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Diasporas have become very interesting to many folks here in Washington, DC.

Conferences on diaspora movements, and how to involve diasporas for development projects, have become a favorite conference among government people, think-tanks, and NGO’s.

In the middle of all that, Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff of the Diaspora Research Program at George Washington University (the same group who designed the first survey of the Copts, which you should take now if you haven’t because closes tomorrow) published a paper this year that warns governments and other groups: if you use diasporas, such as the Coptic diaspora, for your own ends, you might find you’ll be left without the benefits you wanted from it in the first place.

Coptic Christianity: Hard to Pin Down?

Coptic Christians are part of a global Church, but the Church is the Body of people who are born from above through baptism and continuously receive the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ in the Liturgy. Jesus told Nicodemus that such people are hard to pin down by nature. (John 3:8)

But Church aside, diasporas are also hard to pin down by nature. They are living and organic movements of people, and no single political or bureaucratic structure has ever perfectly represented anything living or organic.

In a large chart, Dr. Brinkerhoff compares diasporas to another small and organic entity: NGO’s. She lines up the comparative advantages that each offter the development world, and finds them strikingly similar in so many ways. But there’s a warning in the analysis:

“Like NGOs, more generally, diasporas offer specific potential comparative advantages that justify donors’ and governments’ desire to work with them. Unfortunately, these are typically not the main motive for diaspora instrumentalization and they may have little, if anything, to do with the remittances that are often the first attraction for donors and COO governments.”[1]

In other words, if you use them (diasporas, that is) you lose them (what diasporas bring to the table in the first place).

The reason is tied to why diasporas are so hard to pin down to begin with: they are grassroots movements of people. Just like the January 25 movement in Cairo’s Tahrir square, movements of people may gather with a powerful single-minded purpose, and that indeed is their strength. But to the chagrin of those like Mubarak who would have probably liked to have been able to predict and control what happened at Tahrir, it’s always tough to know exactly where they came from or where they are going.

Coptic Crowdsourcing: Drawing the World to Egypt

Copts were part of the January 25 Egypt Revolution at Tahrir. More than that, they sparked the movement after taking to the streets in the wake of the New Years’ Alexandria bombing.

If such change in Egypt began at Two Saint’s Church, imagine what the whole praying Coptic Church worldwide can do to bring the development of life and society in the new Egypt. Not by handing over the interests of the heavenly Body to an earthly bureaucracy, but by drawing attention to the strength of both Egypt and the Copts.

Just like at Tahrir, the Coptic Diaspora can crowdsource decisionmaking about the well-being of the Egyptian villages and communities who hold the future.

And at the time I write this, tomorrow is our last chance.

If you are a Copt living in the US, Australia, Canada, or the UK, take the Coptic Diaspora Survey. Gathering a movement to survey of engagement with the Egyptian homeland is like gathering a movement on Facebook or in Tahrir; it shows where the people are and shows everyone that they should count the Copts when making decisions that affects the future of the Egyptian homeland.

Though they cannot use the Copts, the Copts can use all the interest in Washington on diasporas to crowdsource the world’s big decisions.

Take the survey here before midnight tomorrow, January 13.

You can also read the full article by Dr. Jennifer Brinkerhoff here.


[1] Jennifer Brinkerhoff, “David and Goliath: Diaspora Organizations as Partners”, (Public Administration and Development , 31 (2011)), 42.