Chatting with Julie Fisher Melton is like taking a virtual round-the-world tour, so don’t do it unless you’re ready to either go where her professional travels have taken her or strap on your best walking shoes and keep up with her as she hikes around Peaks Island. Either way, you’re likely to see the world through her eyes, something that international organizations have sought for years. Julie – a Pomona College alum and doctoral graduate of John Hopkins University – has shared her extensive experience with and research about NGOs (non-government organizations) in two books: The Road from Rio: Sustainable Development and the Nongovernmental Movement in the Third World, Praeger, 1993; and Nongovernments: NGOs and the Political Development of the Third World, Kumarian, 1998. A third book is under contract with her former employer, Kettering Foundation.
Julie’s passion centers on empowering people, collectively, to address problems affecting their lives, their community, and their nation. We’re talking about poverty, unemployment, and every manner of exploitation – not issues for the faint of heart, but then a woman whose career began researching how civil organizations worked in Latin American squatter neighborhoods doesn’t shirk from challenges.
In “Road from Rio” Julie wrote, “Poverty, population, and environmental degradation ride roughshod over the aspirations and hopes of people everywhere…Third World NGOs will be essential contributors to this process [of survival], provided their remarkable creativity is understood and supported.” As a former consultant for Save the Children, she knows a great deal about the challenges facing a large proportion of the world’s population. When I asked her more about her work, Julie articulated the broad gulf between typical forms of international aid interventions and the local facilitation and empowerment from the grassroots level upward. After researching in Latin America, Argentina, South Africa, and Tajikistan, she’s quite certain that the latter model promises the best potential for sustainable change and improvement in people’s lives.
If you’re looking for inspiration on how to make the world a better place, be thankful that Julie keeps writing.