International Development, Community Engagement and Support

Most International Development is top-down, outside-in, item-led. Most particularly, an organisation or government from a developed country will analyse a situation in accordance with their own measures, and decide that a community require Item or Infrastructure A to better further their development, and install said item/infrastructure. As such, International Development tends to deal in very specific particulars and whilst we do not refute that on occasion infrastructure development is successful and useful, we absolutely reject that this process is not in any way owned by local communities, who are likely to have very different aspirations and needs to those imposed upon them in a time-specific and measures-led way by external first-world bodies. Having worked in territories over the horizon with remote communities for many years, we fundamentally believe that all meaningful change is necessarily slow, locally-led, attitude-and-aspiration-based. It is not about a water tap but about a sense of possibility. The water tap may bring clean water but it also brings dependency and encourages people to wait for further outside assistance, causing conflict when it fails to arrive. But someone who believes in themselves is capable of generating the autonomous power - with assistance and guidance - to develop systems for themselves. It may well be that these systems are not as modern, cutting-edge or perfect as imported systems, but they are generated and owned by local communities, which in the short-term may signify less, but in the medium and long term will signify so much more.

As such, working with communities primarily in the Americas, Ninth Wave is intent not on generating change per se, but on identifying and empowering people who are capable of generating change for themselves and their communities. These programmes and case studies currently take place in the USA, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru.


Getting out and exploring the world has the capacity to be a fundamentally humanising process, one in which contexts and the plate tectonics of our known world shift to reveal not just different cultures, values and people, but also the fact that who we are is not a pre-eminent value, but simply an accident of history and place. This can’t be seen, though, within the ego-centric process of conventional travel and movement, which is built around the desire to plant a self, import a pre-constructed identity, into a landscape. Indeed, it is hardly a stretch to say that exploration is systemically problematic, in its acquisitional, traditionally white-European-led 'conquering' of space, whether that be Columbus, or somebody climbing a mountain to stick a flag in the top, or even taking a selfie at the foot of the Grand Canyon to prove we were there.

We believe that it’s possible to reimagine exploration not just as a tool for positive change by humbly trying to connect with others and understand place, across spaces and time. As such, we do not believe in travel or exploration in the traditional sense, but we believe in un-exploring.

We believe in doing things differently, moving slowly, stopping frequently, not knowing what is around the next bend in the river. Because when we are vulnerable, uncertain and afraid, and still we step forward, is when we are at our most human, which is to say, most humble and engaged, most able to explore actual journeying, moving beyond what we think we already know, and able to leave our restrictive ideas of ourselves behind.

To this end, we embark upon journeys into spaces which are sometimes forgotten, or unknown, and move slowly, focusing on bridging gaps and having conversations. Ninth Wave invites people working in a range of fields including science, arts, environmental protection and communities to join our expeditions. They take place on sailing boats, canoes, on foot or horseback. These journeys are often physical, taking place over land and sea. But they are also voyages of the mind, because every journey is necessarily a mental one.

Opportunities for Re-Imagining Isolated Communities

In a global society built on centuries of environmental near-exhaustion, necessarily our knowledge and experience of how best to serve our environment is now greater than ever. In the context of established spaces and communities, this knowledge cannot be put to use whilst we constantly battle the damage that is done by the infrastructure we have already created. In other words, it is difficult to look ahead whilst we are constantly beset by the overwhelming need to fight fires from previous events and actions.

Isolated and remote spaces, by their very nature, offer an opportunity to rethink the way that environment is controlled and break free from some of the constraints of our past mistakes. In essence, the remoteness of such spaces is in itself an opportunity.

As such, we are working alongside remote communities in Mexico, Peru and the Dominican Republic to re-establish progressive local custodianship of space, cognisant of the fact that progressive, sustainable communities are managed by enabled, empowered peoples.

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