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Chronicle of Philanthropy | July 22, 2012
Why he’s leaving: Mike Laflin, 65, has retired as senior vice president at Education Development Center, where he oversaw international-development programs. He had worked for the Waltham, Mass., charity for nearly 20 years. His successor is Larry Lai.
Background: After three years as an English teacher in his native Britain, Mr. Laflin taught in Kenya under a British aid program in 1972. The Kenyan Ministry of Education later transferred him to the school’s broadcasting service to write and direct educational radio programs.
Proudest accomplishment: Building a nationwide program that provided educational instruction over the radio to students in Zambia, which has lost many teachers to HIV/AIDS and where schools are scarce in rural areas. Communities organize sites where children meet for half-hour daily broadcasts for each grade, overseen by a local volunteer. Students who receive the radio instruction perform at the same level as their peers in conventional schools on tests for fourth graders. “It showed that there were other ways to meet the demand for education than just saying schools are the answer or we need to train more teachers,” says Mr. Laflin.
Challenges for international development: Mr. Laflin worries that the trend toward data-driven grant making, while understandable, is curtailing experimentation and research. “If you are looking for evidence, you’re by definition looking to the past or the present, but not to the future.”
What’s next: Mr. Laflin plans to return to writing and theater, interests he had to put aside because of the frequent travel his job required. In the early 1980s, Mr. Laflin co-wrote two musical comedies that were staged at Washington’s Folger Theatre. One of the plays was a huge success while the other was a flop, says Mr. Laflin. “That sort of told me, 'Well, you can’t really do this and be going to Liberia every few months,’ ” he says. “They’re just not compatible.”
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