Jon Thiele
International Development Assistance

in a crowd


Project management

  • led a global program for five years
  • written over two dozen successful proposals
  • led grantmaking programs
  • COP for ten years leading teams large & small
  • started & closed projects

Client and compliance knowledge

  • USAID, USDA, State, DOL, PRTs
  • Danida
  • EU
  • DFID
  • numerous private foundations


  • economic development
  • gender
  • agribusiness
  • conflict areas
  • capacity building
  • community based development
  • program development & project design.




On these pages you will find a range of essays on the discipline and practice of international development assistance drawn from my experiences over the past 20-plus years, a good deal of study and research, and the work of a lot of economists, historians, philosophers, and novelists.

There are two recurring themes: a blend of academic rigor, extensive field experience, and a skeptical view of the easy way of doing this kind of work along with a strong desire to see development efforts be more effective.

The newest bits are first, and the pieces that follow are those that received positive comment over the years. Enjoy, but be warned that I am a sort of an amateur classicist so be ready for a phrase or two in Latin appearing for no apparent reason other than my surrender to pretense.

Feel free to write. My contact info is on the CV.

I just led a large multi-national team in the conflict area of eastern Ukraine, and we conducted an economic recovery needs assessment and delivered program recommendations for immediate and near-term economic recovery...


Gender in Economic Development
In traditional societies a woman is the one to get up with the sun to fetch water because, simply, that is what a woman does. She needs to know and believe that getting water for the family is valuable and productive work, but the realization that her labor has value does not come easily...

Enterprise Development & Agribusiness
The target beneficiaries were any processing company which satisfied two basic criteria: demonstrated potential for growth and the possibility of strong linkages to smaller area enterprises which could grow along with it. The objective was to foster business growth in these sectors...

Small Holders
To prepare more effective training sessions several years ago, we did a survey to learn about the small holder farmers in our project area. In Ukraine in 1999, almost 17% expected the national government would make their lives better...

Islamic Economics
Economic development programs are about entrepreneurship, rational decision makers, and self-interest-- liberal democracy and free market thinking. I often work in countries with significant Muslim populations where the economic principles have quite a different basis. This well-received essay illuminates a number of the economic values and practices of Muslim societies in theory and practice...

Promoting Cooperatives
Working together is often a very good option for building a business. During 2011-2012 the program I led helped several thousand women in six countries form business groups. Some groups have done much better than others, and I researched why that happened...

Community-based Development
I have done community-based initiatives in three countries, and one was so well received that eight local governments changed their budgets and public hearing rules. A similar effort for an island in the Bahamas, however, couldn't overcome a general feeling that a seemingly idyllic island should "be developed"...

Credit in Economic Development
I have sat on the board of directors of a bank, and I have worked one on one with poor farmers. I started one lending operation, oversaw loan programs in a couple of places, and organized more bank fairs and borrower training than I can remember. I am a strong supporter of the practice of regular savings over "access to credit"...

Economic Institutions
Economic institutions are the rules and social norms that govern behavior-- things like trust, the role of women, level of cooperation, views of property, how the courts work, corruption, and so on. We all act within systems of these institutions, and understanding this can be useful in understanding the problems of developing countries where modernization of economic institutions is usually a prerequisite for broad and lasting development....

"Employ your time in improving yourself by other men's writings, so that you shall gain easily what others have labored hard for." -- Socrates

Different styles for different audiences: a major agribusiness program case study is here along with a few columns for a Kiev newspaper, a report on business training, more economics, and a fictional short story about what life as an expat could be if you weren't careful...

"Good fortune is not as blind as it is generally thought to be. It is often nothing more than the result of sound, consistent actions that go unnoticed by the crowd but nonetheless make a particular event possible. Still more often, it is the result of an individual's character, nature, and behavior." --Catherine the Great

This site was updated on June 22, 2015.