the City of Hope; a hope-wreck

Wreck of Hope – painting by Caspar David Friedrich

This is a rant on how so much wrong can take place when nothing but “the greater good” matters, and when values are therefore… neglected. Or at least this is how I see+ it…

Around 2 weeks ago I started noticing posts on my Facebook news feed about a project called “City of Hope”. It took me a few days and more than a few posts to care enough to check it, the name just didn’t really motivate me. The project –as some of you might already know- is an “idea” presented by students in the University of Khartoum which aims to build a city for refugees in Darfur (Sudan). And the reason the post was shared is that this project is competing for a million dollar prize which they needed votes to win. So basically those posts were asking me to vote for the project. City of hope, as well as every other project provided a promotional video of their idea to gain voters support. So I started watching City of Hope’s video

The first image of the video still gives me nightmares. What is supposed to be the project’s logo was an image with some site’s copy right watermark all over it! Seriously you are asking to take charge of a million dollars and you can’t even put enough effort to make your own logo?

ma 3alina

… keep watching,!

A PowerPoint- presentation like video with information on the effect of the civil war on agriculture in Sudan. At 00:45 the video starts presenting the project’s proposal which goes like: “… and assuming we have proper agricultural land, we propose…” WAIT WAIT WAIT! Assuming? You are asking for a MILLION AMERICAN DOLLARS to build a project that you “assume” you have the main needed resource for: an assumed land?!!!

Are you people kidding me?

I have to say that irritated me, but, it can easily be an issue of phrasing, maybe they have promises of being given such a land for the project but it is not confirmed yet, I don’t know. They just better have a justification for that.

Never mind…

Keep watching …

A total of a 3:00 min video with a good amount of rhetoric and a description of the city (a lot of words and no numbers). The video lacked so many things; feasibility, partners, estimated budget and I really doubt anyone can build a refugee city out of nothing with just a million dollar (google: “refugee camp budget” , don’t hate the messenger). But the most critical question was the question of security; I am not even asking about the proposed distribution networks within the very troubled region, just: how are you planning to protect [the city of hope] from being invaded, burned or bombed?

So I took that question and posted it on the project’s Facebook event. And the answer comes .. o arito ma ja …” in our proposal we planned to choose, with some organization aid, the least invaded area just as a start” !!! so not only that the land is assumed, the whole area in which it will be is still unknown!

Not only are you asking for a million dollars, you are asking for people’s votes to help you get the money, you are expecting me and many others to bear with you the responsibility of a project for which you show us zero planning –I’m hopping here you have some plans stashed somewhere away from our eyes-,  you are asking us to make sure your project gets the money, which by definition means other competing project don’t, and you are providing us nothing but that bouquet of rhetoric on a background of fifth grade school presentation! HOW DARE YOU? Do you see no need to put an effort into convincing us? Have you no respect for our intellectual integrity at least?

I was so furious at that moment that I just left the whole thing, wrote no reply, didn’t vote for anyone, and ignored every post or message from friends asking me to vote or spread the word.

But that passive attitude kept on bugging me, I should at least tell those guys what they are doing wrong; help them do things the right way. At least watch the other videos in the competition, maybe all the other vides are on the same level, or even worse – I am not sure if that would have been a good or a bad thing-.

… So I did, I watched the promotional videos of the top 10 projects (voting wise) and a couple of other random ones. I hated some and I liked others, but I have to say the amount of effort the smallest of these projects showed was at least 10 times the effort put in the City of Hope project as shown in the video. Some of these projects already produced prototypes of their products, some have their partners and contracts waiting for the million dollars and some have even already executed initial phases of their projects.

I made my mind and voted for the “Feed your Future” project, a business model of a store and bank to be started in India, while the store provides the poor with healthy affordable food in the portions they need, the bank provides them with a place to keep their savings while creating profits that are linked to their food security in time of need… the great promotional video of the project explains it best

As excited as I was about the “Feed your Future” project and some other projects, I have to say my disappointment at the “City of Hope” destroyed any hope I had for it before…

I went back and watched the video of “City of Hope” again

And this time the flaws were irrefutable, the lack of any actual material within the video was embarrassing … and honestly, the word Darfur seemed forced there for “advertising purposes” , that is just a feeling for which I have no objective reason.

Ethically, I hope they lose, because they do not deserve the money and several of the other competing projects do. However, out of curiosity, I hope they win; it will be interesting to see how they will handle a million dollar, a world observing them and their supporters’ expectations as they try to manage an unplanned, under-funded and unarticulated project.

Here’s how I think this happened.

For the greater good of building “A” city of hope; the project was “put together”

For the greater good of executing the project; the team competed for the prize, with the details of the project to be figured out later … time limits probably played a big role here,

For the greater good of wining the prize; the video was made and distributed to the Sudanese part of the social networks which -by definition- is expected to vote for the project since it is Sudanese, which actually happened as the number of voters which manged to place the project in the top10 shows

Within the million dollar rush that the prize created some main basic values were forgotten; respecting one’s work enough put the effort of planning in it, and respecting one’s supporters enough to present them with enough information for them to support you without jeopardizing their integrity.

My experience with the City of Hope project left me with a wreck of hope, a real disappointment regarding the basic values of these –supposedly- promising youth, and how low their supporters place the bar of what’s acceptable …

What a shame!

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3 responses to “the City of Hope; a hope-wreck

  1. Well said wallahi i thought the project was way underdeveloped’ badly presented and almost childishly naive. a person who doesnt want to sound harsh would call it wishfull thinking . i could be cynical because i didnt not see any greater good behind this, I saw marketing an idea counting on sympathy and pity alone, and forcing the word darfur “Sudan’s most famous scandel of all scandels” as you said just made it seem like their main goal was to win the competition and that their stratigy didnt see beyond that, hence they were competing for the money alone and while I may not be in a position to call that ethicaly wrong but i think it at least betrays the “greater good” concept behind their idea. But as far as beging for pity as a stratgy i think it took them far enough to prove its rather an effective technique essentially it seemed to have defeated the sound of reason and logic in the thousands who voted for it. I Thought that and i voted for a worthy project.

    • I agree with every word you said! And a great point regarding the use of Darfur as a marketing strategy, that’s what I thought when I saw the video and it basically shocked me. However, regarding the “greater good” I agree with you that no good can come from doing things this way, but I think “let’s get the prize now and work the rest out later” is how they justified it to themselves believing that they are sacrificing the details for the “greater good”.
      And yeah the thousands who voted, and they are mostly Sudanese as was shown on the the project’s Facebook page, prove that naïveté and confused definitions of the greater good are more common than they should be. I am sure you agree with me that that doesn’t make them right but just calls for more work spreading awareness and demanding activists to take their projects and proposals more seriously. Thank you for your comment, it feels good to know there are more people on this side of the topic after all 🙂

  2. Very well said! couldn’t agree more, you raised several important points, I saw the video never believed a million dollars can build any city of any kind, let alone what is proposed, It seemed very wishful.
    but after not taking the whole thing very seriously, i ended up voting for it anyway, out of kinship i guess. Now i realise that have they won, i would have been equally complicit in wasting a million dollars.

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