Journalist Questions Her Paycheck After Aid Scandal

Update: After we posted this podcast, a Washington Post investigation revealed that International Relief and Development had billed the US government $1.1 million for posh staff parties and retreats. Read more…

Charities: Flattering Reports, Poor Data

Nonprofit advisor Caroline Fiennes has a lot to say about how we assess charities. She used to run one herself. Back then, Fiennes would try to figure out whether her organization was achieving its goals but admits she wasn’t always forthcoming about the findings. “When the results were good, we would share them,” she tells us. “And when they weren’t, we didn’t.” Read more…

HIV Disclosure: Privacy, Pressure & Public Health

Medical anthropologist Adia Benton spent two years looking at HIV programs in Sierra Leone. What she saw unsettled her. “It calls into question what international programs like this do to people,” she tells us. Benton is an assistant professor of medical anthropology at Brown University and author of the forthcoming book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone. Read more…

Teaching the Next Generation of Global Innovators


Carrboro High School in Carrboro, North Carolina is an unlikely meeting place for leaders of international aid and development. But over the years, global studies teacher Matt Cone has given his students face time with an impressive list of guests: former USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Mohammed Yunus, first lady Laura Bush and more.  Read more…

The Bright Continent: Rethinking Modern Africa


Nigerian-American journalist Dayo Olopade spent two years traveling to seventeen nations across sub-Saharan Africa. In her new book The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa, she comes away with a decidedly promising view of the continent. Read more…

Essmart: Helping the Poor And Charging a Fee

Jackie Stenson was a Harvard trained engineer who wanted to design technologies to improve the lives of the world’s poor. Read more…

Ebola: One Doctor in a Firefight

TIME Magazine named those treating Ebola patients as its 2014 Person of the Year. Joel Selanikio is one of them.

“I knew I was going to go,” Selanikio tells us from his base in Lunsar, Sierra Leone, where he is currently treating Ebola patients. Read more…

Photo Credit: Amy Ta on the National Mall, collecting interviews for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Photo by Kemi Aladesuyi.

Meet Our New Producer!

Tiny Spark has doubled in size and now has a West Coast presence!

I am over the moon to welcome Amy Ta to Tiny Spark. Amy comes to us from NPR in Washington DC, where she spent more than four years working on NPR’s Tell Me More, Weekend Edition and NPR Music. Read more…

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Tiny Spark receives $400,000 Grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

PRESS RELEASE

AUSTIN, Texas, September 12, 2014 – Tiny Spark announced today that it has received a two-year grant totaling $400,000 to expand its coverage of philanthropy, nonprofits, international aid and for-profit social good initiatives. Read more…

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Questioning our Relationship with Africa

A few years ago, I had the good fortune of working with veteran television producer Cassandra Herrman, pictured above. She produced and directed our story on the PlayPump, a profound reporting experience that would later compel me to launch Tiny Spark. Read more…

TOMS Shoes Listens to its Critics

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An announcement came out of the Clinton Global Initiative last week. It didn’t involve lofty issues of world peace or universal access to education. But the announcement was important and it’s worth noting here. Read more…

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An Idea Sparked in Africa

I wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about the impetus behind Tiny Spark.

For several years, I worked as a public radio and television correspondent in Africa. During that time, I traveled around the continent, seeing a range of social enterprise initiatives and aid programs on the ground, each meeting with varying degrees of success. I also discovered that well-intentioned ideas, poorly executed, can actually do harm. Read more…

The above photo shows a Haitian woman undergoing surgery in a parking lot without anesthesia. Photo Courtesy: Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Haiti’s Medical Volunteers – Helping or Harming?

EDITOR’S NOTE: To commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, we are reposting this podcast in cased you missed it the first time around. The concerns raised in this investigation remain to this day.

Doctors and nurses responded when Haiti was shaken by a deadly earthquake in 2010.

From across the United States and around the globe, an untold number of men and women took leave from their jobs and flew to Haiti to provide assistance to the injured.

In our latest episode, Tiny Spark takes a look at the quality of care those volunteers provided.  While they may have been well-intentioned, medical volunteers’ lack of specialized training would sometimes have severe repercussions for patients. Read more…

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Lessons from an Expat Aid Worker

Here is an excerpt from Letters Left Unsent:

Aid and development workers are notorious for being self-righteous and smug. While I do not care for those labels, I also know that there’s some basis to them. We, and I include myself, sometimes wear our genteel poverty as a badge of honor. We are not like our materialist peers in the for-profit sector. We are on the right sides of all the issues. Read more…

New Documentary Profiles Inventor Doing Good

I recently watched a new documentary about inventor Dean Kamen. He’s the guy who invented the Segway, that impressive but only moderately successful people mover. Read more…

Demanding More Than Good Intentions

A lot of people ask me what factors they should consider when deciding which charities to support. It’s a tough question. And an important one. So I turned to one of the experts. Read more…

Photo Credit: Jennifer Collins

Ball Generates Electricity for Poor Kids…Until It Breaks

I’m so happy to bring you our first story produced by an outside contributor. Reporter Jennifer Collins’ investigation was made possible by the generosity of Tiny Spark’s Kickstarter backers. Read more…