Grassroots NGO-s sabotaged by Red Tape, says Tarek Alsaleh in TEDx Talk


As reporting and data collection in the development industry become more central, grassroots actors are losing their ability to focus on their work and the people they should be helping. Tarek Alsaleh has participated in a TEDx Talk calling for human relationships to be returned to the centre of aid and outlining how technology can help to make that happen.


‘Every time I went to this refugee camp, I brought a thick, big blanket with me. It was freezing in the desert at night. I never complained, I never minded. But the computer, the computer sucked my energy.’


These are the challenges described by Tarek Alsaleh of Capoeira4Refugees in a recent TEDx talk. He went from an independent capoeira teacher working with refugee children to dealing with the mountains of paperwork involved in running an international NGO.

The need for data collection is clear, but with donors increasingly mistrusting large, opaque organisations, Alsaleh challenges charities to put real relationships above the generation of paperwork.

The good news is technology has opened countless new opportunities for local actors to create sustainable projects, especially with the support of established charities. Apps can collect data in real time, functioning on- and offline. Visibility can be gained through social media. Proposals, mentoring and support can all take place in the virtual realm. The problem, as Alsaleh puts it, is:


‘In the development world, every organisation competes with each other: for money, for visibility, for employees’ salaries. The small organisations, they never stood a chance. The ones who are benefiting are the middle men, the bureaucrats, and more red tape.’


The solution lies in relationships: ‘shaking hands instead of creating more paperwork.’ It is vital that charities embrace an approach where transparency is the watchword and local ownership of humanitarian projects the ultimate goal. These statements echo concerns raised in the Charter for Change which was produced after the World Humanitarian Summit in 2017.

Capoeira4Refugees is actively pursuing this strategy through using technology to minimise the paperwork required from local actors, leaving them free to get on with their work.

It is time to refocus the development sector, and put people back at its core. And as Tarek Alsaleh says, lets “shake hands instead of creating more paperwork.


The full TEDx Talk can be found here or watch it below. 



For further information please contact:

Josephine Nolan



For more sustainable models, check out the Changemakers Programme and the Changemakers Hub!