provides some perspective on this issue: “My point is not that everything is bad, but that everything is dangerous, which is not exactly the same as bad. If everything is dangerous, then we always have something to do. So my position leads not to apathy but to a hyper- and pessimistic activism” (104). The discourse of development is dangerous, but this danger should not lead us to 25  oversimplify the issues involved. Instead, it should make us all the more attentive to complexity and all the more cautious with our conclusions.  The problem with child sponsorship The analysis presented in this study privileges this view of development as discourse without claiming to map the entirety of its breadth or influence in the North. No attempt is made, consequently, to represent all aspects of development discourse, which spans an astounding range of cultural, technical, and policy-oriented texts. The goal here is to not to expose the “real” and sordid underbelly of development any more than it is to reveal the negligence of particular sponsorship agencies. Consequently, there is neither the intention to provide a comprehensive explanation around the practice of child sponsorship or its advertising nor the desire to produce a list of concrete recommendations as to how it could be improved. Instead, this project is designed to chart some specific discursive mechanisms that link some mainstream descriptions and strategies of development to the organizations, individuals, and representations involved in child sponsorship fundraising. The objective of this process, given the qualitative nature of this study, is simply to highlight the fact that there is something noteworthy happening at the intersection between the way sponsorship is described and development is imagined – something that helps order the ethical landscape in the North and helps rationalize a practice whose value is questionable at best. Child sponsorship is problematic, but it is fraught with difficulty not simply because of what it might fail to do (help Southern children) but above all because of what it is actually designed to do (raise money from Northerners). The way in which child  26  sponsorship accomplishes this fundraising task, and its remarkable success in doing so, tells us something not only about development and its role in the world but also about ethical frames of reference within contemporary liberal societies. As a fundraising strategy, child sponsorship is at least as much about satisfying the needs of Northern sponsors as it is about addressing the needs of Southern children (something sadly reminiscent of the development industry at large). It is structured around providing positive recurring feedback for donors; giving them a feel-good experience in exchange for their money (Jefferess, 2002a). This aim is perfectly understandable from a marketing perspective, and it is one of the crucial elements that make sponsorship so successful. This orientation of child sponsorship promotion, however, depends upon and ultimately reinforces a particular vision of what it means to do (or be) good in response to problems of global poverty and inequality. More than a fleeting feeling of compassionate warmth, child sponsorship offers (white) sponsors a way to become better people – a way to develop themselves as individuals while they help develop (black) Others. Likewise, child sponsorship offers NGOs the opportunity to become better development organizations through being more successful fundraising organizations. The discursive link between personal development, organizational development, and international development is crucial in creating the space necessary to position sponsors and sponsorship organizations as “doing good” (development work) through the act of “becoming better” (people/organizations). This link is not simply a matter of overlapping meanings of development, however. It is rooted in very specific historical relationships that have been shaped and legitimized by particular ideologies and practices, most notably those of liberalism and colonialism.  27  The problem with this articulation of international development goals with organizational and personal aspirations is that, in many ways, child sponsorship ceases to be (if it ever was) a means to an end and becomes an end in itself – an ethical tautology facilitated by a particular understanding of development. Far from being an abuse of prevailing ethical principles, this emphasis on doing good in the world as a by-product of personal and organizational development is a fundamental aspect of modern liberal thought and a natural extension of colonial relations. In this way, child sponsorship can be better understood as a constituent factor in the reproduction of current relations of knowledge and power in the world – and the value structures that support these relations – than as a method for transforming the status quo.  Methodology: From critical cultural studies to discourse analysis The project uses a discourse analytic approach to study mainstream understandings of development and their relationship to the everyday practices of child sponsorship and to the ethical subjectivities of Northerners. There is little consistency, however, in the understanding or use of discourse analysis across the social sciences (Brown and Yule, 1983; Graham, 2011; 2002; Mason, 2002). Beyond a general emphasis on studying “a particular way of talking about and understanding the world”, discourse analyses can vary widely in both form and function (Joergensen and Phillips, 2002: 1). Part of this variety can be attributed to the different meanings of the term discourse. As discussed above with reference to the discourse of development, there is a general distinction between discourse (an abstract noun) as referring simply to written or verbal communication that represents social practices and discourse(s) (a count noun) as  28  referring to specific bundles of representations that are “inherently positioned” (Fairclough, 2001). This division is also sometimes referred to by discussing small “d” discourse and big “D” Discourses, where the former is “language-in use” and the latter “language plus ‘other stuff’” (Gee, 2005: 26). As Mason (2002) explains, while discourse analysis represents “an analysis of the ways in which discourses [abstract noun or small “d” discourse] – which can be read in texts and talk – constitute the social world… For some, especially in the Foucauldian tradition, there is an interest in discursive practices [count noun of big “D” Discourses] which blend together text, talk and practice” (57, emphasis added). This breakdown is somewhat too simplistic as most uses of discourse analysis actually operate by looking at the relationship between these two different meanings of discourse; that is, discourse analysis, and especially “critical” discourse analysis, most often focuses on how discourse produces, and is in turn reproduced, by Discourses (Gee, 2005). However, this distinction is useful to highlight how some studies using discourse analysis tend to focus more on the specific linguistic features of communication and other tend to focus more on the general relationships between everyday action (especially communication) and particular constellations of knowledge and power (Graham, 2011). Many studies that emphasize the latter approach draw on a Foucauldian understanding of what discourses are and how to study them. For Foucault (2002[1969]), discourses are not only “words and things” but also “practices that systematically form the objects of which they speak” (54). This means that a discourse is not just a “groups of signs” and what they signify; it is also the “group of rules” that both determines the meaning of words and, crucially, the truth of statements in any given context (54). According to Foucault (Foucault, 1990[1978]: 100), then, the  29  study of discourse(s) should be less concerned with revealing the “true” significance of communicative acts and more concerned with understanding how truth is produced through the strategic use of discursive elements within particular contexts. This emphasis on strategy is important because it indicates the active nature of the interface between people and discourses, which both shape the subjectivities of individuals and are themselves shaped by these individuals. In the end, however, the goal of discourse analysis is simply to highlight how certain areas of life, and the practices with which they are associated, become normalized through the use of language and the production of knowledge. While a Foucauldian-style discourse analysis goes beyond the content of cultural texts to the rules that determine their legitimacy and order their use, it is not an attempt to expose these rules as much as an attempt to piece together the relationship between everyday practices and the constellations of knowledge and power in which they are embedded. This objective with discourse analysis is evident in the way he formulates his own project in The History of Sexuality, where he writes that the questions to be addressed are: In a specific type of discourse on sex, in a specific form of exhortation of truth, appearing historically and in specific places (around the child’s body, apropos of women’s sex, in connection with practices of birth, and so on), what were the most immediate, the most local power relations at work? How did they make possible these kinds of discourses, and conversely, how were these discourses used to support power relations? How was the action of these power relations modified by their very exercise, entailing a strengthening of some terms and a weakening of others, with effects of resistance and counterinvestments, so that there has never existed one type of stable subjection, given once and for all? How were these power relations linked to one another according to the logic of a great strategy, which in retrospect takes on the aspect of a unitary and voluntarist politics of sex (97)?  30  From this brief description, it is important to appreciate not only Foucault’s emphasis on the relationship between power and discourse but also his particular understanding of “subjection”. Here, subjection is not simply a dominating force that removes the agency from individuals; it is a process of subject-formation in which individuals participate. In combining the idea of subjectification with subjugation, he draws attention to the inherent productivity of power (see Foucault, 2003[1982a]). Because power produces as well as constrains, processes of subjection are always incomplete and unstable. These processes occur within a network of power relations that features both the “voluntary” action and the strategic limitation of individuals. The constitution of subjects who are free to act, but whose possible field of action is bounded, is at once the most liberating and the most insidious aspect of modern forms of power. It is simultaneously liberating and insidious because it connects that which allows for change to that which reproduces particular relations of power and knowledge. In addition to highlighting the context-specific association between discourses and power relations, probing the way in which people are constituted as (free) subjects through discourse is a central objective of Foucauldian discourse analysis. Given these loose objectives, researchers who follow Foucault “do not speak of their research ‘findings’. They tend to use less emphatic language, recognizing that truth is contingent upon the subjectivity of the reader and the fickleness of language” (Graham, 2010: 666). This method seems a little haphazard on the surface as researchers using this approach try to preserve some of the complexity of social world within their analyses. Consequently, many Foucault-inspired analyses “shy away from prescribing method, for no matter how standardized the process, the analysis of language by different people will  31  seldom yield the same result” (666). The value in such a methodological perspective, then, does not lie in the truths that are uncovered or even in the relationships that are brought to light, but rather in the ability of the reader to view things in a new light such that what was previously seen to be natural or value-free is now seen to be problematic and value-laden. The lack of more “standardized” methodological procedures within Foucauldian discourse analysis, then, is “not seen as problematic for the aim of poststructural analysis is not to establish the final ‘truth’ but to question the intelligibility of truth/s we have come to take for granted” (666). Gee (2005) summarizes this aspect of discourse analysis by stating that the “goal of discourse analysis is to render even Discourses with which we are familiar ‘strange,’ so that even if we ourselves are members of these Discourses we can see consciously (maybe for the first time) how much effort goes into making them work and, indeed, seem normal, even ‘right,’ to their members” (102). In light of this simple but far-reaching goal, the present project looks at the way sponsorship organizations and sponsors understand and position their activities within the broader contexts of international development and charitable donation. Following the Foucauldian interpretation of discourse explained above, this study attempts to trace some of the important relationships between perceptions of development and practices of child sponsorship. The objective of this analysis is to explore the way mainstream understandings of development are taken up by sponsorship agencies and sponsors to help construct a vision of the purpose and ethical value of child sponsorship. This objective is implicit in the overarching research question that guides this project: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the practice of child sponsorship such that it produces a situation in which sponsoring a child is seen as both a rational and ethical response to global poverty? In order to address this question 32  empirically, a critical cultural studies perspective was initially adopted to break this project into manageable components. As outlined by Kellner (1995), the project of critical cultural studies insists that culture must be studied within the social relations and system through which culture is produced and consumed, and that thus study of culture is intimately bound up with the study of society, politics, and economics. Cultural studies shows how media culture articulates the dominant values, political ideologies, and social developments and novelties of the era (6). Consequently, Kellner advocates for a “three-fold project” that analyzes the production and political economy of cultural texts, the content or message of these texts, and their reception and effects (7). Each of these areas is necessary to fully understand the “life” of cultural products and to avoid misinterpretation by too narrowly focusing on a single aspect (such as has arguably been the case with content analysis). This reasoning stems from the British cultural studies tradition, which locates meaning not in the text itself but in the mediated interaction between the text producer and the text consumer (Hall, 1980). Consequently, the present project set out specifically to study the representations within sponsorship promotional material through examining the areas of production, message, and reception (of sponsorship promotional material) that loosely corresponded to three components of child sponsorship in the North: sponsorship programs, sponsorship advertising, and sponsors. While a critical cultural studies perspective initially guided the design of this project, the emphasis shifted during the course of the research as is common when using qualitative methodologies (Mason, 2002: 25). As the theoretical framework for the project developed alongside the empirical component, the analysis took on a different dimension than a relatively straightforward investigation of the representations in 33  sponsorship promotional literature. Consequently, while the empirical division into the three components of sponsorship remains prominent in this project (and is still reflected in the structure of the chapters), the analytical focus on production, message, and reception has largely been replaced by an emphasis on processes of subjectification at each of these sites within the practice of child sponsorship in Canada. While less precise than a conventional study of representations within mass-mediated content, an emphasis on processes of subjectification allows for an analysis of child sponsorship that is broader in scope and that fits better within the framework of discourse analysis. Consequently, rather than envisioning the components of sponsorship as a series of progressive phases of meaning-making (from production to reception) that convey particular representations of poverty and development, they are studied as unique sites of identity formation that are embedded in a broader field of discourse that links them together. Set within the historical and contemporary contexts of child sponsorship (Chapter Two), each of these central components – sponsorship programs (Chapter Three), sponsorship promotional material (Chapter Four), and sponsors (Chapter Five) – is analyzed in relation to the discourse of development. Drawing on the theoretical framework of developmentality (Chapter Two), these analyses link the conventional discourse of (international) development to processes of subjectification by examining the articulation between various iterations of the meaning of development. Specifically, sponsorship programs are discussed with reference to the connections between the perspectives and practices of international development and those of organizational development. Sponsorship promotional material is discussed with reference to the discourse surrounding child development, and the perspective of sponsors is discussed  34  with reference to the discourse of personal development. The analysis of each of these components is supported by data generated8 through in-depth interviews with sponsorship staff and sponsors as well as through a sample of sponsorship promotional material. More information about the methods used in generating the data for the analysis of these components is located below. Chapter Three examines the organizational context of child sponsorship with an emphasis on the production of promotional material and its relationship to organizational development. The analysis in this chapter is guided by the following question: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the way sponsorship staff perceive and carry out their work? Data for this analysis were primarily generated from personal interviews with staff members of Canadian sponsorship programs. A total of 18 people were interviewed for this purpose in the summer of 2007 (see Appendix E for a list of these participants). Of these individuals, 14 are staff members of Canadian child sponsorship programs who, at the time, worked directly with the production of promotional material or supervised this work. Two are former staff members of child sponsorship programs. The remaining two are individuals who, at the time, worked in development NGOs not currently offering child sponsorship. Interviews with the 14 current sponsorship staff members were conducted in order to shed light on the daily activities of child sponsorship programs in Canada, with a particular emphasis on the way sponsors are recruited and retained. More specifically, these interviews were used as a basis for analyzing the connections between personal or 8  The term “data generation” is borrowed from Jennifer Mason (2002). Contrary to the more traditional use of “data gathering”, it emphasizes the active construction of data by the researcher rather than the “passive” acquisition of information that is somehow out there for the researcher to discover. This terminology acknowledges that data are always influenced by the perspectives and motivations of the researcher even before analysis begins.  35  institutional understandings of international development, the specific duties of sponsorship staff, and the overarching goals of the organization. In this way, participant responses simultaneously serve as descriptions and interpretations of everyday organizational practices, expressions of personal identity and institutional culture, and reflections of the interview process itself. The polysemous nature of participant responses both makes possible and complicates an analysis of child sponsorship programs that focuses on the way development discourses produce, and are reproduced through, specific organizational practices. The analysis is complicated because, in this context, one must do more than give voice to the participants; instead, it is necessary to critically interrogate both the limits of “appropriate” responses and the particular formulation of individual responses. Consequently, a situation is created in which participants may not necessarily agree with the interpretations of their responses presented here. This is unfortunate but difficult to avoid in any critical analysis. However, since the intent is to look beyond both personal and organizational failings in the critique of child sponsorship, it is hoped that this indiscretion is forgiven. After all, what is principally evident from participant responses is the complexity with which they address child sponsorship, its role, and its limitations. It is this complexity that leads away from a critique of sponsorship as an organizational dilemma and toward a critique of sponsorship as one aspect of a particular rationality that helps (re)produce systemic global inequality even as it improves the quality of life of some people. Between one and four staff members were interviewed at each of the following organizations: World Vision Canada, Plan Canada, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, Compassion Canada, Canadian Feed the Children, and Food for the Hungry Canada.  36  These organizations were selected primarily on the basis of their size as determined by annual revenue at the time of the interviews.9 With the exception of a Catholic organization called Chalice, these six organization are the largest and highest profile organizations offering child sponsorship in Canada (both at the time of the interviews and today). Even with a 2007 revenue of about 13 million, Chalice was not selected due to its apparent low public profile outside the Catholic church.10 The 14 current sponsorship staff participants were recruited by sending an introductory letter to the appropriate contact person at each organization.11 These letters were followed up with phone calls in which the general objectives of the research were explained. Each organization then selected individuals to be interviewed; every organization that was contacted agreed to provide at least one interview participant. All interviews were conducted by the researcher during working hours at the head offices of the organizations involved.12 At the time of the interviews, staff members worked in the following areas: three in senior management positions that directly or indirectly monitor the production of promotional material, five in marketing or communications positions, three in donor relations positions, and three in program positions (meaning that they deal directly with 9  Approximate 2007 revenues as reported to the Canada Revenue Agency: World Vision Canada – 398 million, Plan Canada – 77 million, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada – 37 million, Compassion Canada – 25 million, Canadian Feed the Children – 20 million, and Food for the Hungry Canada – 4.7 million. See Chapter Two for some additional information about these organizations. Chapter Two also contains a brief discussion of the difficulty in determining what it means to have the largest sponsorship program. Another prominent sponsorship agency, SOS Children’s Villages, had a 2007 revenue of about 2.5 million, which would have placed it next on the list in terms of size. However, its sponsorship program functions somewhat differently than those of the other organizations (it primarily provides housing for orphaned children), and so it was left out of the study. 10 As indicated by the low page rank on Google and the lack of significant TV or print advertising. 11 Information about these contact persons was obtained by calling the main contact number of each organization and explaining that I was looking for research participants. Please see Appendix D for a copy of the letter. 12 With the exception of one organization, all the head offices are located in or around Toronto, ON. Food for the Hungry Canada has its head office in Abbotsford, BC.  37  the partner agencies overseas). Due to different organizational sizes and divisions, these job areas do not reflect a precise description of work-related responsibilities; for example, the separation between communications and donor relations is not terribly clear. Instead, these categories were selected on the basis of job title and participant self-identification. Although interview participants were selected by the organizations involved, the range of professional responsibilities of the participants appears to represent most, if not all, of the core workload within sponsorship programs. In addition to the 14 current staff participants, two former staff members were interviewed because they responded to my call for sponsor participants (described below).13 One of these participants worked in a program management position for one of the same organizations from which the current staff members were recruited. The other former staff member worked overseas with the partner organization of one of the same organizations from which the current staff members were recruited. They were both interviewed in the fall of 2007 at the same time as the other sponsor participants were interviewed, but several months after the other staff member interviews were conducted. These interviews followed the same interview schedule used for the 14 current sponsorship staff members. The responses of these former participants were interpreted (and integrated into the analysis) in an equivalent manner to the current staff participants. Finally, two staff members were interviewed from Save the Children Canada and UNICEF Canada, neither of which currently offers child sponsorship (although Save the Children Canada had a residual program still running at the time of the interview). At the  13  One of these participants contacted me to see if I wanted to hear about her experience working for a Canadian child sponsorship program. The other participant happened to be a child sponsor as well as having worked for the overseas partner of a Canadian child sponsorship program; this participant was only interviewed once but was asked questions regarding both her experiences as a staff person and as a sponsor.  38  time of the interview in 2007, Save the Children Canada had cancelled its long-standing sponsorship program. However, it maintained a relationship with the sponsors it had recruited prior to cancellation. At the time of the interviews, both participants worked producing, or overseeing the production of, fundraising material. These interviews were conducted in order to provide comparative background on the production of fundraising material for international development, and consequently, neither participant is directly cited in this study. Both of these participants were recruited in a similar manner to the current sponsorship staff participants although they were informed that their responses would not appear in the final project. All staff interviews lasted between one and two hours and were loosely structured around a set of open-ended questions dealing with participants’ roles at the organization, their thoughts on the benefits and challenges of child sponsorship, and their perceptions of the world in general. Although the interviews were conducted in a conversation style allowing the participant to direct the topic as much as possible, they all began with the following three questions: Could you please describe what you do here? Would you mind telling me how you came to work here? How would you describe child sponsorship to someone who does not know anything about it (see Appendix B for a copy of the entire interview schedule)? This last question was also used as an opening question for the interviews with sponsors; it was intended that this allow for some consistency between staff and sponsor discussions of child sponsorship. The interviews were recorded and later transcribed. Quotations from participants within this project are slightly edited from their verbatim transcription. Utterances such as “uh”, “um”, “ah”, and “you know” are removed as are any explicit verbal tics (repetition of the same words that do not convey  39  any additional meaning). This format is intended to improve the readability of responses. No remuneration was offered to any of the interview participants. Throughout the study, pseudonyms and non-specific job descriptions are the only distinguishing features to differentiate participant responses. Any quotations that suggest a participant’s organizational affiliation are altered to protect the identity of the participant. These measures are necessary to protect the confidentiality of participants and to address any unforeseen negative consequences as a result of their participation. Assurances of confidentiality were also necessary to ensure open communication during the interview process and to secure interview participants in the first place. Given the selection procedure of the current staff participants, extra attention was taken in securing informed consent. Because they were asked to participate in the context of their jobs, staff participants were informed that they could elect not to participate at any time without any consequences and that they could elect to participate but have their responses not appear in the final version. All staff participants elected to participate fully. Chapter Four analyzes sponsorship promotional material as the principal medium that connects organizational practices of child sponsorship to the thoughts and actions of sponsors. The analysis in this chapter is guided by the following question: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the mediated interactions between sponsorship programs and sponsors? This analysis of promotional material focuses on the way discourses of child development articulate with those of international development in order to ethically position the practice of sponsorship for sponsors. Data for this analysis were generated from a sample of sponsorship promotional material collected in 2007 (see Appendix A for a list of the items in this sample). This sample represents items  40  used both to recruit and retain child sponsors and includes televised ads, magazine inserts, brochures, newsletters, direct mail appeals, web pages and sample sponsor updates. More precisely, this sample consists of 5 long-format (one hour) ads aired on television (and recorded by the author), four short-format (30 second to 2 minute) commercials available on YouTube (uploaded by the respective organizations), three newsletters, seven brochures, one magazine insert, three sample mail-outs to sponsors, and six screen captures from organization websites. The organizations represented in the sample are World Vision Canada (ten items), Plan Canada (five items), Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (four items), Compassion Canada (four items), Food for the Hungry Canada (three items), and Canadian Feed the Children (three items). Although dating the origin of each item is difficult, all items in the sample were still in active circulation by the end of 2007. This sample was selected purposively. In contrast to a sample that selects items randomly in order to provide an analysis that is more generalizable to all items, a purposive sample includes items reviewed and intentionally selected by the researcher on the basis of pre-existing analytical criteria. There are a number of subtypes of this version of sampling, sometimes called nonprobability sampling, and it is the most common form of sampling used in qualitative research (Patton, 2002; see also Kemper, Stringfield, and Teddlie, 2003). Use of a purposive sampling method coincides with a discourse analytic approach where the objective is not to create a generalizable argument to establish the “facts” related to a certain population of people, items, etc. Instead, purposive sampling allows the researcher to select the “best” sample of material for the purpose of examining the connections between the content and the broader discursive contexts within which it is  41  produced and consumed. Consequently, while an effort was made to select a relatively representative sample of sponsorship promotional material, there was no intention of providing a sample that is completely representative (if this were even possible). Instead, the selection criteria were based on the goals of providing a sample that exhibits the common marketing strategies of child sponsorship programs (typical case sampling) and that includes items deemed by this research to be particularly relevant to the research questions (intensity sampling) – in this case, items that focus on the purported benefits of sponsorship for the sponsored child as well as for the sponsor. This sample is not used in an attempt to summarize the entirety of sponsorship advertising across all organizations. There are many different kinds of sponsorship promotion, and no one organization is exactly like another (although there are many similarities). Neither is this sample used to present an argument regarding the imagined effects of this advertising and its imagery on the minds of Canadians. While some general inferences can be made about the implications of sponsorship on Canadian worldview, it is problematic to assume any specific influence of individual sponsorship advertisements. After all, unless the viewer of an ad is asked directly, it is impossible to adequately describe what any individual advertisement means to a viewer, or what the effect of this meaning on the viewer will be (Hall 1981; 1997). The discussion presented in this chapter does not, consequently, follow traditional lines of content analysis, in which images and text from advertisements are commonly broken down into their constituent semiotic elements or assessed for their latent meanings. Rather than focussing on the images or texts present in specific sponsorship ads, this chapter presents a discussion of some of the general patterns in the way  42  sponsored children, and their relationship to sponsors, are represented. The sample of sponsorship promotional material is used as a basis to highlight some general characteristics of sponsorship promotion and to investigate the way the discourses of development are constructed and deployed through these characteristics. In particular, sponsorship advertising is examined with an emphasis on how representations of sponsored children, and of sponsorship in general, are ordered and displayed such that sponsors are required to fill-in-the-blanks, as it were, with respect to their relationship with these children. This means that even though advertising is the focus of this chapter, the purpose is not to present and analyze specific ads, and the fact that individual ads and their associated images are not reproduced in this chapter is intentional. This decision is based on a desire to highlight the discursive contexts involved in interpreting sponsorship promotional material in general rather than examine the effects of any particular advertisement. In this project, the term “promotional material” is often used instead of, or interchangeably with, “advertising”. Both terms are meant to convey the entirety of the mass-mediated content that is witnessed by or sent to the (potential) sponsor/donor. This includes not only what are traditionally seen as ads, such as direct mail appeals, brochures, or TV commercials, but also the letters, reports, and reminders sent to current sponsors. While a little more awkward, the former term is useful in that it appears to encompass some elements that the latter term neglects. In particular, it is easier to explain all communication to sponsors as a form of promotional material in that, even though they are not traditionally seen as advertising, the letters, brochures, reports, etc. still serve  43  the purpose of promoting the program to the sponsor so that they continue their sponsorship. Chapter Five examines child sponsorship from the perspective of the sponsor with an emphasis on how sponsors make sense of sponsorship and their involvement in it. The analysis in this chapter is guided by the following question: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the way child sponsors perceive themselves and their actions in relation to sponsorship? Data for this analysis were generated from personal interviews with people who sponsor, or have previously sponsored, children through Canadian NGOs. Thirty-one current and former sponsors living in Canada were interviewed in the fall of 2007 (see Appendix G for a list of sponsor participants including some descriptive information). Interviews with sponsors were conducted in order to highlight the articulation between understandings of international development (the transformation of the child’s life) and personal development (the transformation of the sponsor’s life). Sponsor participants were recruited using posters placed in churches, libraries, community centres, and on the local university campus as well as advertisements in the local paper and online (see Appendix F for samples of the poster and the newspaper / website text).14 Three of the interview participants were also recruited through referrals from other participants. This recruitment resulted in a group of participants comprising five former and 26 current sponsors.15 Twenty five of the participants are women, six are  14  Advertisements were placed in the classified sections of the websites: Craigslist Victoria and Kids in Victoria. 15 All of the participants were residing in Victoria, B.C., at the time of the interview. Victoria is a large, multi-cultural city on the west coast of Canada.  44  men, and eight were interviewed as couples (for a total of 27 interview sessions).16 Participants represented a variety of different ages although the vast majority were older than 30 (only two participants were under 30 and 11 participants were older than 60). Participants sponsored children through a wide variety of Canadian sponsorship programs: 16 participants sponsored children through World Vision, nine sponsored through Plan, two sponsored through both World Vision and Christian Children’s Fund at the same time, and the remaining four participants sponsored through Christian Children’s Fund, Compassion, Watoto, and African Children’s Choir (one sponsor per organization). All sponsor interviews were conducted by the researcher and lasted between one and two hours. With few exceptions, the interviews took place in the home of the sponsor.17 The interviews were structured around a set of open-ended questions dealing with participants’ thoughts and feelings about their sponsored child, about the process of sponsorship, and about their conceptions of global poverty and international development (see Appendix C for a copy of the interview schedule). As with the sponsorship staff group, sponsor interviews were conducted in a conversation style beginning with the questions “How would you describe child sponsorship to someone who does not know anything about it? What made you decide to sponsor a child? How would you describe your relationship with your sponsored child?” These and the remaining questions were designed to be as open ended as possible with the goal of eliciting a wide range of responses describing participants’ perceptions of child sponsorship, the global South, and  16  Most couples sponsored a child or children together. However, in one case, each partner in a couple sponsored a different child and were consequently asked questions separately although they were in the room together. 17 Three interviews took place in coffee shops.  45  their role in the work of international development. The interviews were recorded and later transcribed.18 Throughout the project, pseudonyms are used to help protect the confidentiality of participants.  A note on terminology Much of this project deals with language, such as the language used to discuss wealth and well-being, the language used to talk about particular parts of the world, and the language used to describe certain categorizations of people. In many ways, it is this language itself, its relative value(s) and its particular manifestation(s), that is the subject of analysis. Consequently, there are a host of controversies and challenges in the selection of terminology for such a project, and ultimately, there are decisions that must be made. With the preface that it is not possible to please all parties (or perhaps it is just not possible in a project of this scope to address everything that could be taken into consideration), the following section briefly discusses the logic behind some of the language used in this project. This project uses the term “international development” or sometimes just “development” to refer to the broad assortment of mainstream ideas and practices that address issues of global (Southern) poverty. As noted above, the analysis presented in the following chapters largely follows a postdevelopment perspective, and consequently, looks at development as a discourse. This has (at least) three significant implications. One, based on the critical appraisal of discourse of development, there seems to be a general agreement among postdevelopment scholars that the very idea of development is  18  Quotations from participants are modified from their verbatim transcription in the same way as staff responses.  46  bankrupt. In following this perspective, this means that one must not only seek to interrogate the concept and its practices, but also to work towards its removal from use. This latter point is challenging, however, and there is a certain value in looking at the issue of terminology in development in terms of short and long term goals. While the very idea of international development in its current incarnation should be confronted, and hopefully discarded at some point, this is not a realistic goal for the short term. The term development resonates with professionals and laypeople alike if for no other reason than the fact that many practices are presently conducted in its name. In fact, it is a demanding, if not impossible, task to talk about global poverty in other terms nowadays (which is part of the argument being made both by postdevelopment scholars and this project). Add to this a desire to avoid essentializing everything that falls under the label development as equally bankrupt, and we encounter a situation in which the term development needs to be retained, at least for the present. Two, even when the word development is used without the term discourse in this project, the intention is still to recognize that what is being discussed is not a taken-forgranted “reality” but a particular (and predominant) constellation of meanings and actions. The threat here in using the term development is to end up reifying the very concept that one seeks to deconstruct. Because of this threat, it has become increasingly common in some of the critical literature on development to continually place the term in scare quotes (e.g., Crush, 1995; Rist, 2002; Sachs, 1992). This practice serves to help remove the gloss of ordinariness and immutability from the word and to show one’s concern for its continued uncomplicated use. However, as the presence of persistent scare quotes can be irritating to read, this project only uses them in the beginning in order to  47  indicate support for this practice. Moreover, it is doubtful that scare quotes alone would be sufficient in this regard; rather, careful attention to language use around the term development is more important (and is an objective of this project even if not always successful). Three, when used in this project, the term development – or discourse(s) of development – is not solely intended to refer to international development. It is, at times, meant to encompass related meanings of development, such as organizational or biological development. This lack of specificity is not a mistake; rather, it is the intentional product of the theoretical framework adopted in this project (see the latter half of Chapter Two for discussion on this topic). This project uses the terms North and South to describe the somewhat artificial, but still common, conceptual division of the world into what are thought of as wealthy (“modern”) countries and poorer countries. The (global) South refers to what has alternatively been called the Third World or the developing world (developing countries or less developed countries) in contrast to the North, the West, the First World, or the developed world (developed countries). Other formulations of this division also appear now and again, such as majority world / minority world, two-thirds world / one-third world, developing countries / overdeveloped countries. None of these terminological binaries are adequate to encompass the breadth of the geography or the heterogeneity of the people(s) involved. They are all subject to problems of essentialism, and they all fail to express the complexity of the situation. That said, many people from both sides of this conceptual division – including the interviewed participants – still understand and talk about the world in terms of this  48  conceptual shorthand, and so for the sake of producing something generally understandable, this project continues to use this division. The terms North and South are used to represent this categorization not only because they are increasingly common in the critical literature on global poverty and inequality but also because they avoid some of the bias associated with the traditional terms (e.g. developed and developing for example) while being less obscure than some of the other terms (e.g. Majority world and minority world). Ideally, one would use scare quotes around these terms to highlight their socially constructed nature; however, as with the term development, scare quotes are only used in the first instance of these terms due to their effect on readability. In a similar vein to the terms North and South, the labels black and white are occasionally used in this project. It goes almost without saying that the use of these labels can be problematic because it may be taken to reinforce socially-constructed categories of race and because it may be seen to exclude some categories such as Hispanic and Asian peoples. However, the intent of using these labels is not to find accurate terms regarding these “racial” categories (as such terms simply do not exist). Instead, the point is to highlight how perceived racial categories have played, and continue to play, a formative role in the conceptual divisions that structure our world. Despite the ostensibly colourblind rhetoric of much development discourse nowadays, processes of racialization are central to the operation of practices such as child sponsorship. These processes continue to highlight particular socially-salient traits, such as skin colour, and link them to historical (and paternalistic) narratives of race and social progress. Links to these historical narratives are often obscured, however, as representations of the South and its  49  people are strategically repackaged to serve contemporary needs (see Chapter Four for more discussion on this topic). The labels white and black are used, consequently, not because they necessarily represent the racial categories, or even the actual skin colours, of the people involved in child sponsorship. Rather, they serve as a general reminder that processes of racialization are at play even as they are made invisible by the contemporary operations of the discourse of development (and are, therefore, largely absent from participant responses). Furthermore, the labels white and black have a particular resonance in the critical literature on race and are thought to serve, however inadequately, as a stand in for all perceived racial divides.  50  Chapter Two: The Developmentality of Child Sponsorship  …the notion of child sponsorship exists primarily as a marketing myth. Costly, time-consuming and hampered by the logistical difficulties posed by some of the poorest and most remote places on Earth, child sponsorship succeeds far better as a fundraising engine than it does as a vehicle for providing benefits to the children whose faces sustain it. (Anderson, 1998a: 1-9) Child sponsorship is one of the most powerful and seductive philanthropic devices ever conceived… For Many Americans, who donate an estimated $400 million a year to child sponsorship organizations, such appeals appear to offer a simple way of sharing their unparalleled affluence. But when the Chicago Tribune sponsored two young boys in the African nation of Mozambique, they found that child sponsorship as depicted by Save the Children is a myth. (Dellios, 1998: 2-8) If the Chicago Tribune’s “The Miracle Merchants: Myths of Child Sponsorship” series tries to make one thing abundantly clear, it is that child sponsorship is a “myth”. According to Tribune reporters, it is a myth not only because sponsorship advertising regularly misrepresents the actual living standards of sponsored children and the realistic extent of sponsorship benefits, but also because there is little direct financial connection between sponsor and child. “Poor as they were, none of the Tribune’s sponsored children resembled the desperately sick or malnourished boys and girls whose images are a staple of fundraising appeals by child sponsorship organizations.… Nor, as it turned out, were any of their lives much changed by their sponsorships” (Chicago Tribune, 1998: 2-2). This allegation that sponsorship agencies often inflate claims regarding the individuals they help and the work they accomplish is underscored by the argument that the “‘magical bond’ between sponsors and child also proved to be mostly fiction” (2-2). After all, it is not uncommon for field staff to direct, censor, or even compose the letters sent to sponsors or for the names of sponsors to be withheld from sponsored children and 51  their families. In addition to this, some of the children sponsored by the Tribune “were never told that their sponsorships had ended. A few never understood they had been sponsored at all” (2-2). These issues of misleading marketing practices are related to another component in the “myth” of child sponsorship – the fact that “there is no guarantee that a sponsor’s dollar will ever reach that sponsor’s child, and no way of knowing whether it ever does” (Dellios, 1998: 2-8). This point, which is acknowledged by one group of sponsorship executives (2-8), is reiterated extensively in the Tribune series. The reporters noted that, in at least one case, sponsorship officials “were unable to say how, or even whether, the money donated by the Tribune had directly benefited the sponsored children” (2-8). This may sound quite alarming, but it is not some shocking secret within the development community. The vast majority of sponsorship programs pool money from sponsors and fund community-level projects that (hopefully) benefit the community but that may or may not directly help sponsored children. Supporting development projects at the community or regional (as opposed to the individual or national) levels19 is a common practice among development NGOs and is not only accepted but also recommended by many “development experts”. Because of this, however, it is not usually possible (or perhaps just not administratively feasible) to accurately track the direct benefits of sponsorship on individual children in the way that sponsorship advertising implies. This has not always been the case.  19  In recent years, the increasing popularity of micro-credit programs has changed this dynamic somewhat. Micro-credit will be discussed in Chapter Six along with other “alternatives” to sponsorship.  52  In May of 1982, an issue of New Internationalist20 magazine was published with the title “Please Do Not Sponsor This Child: There Are Better Ways to Help”. The entire issue, which spawned follow-up articles in 1985 and 1989, dealt with the perceived problems of child sponsorship at the time. Among the many critiques listed – including such things as the administrative expense of maintaining sponsorship programs, the controversial role of religion in sponsorship, and the reinforcement of stereotypes and paternalistic sentiment – was the problem of creating disparity at the local level. This disparity was the result of sponsorship benefits going to some children and not others, and according to the authors, it led not only to envy and resentment within the community but also to inefficient and unsustainable development outcomes. As Stalker (1982) writes, [h]elping an individual is divisive - and is particularly damaging in societies which are already sharply divided in all sorts of ways: rich and poor, black and white, high caste or low caste, literate or illiterate. Nor is trying to help an individual likely to succeed. Catapulting even one person out of poverty is a daunting task - especially on $20 a month. And while there will be some successes … they will be few and far between (n.p.). Before the mid to late seventies, child sponsorship predominantly functioned on a so-called check-to-child model, in which funds flowed (relatively) directly from the sponsor to the child. By the eighties, this practice was coming to an end, and many sponsorship programs were in the process of transitioning to a primary focus on the community (at least in the way money was spent). Together with a relatively new and farreaching emphasis on participatory development strategies at the local level, the criticism about sponsorship causing disparity was likely a motivating factor in this transition. The  20  The New Internationalist is a magazine that primarily covers issues of global justice. It has a circulation of more than 75,000 people worldwide, and is based in the UK with editorial and sales offices in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan (New Internationalist, 2008).  53  idea of individual child sponsorship, however, had not fully lost its original connotation (nowadays, individual child sponsorship mostly refers to collecting funds from one sponsor per child as opposed to using the image of one child to collect donations from multiple sponsors21). Consequently, the indictment of child sponsorship as “a sure-fire way to attract money,” but “not such a good way to spend it” rang true at the time (Stalker, 1982: n.p.). Things are different now, at least in one sense. Currently, funds raised from sponsorships are mostly indistinguishable from – and are often combined with – other development assistance on the ground. This is convenient and even advantageous from a community development standpoint, but it is problematic from a marketing perspective that seeks to sell the idea of individual improvement. Although sponsorship organizations have altered the way they distribute donations since the early eighties, the fundraising component of sponsorship is largely unchanged. It still emphasizes the direct personal and financial connection between sponsor and child that was the hallmark of early formulations. Consequently, the gap between sponsorship organizations’ development practices and their fundraising messages has become wider over time, at least with respect to the direct benefits received by the sponsored child.22 It is the separation between what is suggested in sponsorship advertising and what actually happens to sponsorship funds that is repeatedly taken up by the Tribune reporters. So it seems as though the popular critique of child sponsorship has come full circle to some degree. One of the issues raised as a major problem of sponsorship twenty 21  This latter practice can be taken to the extreme, using a “representative” child to raise money from hundreds or thousands of sponsors. 22 More accurately, the gap is likely just as wide because of other issues with older sponsorship advertising (such as the disparity between stated benefits to sponsored children and what was actually achieved with the funds) and has simply shifted to a different configuration.  54  years before the “Miracle Merchants” series was published has returned, albeit with the opposite implication. In other words, the focus on providing individual aid to sponsored children that precipitated one of the strongest early criticisms of sponsorship is now the missing element that makes present-day sponsorship programs “mythical”.23 How can this inversion in the practice of child sponsorship – and the critique of it – be accounted for? What did child sponsorship look like when it started, and what does it look like today? What motivated many sponsorship programs to change the way they operated, and why was this change in development practice (from the level of the individual to that of the community) not mirrored in the fundraising models of most organizations? Moreover, what factors lie behind the shift in critique of child sponsorship programs as exemplified in the New Internationalist and the Chicago Tribune articles? Finally, what does this critical shift indicate about the way international development is conceived and about the organizations and individuals involved in it? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in the present chapter, 24 which will set the descriptive stage for the analyses presented in the remainder of this study.  23  The Tribune seems to be relying on a common-sense definition of myth in this context, intending it to describe the illusory or even fictional character of child sponsorship. However, there is another meaning of the term myth coming from semiotic analysis (see Barthes, 1972[1957]) that is ironically appropriate in describing this aspect of child sponsorship as well. Specifically, this meaning of myth highlights the way in which the present pattern of sponsorship fundraising has become naturalized as way doing the specific work of development. See the concluding section of this chapter for more discussion on this topic. 24 Details regarding the mechanics of sponsorship were taken from scholarly publications and publiclyaccessible documents; as well, they were confirmed through interviews with sponsorship staff members. The discussion regarding the prominence of child sponsorship, and the relative size of the organizations involved, is primarily based on Registered Charity Information Returns and the annual reports or financial statements of NGOs offering child sponsorship. Information about specific sponsorship programs, including such things as their histories and objectives, was located on their respective NGO websites.  55  Histories of child sponsorship If there is one “true” origin of child sponsorship, it appears to be lost in the mists of time or to the vagaries of marketing personnel. Almost every major sponsorship agency claims an original and independent foundation of the concept. The narrative surrounding this foundation is remarkably consistent across organizations, and is almost always rooted in the personal life story of the founder. In most instances, the founder is exposed to the suffering of (distant) children, often through travel or missionary work, and is deeply affected by their plight. This experience is transformative and leads the person, a true humanitarian at heart, to start an organization to help the particular children in question. The initial suffering witnessed by the founder was usually a product of violent conflict and the aid to children is allotted accordingly, but the organization soon expands its mandate to encompass more children (not just those affected by the specific conflict in that specific location) and more causes of suffering (particularly deprivation related to chronic poverty as opposed to acute conflict). At some point – not necessarily from the very beginning – the idea of individual child sponsorship is “discovered” as a revolutionary means of securing funds, and it begins to define most aspects of the organization. Numerous examples of this narrative can be found among the leading child sponsorship agencies.25 The oldest organization that currently offers what is understood today as child sponsorship is Save the Children.26 Founded in London in 1919 by the teacher and  25  The histories provided below are amalgamated summaries of the histories provided on a variety of official Save the Children, Plan, Christian Children’s Fund, and World Vision websites. 26 Not all national Save the Children organizations offer child sponsorship. Save the Children Canada used to have a sponsorship program but now no longer offers individual child sponsorship (although it maintains a relationship with a number of sponsors from the time when it still offered individual sponsorship). The American branch of Save the Children still offers sponsorship. The history provided here is an  56  activist Eglantyne Jebb (and her sister Dorothy Buxton), this organization began as means to provide aid for the children of continental Europe in the aftermath of World War I. The inspiration for this organization came both from her experiences during an “aid mission” to Macedonia immediately after the First Balkan War and from disturbing reports of the conditions of children in Vienna and other war-torn cities following WWI. The Save the Children Fund quickly expanded its programs and resulted in many “sister” organizations in countries outside the UK, coming to Canada in 1921 and the U.S. in 1932. Save the Children US, which was established to help poor children in Appalachia, claims to be the first instance of a sponsorship program in 1938 – a program in which individuals could sponsor schoolhouses and provide the children who attended them with “meals, books and school supplies” (Save the Children US, 2008). In 1937, Plan came on the scene. Initially called Foster Parents Plan for Children in Spain, it was founded by John Langdon-Davies and Eric Muggeridge to help children affected by the Spanish Civil War. John Langdon-Davies, a British Journalist, encountered a small boy named Jose who had a note from his father attached to his shirt. The note read: “‘This is Jose. I am his father. When Santander falls I shall be shot, whoever finds my son, take care of him for me’” (Plan UK, 2008). Moved by this event, Langdon-Davies – along with his relief-worker friend Muggeridge – set up the organization to house, feed, and care for the displaced or orphaned children of Spain. The organization grew from this initial setting to help children all over Europe during and after World War II (and, consequently, came to be called Foster Parents Plan for War Children). Starting in the 1950s, Foster Parents Plan expanded into the global South and  amalgamated summary of the histories provided on a number of Save the Children websites (Save the Children international, Save the Children Canada, Save the Children US, and Save the Children UK).  57  into the business of development and poverty alleviation. According to Plan International (2008a), as it is now known, “Langdon-Davies conceived the idea of a personal relationship between a child and a sponsor - a model that puts the child at the centre, and today remains the core of what we do.” Canada gained its own incorporated Plan office in 1968. Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), or what is now known as ChildFund in most countries, was founded by the Rev. Dr. J. Calvitt Clarke, who was also a founding member of Save the Children US a few years earlier. Clarke, influenced by his travel and relief work in Armenia as well as the reported troubles of Chinese children as a result of the Sino-Japanese War, created the China’s Children Fund in 1938. Dr. Verent Mills also plays a central role in the narrative of CCF history. Mills, who was a missionary in China and became the third Executive Director of CCF, barely escaped the invading Japanese army and managed to single-handedly lead a large group of orphans out of harm’s way to a new orphanage supported by CCF. Initially aiding children in China and then Asia, CCF expanded into Europe after WWII and then into other parts of the world in the 1960s and 70s. The organization changed its name in 1951 to reflect this broader scope. According to the Christian Children’s Fund US (now ChildFund International) (2008), “[b]y 1941, Dr. Clarke had unveiled his plan for individual, person-to-person child ‘sponsorship,’ and donors began sending US$24 per year, per child. This new CCF concept enabled people to help who were willing to send smaller amounts of money on a regular basis to help an individual child – pioneering the philosophy of child sponsorship” (n.p.) In 1960, CCF Canada became the first “official international affiliate” outside of the U.S. (Christian Children’s Fund, 2008: n.p.).  58  Currently the largest27 network of organizations to offer child sponsorship, World Vision “began with the vision of one man – the Reverend Bob Pierce” (World Vision International, 2008). While on a mission to China in 1947, Pierce was confronted by a teacher who introduced him to an abandoned little girl needing help. Piece gave “his last five dollars” to support the girl and said he would send money every month for her care. This experience was a “turning point” for Pierce, who then decided to start an organization “dedicated to helping the world’s children”. Once World Vision was formed in 1950, the “first child sponsorship programme began three years later” (World Vision International). In the same year World Vision was founded in the U.S., Pierce came to Canada “to discuss what he had seen and learned in Asia”, and a World Vision office was opened in Toronto in 1957 (World Vision Canada, 2008). A very similar story is presented by almost every single child sponsorship program (for more examples, see Children Incorporated, 2008; Compassion Canada, 2008a; Watoto, 2008). The similarities between these origin narratives are not terribly surprising,  27  It is somewhat difficult to determine which child sponsorship programs are the largest in Canada (or elsewhere for that matter). After all, is a program “larger” because it has more sponsors, more sponsored children, more assets, higher revenue specifically from child sponsorships, higher overall organization revenue, higher actual expenditures on development projects (revenue minus marketing and administrative overhead), or simply a more recognized name in the sponsorship industry? It is not easy to answer this question, but what is clear is that World Vision Canada has the largest child sponsorship program in Canada by any of these measures with about CAN$352 million in revenue in 2011 (all figures based on returns to the Canada Revenue Agency). Plan Canada is also a clear number two with about CAN$142 million in revenue in 2011 while the third spot goes either to Compassion Canada with CAN$46.5 million or to Christian Children’s Fund of Canada with CAN$47 million in 2011 revenues. The situation becomes less clear for the remaining major sponsorship programs, which have 2011 revenues of CAN$19 million (Chalice), CAN$15 million (Canadian Feed the Children), CAN$7.6 million (Food for the Hungry Canada), and CAN$5 million (SOS Children’s Villages). There are a host of smaller sponsorship programs in Canada and not all of them function on the same model as described in this section. However, the vast majority of sponsorship programs operate in the same fashion. Globally, the sponsorship situation looks slightly different. Although figures are difficult to come by, the World Vision network is still by far the largest followed by Plan International. Other worldwide organizational networks offering sponsorship are ChildFund International (the partnership network of Christian Children’s Fund of Canada), Compassion International, ActionAid International, Food for the Hungry International, Save the Children International, and SOS Children’s Villages International. Some large sponsorship organizations, like the US Children International, are not part of an international network.  59  however. On the one hand, it is far too simple a task to meet poor children in the world. The founders’ emotional reaction to such an experience is equally predictable and reflects the homogeneity of their backgrounds relative to the children at least as much as the exceptionality of the encounter itself. On the other hand, an easy explanation for the similarities between these stories is the value they provide in terms of the public image of the organization. It is not unusual, after all, for the public images of organizations or businesses to be built in part upon the mythologies constructed around their founding (think Henry Dunant and the Red Cross or Bill Gates and Microsoft). Not only do the origin stories of sponsorship agencies imbue the organizations with an almost romanticheroic character, but they also provide a convenient narrative with which donors can identify, metaphorically at least. The notion of a single founder and his or her quest to help a particular child mirrors the donor’s desire to make a real difference in the life of at least one child. The hardship endured by the founder – along with the transformative moment in which he or she decide to act – reflects the financial considerations faced by potential sponsors and ultimate decision to “do the right thing”. All things considered, then, one must be careful not to completely separate the historicity of origin narratives from their present use as a marketing element of the organization. Apart from the question of their accuracy, these origin narratives highlight a number of the historical transitions that many child sponsorship programs, and by extension the practice of child sponsorship in general, have gone through. The most important of these transitions are the shift from a focus on orphans, abandoned, or displaced children to a broader focus on all children irrespective of their family composition; from a focus on individual children and their particular needs to a focus on  60  families, communities, or even regions and their collective needs; and from a particular geographic focus on children in a single area like Spain, the U.S., China, or Korea to a focus on children in any and all poor countries in the South. These related transitions did not occur in an easy chronological order or at an equivalent pace across all organizations, but by and large, they represent some of the major turning points in the history of child sponsorship. While there are surely many factors that influenced these organizational changes within sponsorship programs, it seems likely that both decolonization and the associated proliferation of the discourse of development in the postwar years played major roles. Many prominent child sponsorship programs, including World Vision, Plan, Save the Children, and Christian Children’s Fund, began their existence with the particular goal of helping orphaned or displaced children. Over time, this emphasis broadened to incorporate all children in need. Nowadays, there is only one major sponsorship program primarily dedicated to helping orphans and abandoned children; it is run by SOS Children’s Villages.28 Since the beginning of the so-called modern era, the welfare and education of orphans in the North has been seen as a distinct social problem to be dealt with through both state intervention and charitable efforts, although many early orphanages were concerned with the reputation of the mother as much as the care of the child (Donzelot, 1979; see also Jacobi, 2009). Because of this long history, the care of such children in other locales was likely seen as both a natural and a worthwhile  28  While there are many smaller organizations that offer child sponsorship exclusively or predominantly for orphans or abandoned children, the only large-scale organization to do so appears to be SOS Children’s Villages. However, the sponsorship model used by SOS is similar to those of other major sponsorship organizations in that sponsorship funds are not used directly to support a particular child but pooled from all sponsorships to cover the costs of the organization’s, or their partner’s, expenses. SOS Children’s Villages makes use of multiple sponsors per child (SOS Children’s Villages Canada, 2008).  61  objective of a charitable organization, one that would have little difficulty garnering support from Northern individuals. During the postwar era, however, the paternalistic discourses of charity and humanitarianism that had predominated internationally during the later colonial periods shifted to incorporate the relatively new, but equally paternalistic, discourse of economic development. As Sachs (2000) describes it, “the moral concern for people was eclipsed by the economic concern for growth” (5). Consequently, where political, religious, and humanitarian interventions were once the prevailing models for overseas involvement, an emphasis on long-term poverty alleviation came to the fore. This emphasis would have made the transition from orphans to all impoverished children seem like a logical and necessary course of action. After all, development was initially conceived of as an economic problem at the national level, requiring solutions that would remove constraints to the “natural” progression toward economic prosperity. In this light, supporting orphans would never be regarded as such a solution, but general education among children might. Within a liberal discourse of development, the adequate preparation of children for economic life – despite supposedly inadequate material (or cultural?) backgrounds – is a truly powerful tenet. This logical expansion to non-orphaned children, which makes perfect sense in terms of the development discourse, was and still is problematic in terms of the marketing of sponsorships. The same features that would have made fundraising for the care of orphans a relatively straightforward business – the motivation to help a lonely child with no one to care for him or her – might actually impede present-day fundraising efforts in that most sponsored children have parents or guardians to care for them, making them appear less in need of support. This may help explain the elision of parents  62  within sponsorship advertising.29 Even though sponsored children are often a part of supportive families living in reasonably healthy communities (how else could a development project involving them be feasibly managed?), child sponsorship still conjures up images of completely destitute and forlorn children. The programmatic shift away from a principal focus on orphans was later accompanied by the transition away from the direct care of an individual child. Giving up the so-called check-to-child model mentioned earlier, many sponsorship programs began to focus their spending on projects aimed at broader groups such as neighbourhoods and communities. This process extended over a long period and occurred at different times for different agencies. It is difficult to find child sponsorship programs nowadays that provide direct benefits to sponsored children to the exclusion of non-sponsored children in the same area (excepting the occasional birthday or Christmas gift, which in some cases is described as being sent directly to the child). That said, there are a few prominent sponsorship programs that say they provide direct benefits to sponsored children in the form of exclusive goods and services (i.e. goods and services not offered to nonsponsored children in the same area); none of these say they provide direct transfers of cash to children or families. Children International (an American NGO) and SOS Children’s Villages are probably the largest organizations to still follow this model, through which they purport to provide specialized goods and services based on the needs of individual children (for example, see SOS Children’s Villages Canada, 2008). Other programs principally fund projects at the neighborhood, municipal, or regional level from which sponsored children are assumed to benefit. World Vision, for example, sets up and maintains what are known as ADPs – Area Development Projects – with sponsorship 29  See Chapter Four for more information about this argument.  63  funds. These projects often have multi-year funding commitments to stay working in a particular area providing infrastructure, goods, and/or services to all individuals, not just sponsored children and their families. Compassion appears to work on a hybrid model in which the sole focus of sponsorship funds is on benefits to children rather than communities. However, Compassion still pools sponsor donations, uses local partners to administer projects, and provides services to registered but not-yet-sponsored children (see Compassion Canada, 2008b; Compassion International, 2010) As with the shift away from orphans, the transition to community-level projects was also likely related to the growing importance of the development discourse after WWII, but in a different aspect of it. Rather than the concern with a larger impact related to the ideas of development economics at the time, the impetus for a shift to a broader group focus is probably a consequence of the general movement within the development industry toward community-level participatory development strategies. This movement, which occurred throughout the 1960s and 70s, highlighted the importance of inclusive, holistic development planning and implementation processes at a level other than that of the nation-state (Turner and Hulme, 1997; Rist 2002). There are two important features of this transition to a community-level focus by sponsorship programs. One, it occurred quite a bit later than the shift away from orphans, and contrary to the latter, it was in all likelihood a product of pressure by experts working in the field of development at the time. A community-level emphasis, preferably involving lots of input from stakeholders, was seen as a best practice in development projects (Rahnema, 1992; Parpart, 2000). As evident from the New Internationalist’s critique from the early 1980s, any direct transfer of benefits to individuals, even needy  64  children, was seen as ineffective, inefficient, and even deleterious. Two, this revised emphasis on community-level development strategies once again strayed from what was, and still is, seen as the preferred marketing image of child sponsorship. The idea of the special bond between sponsor and child based on the sponsor’s generous support to that particular child is not very compatible with a funding model centered on communitylevel projects that do not privilege sponsored children. While a community-level approach to the spending of funds makes perfect sense within the evolving discourse of development, this same approach creates tension in the principal work of child sponsorship programs, the raising of funds. Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the critique of the “myth” of sponsorship by the Chicago Tribune. In addition to the use of a check-to-child model, most early sponsorship programs had a particular geographic area in which they worked. For example, Christian Children’s Fund was originally China Children’s Fund, Plan International started as Foster Parent’s Plan for Children in Spain, Save the Children Fund focused on Europe and Russia in the aftermath of WWI, Children International was originally Holy Land Christian Mission, and World Vision initially offered sponsorship only in Korea. This geographic focus was mostly located at the country or regional level but was not necessarily confined to what would now be considered poorer countries or regions. Notably, no early sponsorship programs were focused on Africa or Latin America, two areas that now receive the lion’s share of attention from sponsorship programs. Instead, many organizations, such as Save the Children, Plan International, and World Vision, began their work in zones of conflict, particularly those in or related to the North. This makes sense given the time periods involved and the early focus on orphans or displaced children. Currently, the vast  65  majority of sponsorship programs are firmly entrenched in their association with the global South.30 This present emphasis on the South is evident in both the marketing of child sponsorship and the actual transfer of funds abroad. Arguably, this geographic shift to the South could be attributed to the rise of the welfare state, with its accompanying increase in living standards, and to the cessation of conflict in the North. It can safely be said, however, that this wholesale shift in focus was also related to the way in which Southern “underdevelopment” was constructed as a problem after WWII. It was during this period, which coincides with the end of the colonial era in Africa, that a basic worldview emerged broadly defining the North as prosperous and complete and the South as poor and lacking (Escobar, 1995). Inevitably, this worldview resulted in changing considerations of what were legitimate and necessary objectives for charitable institutions in the North. Consequently, the geographic transition of sponsorship programs to the South mirrored, or simply accompanied, the shift in emphasis that led away from a focus on orphans: the apparently urgent need for broadbased economic development interventions in the South. Although not specifically a transition in organizational focus among child sponsorship programs, there is another shift in the history of sponsorship practices that deserves some mention. This shift could be described as a movement away from a focus on missionary work and the saving of souls to a focus on humanitarian or development work and the saving of lives (read: bodies). While many NGOs that offer child  30  This does not mean that these organizations no longer fund projects in the U.S., Canada, or Europe because this does still happen. Some of the larger programs even offer sponsorships of American or (Eastern) European children. Presently, it is possible to sponsor children from inner cities, First Nations’ reserves, or the Appalachian region of the US through Children Incorporated, a large child sponsorship program based in the US. Incidentally, Appalachia is the area first targeted for sponsorships by the US branch of Save the Children in the 1930s.  66  sponsorship are “faith-based”, these organizations now commonly state that their overseas aid involves no religious strings per se. While the notion of Christian charity still occupies a weighty role in their image and their marketing of sponsorships – and the faith of their employees is sometimes an issue – most sponsorship programs do not currently require that children are or become Christian in order to be used in fundraising or to access benefits from sponsorship-funded development projects.31 The story is likely not quite as straight-forward as this, a topic which will be discussed in later chapters, but the important point here is the changing way in which religion, specifically Christian evangelism, is legitimately incorporated into the work of sponsorship programs. As with the other transitions discussed above, this point may also be related to the growing importance of the idea of development in the latter half of the twentieth century. Prior to the proliferation and acceptance of the ostensibly secular discourse of development, much of the work related to overseas aid was in the hands of churches and their missions (Bornstein, 2002). In many locations abroad, the division of labour between colonial regimes and religious representatives was quite clear despite some apparent conflicts, with the latter taking on the role of providing education and welfare services in return for support with conversion efforts (see for example Dirar, 2003; Pels, 1997). At “home”, people aided in this process through tithing or other donations to churches and through more conspicuous acts of religiously-oriented charity. For example, “[b]efore the Second World War in Europe one could ‘buy heathen children’, through  31  Regarding the issue of faith and image, one does not need to look for an example further than the Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, which has retained their name despite most of their international partner’s switching to the more religiously neutral ChildFund brand. Regarding the issue of employee faith, World Vision requires its staff to acknowledge their agreement with the religious tenets of the organization before working there. Finally, of all the major sponsorship programs, only Compassion (2008b) explicitly states that sponsored children will receive “regular Christian training” (n.p.).  67  ‘slave societies’ (slaafkensmaatschappijen), a practice dating back to the slave trade when missionaries could buy children and raise and baptize them in mission homes. Also when there were no more slave markets one could still purchase a heathen child for 21 DM, to whom one could give a baptismal name and as a receipt receive a photo of, for instance, an African boy in a straw skirt” (Nederveen Pieterse, 1992: 71-2). An obvious if somewhat obscure forerunner to child sponsorship, this early practice of paying to save the souls of heathen children highlights not only the changes in aid relations between the North and South but also the curious similarities between colonial or missionary relationships and current development practices. While some of the changes are reflected in the lack of overt and coercive proselytization by most aid agencies including sponsorship programs, the similarities are evident, once again, in the promises made through sponsorship marketing. Indeed, as one prominent Christian child sponsorship spokesperson puts it in an infomercial: “I [Jesus] am there in those children waiting to be loved, I am in those children waiting to be rescued, I am there in those children waiting to be served. Whatever you do to them, you do to me. Jesus, as St. Francis says, mystically comes through these children, and if we embrace them, as Mother Theresa says, we are embracing Jesus” (World Vision Canada, Heart, n.d.). Another program words it with even less subtlety: “Compassion is passionately motivating Christians like you to become missionaries to one child – a child in need of love, encouragement, education, healthcare, and most importantly, the life-changing salvation that comes only through Jesus Christ” (Compassion Canada, Releasing, n.d.) As noted, the transition from an emphasis on saving souls to saving bodies reflects the secularization of international relations that occurred in conjunction with the end of  68  the colonial period. This process of secularization may have shifted the relative importance of civilizing (read: developing) versus converting Southern people(s), but it does not seem to have significantly altered the subjects or mechanisms involved. The racialized relationships that once rationalized the ability of white Christians in Europe to purchase of the souls of black, “heathen” children in Africa are strikingly similar to those that presently allow white Canadians to purchase the lives of black, poverty-stricken children through sponsorship. It is important to keep in mind, consequently, that through all the changes in global relations over the past hundred years, the world is still starkly divided along racialized boundaries that facilitate the very conditions which seem to justify the practice of child sponsorship. The historical transitions discussed above may be a little broad, but they still help shed light on the emergence of child sponsorship as it is commonly found today. They highlight the fact that sponsorship is the product of a number of interconnected elements, each having some association with the changing discourse of development and that of colonialism which preceded it. To summarize, the most important of these elements include the early localized efforts by non-profit organizations to provide aid to children with no one to care for them, the rapid decolonization and redefinition of many Southern countries resulting in a starkly perceived contrast between the North and South, the discrediting of early foreign aid approaches prompting a move toward communitycentred initiatives, and the maintenance of a religious or moral overtone among sponsorship organizations coupled with a need to separate themselves from the explicit paternalistic baggage of colonial-era charity. The articulation of these elements, while each making sense in their specific contexts, has formed a contemporary global practice  69  that is generally difficult for many to understand, thus opening itself up to a history of somewhat contradictory critiques. As noted earlier, much of this confusion stems from a substantial but underappreciated separation between the raising of funds through child sponsorship and the use of those funds. However efficacious child sponsorship may be at raising money, the marketing of sponsorship is at odds with what is seen as the legitimate use of those funds abroad and, therefore, fosters the misconception that child sponsorship is so much more than an extremely effective fundraising technique. In order to shed some light on this issue, it is useful to know a little more about the contemporary organizational and promotional context of child sponsorship.  Contexts of child sponsorship First of all, it is important to note that the majority of child sponsorship agencies are better described as NGOs or NGDOs (Non-Governmental Development Organizations) that use child sponsorship as a fundraising strategy. This reflects the fact that many of these organizations began their existence without the use of child sponsorship as it is known today. It also represents the reality of development spending by these organizations or their partners in the South, which is almost never focused directly on sponsored children and their individual needs but on community-wide projects that may or may not directly benefit these children. Finally, it takes into consideration that, in many cases, these organizations currently receive a lesser but significant portion of their revenue from sources other than child sponsorship, such as government grants.32 Consequently, it is somewhat inaccurate to describe them as child  32  It can be very difficult to determine how much of an organization’s revenue comes specifically from child sponsorship. However, Canada’s second largest sponsorship program in terms of overall organization  70  sponsorship agencies even when these organizations have largely come to be defined by child sponsorship, at least in terms of their public images in the North.33 Apart from this semantic issue, the separation between raising funds and spending them within child sponsorship is evident in the international and national structures of most sponsorship programs. The NGDOs that run these programs are often part of an international network of independent organizations (although they may share the same name such as Plan or World Vision). These networks are most often comprised of organizations in the North that principally raise money and their partner organizations or local affiliates in the South that principally spend it. Each of these organizations often has a separate management and board with individual priorities set at the national level.34 Many Northern sponsorship organizations are themselves often divided up into thematically and spatially distinct groups such that those individuals who prepare televised ads may not have any regular contact with those who deal with the responses to those ads or those who prepare the mail-outs to send to the newly recruited sponsors. These offices are predominantly staffed not by individuals who would be considered development professionals but by people who are educated in marketing, commerce, communications, or business administration and who were often previously employed in the private sector. This staffing arrangement is commonly reinforced through the revenue, Plan Canada collected only 63.7% of the organization’s 2009 revenue from child sponsorships (Plan Canada, 2009). Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, Canada’s fourth largest sponsorship program, collected only 49% of its 2009 revenue from child sponsorships (Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, 2009) 33 That said, the term “NGDO that uses child sponsorship” is a little weighty even though it is more accurate. This project favours the term “sponsorship program”, which is flexible enough to indicate that sponsorship can be the sole purpose of a particular NGDO or simply a specific program within an NGDO. The terms “sponsorship organization” or “sponsorship agency” is used now and again in this project, however, because it is common usage, and it is nice to have some variation in wording. 34 Apart from a useful international division of labour, the importance of having national organizations may be related both to charitable tax laws and to the perceived importance of having “local” staff, management, and oversight in terms of organizational reputation. See Chapter Three for a discussion of these and other organizational issues.  71  pervasive use of a particular style of language, one that is rooted in business with its concern for market share, brand image, and the servicing of clients (sponsors in this instance). While some of the consequences of these organizational arrangements will be discussed in a later chapter, it is sufficient to note for now how this set up structurally differentiates the process of fundraising from the on-the-ground development work it supports. The organizational structures of sponsorship programs are designed to support an elaborate, extensive, and above all, effective fundraising machine. This machine draws its operating power from the wallets of “average” Canadians who provide pre-determined and ongoing monthly donations, often drawn directly from VISA cards or bank accounts. According to the connotations of sponsorship promotional material, if not the fine print, these donations are earmarked for the care of a particular sponsored child. Through marketing communications, sponsors are often led to believe that their donations – and only the ongoing nature of these donations – provide the essentials for a happy and productive life for their sponsored child. Each year, this personal appeal entices hundreds of thousands of Canadians to begin and maintain sponsorships.35 The actual picture is different from what many people expect, although not necessarily different from what sponsorship programs explicitly state in much of their carefully-worded promotional material. As noted already, the monthly donation collected from a sponsor in Canada is, by and large, neither transferred directly to the sponsored 35  Based on 2009 revenue figures, the top five largest sponsorship programs in Canada collect funds for close to a three quarters of a million sponsored children, which likely places the number of sponsors in Canada at somewhere around half a million (because many people sponsor more than one child). With the cost of sponsorship around CAN$35 a month per child, this results in a staggering 315 million dollars a year in sponsorship revenue. Worldwide across these organizations and their partners, there are likely around five million sponsored children (or around 2.1 billion dollars Canadian a year in global sponsorship revenue).  72  child nor even directly to the sponsored child’s family or community. Instead, donations from all of the programs’ sponsors are pooled together with any additional funds the organization has raised and sent to partner organizations in the South in support of their ongoing development projects. Because these development projects are often multi-year endeavours, sometimes with funding from multiple sources, they are financially approved in advance and guaranteed funding over the life of the project (inasmuch as anything is guaranteed within the non-profit sector). What this essentially means is that all the children who live in the project area, including those waiting to be sponsored or those who have lost their sponsors, will benefit from what the project offers. So, despite sponsorship appeals that seem to indicate children are desperately awaiting sponsorship to receive help, this is rarely the case. Furthermore, while sponsorship marketing promises to provide everything from clean water to education to medicine, the sponsorship programs that raise the funds from Canadians do not always, or even often, set the priorities of the development projects in question. As is common within development practice nowadays, project objectives are determined, in consultation with all the stakeholders, by the local people or organizations that will actually be carrying out the day to day work of the project. The overall focus of projects, however, can sometimes be set at the funding level, and this is especially true of bilateral grants funnelled through NGDOs. This means that while a sponsor may think their child is getting a daily ration of food, the project in his or her community may be currently building a community centre or providing entrepreneurial training to local craftspeople. In most cases, sponsorship donations provide exactly the same thing as non-sponsorship donations – a source of funding for existing development projects in the South.36 36  That said, sponsorship funds are usually more stable and long-term than many other forms of donation,  73  All five of the largest child sponsorship programs in Canada follow this model to some extent. The president of World Vision, Canada’s largest child sponsorship program by a substantial margin, writes that they “pool your donations with gifts from other sponsors and supporters. The programs we operate with those funds help your sponsored child, as well as other children in their community” (World Vision Canada, 2010b). Plan Canada, the second largest sponsorship program in Canada, makes a similar disclaimer on their website. In response to the question: “Does my sponsorship contribution go directly to one child?” they reply, “No. Sponsorship contributions are pooled centrally and used to fund programs benefiting sponsored children, their families and their communities” (Plan Canada, 2010). The remaining three largest sponsorship programs – Compassion Canada, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, and Chalice (formerly known as Christian Child Care International, a specifically Catholic child sponsorship program) – function on a similar model in that sponsored children do not receive special benefits above and beyond what other children in the project area can receive (except in terms of communicating with their sponsors and having the possibility, in some cases, of receiving additional monetary gifts). Contrary to the other four major sponsorship programs, Compassion Canada states that they do not focus on community development projects and only fund partners who provide specific services to children in the form of education and meals (Compassion Canada, 2008a; Compassion International, 2010).  and sponsorship is often thought of as having an educational component for the sponsor, teaching them about development and other cultures as well as fostering compassion. This argument regarding the educational (and psychological) value of sponsoring a child will be discussed in later chapters. The same may hold true for sponsored children, but there is precious little information about this topic. There is a definite need for additional study on the benefits and drawbacks to being a sponsored child, especially those parts that focus on the relational aspects of sponsorship.  74  It is this model of sponsorship that has produced a substantial degree of confusion among both sponsors and the public, and it is this model that ultimately led the Chicago Tribune to criticize child sponsorships programs for not providing direct benefits some twenty years after the New Internationalist criticized them for doing exactly that. So, what changed in these intervening years? In aligning themselves with what came to be considered proper development practices – not fostering local disparities or providing short-lived, hand-out-style solutions to poverty – child sponsorship programs faced a dilemma regarding their marketing strategies. They could continue focussing on the individual connection between sponsor and child or switch to a more accurate but much less effective strategy of soliciting sponsors for communities or projects. Although some programs did try out and adopt the latter strategy, the majority of sponsorship programs opted to retain the emphasis on “individual” child sponsorship as a meaningful personal and financial relationship between sponsor and child. Whereas it may be a meaningful personal relationship between sponsor and child, it is more realistically described as a financial relationship between sponsor and organization. At some level, however, this distinction highlights not as much the fictional nature of child sponsorship but the fundamental difference between what constitutes legitimate development practice and what produces good fundraising results.  Child sponsorship in the context of (neo)liberalism The general shift in development thinking toward participatory, community-level approaches may have precipitated both the New Internationalist critique and, ultimately, the change in the way sponsorship programs carried out their development work if not  75  their advertising, but it cannot completely explain what the Chicago Tribune wrote in their special edition. The Tribune’s concern with investigating the correlation between advertising promises and direct benefits to sponsored children highlights a different kind of logic than what motivated the New Internationalist’s critical appraisal. There were substantive changes in the development discourse over the course of the 1980s and 90s that could help illuminate the disparity between these two critiques. In particular, the revitalization and reimagining of classical liberal thought during this period likely played a major role in the perception of legitimate child sponsorship practices. Commonly referred to as neoliberalism or advanced liberalism, this revival of (primarily) economic liberal principles places a strong emphasis on individual ability and responsibility along with privileging free-market values such as choice, competition, accountability, and efficiency. There is a great deal of academic work on the effect of neoliberalism on development (for example, see Chang and Grabel, 2004; Craig and Porter, 2006; Edelman and Haugerud, 2005), but what is important here is the re-legitimization of particular kinds of individual assistance and a devaluing of particular kinds of community-oriented development.37 (Neo)liberal thought tends to stress individual connections to the economy above communal bonds and puts forth a vision of childhood as a preparatory period in which the child is made ready for future economic life. Consequently, this viewpoint tends to see specific aid to children – particularly in the form of food, medicine, and above all, education – as creating (future) equality of opportunity among a class of individuals not yet deemed responsible for their economic 37  The “discovery” and subsequent wide-ranging implementation of individual micro-credit as a “solution” to development problems is a perfect example of this trend. See Chapter Six for more discussion on this issue.  76  situation. On the other hand, community-based projects, especially those not seeking to train locals in some aspect of their livelihood, are viewed with more suspicion as potentially removing the individual incentives to attain economic independence and prosperity. In (neo)liberal thought, these perspectives on aid are combined with individualized rather than systemic understandings of poverty, and consequently, with a tendency to look for personal misconduct or organizational malfeasance as an explanation for continuing poverty or poor aid efficacy. This emphasis helps explain how the reporters of the Chicago Tribune could present such a scathing assessment of child sponsorship programs despite the fact that, in many instances, these programs were following widely-accepted development practices as well as using the most effective (albeit potentially misleading) advertising strategies they knew. It helps explain how the Tribune located the problems of child sponsorship in the organizations that offer it (and not in any innate nature of the practice itself) and the solution to those problems in administrative efforts to improve the advertising and reporting practices of sponsorship programs (and not in the need for some fundamental economic and representational restructuring at the global level). Ultimately, it helps explain how the “mythical” nature of child sponsorship could be presented as equally disturbing to the sponsors it supposedly deceives as it is to the children it purports to help. For Tribune reporters, calling child sponsorship a “myth” seems to highlight the failed promises of sponsorship programs and the illusory character of the sponsor-child relationship. An alternative understanding of the term myth, however, highlights something very different but equally important to the critique of child sponsorship. For  77  semioticians such as Barthes (1972[1957]), myths are not simply fictional stories that relate to life. Instead, myths are a “type of speech” that not only represent the site of ideology but also help people make sense of cultural phenomena by structuring the connotative meanings of signs (Barthes: 109). The result of mythical speech, then, is the perceived naturalization of essentially arbitrary (or at least artificial) meanings, such as those commonly associated with children, development, or sponsorship. What this alternative meaning of myth implies for a critique of child sponsorship is that, rather than sponsorship being seen as a fiction which deceives sponsors, it can be understood as a form of communicating information about the world that naturalizes particular explanations of global poverty, its causes, and its solutions. Taken one step further, this alternative understanding of the mythical nature of sponsorship helps explains the reason why the articles comprising the Chicago Tribune series on child sponsorship are so relevant to the present project. While these articles provide a useful, if somewhat dated, description of common sponsorship criticisms that serve to introduce each chapter, they represent more than a simple counterpoint to the analyses presented in this project. The explanations and recriminations contained within these articles also represent a mythology of sponsorship critique, a naturalization of particular ideas of what is wrong with sponsorship, and by extension, what can be done to improve it. By unpacking some of the narratives within these articles, and highlighting the logic of their critique, this mythology is exposed. Exposing this mythology, at least in theory, is an essential first step to begin re-imagining a critique of sponsorship that does not start and end with individual or organizational error.  78  In explaining how child sponsorship operates as a fundraising practice in the North, the preceding discussion not only sets the stage for an analysis in the following chapters that focuses largely on the (mediated) relationship between sponsorship programs and sponsors but also highlights the (neo)liberal context within which sponsorship operates. Exploring some of the links between (neo)liberal thought and development practice, the next section lays the theoretical foundation for this project.  Governmentality and the Analytics of Development In order to explore the connections among (neo)liberal thought, the discourse of development, and the practice of child sponsorship, this study makes use of the concept of developmentality.38 This concept, which is introduced in more depth below, draws theoretical inspiration from Michel Foucault’s notion of governmentality. Somewhat simplistically, developmentality can best be described as a perspective that uses the discursive connections among difference meanings of development in order to help situate actors within contemporary global relations of power. Following Foucault’s later work, the focus of developmentality chiefly revolves around a concern with the ethical constitution of (Northern) liberal subjects. In the case of child sponsorship, this perspective facilitates an analysis that is as much about exploring the way sponsors (are encouraged to) imagine themselves as it is about the way sponsored children are represented.  38  This is not the first use of the term “developmentality” in the literature (for example, see Deb, 2009; Fendler, 2001; Ilcan and Phillips, 2006; Lie, 2005; Mawuko-Yevugah, 2010). See below for more discussion.  79  One of Foucault’s most widely appropriated ideas (Larner and Walters, 2004b: 3), the concept of governmentality connects many of the elements of his later work, such as pastoral power, bio-politics, and technologies of the self. It is sometimes seen as the lynchpin that ties together his seemingly disparate concerns with the genealogy of the state and that of the subject (Lemke, 2002). By exploring the connections between the government of others and the government of the self, the perspective of governmentality helps trace the particular relationships between freedom and control that characterize contemporary life in modern liberal states. It is Foucault’s (2003[1978]) term for describing a “deep historical link” among a variety of trends that changed the political, economic, and social environment between the 16th and 18th centuries in Europe (243). It is also his term for the rise to prominence of a “new” expression of power relations, in contrast to “older” expressions such as sovereignty and discipline, that was the end result of this link. Because of the breadth and complexity of the concept of governmentality, it is necessary to highlight and adapt some of the ideas in this perspective so they can better be used to target issues relating to child sponsorship; the product of this process of adaptation is referred to here as developmentality. The necessity for new terminology in this field is debatable. However, it is nevertheless useful to distinguish the focus of the present study from the wealth of literature on the “analytics of government” (Dean, 1999: 20), and there are significant differences in points of departure between governmentality and developmentality. These differences are rendered even more important due to the fact that developmentality, as with governmentality, is more of a perspective that guides analysis than a concept that provides explanations (see Rose, 1999: 21). This will become  80  apparent as developmentality is explored in more depth below. Before that, however, a review of the literature on governmentality will serve to set the stage. Foucault’s (2003[1978]) most succinct description of governmentality in English is found in a like-titled transcription of a lecture first presented as part of a 1977-78 course on “Security, Territory, and Population”.39 Foucault begins this text by contrasting the ideas of sovereignty presented in Machiavelli’s The Prince to the fledgling discourse on the “art of government” in the 16th century (229). With this comparison, he wants to highlight the emergence of a new concern in the government of people, a concern that takes up not only the problem of controlling people within certain territories but also the problem of optimizing such things as their productivity, health, and even happiness. In particular, he is discussing a transition from what might be considered the territorial state, in which the power of the “prince” is supposedly drawn from the territory of the principality and acts on those subjects confined within it, to the administrative state, in which governors operate to ensure the “right disposition of things, arranged so as to lead to a convenient end” (La Perriere as cited in Foucault, 2003[1978]: 236). This transition in the perceived problem of government, and thus the focus of state management, resulted in the formation of a body of knowledge dealing with the relationship between people and all the things that make up their everyday lives. This new science of political economy, with its emphasis on statistics and its understanding of the economy as a separate field of existence with its own rules and challenges, differed greatly from the kind of advice to governors that came before.  39  The entire content of this course is now available in English and provides some very useful context for this excerpt (see Foucault, 2007).  81  For a variety of historical reasons that Foucault (2003[1978]) discusses at some length, the discourse around the “art of government” was initially unable to compete with the juridical model of sovereign power at the time. It was not until the 18th century with the introduction of the theme of population that governmental power really emerged as a dominant feature of life in Europe. This interest in population “as a datum, as a field of intervention, and as an objective of governmental techniques” (243) both materialized out of the “new” science of political economy and solidified its transformation away from a minor discourse on governmental priorities to the dominant regime of knowledge supporting state intervention. As the theme of population rose in importance, it came to displace the model of the family that had long been structuring relations between governors and governed. No longer was the family the model of power wherein the sovereign was the metaphorical parent to the subject-child and the economy was understood in terms of proper family management. Instead, the family became a significant site of intervention of governmental techniques40 firmly rooted in an understanding of the population as the object of government and the “ultimate end of government” (241). That is to say, “[i]n contrast to sovereignty, government has as its purpose not in the act of government itself, but the welfare of the population, the improvement of its condition, the increase of its wealth, longevity, health, and so on” (241). Foucault (2008; 2003[1979a]) has referred elsewhere to the emergence of this overarching concern for, and intervention in, the welfare of the population as “the birth of biopolitics”. The biopolitical theme of population together with the emergence of political economy resulted in a rupture in the dominance of structures of sovereignty and 40  For an insightful analysis of this process, see Donzelot (1979).  82  discipline that had been at the root of power relations in Europe for centuries. This does not mean, however, that there was any kind of smooth evolutionary process whereby sovereignty was replaced by discipline which was in turn replaced by governmentality. Rather, “one has a triangle, sovereignty-discipline-government, which has as its primary target the population and as its essential mechanism the apparatuses of security” (Foucault, 2003[1978]: 243). This triangle does not have even sides though. While power relations based on problems of sovereignty and discipline are still evident today, particularly in the legislative and judicial systems, governmental concerns have become the pre-eminent feature of power relations. One could say that, during this period, all power relations became reorganized under “the general problematics of government, which concerns the best way to exercise powers over conduct individually and en masse so as to secure the good of each and of all” (Rose, 1999: 23). This growing significance of government results in a sweeping “governmentalization of the state”, which in Foucault’s mind, is both different from and more important than the “statization of society”. In order to make sense of this statement, Foucault assumes the reader is familiar with his understanding of the terms “to govern” and “government”, which are not directly related to the actual body that runs the state. Instead, he is referring to an older usage of the term that draws on the meaning of government as the control of and concern for individuals by themselves as well as by heads of family, companies, organizations, in addition to states. This usage addresses the will to act so as to affect the actions of others to achieve a desired end. Government, then, is “the conduct of conduct”, where the first instance of conduct is the verb form meaning to direct and the latter instance is the noun form meaning behaviour. “Putting these  83  senses of ‘conduct’ together, government entails any attempt to shape with some degree of deliberation aspects of our behaviour according to particular sets of norms and for a variety of ends” (Dean, 1999: 10). As Foucault (2003[1982a]) words it, to govern “is to structure the possible field of action of others” (138). This understanding of government situates Foucault’s analysis of the governmentalization of the state much more in the realm of power than politics (inasmuch as there is really a distinction). In looking at how new concerns about the welfare of populations and individuals were coupled with new interventions to guide their behaviour in light of these concerns, Foucault demonstrates a very different focus from that of political theorists who address state formation. That is to say, he is more interested in how states have uniformly, and almost universally, taken up characteristic ways of seeing and addressing problems in relation to their citizens than in how they have simply come to be an organizational feature of the global landscape. Without such an understanding, one may get caught up in the minor differences between the “governing” practices of states at the expense of noting the shocking similarity in the way they define and deal with the problems of government. All of the above points are neatly if not clearly summed up in Foucault’s (2003[1978]) definition of governmentality, which he says has three related meanings: 1. The ensemble formed by the institutions, procedures, analyses, and reflection, the calculations and tactics that allow the exercise of this very specific albeit complex form of power, which has as its target population, as its principal form of knowledge political economy, and as its essential technical means apparatuses of security” 2. The “tendency” that governmental power has come to be the preeminent form of power (over discipline and sovereignty), which manifests itself through “specific governmental apparatuses” and “whole complex of knowledges” 3. The result of changes in states leading to the present era of administrative, governmentalized states (244). 84  This very concrete, historical definition of governmentality from his sole discussion explicitly dedicated to the subject only hints at the broader understandings that are so commonly found in the literature. Fortunately, Foucault discusses governmentality in numerous other places (for example, see Foucault, 2003[1982a], 2003[1982b], 2003[1984a], 2007), and a number of scholars have summarized and expanded his work on the subject (for example, see Barry, Osborne, and Rose 1996; Bratich, Packer, and McCarth, 2003; Burchell, Gordon, and Miller, 1991; Dean, 1999; Dean and Hindess, 1998; Larner and Walters, 2004a; Lemke, 2001, 2002 and 2007; Rose, 1998 and 1999; Rose and Miller, 1992). Mitchell Dean (1999), for example, notes that there are two broad meanings of governmentality in the literature. Apart from the specific genealogy of governmental thought and practice outlined by Foucault in his essay, Dean notes a broader meaning that simply “deals with how we think about governing, with the different mentalities of government” (16).41 These mentalities are products of bodies of social and cultural knowledge, such as the human sciences, that organize our individual and collective action to meet certain ends. Consequently, the “analysis of government is concerned with thought as it becomes linked to and is embedded in technical means for the shaping and reshaping of conduct and in practices and institutions. Thus to analyse mentalities of government is to analyse thought made practical and technical” (18). This recognition of a broader meaning of governmentality that focuses on both thought and practice outside of the particular historical context discussed by Foucault is an important factor in its extensive diffusion throughout the literature. It allowed for the application of 41  Dean (1999) uses the term “mentality of government” as the possible source behind Foucault’s neologism governmentality; other scholars, such as Colin Gordon (1991), describe it in terms of “governmental rationality”. The difference appears largely immaterial as the concepts are described in basically the same light. That said, I tend to favour the latter terminology and, therefore, most often discuss the “rationality” rather than the “mentality” of development.  85  the governmentality perspective to a wide range of contemporary issues dealing with a specific kind of behavioural regulation. This broader meaning draws together many of the implicit elements within governmentality, such as a particular way of formulating problems and devising solutions, a particular understanding of power and its relationship to ideas of freedom, and a particular concern for optimizing the lives of individuals and collectivities. Mentalities of government are able to organize practices through their relationship with the production of truth (Dean, 1999). Foucault (2003[1980b]; 2003[1971]) states explicitly that his “problem is to see how men govern (themselves and others) by the production of truth” (252), and that “governmentalization is… this movement through which individuals are subjugated in the reality of a social practice through mechanisms of power that adhere to a truth” (266). As noted in the introduction to this project, a Foucauldian understanding of discourse sees truth as a product of power relations and, therefore, contingent upon the social and cultural context in which it is produced. In the case of present mentality of government, a number of core (neo)liberal tenets are granted a privileged space in relationship not only to what is considered true but also, consequently, to what is considered both useful and good. For example, “that it is necessary to attempt to properly manage the economy is one feature of the mentality of national governments that is completely taken for granted” (Dean, 1999: 16). While it would be possible to make a long list of what are thought to be core liberal tenets, such as the notion of individual rights of the citizen in relation to the state or the importance of individual responsibility within the economic marketplace, it is more instructive to see liberalism not so much as a coherent philosophy but as “a characteristic way of posing  86  problems” (49). In particular, liberal problematizations appear to draw on certain notions of freedom as a way to determine what constitutes legitimate justification for, or critique of, governmental practices. This view highlights the shifting nature of liberal thought over the past several hundred years, including the newest variant in neoliberalism, at the same time as acknowledging its continuity with respect to the importance placed on individual freedoms and responsibilities. As Nikolas Rose (1999) reminds us, “[o]nly a certain kind of liberty – a certain way of understanding and exercising freedom, of relating to ourselves individually and collectively as subjects of freedom – is compatible with liberal arts of rule” (63). Freedom plays a crucial role in Foucault’s thoughts on power in general and in the perspective of governmentality in particular. Foucault (2003[1982a]; 1990[1978]) discusses relations of power primarily as productive rather than repressive. Power works through production because, fundamentally, power represents the ability of individuals to choose and to act on those choices. Expressions of power are present, therefore, in all individual actions however minor as well as the consequences of those actions on others. As Foucault (1990[1978]) notes, power “is produced from one moment to the next, at every point, or rather in every relation from one point to another. Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere” (93). Because every action alters the actions of others, however, the collective actions of all individuals serve to constrain the overall possible field of actions. It can therefore be said that power allows action but also operates to delimit it. Significantly, power delimits action not by force – Foucault calls this domination – but by constraining the free choices of individuals through discursive processes of demarcating legitimate choices from  87  illegitimate ones. Even though the field of action is constrained in this way, freedom is still “the condition for the exercise of power” (2003[1978]: 139). In other words, The characteristic feature of power is that some men can more or less entirely determine other men’s conduct – but never exhaustively or coercively. A man who is chained up and beaten is subject to force being exerted over him. Not power. But if he can be induced to speak, when his ultimate recourse could have been to hold his tongue, preferring death, then he has been caused to behave in a certain way. His freedom has been subjected to power. He has been submitted to government (2003[1979b]: 200). Through this understanding of power, Foucault links his thoughts on freedom and government. In part, then, governmentality describes the emergence of freedom as the fundamental organizing feature of power relations. While the element of freedom has always been present in power relations, it has never been more central to arts of government. “[M]odern individuals are not merely ‘free to choose’, but obliged to be free, to understand and enact their lives in terms of choice” (Rose, 1999: 87, emphasis in original). This movement toward an understanding of government through freedom, rather than in spite of it, has been a particularly liberal undertaking whereby people “were to be ‘freed’ in the realms of the market, civil society, the family” only to be simultaneously subjected to “the invention of a whole series of attempts to shape and manage conduct within them in desirable ways” (69). This shaping and management is not a top down process but something in which individuals take an active part. Consequently, the goal of liberalism is to accomplish the ends of government, now reformulated in terms of the welfare of the population, not through force or intimidation on a broad level but through encouraging people to regulate themselves in order to reach some personal state of health, wealth, or happiness. The liberal dream was to “produce individuals who did not need to be governed by others, who would govern themselves through introspection, foresight, calculation, judgement and according to certain ethical 88  norms. In these ideal individuals the social objective of the good citizen would be fused with the personal aspiration for a civilized life: this would be the state called freedom” (78). While this dream has been reoriented over time as the focus of liberal critique has shifted, it has always maintained this dual, and sometimes paradoxical, characteristic of individual freedom and collective welfare.42 Foucault (2003[1982a]; 2003[1979b], 2003[1971]) often discusses this dual emphasis on the individual and the population in terms of what he calls the Christian pastoral or pastoral power. This form of power stems from the sheep-shepherd metaphor found in early Christianity. The Christian pastoral represents the spiritual leader’s concern, like that of the shepherd, for both the material continuity of the entire flock as well as the eternal salvation of each individual soul within the flock. This dual attention is rejuvenated and appropriated by those interested in the art of government around the time when the theme of population emerges as a major force. The result is a paradoxical mixture of individualizing and totalizing expressions of power that Foucault terms pastoral power and that he believes is a central element in the governmentalization of the state. In simple terms, pastoral power is the simultaneous concern for the welfare of the community and the individual. It is also the expression of this concern through the development of specific bodies of knowledge and the implementation of a variety of techniques of intervention aimed at the individual for the supposed good of the population. In reality, however, the relationship among power, knowledge, truth, and ethics means that these interventions are often as much about (self)control as they are about welfare, assuming one can even draw so clean a distinction between the two (for 42  See Dean (1999), for a discussion of the tension in liberalism as it “seeks to balance the bio-political imperative of the optimization of the life of the population against the rights of the juridical-political subject and the norms of an economic government” (49).  89  example, see Cruikshank, 1996). This connection leads Foucault (2003[1982b]) to discuss governmentality in other terms as well, namely as the interaction between technologies of domination of others and technologies of the self. For Foucault (2003[1982b]), technologies of domination43 “determine the conduct of individuals and submit them to certain ends”; in other words, they represent practices that make people objects, many of these practices being present in the human sciences (146). On the other hand, technologies of the self are practices that “permit individuals to effect by their own means, or with the help of others, a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, immortality” (146). In describing the interaction between the two, Foucault (2003[1983]) gives the example of educational institutions, whose leaders seek to directly manage the conduct of their members through such things as institutional culture or codes of behaviour while simultaneously teaching them to manage themselves (123). While technologies of the self obviously existed before the specific genealogy of liberal governmentality that Foucault (2003[1978]) traces, he wants to highlight how they have been transformed over time according to different rationalities regarding the relation of the self to itself. In particular, he notes how they have transitioned from an emphasis on caring for oneself (found in ancient Greek and Roman cultures) to an emphasis on knowing oneself (beginning in early Christianity) and renouncing oneself – through what might now be understood as confessional practices for example. Importantly, the component of self-renunciation has now largely been discarded while the element of  43  Foucault (2003[1982b]) also refers to these as technologies of power. This is a little confusing as he often attempts to somewhat differentiate power and domination (for example, see Foucault, 2003[1984a]: 27).  90  verbalization of one’s perceived history, current feelings, and future desires has flourished (think of the growth of psychology and counselling practices) (Foucault, 2003[1982b]). Consequently, a novel “relation of the self to itself” is present and interacts uniquely with the “relationship to the other” that is implied in technologies of domination; it is this unique interaction, and its effects, that Foucault (2003[1984a]) refers to as governmentality (41). Furthermore, it is this unique interaction that “constructs a relationship between government and the governed that increasingly depends upon ways in which individuals are required to assume the status of being the subjects of their lives, upon the ways in which they fashion themselves as certain kinds of subjects, upon the ways in which they practice their freedom” (Burchell, 1996: 29-30). Governmentality, then, lies at the heart of both politics and ethics for Foucault. It represents not only the ways in which people are constrained and controlled in society but also the particular ways in which they are set free as individuals and invited to use this freedom to improve themselves (or enjoy themselves) for the supposed benefit of all. Under (neo)liberal arts of rule, individuals are simultaneously constituted as citizens of states and subjects of government, but these are not coterminous. Their role as citizens is in furtherance of their status as governed and not the other way around. This is Foucault’s insight – that modern forms of power may function through the state and its institutions, but they do not predominantly stem from it. Instead, they circulate through the myriad of daily practices in which individuals, in their freedom, choose to take part. This circulation is not arbitrary or coincidental; it is the direct product of a way of thinking about the relationship between individuals and the political collectivities they form. It is through the conception of freedom within this relationship, and the specific choices that it allows,  91  that individuals are both subjected to power and defined as ethical beings. This way of rethinking power and its effects displaces the often paramount role accorded to the state on a national level of analysis; it also allows for a different way of understanding the field of international relations, including such things as imperialism and development.  Global governmentalities While the burgeoning field of governmentality studies has more often than not ignored the international realm, this neglect has been challenged in recent years. In the introduction to their important collection on Global Governmentality, Larner and Walters (2004b) trace the uneven extension of Foucault’s ideas to the supra-national level. They note that apart from a handful of studies covering such topics as citizenship and the interstate system (Hindess, 2000; 2002), European integration (Barry, 1993; 1996), or New Public Management (Salskov-Iversen, Hansen, and Bislev, 2000), the field “pushed most consistently ‘outside’ the nation-state” deals with the relationship between governmentality and colonial power (Larner and Walters, 2004b: 6). The resulting concept of “colonial governmentality” has become a popular way of shifting the analysis of colonialism away from the traditional understanding of colonial rule as a monolithic and oppressive field of power with largely homogenous purposes and consequences (for example, see Dutton, 2009; Pels, 1997; Scott, 1995). In its place, there is an understanding of colonial relations as changing to incorporate a “distinctive political rationality… in which power comes to be directed at the destruction and reconstruction of colonial space so as to produce not so much extractive-effects on colonial bodies as  92  governing-effects on colonial conduct” (Scott, 1995: 204).44 However, this does not mean that sovereign and disciplinary power did not circulate at a global level during the colonial era (nor continue to circulate after it supposedly ended). In fact, it is the “complex [and one could say novel] intersections of sovereign and biopolitical idioms of power” that most defines the function of governmentality on a global level (Dillon, 2004: 78).45 This logic fits well, after all, into the traditional understanding of the dual purposes of colonialism: to expand state influence and wealth and to undertake a civilizing mission. This same logic also transposes into the field of present-day humanitarian and developmental interventions, which may express security or economic interests on the individual and national levels but which are also “held in place by a notion of cure, improvement, civility and good governance: a need to overcome misery by eradicating the barbaric and the uncivilised” (Dutton, 2009: 308-309). In trying to come to grips with these articulations of sovereign and governmental power in the (post)colonial context, Tanya Murray Li (2007) traces how attempts to improve rural life in Indonesia have turned local, political issues regarding land and resources into broad technical problems to be dealt with by experts, effectively rendering them non-political. Li notes how the “will to improve” is inherently located within the field of governmental power (stemming from the biopolitical focus on population) and how this will is constantly being expressed in ways that are delimited by the boundaries of expert knowledge. Part of her insight into this dynamic is her focus on where the 44  This argument by governmentality scholars emphasizing the liberal, biopolitical imperatives of colonial relations dovetails, and in some cases draws on, the work of some postcolonial writers, who discuss the myriad of resistances and hybrid states that are adopted by colonial subjects (for example, see Bhabha, 1994; Stoler, 1989). 45 See also Dean (2001), Hindess (2001), Helliwell and Hindess (2002), and Valverde (1996) for discussions of how liberal modes of government can effectively legitimize removing freedoms in some societies, usually those considered uncivilized or undeveloped.  93  governmental forces that articulate this “will to improve” run up against the limits of knowledge and action regarding the population as well as the limits of technical intervention in light of such things as law, custom, and political resistance. She analyzes these limits of governmentality, these particular iterations of a concern for the development of the population, by “combining attention to the rationale of improving schemes with the investigation of what happens when these schemes entangle the world they would regulate and transform” (270). Li’s (2007) approach to studying development interventions using a governmentality perspective mirrors much of the work done by other Foucault-inspired development scholars (for example, see Escobar, 1995; Ferguson, 1994; Rahnema and Bawtree, 1997; Rist, 2002), particularly those who commonly fall under the label of postdevelopment.46 As with studies of (post)colonial life, it is only recently that it has become popular to highlight the way development commonly works against those who are most vulnerable through the semantic processes of categorization, explanation, and justification as much as through self-interested trade arrangements and repressive state practices. Although they make extensive use of Foucault’s ideas, such as the productivity of power and its inherent relationship to knowledge and truth, most postdevelopment scholars do not officially adopt a governmentality perspective as Li does.47 There have, however, been a number of scholars in addition to Li who combine an interest in international development activities with an explicit governmentality perspective, some of whom even use the term developmentality (for example, see Deb, 2009; Ilcan and Phillips, 2006; Lie, 2005; Rojas, 2004; Mawuko-Yevugah, 2010; Watts, 2002). For 46  See Chapter One for a brief review of some postdevelopment scholars. This may be due to the timeline of these studies with respect to the wide availability of Foucault’s later work or may reflect the perceived political rather than cultural thrust of governmentality. 47  94  example, John Lie (2005) looks at how the World Bank uses its Comprehensive Development Framework and Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (which replaced structural adjustment programs) as mechanisms of international regulation through selfgovernment. His use of the term developmentality in this context reflects a relatively straightforward extension of governmental themes of “the conduct of conduct” into the realm of international development. Lie highlights the continuity of effects between the earlier emphases on the conditionality of aid and later emphases on participation, both of which are “gate keeping principles in the current arrangement of aid relations between donor and recipient institutions” (1). By focussing on this continuity, Lie largely restricts his analysis to the (comparable) regulatory effects of new strategies of government in the global South. Mawuko-Yevugah (2010), while integrating a much more focused use of developmentality that includes insights from postcolonial theory, still largely follows Lie in examining the influence of governmental power on people in the South.48 While all these Foucault-inspired critiques of development underline the strategic construction of categories of knowledge, they often have in common this orientation toward understanding how these categories affect the lives of people in the South. This emphasis is, of course, entirely warranted, but it can have the effect of sidelining how these same development categories influence the thoughts and actions of people in the North. By no means is this area neglected by academics in general; for example, postcolonial scholars have thoroughly analyzed the constitution of colonial subjects both in the colonies and in the “home” country (for example, see Bhabha, 1994; Fanon,  48  Mawuko-Yevugah (2010) looks extensively at the discursive construction of Africa and its effect on development interventions. While this goes beyond looking at the intersection between governmentality and international development solely in terms of (self-)regulation, his case study deals with Ghana and is, therefore, largely concerned with the South.  95  2008[1952]; Hall, 1997; McClintock, 1995; Mohanty, 1991; Said, 1979 and 1994) and many studies have investigated the impact of particular representations of poverty, race, development, and other cultures (for example, see Lutz and Collins, 1993; Moeller, 1999; Nederveen Pieterse 1992; Smith, 2003; Sontag, 2003). Two prominent examples of research that draw on the concept of governmentality to help describe the construction of (ethical) subjects in the North are Samantha King’s (2006) work on breast cancer survivorship and the politics of philanthropy and Barbara Cruikshank’s (1996; 1999) work on poverty, self-help, and citizenship in the US. Both of these projects highlight the way in which particular modes of self-government, principally meaning self-regulation, are bound up in discourses of what it means to be a good citizen under modern (neo)liberal arts of government. They also both address, however, the way in which these discourses “shape identities”, “cultivate political subjects”, and “produce knowledges and truths” about breast cancer and the poor respectively (King, 2003: 296). What is valuable about this latter emphasis, which is a natural extension of the perspective of governmentality but which is often neglected in favour of the former, is how the accepted value of independent, “positive” action such as voluntarism, participation, and philanthropy is denaturalized and relocated within specific strategies of government. Instead of seeing the “Race for the Cure” or self-esteem programs as always-already “good”, these practices are understood as an inherent facet of (neo)liberal arts of rule that focus on the production of compatible and amenable citizensubjects.  96  Lynn Fendler (2001) also uses a governmentality perspective to examine the constitution of (neo)liberal subjectivities in the North.49 Not only does she discuss how the present “educated subject” – the child in this case – is constructed through particular epistemological, curricular, and pedagogical discourses, but she also draws attention to the role of developmental psychology in this process (120). In doing this, she brings to light the influence of a different kind of development discourse, that of child development, and how this discourse governs the production of curricula that are “developmentally appropriate” (124). Also making use of the term developmentality50 albeit in a slightly different context than discussed above, Fendler investigates the way that the discursive construction of “normal” child development influences contemporary educational practices resulting in an importance being placed on flexibility in both process and effect. Far from an emancipation from regulation, this emphasis on flexibility helps construct very specific types of educated subjects who are “response-ready and response-able” and who therefore fit well into contemporary (neo)liberal society.  From governmentality to developmentality The aforementioned gap in the governmentality literature between studies of personal (or child) development in the North and studies of international development (largely examining effects in the South) is a fertile ground for new theorizing. Not only does a connection between these subjects seem to follow directly from Foucault’s work  49  See Hultqvist and Dahlberg (2001) for more work that combines a governmentality perspective with an emphasis on the construction of the child in (neo)liberal society. 50 Here, she is using it in a sense similar to that of Stenner and Marshall (1999), who discuss developmentality with respect to the mentality of developmentalism that pervades considerations of the human life cycle. Their work is the earliest reference to developmentality I was able to find in the literature; Stenner and Marshall, however, make no reference to governmentality or Foucault.  97  on governmentality as the intersection between technologies of domination of others and technologies of the self, but it also draws on a crucial element of critical race theory, that element which discusses the relationship between the representation of racialized Others and construction of whiteness in the North (for example, see Delgado and Stephancic, 2001). As an equivalent process of racialization to that which affects many Southern people(s), the construction of whiteness associated with the discourse of development relies on a broader notion of development than is usually employed by critical development scholars.51 Accordingly, these two features inform the way governmentality is taken up in the present study on the practice(s) of child sponsorship. As noted above, this project adapts some of the points of governmentality to better fit the context and, therefore, adopts the relatively new label of “developmentality”. This term is used to indicate the way in which the problem space of development, rather than that of government, is conceptualized and results in a myriad of practices, and justifications of practices, that only make sense within a particular model of human relations. Consequently, as opposed to referring primarily to a governmental analysis of international development, developmentality can be understood as a way of repositioning the idea of development (whether economic, personal, biological, etc.) in order to “think otherwise” about the issue.52 That said, these  51  Here, I am thinking primarily of the way postdevelopment writers, such as Escobar (1995) and Sachs (1999), discuss the discourse of development as a novel formation after WWII that is largely focused on the South. Instead, I would like to include a consideration of how various meanings of development (economic, personal, biological, etc.) interact to produce similar governing effects on people in the South and in the North. As is sometimes noted, it is not these governing effects that are a novel feature of post-WWII life, in many ways they are an extension of colonial relations, it is only the rationalization for these effects that has changed. 52 In this sense, the present use of developmentality is both similar to and different from other uses of the term in the literature. I make a conscious effort to break from the way Lie (2005) and Mawuko-Yevugah (2010) make use of the term if not from their general alignment to what can be considered “developmental rationality”. Lie (2005) is unclear about how his use of developmentality differs from a straightforward  98  two terms are not so far apart given Foucault’s use of a broader notion of government and his analysis of biopower within it. In many instances, the telos of (neo)liberal governmentality is basically synonymous with a particular understanding of development as the improvement of the welfare of the population. Consequently, the developmentality perspective is intended to directly mirror governmentality in most aspects, but there are a few central elements that shift (or in some cases simply narrow) the scope of governmentality. The first of these elements relates directly to this broader understanding of government adopted by Foucault. This expanded usage highlights the perceived continuity of form and purpose among different levels of government (that is: self, family, organization, state, etc.). This concept of continuity is important in that it allows Foucault to connect the government of the self with the government of others and in that it reveals the influence of pastoral power. Recall that pastoral power represents a simultaneous concern for the welfare of the entire population and all individuals within it, a concern for “all and each” as Foucault words it (2003[1979b]). This dual concern, which is reflected in concrete practices that invite, encourage, and cajole individuals to act in ways seen as simultaneously beneficial for themselves and the larger group, helps obscure the regulatory effects of governmental techniques. The perceived continuity of government appears to be analogous to that found among different “levels” of development (that is: personal, biological/lifespan, organizational, economic, international, etc.), each of which invites, encourages, and cajoles people into taking part  governmental analysis of development practices. While Mawuko-Yevugah (2010) expands on governmentality with reference to postcolonial theory, something that I also try to do in this project, our two purposes, and therefore our end points, seem very different. The quote about thinking otherwise is from Foucault (2003[1980a]: 179).  99  in practices that betray a deep connection among these levels (or perhaps one should say discourses). Far from being independent of each other, the various uses of the term development articulate with each other in important ways. Just as Foucault describes the totalizing and individualizing effects of power in light of the Christian pastoral, this articulation results in a diffusion and naturalization of global power relations based on a common conceptualization of the problems of development. The articulation of the development trope across various sites is related to a metaphorical relationship founded upon the all-too-straightforward association between social life and maturational or evolutionary processes. In this way, particular practices of economic development, social development, personal development, and so on, are rationalized using an organic model of progress that features such things as directionality (growth has a purpose, a more advanced end state, and follows a number of well-defined stages to get there), continuity (there is some degree of “permanence through change” during this process), cumulativeness (every stage depends on the previous one for proper functioning and every stage is necessarily more advanced than what came before), and irreversibility (generally, in the “natural” order of things, it is not possible to go back to previous stages) (Rist, 2002: 27). To this list, one might add universality, which is a – if not the – key discursive mechanism allowing for the expression of governmental power over issues of development, whether economic, personal, or otherwise. The prevalence of these features within the various discourses of development has resulted in, among other things, an image of all societies as moving naturally and consistently ‘up’, on a route from poverty, barbarism, despotism, and ignorance to riches, civilization, democracy and rationality, expressed at its highest in Science. This is also an irreversible movement from endless diversity of particularities, wasteful of human energies and 100  economic resources to a world unified and simplified into the one most rational arrangement. It is therefore movement from badness to goodness and from mindlessness to knowledge (Shanin, 1997: 65). The idea that societies develop through well-defined stages that simultaneously mirror the evolution of the human species and the maturation of the individual human body/psyche has long been taken for granted.53 Not only has this idea justified the treatment of whole societies like children but it has also firmly located the “mature” form of society, and therefore the goal of all societal development, in the North. Even with contemporary modifications, this value-laden image of societal progress has been surprisingly durable and forms the basic connotation of all that falls under the label of international development, so much so that it is challenging to semantically separate the terms development and progress. Analysis of the metaphorical underpinnings of societal development is not new to international development studies (for example, see Esteva, 1992; Porter, 1995; Rist, 2002), but what is commonly left out of these discussions is an understanding of the equivalent metaphorical processes that occur in other uses of the term development and the connections that link them together. The common features of the organic metaphor foster broad, thematic linkages between such things as the development of the child and the development of society (think of the banality of phrases linking children to the future of society or comparing colonial subjects to children needing guidance) and the development of individuals, companies, or organizations and the development of the national economy (think of the use of protectionist policies in international trade or the value placed on entrepreneurial “personalities”). In fact, a host of projects and programs,  53  In terms of international development, Rostow (1960) is the classical example, but the roots of this perspective go back much farther to the Enlightenment-era thought of Kant and Hegel if not before.  101  both in the North and the South, have been initiated and justified on the basis of this metaphorical manoeuvre. It is not simply a shared metaphorical language that is of interest, however. What is important is how particular rationalities are constructed from such shared concepts, and how these rationalities inform specific practices. For example, tax breaks are often directly rationalized using the language of indirect collective improvement. As Canada’s Economic Action Plan (Government of Canada, 2010) states: “Tax reductions are an essential part of the government's effort to stimulate the economy. Permanent tax reductions also help create a solid foundation for future economic growth, more jobs and higher living standards for Canadians” (n.p.). In this way, the increasing “responsibilization” of the individual under neoliberal platforms is often justified via the (supposed) economic link between personal and collective development. This emphasis on the unique character and consequences of each articulation of the development trope directly follows from the governmentality approach, which highlights the way that everyday practices are distinctively located within broader concerns of government. As with governmentality, developmentality offers a perspective that attempts to draw connections between the daily actions of individuals and the formation of specific discourses that structure these actions through the construction of truth and, ultimately, the determination of ethical conduct.54 This emphasis on everyday practices and the rationalities behind them is a critical element in following a Foucauldian theoretical framework.55 In this light, then, a developmentality approach is more about 54  As with Li (2007), this approach focuses on the way certain conceptualizations of the problems of development are “rendered technical” and the resulting interventions appear natural and apolitical. 55 According to Foucault, the point “is not assessing things in terms of an absolute against which they could be evaluated as constituting more or less perfect forms of rationality, but rather examining how forms of rationality inscribe themselves in practices or systems of practices, and what role they play within them, because it is true that ‘practices’ do not exist without a certain regime of rationality” (Foucault 2003[1980b]: 251).”  102  locating and analyzing particular articulations and their significance than it is about justifying the overarching impact of the development metaphor. In the present study, this element of developmentality guides the analysis by privileging certain kinds of questions, such as what are the connections between developing a (sponsorship) organization and helping to improve the lives of (sponsored) children (Chapter Three), how does the notion of “proper” child development in modern liberal society influence the location of children and sponsors in sponsorship advertising (Chapter Four), and how is the relationship between developing or improving oneself and helping others incorporated into child sponsorship (Chapter Five). It is obvious from these questions that the objective of a developmentality perspective is not as much about understanding the regulatory aspects of child sponsorship as it is about understanding the coordination among the goals of government on individual and international levels. While governmentality studies have tended to emphasize the management of populations through the self-management of individuals, it is important to remember that “government has as its purpose not the act of government itself, but the welfare of the population, the improvement of its condition, the increase of its wealth, longevity, health, and so on” (emphasis added, Foucault, 2003[1978]: 241). The fact that the purpose of government is basically synonymous with that of development, for Foucault, makes it possible and desirable within this framework to study not only the way individuals regulate themselves (as a facet of the regulation of others) but also the way they develop themselves (as a facet of the development of others). The significance of an emphasis on development (as in improvement) rather than  103  government (as in management) is that it brings into greater focus the productive nature of power and the ethical dimensions of liberalism. The discussion of the “improvement” as opposed to the “management” of individuals and populations leads into the second element of developmentality that distinguishes it from governmentality. This element relates to the understanding of governmentality as the “encounter between the technologies of domination of others and those of the self” (Foucault, 2003[1982b]: 147). As part of the thematic link among different uses of development, the perspective of developmentality similarly ties together technologies of the self, particularly those practices focusing on self-improvement, with the development of “Others”. While still recognizing the connection between technologies that expressly seek to control the actions of others (i.e. all individuals in society) and those that are supposed to improve the individual, this formulation slightly shifts the emphasis to practices that specifically address the improvement of others in relation to the improvement of the self. As noted above, the purpose of this altered emphasis is to highlight the positioning of ethical action within contemporary arts of government while still identifying the discursive narrowing of the legitimate field of action. This formulation also shifts the focus from a national frame of reference that juxtaposes individuals with their larger imagined community56 to an international one that links in-groups to (representations of) out-groups. With the infusion of the sociopsychological and postcolonial concept of the Other (see Bhabha, 1994; Lacan, 2006[1977]; Levinas, 1969; Said, 1994), attention moves from the traditional problem of the relationship between individuals and their larger political body to the problem of the 56  This well-known phrase is borrowed from Anderson (1991).  104  relationship between individuals and people from different economic, cultural, and political groups. Not only does this focus on Others incorporate racialized and religious divides into the field of governmentality, but it also draws attention to the significant role that liberal discourses of charity play within global relations of power and wealth.57 A critical theory of race is not new for Foucault even though he is commonly (and sometimes understandably) accused of Eurocentrism (for examples, see Foucault, 2003[1976]; Foucault 1990[1978]; for debates, see Kurasawa, 1999; Stoler, 1995; Young, 1995). Even though most of his writing dealt with what he called the ancient and classical periods of European history, Foucault was a well-known for his anti-humanist critiques, which are generally sceptical of all attempts to categorize the complexity and diversity of human life. However, the concept of governmentality does not, at first glance, lend itself to a critical analysis of racialization processes. What is not clear from this perspective, as noted above, is the abstract (and one could say artificial) separation of people into ingroups and out-groups (with relatively stable and unequal relations of power) and the importance of this division for both regulatory and developmental efforts. The injection of a focus on Others into Foucault’s theorizing around governmental techniques implicitly addresses this difficulty, which is one reason why the concept of colonial governmentality was thought to be necessary. In apparent contrast to much of the literature on colonial governmentality, however, an emphasis on Others could also be seen to privilege the importance of development discourses to the analytics of government because the discussion of racialized Others in contemporary Northern  57  In this way, the developmentality perspective follows from, and expands on, the concept of “colonial governmentality”.  105  cultures more often than not revolves around developmental rather than regulatory themes. The inclusion of race plays a central role in the shift from governmentality to developmentality. This role is rooted in the geographically and historically-constructed boundaries in the world, boundaries that necessarily come into play when the level of analysis switches from national to international. This role is also rooted in the commonlyneglected processes of racialization that have been, and are still, inevitably involved in practices that focus on the welfare and improvement of populations, whether these are the civilizing activities of colonizers or the developmental activities of NGOs. Finally, this role is intertwined with, and at least party indistinguishable from, that played by the concept of the Other (insofar as Othering processes are almost always racialized and processes of racialization are almost always Othering). Processes of racialization – through their relationship to the concept of the Other – are brought to the fore in the present adaptation of governmentality not as much in order to highlight the way race is deployed in overt discussions of Southern people(s) and their development. Instead, processes of racialization are employed in order to draw attention to the way the very categories of development (North and South or sponsor and child) are products of racialized historical practices. In addition to bringing issues of ethnicity and racialization to the fore, the infusion of the concept of the Other into governmentality highlights the role played by Christian evangelism in the motivation behind development efforts. Within some, if not most, of the evangelical community involved in international development, there is a common overlap between the motivations to “help” other people through development efforts and  106  through exposure to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This connection apparently manifests itself in two ways: one, individuals working for Christian NGOs often see their development work as an expression of their faith,58 and two, the transformation (understood as improvement) of development subjects is seen as a parallel process in the transformation of their faith (Bornstein, 2002). Consequently, this perspective on development and the spread of the Gospel reflects a division of the world into the categories of Christian/non-Christian or evangelized/unevangelized that mirrors the division into those of developed and “undeveloped”. The importance of this link between Christian evangelism and international development is that the ethical justification for the development of others is often linked to their status as Others. That is to say, it is the status of development subjects as Others that allows for them to be objects of developmental and evangelical techniques simultaneously. Moreover, it is the simultaneity of this link that helps constitute Northerners who are seen to be good because of their religious motivations and not in spite of them. One final but crucial consideration with respect to the theme of Others in theorizing development and governmentality deals with the discourse of charity in liberal thought. The idea of charity occupies a significant position in the moral calculations of liberal philosophy in that it corresponds to a broad area of literature dealing with obligations related to distributive justice (for example, see Rawls, 1971 and 1999; Fabre, 2007; Kelly, 2005). This literature revolves around what people’s ethical obligations to others should be in terms of redistributing their wealth, and consequently, what is owed to others as a matter of course and not an aspect of charity. This distinction defines what  58  Bornstein (2002) also makes the interesting observation that faith is used as a disciplinary technique in central NGO offices.  107  could be considered generous or not depending on the extent to which a person is morally obliged to redistribute his or her wealth. For example, even though taxes in Canada are used in part to help the destitute or unemployed, Canadians likely do not feel that paying their taxes is an altruistic gesture because it is obligatory. On the other hand, when they give money to a shelter or a food bank, this donation is considered charitable and therefore generous because it goes beyond what is considered ethically necessary (despite the perceived obligation of society to provide for the subsistence of its citizens). This relationship between generosity and obligation is usefully explained with reference to the literature on gift-giving. The discussion around the dynamics and significance of gifts has a long history in anthropological, sociological, and philosophical scholarship. In particular, there is extensive literature surrounding the procedures and consequences of gift-giving and its connection to the social or economic relationships between giver and receiver.59 One of the main debates in this literature centres on the creation of a burden of obligation on the part of the receiver that, in part or in whole, nullifies the generosity of the initial gift by requiring reciprocation (Derrida, 1992). This burden of obligation is not only a problem for the receiver, because he or she is seen to lose status relative to the giver at least until the gift can be reciprocated, but it is also a problem for the very idea of the gift itself. The argument goes as follows: if the main character of a gift is the altruistic intention of the giver and if the giver is aware of the obligation created by a gift, then he or she is not in fact acting altruistically by giving a gift (because indebting someone to you is not commonly seen to be a generous thing to do). By definition, then, the giver has not 59  There are many complex issues and debates surrounding gift-giving that fall outside the scope of this project (see Schrift [1997] for a general introduction to this literature). What is presented here is a very basic summary of one of these debates.  108  actually given a gift at all (because his or her intention could not have been completely altruistic). Furthermore, when the receiver reciprocates the initial “gift”, he or she is not really giving a gift either. Because this new receiver-turned-giver is obliged to reciprocate, the intention behind the new “gift” is not altruistic (and it is therefore not a gift). This paradox has come to be referred to as the “aporia of the gift”.60 For the present purposes, this paradox simply illustrates the fact that it is difficult to understanding something as a gift – as something that is an expression of generosity – when it creates an obligation in others or is itself the product of an obligation. This debate regarding gift-giving helps illuminate the role that charity plays within liberal frameworks of redistribution.61 Apart from a few radical liberals or libertarians who believe that all redistribution improperly skews economic incentives, most liberal commentators argue for some level of obligatory redistribution as a matter of justice (or fairness) in order to counteract brute luck. The level and manner of this redistribution is hotly debated, however, and many (if not most) liberals argue for only sufficient redistribution to ensure minimum quality of life and basic equality of opportunity (Fabre, 2007). Irrespective of the actual extent of formalized redistribution of wealth within a  60  The term “aporia of the gift” comes from Derrida (1992). This paradoxical understanding of the gift as something that negates itself has been contested on several grounds. For example, it is seen to reproduce the very economic vision of life, rooted in exchange theory, that it is trying to critique (see Bourdieu, 1990[1980]; Cixous, 1997[1975]; O’Neill, 2001b). When Mauss (1954) described the reciprocal nature of giving, it was not an analysis aimed largely at an individual’s perspective of the gift, which is something that could be said of Derrida’s (1992) study. Rather, Mauss was examining the function of gift-giving for society; he concluded that the bonds of obligation created through gift-giving are a crucial part of achieving social solidarity. The act of gift-giving, consequently, may instill in the receiver a feeling of obligation to reciprocate, but it is this interpersonal reciprocity (the interaction between two concrete individuals rather than two economic agents) that help maintains social relationships in the face of the individualizing pressures of capitalism. 61 Charity is often considered a special instance of gift-giving related to the nature of the gift (to fulfill a basic need for someone who cannot fulfill it themselves), the intention of the giver (altruistic because no reciprocation is expected), or to the particular relationship between the giver and receiver (a relationship of pre-existing economic difference).  109  society, it is only redistribution above this obligatory amount that is considered charitable and generous (precisely because it is not deemed ethically necessary). What is important about the level of this trade off between obligation and generosity is that there is almost always felt to be a lesser degree of obligation to Others than to those within one’s own political (as well as cultural or racial) group. In other words, arguments about obligatory redistribution at the international level are almost always more tenuous within liberal theory than those at the national level (for arguments, see Fabre, 2007; for example, see Fishkin, 1986; Lomasky 2007). This means that any redistribution of wealth to Others is much more likely to be deemed charitable – to be considered a gift – than to those of one’s own imagined community. This quality of Otherness has at least two implications. First, for charitable donations to be charitable, there cannot be any perceived connection between, for example, one person’s poverty and another’s wealth. For example, if a person’s poverty is understood to be a result of exploitation, then assisting them should be seen as a matter of justice and not charity. Consequently, liberal models of charity at the international level implicitly disregard such connections. Second, because most charitable gifts cannot be reciprocated, the receiver could be seen to be forever in debt to the giver and so continuously lower in status (a feature which is undoubtedly evident in most forms of development assistance). This is one way in which charity can be understood as a method of maintaining the social order as much as ameliorating it, and it illustrates the famous etymological link between the words present and poison (see Mauss, 1954). The moral positioning of the charitable gift within liberal thought illustrates a key aspect of developmentality: namely, the perceived ethical value of (privately-given)  110  development assistance precisely because of its association with Others. By emphasizing the particular (racialized) relationship between (Southern) Others and (Northern) selves rather than the relationship between the self and others (within the same politico-cultural body), the term developmentality highlights the fact that individuals in the North, through their development-related charity, are able become better people than they otherwise could be without the existence of Others. In shifting the concept of governmentality towards an analytics of development, the concept of the Other is so important because it helps illuminate some practical and theoretical difficulties in liberal ethics. While it is not without its own problems,62 the concept of the Other is particularly useful in that it facilitates an understanding of governmentality wherein development does not simply represent the welfare of the population within which one is located (and, therefore, define ethical action in light of one’s relationship with this population only). Instead, the idea of development in all its manifestations is part of numerous parallel processes involving individuals from many different ethno-political collectivities, such that the importance of development discourses stems from these differences rather than transcends them. For example, the fact that the majority of sponsored children are from the South (and usually seen to be darker-skinned) while the majority of sponsors are from the North (and usually seen to be lighter-skinned) is more than a coincidence. This typical relationship between selves and Others within development aid expresses more than a geography of economic inequality; 62  The main problem with the concept of the Other, in terms of the present argument, is the way it is often used to essentialize and individualize the self and others (see O’Neill, 2001a). This means that instead of adding a vital element of complexity to the theory of governmentality, the concept of the Other is merely replacing one theoretical arrangement for another that is no more beneficial. In this case, the concept of hybridity, seen as the problematization of boundary fetishism (Nederveen Pieterse, 2001), would be a plausible alternative. For better or for worse, however, I have chosen to retain the use of the concept of the Other because it does a good job of drawing attention to the influence of ethno-political categorization on perspectives of charity and development.  111  it reflects an organizing principle of ethical action - one that offers selective and disproportionate access to the ability to “do good” in contemporary (neo)liberal society. After all, governmental power functions not because of the direct politico-economic imbalance of power between leaders and followers but because some actions come to be seen as indisputably proper and legitimate such that individuals will practice them freely. Developmentality can be summed up, consequently, as a specific extension of governmentality that orients analysis toward the ethical connections among different development discourses and what these connections tell us about the (re)production of unequal relations of power on a global level. In particular, developmentality is a perspective that emphasizes the role played by these interconnected discourses of development in the constitution of (neo)liberal subjects. The concept of developmentality guides the analysis presented in the following chapters on sponsorship programs, sponsorship promotional material, and sponsors. As noted above, the perspective provided by this concept is more a tool for structuring observations about child sponsorship than a way of explaining how it or other practices “actually” operate in Northern societies. Consequently, the purpose of using the concept of developmentality is not to forge a new theoretical domain but simply to help look at the practice of child sponsorship in a new light.  112  Chapter Three: Organizational Development within Development Organizations  This chapter examines the organizational context of child sponsorship programs. In particular, it explores the connections between the institutional structures and everyday practices of sponsorship programs and the promotional material that they produce. Drawing on interviews with staff members at several major Canadian sponsorship programs, this chapter presents an argument suggesting that the perceived ethical value of these programs is related more to their capacity for organizational development – primarily revenue generation in this context – than to their ability to ‘bring about’ international development. As with most topics covered in this project, the Chicago Tribune’s special report on child sponsorship provides a good place to begin. “I am not a missionary, I am a businessman.” According to Jackson and Tackett (1998) of the Chicago Tribune, this phrase was often used by Joseph Gripkey, a former CEO of Children International (CI) (2-4). Gripkey took over the American organization, then known as Holy Land Christian Mission, in 1973. With the help of Jerry Huntsinger, an experienced child sponsorship marketer, Gripkey transitioned the organization from a small operation providing “love baskets” to widows and orphans in Bethlehem to a “philanthropic powerhouse” (Tackett and Jackson, 1998: 2-3 and 2-4). Pursuing a lowprice, no-money-down version of child sponsorship, CI ended up collecting some US$65 million in donations from more than 200,000 sponsors in 1996 (Jackson and Tackett: 24). In return for his services, Gripkey earned more than US$190,000 in 1992 alone, so much that the charity had an external company process the payroll for its executives because it “did not want other workers to know what they were earning” (2-4). Despite  113  noting this concern, the Tribune reporters are not expressly critical of the amount of Gripkey’s compensation.63 Instead, they discuss the discrepancy between the publicized amount of Gripkey’s salary, about US$120,000 plus an US$18,000 expense allowance, and the amount listed on internal records, some US$50,000 more (2-4). For the Tribune, this discrepancy appears to underscore some of the central problems of child sponsorship, namely a lack of adequate transparency regarding sponsorship costs and benefits, insufficient oversight of donated funds, and inefficient or inappropriate use of those funds. These problems with child sponsorship, which are largely perceived to be organizational in nature, are highlighted again and again throughout the Tribune series. For example, the reporters found that Children International’s claims regarding the benefits of sponsorship were often “overstated” with none of the children they saw having experienced any extraordinary transformations in their daily lives as a result of the sponsorship (Tackett and Jackson, 1998: 2-3). While the children did receive some useful goods and services for their participation in the sponsorship program,64 these were far from the miraculous and life-altering benefits advertised by CI (2-4). In some cases, the goods and services provided were redundant, unusable, or simply inappropriate for children, such as jeans or shoes several sizes too big, sheets and blankets in a tropical area where no one uses them, a “barefoot doctor” with no training and no supplies, plastic 63  Even though the Tribune does not go into depth discussing executive compensation within non-profits, it was, and still is, a hot topic. As indicated in Canada Revenue Agency records, many CEOs of major charities in Canada earn in excess of CAN$300,000 per year, including the head of Plan Canada. While earning less than some of their American counterparts – the CEO of World Vision Canada earns just under CAN$200,000 compared to his American equivalent who takes home about half a million a year – Canadian NGOs have been under pressure to explain or alter their policies regarding executive compensation (see World Vision, 2010b). 64 Children International is one of the only major child sponsorship programs to give goods directly to sponsored children and their families, and not make the same goods and services available to nonsponsored children in the area where they or their partners work.  114  dinnerware when the family already has a set given by CI the previous year, or some nails and plywood sent as a child’s birthday gift (Schmetzer and Crewdson, 1998: 2-8). Added to these concerns about what constitutes a “benefit” of sponsorship and how this differs from the ideas conjured up in promotional material is the problem of costs. According to the experiences of Tribune reporters, many of the goods and services provided by CI do not seem to come close to the amount donated by sponsors. For example, after receiving an extra $25 dollar gift from a Tribune sponsor, CI gave the sponsored child a jogging suit worth $13 in local stores (Tackett and Goering, 1998: 2-5). This is in line with what was stated by a local head of CI that “between $70 and $80 of each $144 annual sponsorship fee reaches the Philippines” (Schmetzer and Crewdson, 1998: 2-9). Unfortunately, this is significantly less than the circa 80% that CI says goes to “worldwide charitable programs”, and at the time, CI was unwilling to open their books to the Tribune in order to explain the discrepancy (2-9). Lack of adequate transparency and oversight was also presented as a problem for the American branch of Christian Children’s Fund (CCF). Tribune reporters discussed how difficulties with poor management and fraud at the South Texas project site of one of their sponsored children “raises questions about how Christian Children’s Fund monitors funds and sets priorities” (Jackson, 1998: 2-11). In addition to infighting and misuse of funds by the local CCF affiliate that resulted in its collapse and the suspension of any kind of benefits for the sponsored child, CCF almost found itself in court in 1996 because one of its managers in the same area had funnelled sponsorship monies into his own development company (2-11 & 2-12). Rather than following up with an open investigation, however, “CCF pushed to settle the South Texas matter quietly” (2-12).  115  Internationally, the situation does not seem much better. The Tribune report tells the story of Maria Cleidiane, an eight-year-old Brazilian girl who was sponsored by one of the reporters. When the reporter arrived to visit Maria, she was ill with multiple bacterial infections and severely malnourished despite the fact that the local Brazilian project that oversaw Maria’s sponsorship received more than US$21 per month on her behalf (Crewdson and Goering, 1998: 2-14). Rather than providing local children with food and health care as CCF claimed in correspondence with sponsors, the project used sponsorship funds to buy computers, a telephone line for Internet access, and lessons for teens in computer use (2-14). It seemed obvious to the Tribune reporters that something was wrong with the case of Maria; after all, CCF assured her sponsor that she would get hot meals and health check-ups, neither of which occurred. CCF’s head of foreign operations did not think there was anything really amiss with the project, however, stating that CCF and its affiliate “did not fail Maria by any stretch of the imagination” (215). Apparently, he had been (incorrectly) told that the project did provide meals and that it ensured medical care (at least for children under six). He admitted that he had not seen or approved any kind of budget, though. According to him, CCF is a “decentralized system” and project budgets are something for which each “national office” is responsible.65 From these and other examples in the Tribune series, one is seemingly led to the conclusion that the “mythical” nature of child sponsorship is largely an organizational problem.66 Administrative malfeasance or ineptitude is seen not only to underlie the disconnect between advertising messages and project spending but also to result in a 65  Recall that such “national offices” are usually separate, independent organizations even though they may share a name. 66 For a discussion of the “mythical” nature of sponsorship, see Chapter Two.  116  dearth of positive outcomes. However, if organizational environments and their failures are seen to be at the heart of the problems with child sponsorship, then the stage is already set for a discussion of the solution – greater transparency, better oversight, and more targeted development assistance. While this discussion is undoubtedly necessary, such a formulation of problem and solution leaves out many important questions about how child sponsorship functions, particularly those questions related to the broader contexts of international development work and (neo)liberal conceptions of society. Consequently, this chapter attempts to go beyond the normative critique of sponsorship presented in the Tribune series. Using the lens of developmentality introduced in the previous chapter, this chapter explores the relationship among the structures and practices of these organizations, the specific understandings of development that inform these structures and practices, and the ethical framework within which these understandings operate. In other words, the analysis in this chapter is guided the question: What is the relationship between the discourse of development and the way sponsorship staff perceive and carry out their work? Through investigating how child sponsorship staff employ discourses of development in their work, it is possible to highlight how sponsorship programs position and justify their efforts in trying to address global poverty. In order to help address this question, this chapter primarily draws on in-depth interviews with 14 current and two former staff members of child sponsorship programs.67 Between one and four staff members were interviewed at each of the following organizations: World Vision Canada, Plan Canada, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, Compassion Canada, Canadian Feed the Children, and Food for the Hungry 67  See Methodology section in the Introduction for more information on the rationale behind these interviews and the specifics on how they were conducted. See Appendix B for a copy of the interview schedule used.  117  Canada. At the time of the interviews, staff members worked in the following areas: three in senior management positions that directly or indirectly monitor the production of promotional material, five in marketing or communications positions, three in donor relations positions, and three in program positions (meaning that they deal directly with the partner agencies overseas). Interviews lasted between one and two hours and were loosely structured around a set of open-ended questions dealing with participants’ roles at the organization, their thoughts on the benefits and challenges of child sponsorship, and their perceptions of the world in general. Throughout this chapter, pseudonyms and nonspecific job descriptions are the only distinguishing features to differentiate participant responses. Any quotations that suggest a participant’s organizational affiliation are altered to protect the identity of the participant.  The problematization of child sponsorship As a point of departure for the rest of the chapter, let us first turn to a question inspired by Foucault’s (2003[1984b]) concept of problematization. What is the problem to which child sponsorship is most commonly presented as a solution? At first glance, this seems to be an easy question to answer. The problem sponsorship is supposed to address is the poverty of the child and their community, or more specifically, the lack of development that is supposedly at the heart of this poverty. In sponsorship advertising, children are generally portrayed as malnourished, sick, under-educated, and in desperate need of external support. Sponsorship organizations offer to provide what these children are missing for a relatively small monthly sum. Consequently, the problem of “underdevelopment” is supposedly solved, or at least mitigated, through the provision of  118  funds that sponsorship delivers. This understanding of sponsorship is reiterated by staff members, who commonly describe sponsorship in terms of what the funds can purchase for the child and their community. However, if sponsorship funds are used in the same manner to accomplish the same things as other sources of development funding and are often indistinguishable, in fact, from this funding in the field, then it seems to be the provision of funds that is understood to be the solution to “underdevelopment” and child sponsorship simply an effective means to secure those funds. Seen in this way, child sponsorship is first and foremost a response to a fundraising challenge and not a development problem. In fact, the direct problem to which child sponsorship is a solution is not that of “underdevelopment” in the global South, it is the problem of how to effectively raise money from a Northern audience for a cause that appears remote geographically and personally. If child sponsorship is primarily a fundraising tool while still being presented as a solution to the broader problem of “underdevelopment”, then this implies that the problem of “underdevelopment” itself is constructed in such a way that money, or what this money can purchase, is the solution. Before going on to flush out this argument or discuss its implications, it is important to note that this assessment of child sponsorship as primarily a fundraising practice necessarily excludes two commonly-cited aspects of sponsorship: one, the supposed benefits to the sponsored child related to the relationship itself (i.e. getting letters and extra gifts from your sponsor or knowing that someone far away wants to help you), and two, the supposedly awareness-raising properties of sponsoring a child that might lead to a better informed and more compassionate Canadian population.68 While neither of these aspects should be entirely discounted, there is no substantial evidence 68  This second point will be discussed in more depth in Chapters Four and Five.  119  that points to these as anything but peripheral to fundraising purposes of sponsorship. In addition to the problems of disparity at the local level that initially led sponsorship away from a more direct funding approach, the first aspect is not likely a significant factor for many sponsored children. While some may have positive benefits from this direct relationship, this is apparently not the norm. A Plan International study concludes that “claims (e.g. in materials for sponsors) about the positive effects of sponsorship on children’s growth, self-esteem and ability to communicate and participate in community development cannot be generalized. Despite the care taken by some NOs [National Offices] to qualify these claims, the use of such messages should be re-assessed” (Plan International, 2008b). Sponsorship promotional material is the topic of the next chapter, but even without an in-depth analysis, it is possible to illustrate one of the key messages of sponsorship advertising – that sponsoring a child is a way of alleviating poverty and helping children and communities develop. Using carefully-worded appeals, sponsorship programs commonly describe the bleak situation of some children in the South and then offer sponsorship as the “best way to help” these children or children like them (Plan Canada, Susan, n.d.). Though not all material follows this format, it is such a common theme that examples are easy to provide. In a televised segment entitled Heart of a Child (n.d.), a Plan Canada spokesperson clearly describes what the expected result of sponsorship will be – freedom from poverty. Now is your chance to be part of something extraordinary. Plan is here now ready to help but we cannot do it without you. That is the simple truth. You have met the children. You have seen how desperate their situation really is, but you have also seen how, through sponsorship, you can help a child and their family free themselves from the crushing grip of poverty (Plan Canada, Heart, n.d.) 120  This sentiment is spelled out in more depth in a Plan Canada (n.d.) brochure. Your gift of $33 a month – about a dollar a day – will mean so much! It means preventing diseases like malaria. It means new wells, and water that is safe to drink. It means more schools where children can learn to read and write. Most of all, your sponsorship means a better future for one special child – your sponsored child! …By sponsoring a child through Foster Parent’s Plan (Plan), you will help ensure that their community is strengthened to provide access to basics, such as clean water, healthcare, an education, and protection against life-threatening diseases. (Plan Canada, Susan, n.d.) In discussing the sponsorship and poverty, World Vision Canada does not shy away from using the term solution. In one brochure provided to new sponsors, World Vision makes reference not only to the community-level nature of the work being funded but also to the way this work links sponsorship with the solutions to poverty. By becoming a child sponsor, you have stepped forward to show you care. Your commitment, along with other Canadian sponsors, is a partnership with World Vision and your sponsored child’s entire community. Together, we help provide long-term solutions to poverty that will enrich your sponsored child’s life – and touch your own life as well. Thanks to you, your sponsored child will receive essentials of life, including things like: Health and Nutrition… Food and Agriculture… Education… Clean, Safe Water (World Vision Canada, You, n.d.) One of the organization’s recurring spokespersons, Alex Trebek, states it more directly in an introduction to the infomercial Sponsor a Child, Change a Life. If you had a chance to make a lasting difference in the world, to do something extraordinary, would you do it? Well, today you are going to have that chance, the chance to personally rescue one boy or girl and give them health, hope and a future. Right now, there are kids living in horrific situations that you cannot even begin to imagine. They are hungry, sick, neglected, and yes, sometimes abused. Each day is a tremendous fight for survival, but there is a proven solution and it is World Vision child sponsorship. (World Vision Canada, Sponsor, n.d.) Although not all advertisements state it so baldly that child sponsorship is a “proven solution” to the difficulties that many poor people in the global South face, the implication in most promotional material is clear enough. It does not seem terribly 121  controversial, however, to suggest that this is the message of many, if not all, sponsorship ads. After all, sponsorship was commonly explained by staff members as a particular way of dealing with poverty in the South. Although the interviews conducted for this study were semi-structured, and therefore somewhat informal, one question was consistently asked all of participants at the outset: “How would you describe child sponsorship to someone who does not know anything about it?” The purpose of asking this question was to establish a baseline indicator of how sponsorship is perceived by the individuals who promote it. What participant responses revealed, however, was an interesting disconnect between general descriptions of what child sponsorship is and specific explanations of what sponsorship staff actually do on a daily basis. In many instances, the responses to this question reiterated what is found in sponsorship promotional material. Irving, a staff member working in communications, summed up this idea that child sponsorship is a program designed to address problems of development in the South. Child sponsorship is basically the idea that people in Canada can help change the lives of children in other countries through a reasonably small donation every month… We take that money and then what we do to create efficiencies is we pool that money together with other sponsors’ money and we target specific communities in developing countries that are in very bad situations… and we try to change the circumstance of that one community by educating people, giving them opportunities, providing them with nutrition, their food, all that sort of stuff, and we target the children there because they are the best investment you can make. …they are going to continue to grow up and change their community, and our goal is that by changing the lives of these children we are going to change the lives of the community. Jacqueline, who deals with communication between overseas partners and the organization, explained it in a similar manner.  122  When you sponsor a child, you are making a monthly commitment to, and we link you with, a child and will update you on their progress each year, and basically your funds are pooled at the community level with those of other child sponsors, and we are implementing a community development program so every child will benefit with educational support with either their school fees being paid or receiving educational materials, also health care and nutrition. The same descriptive format – starting with the Canadian donor, outlining the path of funding, and then listing the possible benefits to the sponsorship child – was employed by many staff members, as in the following account by Gina, another marketing and communications specialist: It is an opportunity for a Canadian individual or family to support people in developing countries through the act of embracing one child or one child’s needs… We tend to kind of focus more on how that child’s community can improve around that child so that they individually benefit; they get healthier; they have more opportunities. So, the sponsorship process allows that child in particular… to have improved health and well-being because this individual or family in Canada has chosen to give money in that way. So, to me, it is more of a focused way of donating. These general descriptions of child sponsorship, which are largely similar to those of other interviewed staff, have several things in common. First of all, while they begin with a brief focus on sponsors and their financial commitment, they quickly go on to emphasize the possible benefits of sponsorship for the community and child. These benefits are enumerated with broad terms like nutrition, education, and health care and are presented as concrete solutions to the lack of these “basics” and appropriate responses to the lack of development. Although it will be evident later that much of the communication about sponsorship revolves around the sponsor and not the child, basic descriptions of sponsorship seem to point unerringly to the (imagined) outcomes for the child. In this way, child sponsorship is consistently, although indistinctly, tied to the Southern development projects it funds. 123  This connection seems logical and not terribly controversial, and it supports the idea that sponsorship is presented as a solution to poverty and “underdevelopment”. However, this also highlights a second commonality among staff answers, one that will be mentioned here but discussed in more detail later. Within many staff descriptions of sponsorship, there is a curious mix of specificity and generality. What is particularly noteworthy about these answers is not only the apparent difficulty many staff members had in summarizing child sponsorship, but also the way they stress the possibility of many specific benefits without actually specifying anything at all. There is a strange oxymoronic quality to how staff detail the minor steps involved in sponsorship while simultaneously remaining vague on what happens (or might happen) in far away communities because of a sponsor’s commitment. This ambiguity is not that puzzling actually. After all, the interviewed staff members are all working for Canadian sponsorship programs, and therefore, have little if any day-to-day contact with the projects being conducted in the South. What specific knowledge would they have of projects when their job is not to plan and execute development interventions but to acquire and retain sponsors? This aspect highlights a critical proposition for this project, that child sponsorship is primarily a fundraising tool even though it is routinely described as something else – a type of development intervention.  Child sponsorship as a fundraising tool There are many reasons to see child sponsorship as a type of fundraising approach rather than – or at least in addition to – a specific way of addressing long-term poverty and its consequences. The most important of these reasons is something that has been  124  brought up several times before and is supposedly at the heart of the “mythical” nature of sponsorship – the disconnect within contemporary sponsorship models between fundraising efforts in the North and development efforts in the South. This disconnect resides in the incongruence between sponsorship promotional messages, which often imply a one-on-one financial relationship between sponsor and child mediated by a single organization, and the use of sponsorship donations, which most often support community or regional-level development projects that do not privilege sponsored children and that are carried out by local partners. Related to this disconnect is the way in which organizations are structured, both nationally and internationally, and the way in which organizational culture, language, and staffing play out within these structures. Before going on to flush out these issues, it should be noted that, contrary to the Tribune critique, this disconnect should not be seen as rendering sponsorship “mythical” (in the sense of being fictional or deceptive). Despite any incongruence between fundraising messages and project outcomes, child sponsorship cannot in fact be seen as a myth if it is understood as primarily a fundraising mechanism. In this case, it is true to itself inasmuch as its purpose is seen to be fulfilled by the raising of funds. The myth, if there is any, lies in seeing sponsorship as much more than a fundraising tool. That is to say, the myth of sponsorship is not about what it might fail to accomplish in terms of its promises but what it actually accomplishes in terms of its effects on individuals in the North. There will be more discussion of this theme in subsequent chapters.69 Notwithstanding the staff descriptions of sponsorship mentioned above, an understanding of child sponsorship as a fundraising mechanism is not a terribly controversial claim among many sponsorship staff members. As Gina stated, “the reality 69  See Chapter Two for an alternative interpretation of the meaning of the “myth” of child sponsorship.  125  is that sponsorship is one tool to bring money in to achieve our mission to improve the, to lessen the impact of poverty on children and families.” Margaret, a program management specialist, explained this notion in slightly more detail: For us, sponsorship is more of a tool for fundraising rather than an implementation tool in the field. Our programs vary dramatically; we do not have a cookie cutter approach to a sponsored program in the field. Some in [one country] are very different than others say in [another country], so the programs are implemented according to the need as opposed to a boxed-in “this is what sponsorship must be”. We basically eliminate that, but funds are raised based on sponsorship. This description of sponsorship as a fundraising tool, technique, or mechanism was not uncommon in many of the staff interviews, and it is reiterated in a prominent report sponsored by Plan International. The researchers at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, who were contracted to carry out this study and who interviewed staff at eight different Plan locations, concluded that sponsorship “is perceived by most operational staff and volunteers [at Plan] as a fundraising rather than a development activity” (Plan International, 2008b: 8). In other words, most operational staff “perceive sponsorship mainly as an effective fundraising approach” (5). The report also noted that Plan’s offices in wealthy countries (known as National Offices or National Organizations or simply NOs) “have been undergoing a transition from being primarily focused on sponsorship and fundraising, to becoming development organisations with staff capacity and knowledge of programmes. NOs vary in how far they have come and how committed they are to this transition” (10). While the Sussex research found that “[s]enior level staff are more likely to articulate the developmental benefits than operational staff” (5), this was not always the case among the present sample of participants. Brian, a senior manager, summed up his view concisely, saying that “sponsorship is a funding model.” Speaking candidly, he explained that he had “come to 126  the conclusion that most attempts at child sponsorship were clever marketing.” He added that “child sponsorship tells me nothing; it is just fundraising, just marketing… to say I am a believer in sponsorship from a marketing perspective, yeah, it is a great marketing tool, but from a helping the poor perspective, [I am] not that much of a believer.” These statements seem perplexing given the source, except that he was specifically referring to the way that other programs address sponsorship. While he stated that his organization’s “marketing message is not much different than the marketing message of many organizations in Canada”, he said I am convinced that if you went and saw what we do, you would come back and say, “your marketing message is pretty accurate.” I am also as convinced that if you did the same thing with other organizations, you would come back and say, “woah, woah, woah.” You need to change your marketing message, or you need to change your programming because there is no match. This dual admission and admonition on the part of one senior staff member not only illustrates the common understanding among many such insiders that sponsorship is primarily a funding tool, but it once again highlights the inconsistencies that plague, but strangely do not disrupt, discussions of child sponsorship. Leaving aside the question of whether or not the way his organization and its partners operate is somehow more legitimate than other organizations, it is important to point out that the recognition of sponsorship as a marketing tool by many interviewed staff occurred alongside the aforementioned descriptions of sponsorship as a solution to development problems. The obvious explanation to this contradiction is that sponsorship is commonly understood to be simultaneously a fundraising and a development practice. It is seen to bridge this divide by being the means through which the perceived work of development is accomplished. Acknowledging the marketing effectiveness of child sponsorship, Jacqueline noted that it is “a wonderful way to make a connection and to motivate donors 127  to give monthly.” She subsequently divulged the role of her organization in relationship to this as one of facilitating development work through fundraising. In her words: “Our mission and our goal is to be a bridge and provide the resources to people in need and to give people in Canada the opportunity to help and to make a difference.” This point both introduces the question of what really counts as the work of development (or what the work of development is to begin with) and foreshadows the discussion of how the problem of development is constructed in relationship to child sponsorship. Before moving on to this discussion, however, it is still necessary to examine the evidence for understanding sponsorship as first and foremost a fundraising technique.  Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: International divisions At an international level, there are two main aspects of child sponsorship that encourage such an understanding. The first relates to the structure of NGDOs that use child sponsorship and the second relates to the way funds from sponsorship are used. As noted in previous chapters, sponsorship programs are almost invariably housed in organizations that are both independent of, and functionally differentiated from, the organizations that carry out the projects funded by sponsorship dollars. The vast majority of Canadian sponsorship programs, including all those interviewed for this project, are part of international networks of independent national organizations that (almost exclusively) raise money and then transfer that money to national or local partners in the South so that they can carry out development projects. James, a senior manager, stated it quite succinctly, saying “we in Canada and other national offices do not tend to be program deliverers.” Jennifer, a marketer, explained “the way that we do it is that we  128  make a pledge to the field office. So, our offices are all kind of autonomous like our office in [an African country]… and we send them money, but they run themselves.” With a slightly different structure, Petra’s organization has what is called country office [sic], and those are staff that is paid by [our organization], and they are responsible for overseeing the partners. So, what we call a sponsorship program – a partner is responsible for that program. [interviewer: “so a local NGO maybe?”] A local NGO, OK, yeah… so we do not implement those programs; they are partner programs. Within this framework, the amount of direct project oversight by Canadian NGDOs seems to vary. Some organizations simply check annual accounts while others monitor or evaluate projects sites and train local staff. However, the actual planning and running of projects by the Canadian staff of these organizations is exceedingly rare. Margaret, who works in programs, described the situation in her organization: We do not have overseas staff for the most part… so with that in mind, we have to be able to trust our partners that we affiliate with because, for the most part, we do not have day-to-day contact with them. So, we have to be able to trust they are going to manage a sponsorship program, or any other program, adequately. Our reporting ensures that – the fact that they have to send financial statements on an annual basis; we do random audits as well. Margaret went on to clarify that it is the partners who produce the “development plans”, and “we fund it based on a child sponsorship model”. This organizational division of labour leaves many such Canadian NGDOs with little to do except raise funds and account for the reasonable use of these funds. A key to understanding the organizational nature of child sponsorship is to understand how sponsorship money is used, and in many ways, this is a direct consequence of the structural arrangement noted above. So, how are sponsorship funds used? They are spent in the same way as other private donations and, often, in the same way as other sources of funding, such as bilateral grants, that are targeted at child-centred 129  community development. A senior manager, Paul, explained “this is just an integrated funding model that we have got, and we will bring together all these different sources of funds. Sponsorship is the most important one, but we are able to bring that together with our other funding sources including government grants as well.” This not only means that development projects funded, in whole or in part, by sponsorship more often than not look exactly like other such development projects, it also means that there is often no differentiation on the ground between sponsorship funding and other funding within any particular project. “Our programming” said Tamara, a program specialist, “is very linked on the ground with sponsorship. For a field office, there is no difference between Canadian CIDA money and sponsorship or USAID money. For them, it all goes into one program.” In fact, when a Canadian NGDO using child sponsorship sends money to its overseas partners, there is no separation of sponsorship funds from other sources of revenue. Commonly, the only distinguishing influence that sponsorship has is in determining the geographic destination of the funds. As Jennifer noted, “our child sponsorship programs are, for the most part, very much integrated with other community programs, and it is not just working with the child. You are also doing agriculture and other education and health care, leadership training in the whole community, and that is part of our other programs we run as well.” This last point by Jennifer highlights something else that has been mentioned numerous times already, that sponsorship funds are used by and large to support longterm, community-level development projects. These projects are intended to benefit the entire community or region by gradually increasing the area’s perceived level of development. Through this “developmental” increase, children in the area, whether  130  sponsored or not, are expected to indirectly benefit (and sometimes directly benefit through the payment of school fees or the purchase of school supplies for example). With respect to the basic sponsorship contributions by sponsors, sponsored children cannot generally expect to receive specific benefits denied to their non-sponsored siblings or peers. Once again, this is not something that is in any way denied by organizations or their staff; rather, it is often offered as a sign of good development practice. Paul stated it clearly when he said, we are an organization that is focused on children, but we do not work at it in terms of individual children. We take a community-based approach to our development. So, with child sponsorship, when you are sponsoring a child, it is not that you are just providing a hand-out to a particular child. [It is] more that we are working with the whole community, and sponsorship is a funding mechanism for supporting our development work in that community. Petra, a donor services manager, explained this same idea with a simple example: “if there is a dentist going to the community, say, twice a year, the dentist will not only see sponsored children but other children in the community that need dental assistance.” Tamara echoed these statements, declaring the beauty is, again, [in] this new trend in sponsorship [is] that it is not going to one child; it is going to the community. So, it is not the one child [sic] is benefiting from the program and the next door neighbour who is not. They are equally poor. I mean the whole community is poor in these communities… The health worker is not going to say, “okay, you are not in the [project] community you do not get services”... That is the whole beauty of sponsorship now. Susan, who also works in donor services but with a different organization, even commented that her organization is “moving away from just saying child sponsorship; we are saying child-centred community development program”. There are a couple of implications of this community-centred approach that relate to the fundraising nature of child sponsorship. Two comments serve to illustrate these 131  implications. The first deals with the lack of correspondence in terms of timing and budget between ongoing projects and sponsor donations. In discussing the role of local partners, Jennifer noted that they pick a community, and so the money that we pledge based on the number of kids we think we can get sponsored goes to help all the kids in that community. But the ones that are actually sponsored are the ones that get to write the letters back and forth to the donors and things like that, but we really try to as much as possible make sure that it is not half the kids are allowed to go to school and the other half are not (emphasis mine). What this discussion of pledging expresses is that, in most cases, local partners create project plans, usually spanning many years, for which they require stable funding. Canadian NGDOs then agree to fund these long-term projects70 using their revenue, most of which is derived from sponsorship, creating a commitment that they promise to try and fulfill. Logically speaking, this implies that the overseas funding commitments of sponsorship programs are only loosely tied to the sponsorship of actual children in the South – children, by the way, who benefit equally under this model whether or not they are currently sponsored, up for sponsorship, recently unsponsored, or not even considered for sponsorship. How could it be otherwise, in truth, given the administrative hurdles involved and the ethics of project work in the South? Could projects operate on a monthly budget corresponding to variations in the number of sponsors who either begin or end a sponsorship of a child from that area? Could Canadian organizations even track or transfer funds based on such variation? Should the projects of all local partners or, even worse, the lives of individual children be subject to the volatility of sponsor lapses? This aspect of sponsorship makes perfect sense; however, it also highlights the distance 70  In some cases, Canadian NGDOs offering child sponsorship simply agree to transfer funds, based on current and projected revenue, to their national partners in the South within their network. These partners then use the funds as they see fit (based as much as possible on the geographic distribution of sponsored children and in accordance with network guidelines).  132  between the act of sponsorship as seen from the sponsor’s perspective and the actual use of the donations in relation to the sponsored child. The second comment addresses the issue at the heart of the disconnect between the fundraising messages of sponsorship programs and the development practices of local partners – the fact that many sponsors assume their donations go, in some way or other, directly to the child or their family even though this is not the case.71 It also reiterates the idea that the community-centred development approach is the best method of doing development work. A lot of people think that their 33 or 35 dollars is going directly to the child in an envelope. We try to help people understand that, if you did that, it is probably not the best use of the money because the kid [or] the family would blow it on who knows what. And to give a family money does not do anything to change the circumstances in the world. All you are doing is driving up the inflation in the community, so it is actually not that good of an idea. So, the mechanics are that you pool that money together, and then you create a fund to help develop that entire community in an equal way. ...A lot of things people are interested to learn is that it is not just the sponsored children who are graduating, it is the whole community. So one child in the family might be sponsored, and that actually what we try to do, is one child in a family is sponsored, but then their five or six brothers and sisters are all going to benefit from the advancements that the household is making (Irving). Funding community-level projects rather than dispensing money directly to sponsored children (or creating programs that solely benefit sponsored children) does not necessarily make sponsorship solely a fundraising tool. However, combining this approach with promotional material that emphasizes the personal connection between sponsor and child does widen the space between what child sponsorship is for sponsors in the North and what it actually supports in the South. This gap, in turn, highlights how the  71  Not only is this understood to be a problem by many of the interviewed staff, but it was also a frequent feature of the sponsor interviews conducted for this study.  133  financial and administrative components of sponsorship are only a very small part of what happens in the South. While sponsorship programs are careful not to be expressly fraudulent in their marketing messages, and therefore never state directly that the money goes directly to the child or that the child will receive any specific benefits, their staff understand the need to focus on individual children. Beatrice, a communications specialist, explained that the “child is always a starting point and a way of simplifying the complexity and interdependence of all the projects that [our organization] is doing.” One must remember, though, that “you have to be careful not to suggest that a particular child will receive any particular direct benefit as a result of having been sponsored.” Beatrice ended this point with the thought that “sponsorship organizations are a victim of their own success”. By this she implied that the individual emphasis of sponsorship marketing, that which makes it effective, works too well in that many of their sponsors believe sponsorship donations go directly to the child. Pascal, who works in marketing for a different organization, confirmed this dilemma when he said, “I would pose to you that over 90% of our donors suspect that the $35 a month goes directly to the child despite all our efforts to inform them through monthly email, through [newsletters], even through my appeals, that it is pooled at the community level and used to satisfy the needs of the community.” Jennifer also discussed this issue and summed it very well, proclaiming I think that more transparency would be good, and I think that we probably would, as an industry as a whole, take a hit as far as numbers if we were obvious about that this is helping the child’s community. But I think that we would be able to do better work overseas then, and just that we would have more integrity within ourselves because what we do not want is for child sponsorship to get a bad rap, right? And that is what is happening when we are telling donors one thing and doing another. I think we really just need to be up front about what we do, and part of that is maybe doing a bit more push 134  in educating our donors in showing them why it is better to help a child’s family and a child’s community. This leaves sponsorship programs with a difficult challenge: having to educate their sponsors and potential sponsors about how their donations are used while not undermining one of the elements that make sponsorship effective. It seems that sponsorship programs try to accomplish this by simultaneously stressing the legitimate, beneficial nature of community-centred development rather than by playing down the individual component of sponsorship. In some cases, there is a recognition that this balance has not been done as well as it could be. For instance, Tamara proclaimed that her organization (or more accurately its partners) “is doing a way better job than many other NGOs. Because of the sponsorship money, we usually remain in a community for 10 or 15 years. You can do a lot of things [in that time]”; however, she also noted that “the bad thing we have not done is that we do not convey these messages [about the way donations are spent] to the public.” In other instances, it is described as being a constant challenge both because of what is implied by sponsorship promotional material and because many sponsors apparently want their money to go directly to the child. As Susan commented, “when we tell [sponsors that] this money is pooled together and benefits everybody else, some sponsors say, ‘no, this is my child; I want the 33 dollars to be given to him.’ We say, ‘no, no, no.’ The money is not given to him it is kind of pooled together; the benefits are spread out. …So, it is constant educating.” Paul echoed this, stating that “some people do have that expectation that they can send their money directly to their child, and they are disappointed when they find that they cannot, but… we are not going to be able to provide access to clean water and being able to invest in bore holes and that kind of thing if we are providing individual hand-outs. It is just not going to happen.” 135  Whatever the case of sponsor expectations and whatever the actual situation is regarding the best method of development assistance, the simple fact that there is a substantial disparity between what many sponsors think happens to the money and what actually happens is indicative of the aforementioned disconnect. This lends support to the idea that most of the day-to-day practices that occupy child sponsorship programs are more related to fundraising than to “development”, inasmuch as the two can be separated. What it does not mean is that sponsorship donations are poorly spent. As mentioned in Chapter Two, a focus on long-term community-level projects that are locally planned and directed rather than on short-term, top-down, or individualistic interventions, is presently understood to be the most effective international development intervention (for example, see United Nations Development Programme, 2010). While this begs the question of what a development intervention is exactly and how useful these are in dealing with problems of global poverty and inequality, it is important to note for now that an argument to understand child sponsorship as primarily a fundraising tool is not the same as an argument to see sponsorship funding handled or spent differently. In other words, this chapter is not intended to put forward a critique aimed at necessarily changing the funding practices of sponsorship programs, especially not to make them more involved in the running of overseas projects or more in line with sponsorship advertising (that is, have funds go more directly to the child). Instead, it seeks to explore the irony embedded in a situation in which by following what they believe to be the best development practices, sponsorship programs and their staff end up distancing themselves from the very development work they purport to do. All of these points are well summed up in a statement by Jennifer.  136  In reality, in most organizations, the money does not go to that particular child. It goes to help the community as a whole, which we in the field or on the development side of things know is the best way of helping that child. But from the average Joe Blow donor [sic]... what they would prefer usually is for a check to be written in that child’s name to that child, which we know would be the absolute worst thing that you could possibly do. But the best way of selling the child sponsorship program is by focusing on that one individual child, saying help this child rather than help this community of nameless faceless children, right? So, there is been some bad press about that, just about the way the relationship between the way child sponsorship is often marketed and the way that the program is actually run.  Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: National divisions In addition to the international division of labour within child sponsorship, there are a number of elements within the offices of Canadian sponsorship programs that point to an understanding of sponsorship as a fundraising tool. The first of these elements relates to the organizational structures within many Canadian NGOs that offer child sponsorship. These structures reflect a division of roles and staffing that were, for the most part, not represented as unusual or problematic by the interviewed staff. Depending on the size of the organization, sponsorship programs usually consist of several people or groups of people that are differentiated by their responsibilities. There are those individuals or groups, often referred to as marketing personnel, who are responsible for the production of promotional material designed for potential sponsors such as TV spots, magazine inserts, or direct mail appeals (although this is itself sometimes subcontracted to forprofit advertising agencies). In larger sponsorship programs, these people are often separated from those who are responsible for the production of correspondence to current sponsors. They are also sometimes separated from those people who target corporate donors or major gifts. In James’s organization, he explained that  137  we create our own marketing and [organizational] development strategy [independent of partner organizations]. Interestingly enough, it actually operates as two different business plans combined within the organization. [Interviewer: Two? You mean marketing and development?] Yup, two different business plans. Two different directors, one for each area. And those business plans reflect a three year strategic plan, but that strategic plan is entirely the Canadian operations. …The marketing team’s responsibility is to go after a large number of donations. So, they are going after large volumes of donations – large quantity of donations. [Interviewer: The regular sponsorship program would fit into that?] That would be part of it, but not the only part. But just when you think of the marketing department, think large volumes of contributions. When you think of the development department, think of large value of contribution [Interviewer: So corporate donations or major gifts?] Corporate, major gifts, planned giving, exactly. In many cases, there is another distinct person or group of people who are responsible for communications, which can mean anything from media relations to website content to “ensuring brand consistency” as Beatrice phrased it. All of these types of staff are usually separated from those divisions referred to as donor services, client services, supporter services, sponsor relations, etc. These individuals, who mainly work in in-house call centres, can themselves be divided into those who deal with the questions, requests, or data gathering of sponsors, potential sponsors, or other kinds of donors (such as those who buy from the gift catalogue). No matter the size of the organization, all of these kinds of staff are separated from, and usually independent of, those who work in programs. The work of those individuals referred to as program staff varies from organization to organization, but in general, these people do such things as represent the organization to other NGOs or government bodies and communicate with field offices or local partners (to select new projects or project areas to fund, to monitor and evaluate projects or project budgets, and quite often, to ensure the transfer of information and correspondence between sponsors and sponsored children).  138  On an important aside, this separation between program staff and other sponsorship staff does not necessarily mirror the breakdown of organization expenditures found on websites and in annual reports. These expenditures are normally divided into fundraising expenses, administration expenses, and program expenses (i.e. services that are supposed to help children). Almost all child sponsorship programs follow what is referred to as the 80:20 ratio; that is, about 80% of revenue is supposed to go to program expenses and no more than about 20% should be spent on administrative and fundraising expenses. Because of the way child sponsorship is set up and because of reticence to divulge financial information, however, it is often difficult to confirm how much money actually makes it to a sponsored child (or, more accurately, the project in his or her area). What can be said is that there is no common definition of “program” expenses and no regulatory body that checks on this statistic.72 Brian confirmed this, saying “there is no one policing that… and it is a nightmare to try and find out the accuracy of that.” In fact, many of those services listed as program expenditures either still occur in the home office, such as telephone support staff for sponsors, or are used to pay for salaries, travel, and office expenses abroad (something most people would still consider to be administration).73 Susan, who works in sponsor relations (and not in any development project capacity), is candid in spelling it out: Can I be totally honest? Okay, 80%, no 80%, yes, we tell sponsors we spend 80%, but that includes actual overheads if you know what I mean, but that is not what the sponsor perceives, right? The way it is worded is it is not a lie, but it is not an outright truth. …It is the way you say [it], okay, it is true our 72  While charities must summarize the amount spent on fundraising, administration, worker compensation and the like for the Canada Revenue Agency, these figures rarely match up exactly with the ones presented in promotional material or even annual public financial statements (see Maren, 1997 for a critique of Save the Children US’s “pie chart”). 73 This issue of questionable program expenses was also brought up in the Tribune series in relation to Christian Children’s Fund (Jackson, 1998: 2-12).  139  department comes under programs, you know, so that is put under program expenditures, not under administration. So, that way it is 80:20, but that is what all organizations do …So, now do I explain that to a sponsor? I do not. I cannot explain because technically that is under program. We are not covering [up] anything even when we do our financial audits and year end statements. It comes under it, but you need to be an extremely good financial person to know exactly what those terms mean. Most people do not. Apart from this rather unfortunate issue of transparency, the divisions within sponsorship staffing are important for a number of reasons. While it may seem natural and necessary to separate staff according to particular responsibilities, these separations tell us about how organizations conceptualize and prioritize what they do day to day. Not only does staff differentiation indicate something about how management understands the purpose of the agency, but it also commonly separates them physically into different offices, different areas, or different floors. This is important because, in many Canadian NGDO’s offering sponsorship, the people who work in marketing, communications, and donors services are people who seem to come predominantly from backgrounds in marketing, communications, and the service sector, and these people far outnumber program staff, who occasionally but not always come from backgrounds in development studies. What this means is that many organizations offering sponsorship are stuffed to the brim with staff trained and aimed at raising as much money as possible from Canadian donors, and these individuals are functionally and spatially separated from those few individuals who have a good grasp of development work in the field. James summed up the situation in his organization, noting simply that “the professional development expertise does not reside within the marketing or the development fundraising area”. Explaining the situation in greater detail, Beatrice admitted that her organization struggled with this separation but, because of its size, could often overcome it. However, she also noted that 140  from what I know from other organizations, there is actually an overtendency to separate it [marketing] out. You end up with people operating in silos, you know what I mean. Your youth program has this objective and this objective, and they would never talk to someone in marketing. And marketing’s objective is raise this much money. The only time they would ever talk is if there is a youth event designed to raise money. More to the point, Beatrice also talked about her personal history and how she came to manage communications at a Canadian NGDO offering sponsorship. Like many such people working in the marketing, communications, and donor services branches of these organizations, she had no formal education or experience in international development issues. Instead, she was hired because of her communications experience within the forprofit community. She said, I do not come from a development background by any stretch of the imagination. I spent ten years working for a [business] and ended up doing a lot of communication but learning a lot about client service and customer service. So, very weird kind of split, and at the time I joined here, which was ten years ago, there was a position that was looking at both. The customer service side was useful because we were looking at communication and retention of our donors, and the communication side was valuable because what is the very biggest key to that, the single most important thing, is communication. So that is how I joined the organization. …So, I do not come from a development background at all, and when I first made the decision to come to work here, it was based on wanting to get into not-for-profit, and it was based on a fit with my skill set that could get me in there. Beatrice’s story is indicative of how people come to work for sponsorship programs. Paul, for example, came to manage marketing and donors services at a sponsorship program after working in the for-profit sector with a degree in business. Responding to the question of how he came to work there, he said, “I felt that I liked being in a professional environment, but I also wanted to be in an environment where I could make a difference.” 74  74  As of 2010, Plan Canada’s CEO is Rosemary McCarney, a lawyer with an MBA. World Vision’s longtime CEO, Dave Toycen, holds a Master of Divinity.  141  A business background is not limited to the marketers and communications experts at sponsorship programs. In 2009, Christian Children’s Fund of Canada installed Mark Lukowski as Chief Executive Officer. Apparently, Lukowski is a good choice because of his “corporate background of innovation and process improvements at industry giants Motorola Cellular and Hewlett-Packard” (Christian Children’s Fund of Canada, 2010). It is not necessary to read too much into this background, however, as the importance of fundraising to the organization is made very clear by CCFC: “Lukowski’s track record of increasing revenue and reducing operating costs will contribute to a new era of growth for CCFC’s child focused programs.” At first glance, this organizational division of labour does not seem to be too problematic, and one cannot fault the motive for someone working in business wanting to “make a difference”.75 After all, if you want to market something, why not hire someone who is trained in marketing? You can simply have some cross-division meetings to inform those working on the fundraising side of sponsorship (which is, once again, the only side of sponsorship that is recognizable as such) about what is happening on the ground. The Plan International (2008b) report mentioned earlier, however, highlighted this issue as a major difficulty. The researchers revealed that [s]ome NO [National Office] staff, particularly those involved in marketing and supporter relations, have limited exposure to programme realities and CCCD [Child-Centred Community Development] approaches, and this affects their ability to link sponsor engagement with CCCD and development education. Sponsorship and programmes in NOs are managed separately,  75  It should be noted, though, that wanting to make this transition is rarely a huge financial burden. Even though some organizations have policies regarding executive compensation that talk about discounted salaries for equivalent roles in business and industry (for example, see World Vision, 2010c), many sponsorship organizations pay their management in excess of CAN$100,000 a year. According to 2009 charity returns sent to Revenue Canada, Plan Canada employed seven people who earned more than CAN$120,000 a year and World Vision Canada employed at least ten such individuals.  142  although Plan’s continued evolution means NOs are making efforts to broaden staff exposure to programmes. Not only does the background and experience of marketing, communications, and donor services staff make it more difficult for them to produce promotional material that is educationally beneficial, but it also says something about the immediate goals of the organization and its programs. The fact that the marketing, communication, and donor services staff who make up the majority of Canadian offices are not “development experts” (and need not be development experts from the eyes of management) only makes sense from the perspective that these organizations – these independent Canadian organizations and not their partners – are principally focussed on the work of raising funds and not the work of development per se.76 This understanding is reinforced through the type of language that seems to predominate in Canadian sponsorship offices. Just as development studies has its own language with terms such as participatory, sustainability, and multilateral, so too does business with expressions like market share, revenue stream, and customer care. There is no easy way, however, to analyze the language use of an entire organization, and as with the often oversimplified concept of organizational culture, one must be careful not to assume any unified language practices or specific effects. That said, many of the interviewed staff repeatedly employed terms and concepts in their discussion of sponsorship that seem to be more at home in a business environment than in any kind of international development context. In  76  It should be noted that not all sponsorship programs in Canada are equivalent in this regard. Tamara agreed that “fundraising and communications and media are totally separate and advocacy teams are separate… we have a separate media relations person here and that person was independent I mean it is not a part of the marketing team”. However, she also stated that “we have a communications team here and they do media relations work and raising public awareness and most of this work is done by program people not by marketing people”. While it is important to recognize the variability within sponsorship programs, the difficulty with Tamara’s statement is that a number of high-level communications staff from her organization are not, in fact, people with any specific background in development studies.  143  particular, this use of business or marketing language was evident in the often blurred boundary between sponsorship as a way of supposedly linking sponsors to children and sponsorship as a product produced by the organizations and sold to customers. In several instances, James expressly referred to sponsorship as a “product”, and Irving made reference to donations as “investments”. In discussing the future of sponsorship, Irving also made the comment, “I know a lot of other organizations are committed to diversifying the product offerings when it comes to international development”. In an example of the odd but frequent substitution of the term customer for donor/sponsor, Susan expressed to need to “try to keep customers satisfied and keep them hooked into the child sponsorship program”. Pascal, however, provided some of the best exemplars of how a particular kind of marketing rhetoric so often pervades the work of child sponsorship in Canada. Using phrases such as “to maximize our spend” and “our spots are stale-dated”, Pascal’s language exposes the way sponsorship is considered and presented by staff outside of the promotional content itself. In explaining his daily job apart from overseeing the production of ads, Pascal said he focuses on “how we drive a supporter through the giving lifecycle if you will – so what we do in terms of acquisition, how we maintain or convert them, how we direct them to other giving programs”. Referring to another sponsorship program, he also said, I know that they are, that they appear to be, very sophisticated in terms of their database marketing techniques. So, they can target their “gift for child” programs more easily than us. At least, that is my impression. They also have what appear to be more expensive packages. Where we will usually use a postcard or a card of some sort. They will have seeds or a ruler or an eraser or something to that effect. In my previous life, we referred to that as trinkets and trash, but if it works, which I imagine it does because they keep on doing it.  144  Use of such language that is heavily influenced by business and marketing is not necessarily unusual among large non-profits, especially when several interviewees noted the benefits of corporate experience to being hired in the fundraising sector, neither is it necessarily negative. Its prevalence, however, does suggest particular ways of viewing one’s work and the work of one’s organization, once again betraying an emphasis on the centrality of fundraising. It could also be expected to influence the day-to-day activities and interactions of staff. Program staff trained or experienced in international development and spending more time in communication with field partners do not always seem to see eye to eye with the other staff in sponsorship programs. Gabrielle, a former program staff member at a large Canadian child sponsorship program, talked about how there are not only differences internationally between organizations that raise money and those that spend, but these differences also exist “in the same office, for example, there was always a constant, I would say heated, discussion between the group that raised money and the group that spends money.” In particular, she commented that these discussions revolved around the portrayal of children in ads, where marketers “would always say sound bite and in this kind of sound bite you cannot give them the history of what is happening.” This disagreement over the amount, tone, and relevance of included information is likely related to more than simply different backgrounds. Because the different staff groupings appear to have different written and unwritten objectives to their daily work, there is both a natural cooperation as well as a natural tension between these staff members. The cooperation comes from what seems to be the logical differentiation of labour involved in the daily activities of sponsorship. Pascal explained one aspect of this  145  cooperation when he said, “what [my communications colleague] does is he will go in and soften the ground for me, and then I go in and ask for money”. Jacqueline highlighted her “programmatic” role of keeping her marketing and communication colleagues informed about the status of projects and sponsored children. The tension seems to come from the fact that marketing and communications staff, who are in the majority, are primarily tasked with the job of maintaining and increasing revenues while a few program staff are there to ensure an effective transitioning of funds to partners. Moreover, despite there being a concern from management and some program staff about the portrayal of children in promotional material – a concern augmented by media criticism – marketers are still expected to bring in the funds necessary to meet the organization’s overseas commitments. Irving commented on the result of these competing dilemmas: “generally I would say the bottom line wins. We start out with these grand ideas wanting to change the whole conversation [about sponsorship], and as we get down to the process, we realize this is not working we got to pull it off the air.” Talking about the need to compete with other sponsorship programs to bring in the donations, he described the personal dilemma involved, remarking that “at the end of the day it comes down to our job performance”. Pascal also mentioned the personal aspect of having one’s job centre on fundraising, saying “it is always stressful the first two weeks after an appeal is dropped, where the response is how come we are not raising the money, what is going on”. Talking about the high marketing costs involved in sponsorship, he went on to complain: “I can spend two dollars, but I have to raise ten, okay. And if I do not, then within a year or two I am looking for a new job.” Tamara, a program manager, highlighted this issue by referring to the oft-discussed need by program staff to  146  bring more reality into what they [sponsored children] are getting out of it [sponsorship], and they [marketing people] are scared. We have had ten [or] twelve meetings, and you can see the marketing just sitting on their edge. And I understand because we are all dependent on their money. If today they did not bring [enough funds], the field offices are waiting there, so you see it is a very nerve-wracking thing. Tamara went on to say that “the marketing fear is that if they put too much global education into their messaging, their donor will not fund. And maybe they are right, maybe not. Who is going to test?” Through these comments, Tamara brings together the issues of the functional division of staff, and what are often seen as the negative marketing practices of sponsorship – too much desolation and not enough education. Irving also referred to the use of controversial imagery, admitting that it is a perpetual problem we have not solved it in sixty years. …[Audiences] say that the images they have seen on TV for the last 45 years have not changed at all – it is flies-in-the-eyes-and-bloated-bellies. Well, the problem for us is, especially with our development people, we know that is not the reality. We know we are making a difference. We know people want to see the difference, but when you put on those sorts of more positive, more “here is the change” sort of stories, they do not drive results. So, to meet your bottom line, you have got to perpetuate your own problem. And by perpetuating your own problem, you are excluding people who might otherwise buy from you. So, it is a big circle, and we are not sure the way out. This need to raise money as a priority, even in the face of using disagreeable or damaging content, draws attention to the unquestioned link between what are seen to be effective marketing strategies and those that generate the highest revenue. This formulation of the objective of sponsorship marketing, which is not simply an issue of difference in staff job descriptions but relates to the purpose of the entire organization, tells us yet again something about how the problem of underdevelopment is constructed in relation to child sponsorship.  147  Sponsorship as a fundraising tool: The value of misrecognition Reviewing the argument up until now, the practice of sponsorship appears to revolve, at international and organizational levels, around the effective raising of funds even as it is commonly conceived of by organizations and their staff to be a realistic solution to the problem of underdevelopment. This implies that not only are Canadian sponsorship programs necessarily focussed on raising money, but also that from their perspective, this money is the solution, or funds the solution, to the problem of global poverty. These two factors go together to create the perceived situation in which the more funds raised the more “development” is done. While this relationship appears to be natural, what it accomplishes is to transfer the ethical value accorded to on-the-ground project work to the raising of money for such work. In other words, it fosters a state of affairs in which the work of international development in the South, i.e. helping the world’s poor to “progress”, is completely aligned with the work of organizational development in the North, i.e. increasing the size, the scope, and most importantly, the revenue of an organization. This circumstance not only has a substantial ends-justify-themeans impact on the content of sponsorship promotional material, but it also generates legitimacy for the entire practice of child sponsorship not because of what it actually is – a fundraising tool – but what it is misunderstood to be – a development method. As with Derrida’s (1992) gift or Bourdieu’s (1986) symbolic capital, the ethical value of child sponsorship comes disproportionately from its misrecognition as something other than an effective way to raise money. This misrecognition is facilitated by a discourse of development that consistently distances the perceived causes of global poverty and inequality while simultaneously individualizing the supposed solution. The real difficulty  148  with child sponsorship becomes apparent, however, inasmuch as the so-called problem of underdevelopment – the problem of global poverty and inequality – cannot in fact be addressed through straightforward injections of money or the projects these support. In this case, the funding that sponsorship provides is not the solution it is thought to be, and sponsorship as a practice, then, ends up having far greater ethical value than practical value. These arguments are discussed below. Child sponsorship is a fundraising technique, and the organizations that offer it are focused on raising funds above all else. This does not mean that these organizations only fundraise; they are simply designed and staffed primarily for this purpose. This is not necessarily a recrimination; it is an explanation of the role that sponsorship plays in the so-called development industry. When she first started working for a sponsorship program, Tamara said that she had little respect for sponsorship. “How can they talk about a child as a product?” she wondered. However, as time went on and she saw how effective sponsorship was and how other agencies were continually threatened by lack of funding, she said that she changed her mind about sponsorship. The situation was straightforward, she said, “we need money… somewhere somebody needs the money”. Despite the telling incongruence between pronouns, this statement does reiterate the idea that so far as development projects are essential to the short and long-term welfare of poor people in the South, funding these projects is equally important. As Brian plainly noted, “money drives development,” but we need to keep in mind that “money is not the important thing everybody knows it takes money to do anything. … What is going to help them out of poverty, what is going to make them a fulfilled adult, is not the money but what that money provides for them.” This statement by Brian highlights the two issues at  149  stake here: one, the conceptual linkage yet practical separation between funds that are raised and solutions enacted, and two, the (developmental) rationality within which these solutions (and therefore the funds that support them) are perceived to be both legitimate and valuable. There is a recurring misrecognition, or perhaps what could be called a slippage, in the discourse around child sponsorship that pervades not only promotional material but also staff discussions of sponsorship. Relating to the disconnect that has been mentioned numerous times, this slippage seems to be a particular feature of sponsorship related to the conceptual overlap between raising money in the North and the development that it is supposed to produce in the South. In order to understand this slippage, it is useful to look back to the descriptions of sponsorship covered near the beginning of this chapter. Once again, what was noteworthy about these descriptions was the way in which they highlighted the supposed developmental benefits of sponsorship while being seamlessly intertwined with understandings of sponsorship as a fundraising tool. A few examples will serve to highlight this point. Jacqueline told a story about a poor child she met while visiting a project abroad. After seeing the child, she said that she knew she wanted to sponsor him, but she followed this up with admitting to herself, “‘you are silly’ because I understand very clearly how it works, but you still feel that emotionally, ‘I am going to sponsor [him]’”. Why did she think she was silly? Because the little boy in question was already in the project area and would not get anything extra out of her sponsorship. Despite knowing that sponsorship is “just the way it is [the organization] marketed so that people feel that commitment to continue,” she wanted to sponsor the boy anyway. This does not appear to  150  make sense. After all, she knew that she could “help” the boy in the same manner if she were to just give the money to her organization (possibly more so if the boy were sponsored by someone else as well). So, was this desire to sponsor solely related to an emotional reaction, or was there something else involved? It is possible that her reaction was fuelled in part by the illusion of direct connection that makes sponsorship such an effective tool in the first place. Jennifer’s very clear but ultimately inconsistent discussion of sponsorship demonstrates this possibility. Jennifer proclaimed that sponsoring a child is the best way of breaking that cycle of chronic poverty because they are the ones who are going to be growing up and running the countries or running the communities so if they have the proper education and nutrition and training and support, family support, community support, then that in itself will break that cycle whereas if they just grow up as their parents grew up you know chances are they will end up in the same kind of rut as their parents are in. Shortly after this statement and in the context of a discussion around the community-level nature of the projects funded by sponsorship, she noted that we “know children do not exist in isolation, right? They exist as part of a family and as part of a community. So, in order to best help them, we have got to help the community and the family to raise their own children”. Although not directly contradictory, Jennifer’s comments exemplify the incoherence that often exists around the structure of sponsorship, the benefits for sponsored children, and the perceived developmental needs of the child or community. This confusion often leads to the conceptual equation between sponsoring a child in the North and development in the South.77 Jennifer even summed it up at the end of the interview, effectively linking acquiring donors with “doing development”. She said, “child sponsorship is really the way to get donors in the door, and it is a good way. I 77  This confusion also exists between helping a child “develop” through sponsorship and that child’s normal biological development. This is discussed in the Chapter Four.  151  mean because, like I said, it is not like it is just a marketing tool. It is not at all. It is really what we believe is the most effective way of doing development.” This slippage in the expression of child sponsorship was shared by Gina, who declared that “the reality is that sponsorship is one tool to bring money in to achieve our mission” and that the sponsored “child is a symbol of potential in the growth that a community can experience when there is targeted support offered”. As she later admitted, however, “I do not know enough about what actually goes on in each community where there is sponsored children, but I can pretty much assume that… the children that are sponsored are in fact getting greater benefits and having more opportunities for improved health.” This assumption of “benefits” despite a lack of direct experience regarding specific, or even general, project goals and accomplishments was a common feature of staff discussions of sponsorship. Placed alongside a disclosure of sponsorship as “one tool” and the sponsored child as a “symbol” rather than a target of aid, the recognition of child sponsorship as directly equating to improvements in the child’s life is a simultaneous misrecognition of how sponsorship works. Even though sponsorship is simply a financial relationship between sponsor and the Canadian organization (and not between sponsor and child or even sponsor and project) and there can be no guarantee to sponsors about the particular progress of any specific child, there is a tendency to “assume” that the means (funding) are equivalent to an unspecified or generic end (development). In other words, because of the structures and practices of the child sponsorship model, it seems that the goal of fundraising is (mis)recognized by organizations and their staff as essentially the same as that of development (reduction of poverty, improved life, etc.). Once again, this (mis)recognition does not mean that  152  sponsorship monies are poorly spent; it simply means that the promise of sponsorship is often unrelated to, and therefore potentially undone by, the very practice of sponsorship itself. If this situation is made possible through the disconnect between promotional messages and funding practices, it is made understandable (to those involved) through the circulation of a particular discourse of development. Despite the wide variety of staff perceptions around the causes of poverty and inequality in the South and the possibilities of dealing with these issues, a few things seem to be held in common. The first significant point relates to the variety of responses itself. While staff members were fairly uniform in describing the imagined benefits of sponsorship to the child and community, there was a diversity of responses around the question of why there are so many poor people and countries in the South. Apart from the kind of projects their organizations funded, there was also little agreement among the participants on what should or could be done to rectify this situation. This was the case even among staff at the same organization, which leads to the suspicion that not only is there a separation among staff as previously noted, but also that there is little in the way of a unified philosophy around development at these organizations. This difficulty echoes a statement made by Shelby Miller, a child development expert and someone who produced a report for Save the Children US. She notes that Save did not have “a commonly accepted and understood theoretical perspective” (as cited in Maren, 1997: 143). This point is in line with the argument that sponsorship programs and the NGDOs that host them are primarily fundraising organizations, and it highlights the amorphous nature of the development discourse that circulates within these institutions.  153  The discourse of development revisited As noted earlier, there was a certain vagueness or generality surrounding staff discussions of what goes on in project communities in the South. Holding tight to key terms such as “education”, “opportunity”, or “capacity-building”, this generality was able to address specific imagined deficiencies, or to encompass specific ideas of “progress”, without actually specifying anything at all. At first glance, this could be mistaken for wilful ignorance, but that does not seem to mesh with the complexity of many of the participants’ responses. On the other hand, this generality could easily be seen as a feature of the discourse of development itself. After all, Sachs (2000) explains that development means “everything and nothing”; as a concept, it has ceased to signify anything in particular except “good intentions” (9). This is despite the fact that it can be understood as nothing less than “a secular salvation story”, which for fifty years “has been much more than just a socio-economic endeavour; it has been a perception which models reality, a myth which comforts societies, and a fantasy which unleashes passions” (7, 13). Esteva (1992) echoes this point by Sachs, noting that “there is nothing in modern mentality comparable to it as a force guiding thought and behaviour. At the same time, very few words are as feeble, as fragile and as incapable of giving substance and meaning to thought and behaviour as this one” (8). If this is the case, then the ambiguity about the precise developmental benefits of sponsorship is not merely related to organizational structure or personal background; instead, it is built into the way development is imagined and represented. From this perspective, expressing the precise use of funds  154  becomes immaterial as what actually occurs on the ground is swept away in a cloud of “good intentions”. This capacity of the concept of development to mean “everything and nothing” is facilitated by another feature of its discourse, one that was repeatedly evident in the staff interviews. This feature deals with the separation of the problems of underdevelopment and, therefore, the work of development from the lives of people in the North. This separation takes the form of understanding the causes of poverty of people in the South to be uniquely associated with some aspect of their lives, be it violence, corruption, “improper” economic or agricultural practices, cultural viewpoints, etc. Similarly, the mechanism to deal with these problems is also to be found in the South, be it improving education or health levels, creating local economic opportunities, building social capital, etc. In discussing these issues, Jennifer explained that “we also believe that there are lots of wrong ideas [in the South]. …Because of their false ideas, that is what causes the poverty in their community.” She went on to say, “we always go in to empower them to make the change. …Once you can change the way that they think about themselves and their world, then it is a completely different thing.” This perspective was mirrored by Dorothy, who stated that “it is not a matter of not enough resources or not enough food per se. It is their mindset, and their mindset is that we have always been poor, we always will be, how are we ever going to get out of this, and then they wait for the rest of the world to come in and hand out stuff to them.” The solution, then, lies in educating them. It is not about ‘how to fish’ or that they need to fish. It is ‘why do you need to fish’. Figure it out; ‘why do you think you need to do this’ because we can show you how, but then we will leave and you will forget. So, you need to actually teach them, and they have to get it. They have to embrace it, and they have to get it. Otherwise, there is no transformation. It does not happen. 155  From a different perspective, Brian argued that the “root cause of poverty is due to lack of opportunity” and added that “most poor people are born with an entrepreneurial spirit.” His idea for a solution, however, sounded very similar to those of Jennifer and Dorothy. He said, Poverty is a cycle. …That cycle breeds fatalism. It breeds a lack of selfesteem, of self-respect. So, even though you might have within you an entrepreneurial spirit, you have lost the drive because you see no way out. And so, someone comes along in some mechanism, i.e. [child] sponsorship or the like, and takes you out of that cycle and shows you the opportunity to change your environment. Not changing it for you, but just introduces you to a different thinking. You are not lazy, you have just lost the drive. This separation does not necessarily revolve around ideas of ignorance. Margaret said that it was not her organization’s place “to be the great white gods”, and that the local partners knew what was best for them. This may well be true, but it does not acknowledge any connection between perceived (under)development in the South and what goes on in the North. This lack of acknowledgment may not be extraordinary, but it is central to the way development is discussed and the way sponsorship is structured. It is also central to the reason why Canadian sponsorship programs, which are basically fundraising machines, can understand (and represent) themselves as being directly responsible for so much good in the world. The separation, or what might be more descriptively referred to as the “Othering” of poverty, that is commonly part of the discourse of development not only compartmentalizes so-called poverty reduction strategies so that they appear “naturally” confined to the South but also establishes the seemingly legitimate role of people in the North. Because the causes and direct solutions to problems of global poverty are disconnected from the North, the role of Northerners is logically limited to charitable  156  donations that are typically assumed to be generous for this very reason.78 When combined with the slippage in expressions of sponsorship noted above, this limitation reinforces the idea that the funding provided by sponsorship is the best means of aiding in the development of Southern peoples. This notion that economic growth facilitated through foreign aid is the key to development is as old as the concept of international development itself (Escobar, 1995). Even when developmental priorities broadened to include the essential improvement of social contexts, the idea that this was something accomplished in the South through financial support from the North remained pervasive. Gabrielle, however, spelled out one problem with this line of thought. She said, “some people think that they can make all the change with this money, and I think it is very misleading… development is not that easy… We have to live in a different way if we want to make change in the world.” The idea that the historical roots and current manifestations of global poverty are inextricably linked to exploitative practices, and rationalizations of these practices, is not new to the literature on poverty and development (for diverse examples, see Escobar 1995; Frank 1996; Sachs 1992; Wallerstein, 2004). However, it is the sustained exclusion of these practices from the mainstream discourse on development that ensures fundraising is perceived as an appropriate and sufficient Northern response to global poverty. For example, the common elision of colonial histories – including such things as resource extraction or even slavery for that matter – from many contemporary  78  After all, it is the quality of not being required which makes something charitable; what is obligatory is not usually seen as generous. Consequently, for charitable donations to be charitable there is often assumed to be no connection between, for example, one person’s poverty and another’s wealth. If a person’s poverty is understood to be a result of exploitation, then assisting them should be seen as a matter of justice and not charity. See Chapter Two for discussion of this point.  157  explanations of global poverty helps make possible a view of the world in which the difficulties faced by ex-colonies can be attributed solely to internal factors. Even when a connection between Southern poverty and Northern political and economic arrangements is acknowledged, then, this connection can be trumped by the way sponsorship is organized. Neither Pascal nor Irving come from backgrounds in development work, yet both explained poverty as a systemic problem related to the historical actions of “the West” and its present relationship to poorer regions. Irving noted that “the reason poverty still exists is because the West is not willing to sacrifice its position in the world – our society is built on the backs of these countries. …I think that is the thing no one will articulate no one wants to acknowledge.” Discussing such things as unfair trade relations, Pascal echoed this statement, saying that “the rich West has allowed a number of countries to remain poor.” However, neither he nor Irving felt they could express these thoughts in their professional capacity as marketing and communications staff. Pascal explained, “at this time, I have not seen any organization that is courageous enough to go out with that message for any length of time.” Irving simply stated that there was no budget for material that presented these kinds of messages. After all, he said, “advocacy is not what our core business is.” The issue of advocacy with Canadian NGDO’s in general and sponsorship programs in particular is illuminating. While some NGDO’s offering sponsorship engage in advocacy work in Canada – which often takes the form of lobbying the federal government on various elements of multilateral agreements, fairer trade policies, amount and distribution of official development assistance, and so on – it is a very small proportion of what they do. As noted, this situation is due in part to the association of  158  advocacy work with politics and, therefore, something to be avoided in order to reach the widest donor base as possible and to maintain charitable status in Canada. This link between charity and political neutrality is another discursive feature that influences that formation and function of sponsorship programs. Many staff indicated that advocacy work has been an increasing priority at their organizations even though it still remains a very small part of their objective. As Pascal stated, “the reality is that we are all playing with 80:20 fundraising [ratio]; really... of that 20% how much of that is the organization going to dedicate to advocacy?” What is interesting about this statement is not simply the small amount thought to be available for advocacy if the will were there but also the fact that advocacy was assumed to fall under the 20% commonly reserved for administration and fundraising. The exclusion of advocacy from the “business” model of sponsorship (often represented as a desire toward political neutrality) goes hand in hand with the idea that something meaningful in terms of poverty reduction can be accomplished without it. As global poverty and its contexts are distanced from sponsorship programs and their supporters, fundraising comes to be seen as more closely linked to the “real” work of development than things such as advocacy that occur in the North. Fundraising is thus granted a greater priority and legitimacy in Northern NGDOs. In this way, the peculiarities of the discourse around sponsorship and development work together to create a situation in which the (imagined) work of international development coincides with the (practical) work of organizational development.  159  The developmentality of child sponsorship programs In physics, the concept of inertia is slightly different than its colloquial usage. Instead of simply referring to inaction or sluggishness, inertia refers to the tendency of an object to continue moving along its trajectory, resisting changes in direction and velocity. It is not unusual for large organizations, especially non-profit ones, to develop this form of inertia. Gabrielle expressed it clearly, saying “I think when organizations start to get bigger and bigger at some point they kind of definitely take a leave of why they began in the first place and a certain amount of wanting to exist for their own sake happens.” Recognition of the fact that some organizations seem to “exist for their own sake” is not uncommon, but the interaction between development discourse(s) and the practice of child sponsorship adds a new dimension to this. What is a relatively understandable drive to maintain the security of one’s position by assuring the continuing need for one’s work takes on a different tenor when what is seen as one’s ultimate objective (i.e. international development) is relatively poorly defined and the supposed means of securing this objective (i.e. development projects) is in the hands of other people. Combine this with a recurring misrecognition of child sponsorship as the direct means of securing this (interminable) objective, and raising money through sponsorship becomes tantamount to the “real” work of development in the South. Through these processes, the development of Southern peoples and their communities becomes ethically synonymous with the development of the sponsorship program itself. This process results in a situation in which the Canadian organizations offering sponsorship are both the funnel through which funds are seen to be effectively reaching their goal (to “foster” development in the South) and the goal itself as the organization  160  partakes in the grand work of development. Jacqueline clarified the role of her organization, saying that “as an organization, we are simply providing that link giving the donors the opportunity to say, ‘yeah, I see that need, and I want to do something to support that.’ And we are saying, ‘well, support us, and we will make sure your funds are used to do that.’” Susan, on the other hand, discussed her organization’s role in a slightly different manner. Commenting on how to attract donors, she noted, “the secret is showing how we have progressed – what we have achieved – and saying this is what you can help us achieve.” What these disparate statements highlight is the flexible understanding of sponsorship programs made possible by the shifting (re)presentations of sponsorship and development. This ethical alignment of international development and organizational development also creates a situation in which the limitless raising of funds (and, consequently, organization growth) is rationalized, the competition that exists between sponsorship programs is validated, and more importantly, almost any technique that brings in revenue is considered justifiable. Irving proclaimed the first point clearly, saying “everyone wants to grow.” He did qualify this statement, however, with an aside about needing to branch out past sponsorship. “We`re