March 2006 – June 2006
In May 2005, a group of USC faculty went to northeastern Tanzania to explore the relationship of faith and community in the development practices of a national office of a worldwide nonprofit organization, World Vision International. It is a community-based effort by residents, staff, and experts to provide improved services to underserved rural populations buffeted by globalization and internal migration. The trip to Tanzania was the outcome of a three-year working-group sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts through the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC.
Tanzania is an ethnically, religiously, and socially diverse society of over 36 million people situated below Kenya on the eastern coast of Africa. The nation is still largely rural, yet the Arusha region, the site of this trip, exemplifies a growing urban migration.
Arusha is a tourist center of roughly 280,000 people serving Mt. Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti. Much of the cityís growth has been unplanned and only loosely governed. In the surrounding rural areas, large settlements, such as the mining village of Mererani with its estimated 90,000 residents, are blurring the distinction between rural and urban.
Charitable groups play an important role in rural development. They construct schools, clinics, water and sanitation facilities, and provide a wide range of health and social programming. The central question of our research was how the organizationís Christian faith shapes its development operations.
The role of faith was difficult to decipher. World Vision Tanzania staff explicitly stated, and community residents reinforced, the inclusive nature of their activities within the communities. The staff respected the different faiths of traditional believers, such as the Masai, and of Muslims. However, when WVT staffís religion plays such an important role in their lives, it raises questions about the role of faith in their activities and whether the development process is about proselytizing.
The World Vision model functions as a complex community-based priority-setting process. The community proposes projects, including how residents will support the project. WVT raises support from nations such as Australia, Ireland, and the United States, or occasionally inside Tanzania. Completed projects and programs are proudly presented to us as products of the community, not just the sponsors or WVT.
In the meetings that we held with the project councils, WVT leaders repeatedly deferred to residents. Each council was mandated to be 50% female in an effort to encourage women to become involved in community governance. The WVT staff was also an equitable blend of men and women. And, WVT had made female genital mutilation, or female circumcision, a major focus of their activities.
The knitting of the globe was evident in the Nike tee-shirts and the minersí familiarity with the latest raps. Parents were focused on education as a means to improving their childrenís lives, willing to spend their time and energy to help build a new school. The health care system was struggling to respond to the ravages of the HIV/AIDS epidemic through a combination of medicines and health education, challenged to reach vulnerable populations such as the miners. The economy was vibrant, but poverty was apparent throughout, as a largely agricultural people transitioned to increasingly interconnected economies in a growing urban society. [David C. Sloane, Richard Sundeen, and Michael Moody]
These photographs capture Beijingís transformation as the city, like China itself, negotiates the slippery path of development. Every day Beijing becomes newer, more modern, more hybridized, its landscape looking less like it was a day ago.
Beijing is home to more than fifteen million people and the seat of Chinese government. The city reflects Chinaís unprecedented growth and modernization. Sweeping change is affecting not only spatial, but also cultural and socio-economic realms of life. Tradition is increasingly being viewed as a hurdle. Modern architecture is rapidly replacing ancient courtyard houses, and roads once traveled only by carts and bicycles are now congested with traffic. Cranes and workers are rapidly erecting buildings. By 2008, an estimated 160 billion dollars will be spent in Beijing to build office space equivalent to two Manhattans, in anticipation of the Olympic Games.
Rapid development has created new challenges for the city planners and policy makers. Planners, who enjoy an enviable position of privilege in Chinese society, are beset with issues of overcrowding, transportation, air quality, land rights, and citizen participation. The debate over the fate of Beijingís traditional courtyard homes (hutong housing) is symptomatic of the cityís contested planning discourse.
Due to rapid migration from the countryside, once stately hutong housing is now the first shelter for poor rural immigrants and often lacks basic amenities including running water and toilets. About three million of these people, who are not entitled to most government social services, illegally sublease the courtyard houses. Up to seven families might dwell in a house built for one. Some citizens view the hutong housing as ìold slumsî that should be destroyed to make way for a brighter future. Others from local communities and academia are trying to preserve the historically significant courtyard homes, and their associated way of life, as a vital part of Beijingís history and identity.
In May of 2005, thirty students from USCís Price School of Public Policy traveled to Beijing to study these issues, under the direction of Professors Tridib Banerjee and Michael Woo and in collaboration with students from the School of Government at Peking University. We studied the Xidan Beidajie area, located close to the city center. The district has mixed uses including residential hutong housing, large-scale high-end retail, and a proposed transit station. [Surajit Chakravarty, Todd Hutchins, Cecilia Kim, and Ian Trivers, with Professor Tridib Banerjee]