I have read Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools by Greg Mortensen – and I was amazed by (most of) his story. So I’ve been intrigued by the recent press reports about inaccuracies in the stories… and I do have an issue to raise.
When I read the books I admired what Mortensen was doing, but not necessarily how he was doing it. I don’t mean the particular approach that he took to aid (I’m not competent to comment on that). But there was something slightly disturbing about his driven-ness. He seemed, to me, to take his passion to the level of obsession and beyond. His selfishness caused problems with his personal relationships, and people were damaged as a result. He probably needed a wise friend to give him a ‘heads up’ about this. But this is not my issue with his story and the recent revelations.
I’m not too bothered about the apparent inaccuracies in his tale. Most of our recollections are tainted by an element of personal bias, and the events happened quite a long time ago. (I seem to recall that Jon Krakauer’s version of events in “Into Thin Air” wasn’t accepted as 100% accurate by some of his colleagues on the climb.)
The issue of the financial aspects of the Central Asia Institute bother me a bit – there seems to be a governance gap around this that should be examined by those involved, i.e. the board of the organisation.
I was interested in an article from Fast Company. The empty schools aren’t good, but even that isn’t my gripe. What bothers me is an apparent lack of information on the outcomes achieved by Mortensen’s organisation. As I remember, the premise behind building schools was to improve education, especially for girls, so that poverty would be alleviated in these villages, infant mortality rates reduced, birth control improved and so on. So my question is where is the evidence about this?
In my view, the best way for Greg to defend his reputation is to reflect on the criticisms and see if there are areas where he (and his organisation) need to improve AND to publish data on the outcomes from the investment and his own considerable efforts.
That’s my tuppence worth!