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#8 Playing the “innovation” card

December 20, 2010

These days if you are not “being innovative,” chances are you are not “getting funded.”

Though some like to portray all Expat Aid Workers as bureaucratic and resistant to change, that’s simply not true. When faced with funding difficulties and other challenges, some Expat Aid Workers can be quite innovative*.

Here on this blog, for example, in addition to writing about Expat Aid Workers and the stuff they like, we are innovating. We’ve recently begun using Ngram, a new service by Google.

Ngram allows you to chart the number of times a term has been used in books from the 1500’s to 2008. Given that the number of times a term is used is an indication of the general importance placed on the term at the time, we can use Ngram to determine baseline levels of awareness over time around our favorite topic: “stuff expat aid workers like.” We can assume that the frequency of the words “stuff,” “expat,” “aid worker” and “like” in books would have some kind of correlation with frequency on the world wide web in the past couple of decades.

Here’s what we’ve found.

Inputting the terms “expat” and “aid worker” into Ngram, we see a surge in the use of the term “expat” in 2001 and again a jump around 2005. There is a good degree of ups and downs but only a very small rise in the frequency of the term “aid worker” over time.

Ngram Trends: "expat" and "aidworker" 1920-2008

There is high usage of the term “like” with a much lower frequency for the term “stuff.” “Like” is on the rise as of 2000.

Ngram Trends for "stuff" and "like" 1920-2008

As for the term “stuff expat aidworkers like,” the data show zero usage over the history of all books as far back as we can go.

Ngram trends for "Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like" 1500-2008


Total absence of the term “stuff expat aid workers like” over the past 500+ years means there is a clear need for “awareness raising” around this term, and therefore a pressing need for Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like: The Blog. By measuring the increase in the use of the same key words (stuff, expat, aid workers, like and their combination) on Ngram in the future, we will be able to determine any increase in importance and awareness around these terms. Naturally, we will attribute increased frequency of any of the words or combinations of words to our efforts on this blog, and we will show “proven impact.”

But that’s not all….

We are working with Google, Facebook, Wikileaks, and our network of HRI Affiliates on a cutting edge tool called Expat Aid Worker Trends. This tool will allow us to scan and find patterns in expat aid workers’ search terms, Facebook profiles, email, and any other data that comes into our hands concerning expat aid workers or anyone they interact with. We’ll then visually map out the data, and make cool looking info-graphics. (Look for our app in the Apple store in 2011). In this way, we should be able to predict EAW trends around the globe before they hit.

Expat Aid Worker Trends (updated 12/21)

Most Expat Aid Workers are OK with innovation, and if they aren’t, they should be, because managing innovation is key in the fundraising game. As any savvy young EAW will tell you, if you suspect that your initiative or your organization (or you, yourself) might be a waste of time and resources, play the innovation card. Play it correctly and you’ll have donors eating right out of your hand. And when donors eat out of your hand, you’ve nailed one other thing Expat Aid Workers Like: job security.

*involves digital technology, “Internet freedom”, large data sets, mobile phones or some kind of robot or artificial intelligence and sensors

18 Comments leave one →
  1. December 20, 2010 6:16 am

    I researched the Ngram trend for “you complete and utter tosspot” and found that there was a remarkable correlation with that for “Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like”. Curious, and this being innovative research, I then altered the phrases to “utter tosspot” and “expat aid worker” and again, the correlation was quite remarkable. I could draw only one conclusion from this… but unfortunately my brain is too addled to remember what it was.

  2. steve permalink
    December 20, 2010 6:15 pm

    expat aid workers like watching movies about expat foreign aid workers.

  3. December 21, 2010 3:40 pm

    Hey guys. True expat aid workers know their geography. You coloured in CUBA!!! ;-)

    • December 21, 2010 3:56 pm

      It’s OK, it’s a “pilot.” We’ve updated the map with this new “learning.”

  4. December 21, 2010 9:11 pm

    Expat aid workers like wearing flip flops to work or feeling superior to those who do.

    Expat aid workers like water bottles or feeling superior to those who consistantly carry one.

    Expat aid workers like talking about other countries as if they have the inside scoop about the situation because they read the blog of their expat aid worker friends who are working there.

    Expat aid workers like to smugly point out other NGO’s branding on signs, vehicles, latrines and water pumps, even though they ride around in and a heavily branded SUV and carry a Unicef water bottle.

  5. Amy permalink
    January 6, 2011 11:16 am

    Along with innovative, you can’t forget the new buzzword: sustainable.

    • Christina Colbert permalink
      January 12, 2011 12:07 pm

      And how about every conversation and/or sentence sprinkled with ‘in the know’ acronyms: FFE, FFW, PRRO, CPs, etc … the list goes on and on and on.

      • Nancy Lemmon permalink
        March 11, 2013 7:02 am

        Christina!! Are you the same Christina Colbert I knew in Nairobi in the early to mid-’90s?? Tried to email you just now, but it came back as undeliverable at the email address. Dad asked about you, and I was embarrassed to tell him we’d not been in contact for a while. My email hasn’t changed … drop me a line so we can get caught up! I’m still in HKG.

      • Christina Colbert permalink
        March 13, 2013 10:45 am

        And is this the same Nancy Lemmon who flew C130s and wore a necklace with a map of Africa charm that was engraved … “Wau … what a blast”? ;-) I retired from Disaster Tours at the end of 2010 and currently live in Bali. I’ve lost your email address! Drop me a line through my gmail address … same as wfp only with Hope all is well with you and your Dad … Hugs for you both!

      • March 14, 2013 6:38 am

        @christina and @nancy – SEAWL: finding long lost friends in comments threads… that is awesome.

  6. January 13, 2011 4:35 pm

    Also buzzwords: vulnerability & marginalized groups. Expats also like their CO’s i.e. colonial orgasms, say enjoying lunch in the garden of Karen Blixen’s house :)

  7. Christina permalink
    January 13, 2011 9:56 pm

    Additional buzzwords: results based management, livelihoods, capacity building, household vulnerability, geographical targeting ….. :-)

    • sal permalink
      February 10, 2011 8:24 am

      isn’t there an aid & development version of “bullshit bingo” out there somewhere? there should be!

  8. Christina permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:43 am

    “Bullshit Bingo” … what a great idea … love it!


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