Development= A Jeep (motor optional).. Resilience? If within 5 years!
Imagine being given a lovely new Jeep. You get a driver (remember driving school) to help you learn to steer it around the pothole-strewn, scantly lit roads. Eventually you take over the controls of the Jeep and control the steering wheel directly, driving offroad, with the copilot praising your good driving and steering only to avoid catastrophe. You are told that one day the Jeep will be yours.
That day arrives. The development agency hands you the keys to the Jeep. You wave good bye to them, return to the Jeep, turn the key. Dead.
Looking under the hood, you realize the motor is gone. Checking the rest of the Jeep you realize there is no fuel and the tries are flat. That is what it is like from the community's view of development projects after close-out. The local NGO to whom the project has been 'handed over' has scant financial or human resources to continue (no engine), and in the last few months' scramble to close out, the implemeneting agency put in few systems for communities to continue doing the programming without support by the local NGO or all the resources they had poured in (no fuel). There is little to help you move the Jeep (even on flat tires) except your own feet, other than the capacity building that was learned early on, as it wasn't built to last based on local materials. Sustainability isn't programmed in projects that have set timelines and donor-set markers of success which mandate close-out.
There are several glimmers of hope. What communities have is the human power that exists locally, fuelled by participation coupled with information transmission such as WorkWithUs and MakingAllVoicesCount (based on the moral imperative of it's Their Development as well) and ALNAP's push to use evaluation for learning in international development.
We could also help donors springboard to learn from sustainability via the latest buzzword in development: "Resilience". At USAID and DIFD this is the "ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth" and "helping communities and countries to be better prepared to withstand and rapidly recover from a shock", respectively.
Resilience could be the doorway to getting community-defined sustainable programming to break the cycle of recurrent emergencies that divert resources from long-term development. Imagine: we could ask citizens what will make them resilient! A rare, shining example is a USAID-funded Ethiopia project with a mandate to use participatory impact assessments (process monitoring plus participatory input to capture local perceptions of benefits) to learn from communities. A USAID Solicitation tells us "seventeen impact assessments on different program activities were undertaken to inform best practice and to develop guidelines and policies. A major impact was the development and adoption of Emergency Livestock Guidelines by the Ethiopian government. These were based on best practice assessments in many countries (including Kenya) and action research on different types of interventions. Emergency de-stocking–selling livestock early in a drought to preserve their price and leave more fodder and water for remaining animals — was found to be particularly effective, with a 40:1 benefit cost ratio. Emergency livestock vaccination campaigns, on the other hand, were found to have no impact on livestock mortality, and were dropped in favor of other health interventions including parasite control and de-stocking."
Excellent Valuing of pastoralist Voices! How are such locally-informed excellent processes and findings being widely shared and implemented? What do you think?