If you ask Justin Richmond why he got into the international development industry, he’ll tell you about how large western aid agencies have dropped the ball and how he feels compelled to pick up the slack.
“Aid in America is fundamentally broken,” he says.
In 2015, Richmond launched his tiny international development agency, IMPL Project, after stints as a special operations team leader with the U.S. Army and an engineer in the technology industry with Palantir Technologies.
To say Richmond is passionate about about changing the way his country administers aid to impoverished and unstable countries is a bit of an understatement.
“The people in power in the aid industry don’t conduct research because they are already getting paid to execute large multimillion dollar projects,” he explains. “They have gotten to where they are by pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.”
Richmond’s solution to all this is to deliver aid differently.
IMPL partners with local communities in conflict and post-conflict areas and helps them to identify the drivers of instability in their region by conducting research.
“We go into areas that other development agencies are too scared to go.”
IMPL gets funding from all the major aid donors including the U.S. Department of State, United States Agency for International Development, and if all goes well, he will soon have a partnership with the UN’s World Food Program.
IMPL field researchers are gathering data using our survey software in areas with no internet. They go to highly unstable regions, such as the Southern Philippines or Eastern Congo, and ask villagers questions using mobile devices. Beyond demographic questions, villagers are asked open-ended questions intended to get at their root problems.
“QuickTapSurvey is so easy for the researchers to use and takes the guess work out of whether the data will be captured accurately,” says Richmond.
Richmond believes that large aid agencies are following a very status quo and top-down approach which doesn’t actually address the problems as identified by the community members themselves.
“Just look at all the aid that went into Iraq and Afghanistan, and where are they now? In the midst of civil war.”
He oozes pride when discussing his team’s work and is adamant that the only ethical way to deliver aid is by asking locals what will help their community — rather than telling them what projects should be done.
His enthusiasm is palatable, and truthfully, it has rubbed off on us. We are so very proud to have IMPL as one our customers. We hope that we can continue to partner with companies that use our software to bring about humanitarian change.