It’s Silly Friday, a time to look at development projects that transcend the ridiculous to reach a kind of clueless, navel-gazing glory.
Let’s hear a round of applause for Skateistan, an Aussie Skateparks-for-Afghanistan(-and-Camb0dia) non-profit that achieves a rare, perfect 10 on our Development Bloat Checklist.
Given the sheer, prima-facie absurdity of the idea, you almost feel bad for the guy who had to draft their mission-statment-spiel. He seems to have solved his unsolvable conundrum by relying almost entirely on buzzwordy jargon:
“has developed an innovative , youth-led  programming that builds confidence, trust and social capital among children using “the hook” of skateboarding for developing youth leadership. Provides opportunities for education and creative thinking  that help break the cycle of poverty  and exclusion .”
That’s nine airy, jargony buzzwords in a 40-word mission statement…chapeau!
OK, ok. I admit. One doesn’t want to be too Grinch-y about these things. The standard disclaimers apply: of course developing children’s confidence is a good thing, as is opportunity, and creative thinking and breaking the cycle of poverty and, indeed, even skateboards.
But one doesn’t want to be too polite, either, because in a world where aid has to fight a neverending rearguard action to establish its own legitimacy with skeptical donors, the mere existence of silly stuff like this is already a problem.
Let’s not mince words here: Skatistan exists so a bunch of guys in Australia who are into skateboarding can feel good about themselves. It’s the Churrigueresque of Development Bloat.
Its superfluousness is its raison d’etre. Its sheer wackiness is the key to its memorability. It explores the furthest reaches of development bloat with a lack of self-consciousness that’s almost admirable in its chutzpah.
I am in awe of them. But they need to stop.