May 21 2009

Networks and the Washington Consensus

by at 2:13 pm

Every Tuesday I have lunch with a dear friend, who I met through a network. My friend Candice is my friend as a result of relationships I’ve had with her two sisters (Abby and Katie).

Me and Candice

Me and Candice

When I told one of her sisters (Katie whom I was friends with when I lived in Florida) I was moving to Washington, DC (where Candice lived) I was then introduced to Candice. That was a little over a year ago, but since then we have become close friends. Her sisters have since become more of acquaintances, since one now lives in Kentucky and the other lives in New York City. Because of my previous relationships I have been able to get close to Candice. I understand her a lot better than I would have without those previous connections and we also know a lot of similar people because of that as well.

Candice, Katie and Abby last May

Candice, Katie and Abby last May

Candice and I exchange ideas and gain new perspectives on things, but we also share our daily experiences and concerns. Because we each have other networks we belong to, there are always differing opinions being brought to the table whether they are about politics, money, marriage or fashion. Although Candice and her sisters are related they have different networks and different opinions about things—just as I do.

Networks formed through family, friends, social organizations, academic and church communities also overlap professional, educational and social lives. Each group is diverse and provides different relationships and fulfills a different purpose in my life. These different networks provide insight on situations that are biased and unbiased, educated and uneducated, informed and uninformed. While their views may not all be adopted as my opinion, they help me to form my personal opinions on people and issues. Mark Buchanan examines these relationships in Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by identifying how small-world networks can limit the perspective of those involved. The same things that make a small-world network secure can also be it’s “Achilles Heel” (pg. 132).

The Washington Consensus was a result of the sharing of common ideas—coming from similar perspectives. Those formulating the plan were involved in other networks, but did not reach out for ideas from those networks or take-into-account differing opinions. For this reason the Washington Consensus made generalizations and failed to take into account that countries differ in structure, governance and therefore development strategies should be approached differently. The Washington Consensus policies attempted to prescribe each country as if it were giving penicillin for a range of different diseases—this did not work with medicine and does not work for countries. Some people are allergic to Penicillin; some are immune to its benefits. The short term solution may work at first but often leaves a lot more to clean up in the end.

Penicillin

Penicillin

An approach considers debate and outside opinions (those from outside the IMF and World Bank) as well as intrinsic on-the-ground research would definitely formulate new views. These newly formulated ideas could be applied to for the benefit of the developing country. Leg-work and conversation are vital to networks. Many times the IMF and World Bank representatives never set foot outside the capital cities of these developing countries, giving them a very limited perspective. They also only spoke with government leaders and did not speak with people at lower levels who were in need of the aid and would be working on the development projects. They could have met with some aid organizations that were already working on the ground and had relationships with the people of the country, thus making the transition from plan to project run more smoothly. Networks are vital for transitions.

My personal networks are what have made the transition from one location to another more fluid. I’ve lived in Texas, Florida and Washington, DC in the past 6 years. Some of these networks were created for me, others I had to create myself. Professionally I’m apart of several networks including the National Press Club, former Palm Beach Post writers and other journalists that I have worked with or encountered through education. These networks have helped me find contract work. Some of my educational networks have become professional and social networks, I’m also part of networks from former school and college affiliations, including my Sorority Alumni Group, Baylor Alumni Association and The Baylor Women’s Network. Of course there are the connections that I have formed since I enrolled at Georgetown, through CCT and student organizations.

These network webs are a good example of how one person can become connected to several different people and therefore gain several different ideas. People must seek out differing ideas to formulate new idea. Perhaps by circulating through different networks the Washington Consensus would have become less of a consensus and more of a collaboration of ideas for the betterment of each country and its individual needs.

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