In Ripples from Zambezi, the author, Ernesto Sirolli, turns the top down model of grand economic development on its head. Instead, his focus is on nurturing the passion and creativity of individuals.
The title comes from Sirolli’s early experiments in economic development in rural Africa, where he worked as a foreign aid worker for the Italian government. The beginning of the book details his experiences in Africa and the ideas that those failed experiments planted in his mind.
From that experience, he learned firsthand the damage traditional top down development models could do and made it his life’s work to find a better way to build local economies. He later discovered that the ideas that germinated in Africa applied to Western economies, too.
Sirolli’s approach builds on the theories of E.F. Schumacher, A.H. Maslow, Carl Rogers and others. The fundamental concepts underpinning Sirolli’s work include:
- A belief in the intrinsic goodness of human nature.
- If people don’t ask for help, leave them alone.
- There is no good or bad technology to carry out a task – only an appropriate or inappropriate one. Something big, modern, and expensive is not necessarily best; it all depends on the circumstances.