I called this blog ’Lessons I Learned’, but really it would be better titled ’Lessons I’m Learning’. I believe in sharing what we learn to help others avoid our same mistakes and also exposing ourselves to the criticism and questions which might help us improve. I am skeptical of the popular approaches to both voluntourism and development work, though those are both areas in which I have worked as I’d love to be part of learning how we can do them both better. I think we need to learn before we can help, so I believe “service learning” should be “learning service”. I feel like I am learning more every day about how to help create the world I want to see my future kids and their future kids living in, and sometimes what I learn contradicts what I thought I knew was true. I have learned that good intentions are not enough and that the only person you can “improve” in the world is yourself, so I had better start improving the world by starting there. I hope the dialogue generated through this site will give me more chances to do that and to share the lessons I am learning with others who could benefit from avoiding my mistakes.

15 June 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Learning Service in SSIR

I realize I might not have linked this on LIL…. here is a piece Claire Bennett and I wrote for SSIR (Stanford Social Innovation Review) on Learning Service a few months ago:

We often use “service learning” to describe volunteer programs and international volunteer travel, emphasizing learning through service—service that teaches life lessons that help both the traveler and the world. The profound lessons that international volunteering can bring is one of the main reasons that academic institutions are incorporating it—and sometimes requiring it—in coursework.

Read the rest here: http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/from_service_learning_to_learning_service

15 May 2014 ~ 0 Comments

“Leading from behind” – from tourism to start-ups

Here is a piece I wrote for the Pioneers Post about “leading from behind” – a concept I learned from the founder of Where There Be Dragons.

Read the piece here if you like!


24 April 2014 ~ 1 Comment

Is “Voluntourism” Itself Being Exploited?

Here is a piece I wrote this week on the Huffington Post about how our focus on “voluntourism” as the culprit could be doing us a disservice: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniela-papi/is-voluntourism-itself-be_b_5197390.html

26 March 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Personal development and global development are entirely interlinked

I was part of a radio piece for ABC radio in Australia. Of course, as usual, they gave it a very “catchy” title – ”

Is ‘voluntourism’ the new colonialism?

I would have rather had something more along the lines of “how do we make volunteer service more humble” or something…. but such is life.  If you want to read the article they made for it or hear the piece, here you go!


18 March 2014 ~ 0 Comments

What your grandmother got wrong

A random little post I wrote on Huffington Post…. in case you are interested!


06 March 2014 ~ 0 Comments

What part of your start-up are you married to?

I recently wrote a piece for Unreasonable.is about “getting married” to parts of your start-up… and hopefully getting married to the “right” thing!  Check it out if you are interested: http://unreasonable.is/opinion/what-part-of-your-start-up-are-you-married-to/

15 February 2014 ~ 7 Comments

Thoughts from students

I am speaking at a few universities which happen to all fall around the same time, and I thought I would try something new. I posted this blog before heading off to the first talk, and at each talk I will mention to the students I speak to that this space is here for them to add their thoughts, questions, and ideas to further or challenge the topics we discuss. The topics are: Youth in Development (Imperial College London), From Service Learning to Learning Service (SOAS), a Voluntourism Debate (National University of Ireland), and social entrepreneurship TiasNimbas.  I will largely focus on the key question I think many of the audience members, and us panelists, are struggling with: “How can I do good in the world?” We’ll probably talk about “development schizophrenia”, a term my colleague Claire Bennett often uses to refer to the highs and lows, ups and downs, and constant 360 analysis you have when working in and critically analyzing development work. I’m going to relate that question to the “savior” mentality sold in international volunteering, as well as the sometimes inaccurately perceived bifurcation of business and development career paths. Each talk is different, but overall I will hopefully touch on social entrepreneurship, some organizations I find really interesting, lessons from my own work and experiences, and some of my favorite quotes and tips.

Let’s see how it goes! If you were at any of the talks, share some comments below – How did my talk relate to or stray from the current reality of the decisions you are making and things you are thinking about? What was really relevant to you, and what could I have done to make my talk more useful? Is there anything I mentioned that you want to add to? Want to challenge? Want to question?

I look forward to hearing from you!