The organization goes beyond providing low-cost technologies that facilitate positive infrastructure improvements benefiting both people and the environment. AIDG is dedicated to creating a new working-model for sustainable development. It is about grassroots initiatives, public participation, and self-sufficiency. As the critique of CAFTA demonstrates, many of the enormous World Bank and IMF projects such as dam creation have many long-term negative effects to both the environment and the people. Although they may boost a countryâ€™s GDP and benefit the wealthy and powerful elite, these projects often do not actually benefit the people that they purportedly claim to help.
Hence, the model we have developed is based on creating small worker collectives that create these appropriate technologies. This model facilitates infrastructure projects directly to communities in need, distancing itself from traditional development models by providing tools, materials, and training to small businesses in studied regions. AIDG seeks to work within pre-existing networks, with partner organizations that are already familiar with local political frameworks and cultural norms. In this way, locally created groups are both empowered and employed, thus creating a situation where the likelihood of community support and success of the project is increased.
The alternative, as is often the case, is a large project that does not always take into considerationâ€”is disconnectedâ€”to the needs and wants of the people, thus creating animosity, and sometimes protests. This is the case with frequent highway closures in Guatemala due to CAFTA policies, or riots in Bolivia regarding water privatization. The top-down approach of bureaucrats dictating how development projects should occur may on the surface look efficient and able to increase GDP; however, the externalities of issues such as displacement of people, environmental degradation, and massive debt, are often glossed over.
The partnership between AIDG and a local organization, on the other hand, is a â€˜bottom-upâ€™ strategy of local empowerment. The partnership contracts these collectives on a subsidized basis to facilitate infrastructure improvements for families, schools, and communities in need who cannot afford, or desire an alternative to the high costs of traditional infrastructure projects. In the beginning, the projects will be heavily subsidized by AIDG as the collective becomes more efficient and as the demand for these technologies increases. Over time, the subsidies are reduced as the workshop becomes an entrepreneurial enterprise. The partner organizations help the small businesses with continued training, materials, and support as they grow and acquire outside contracts. In this way, a domino effect of sustainable infrastructure improvements can occur. Assuming our current project in Guatemala is successful, this model (open of course to modification) will hopefully be expanded across the globe (also assuming we obtain sufficient funding!).