What could we know… about international development, ourselves, 'them' and the intersection?
How would international development look from the eyes of the participants? What works best? What fails? Who decides what success and failure is, and how much do we even know what they think, 3, 5, 10 years after projects end?
And who is 'we' in the sentence anyway?
This blog will stream my view and those of and my colleagues in my field, many of whom have been working as I have over 20 years across Africa, Latin America, Asia, Balkans and many corners of the world, as well as those from these very corners. I hope to be a bridge for knowledge sharing between 'old timers', those new in my field, as well as between the 'North' and "South', sharing evidence, trends, stories, and promoting ideas like:
* Using Appreciative Inquiry to celebrate what works best and how to do more of it, as I did for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and Johns Hopkins University et al, leads to more knowledge sharing, excitement and nurtured souls than a focus on what is broken.
* Country nationals should evaluate their own projects and programs – it's their countries, after all
* Participants best know what success looks like in their own communities – including them in their own discovery, design, monitoring and evaluation is paramount for success and sustainability
* No 'development' project with behavior change as any part of it should be shorter than 10 years, heck it takes 3 for communities and non-profits to get to know and trust each other…
* Donors should go back 3, 5, 10 years later to see what exists now, what communities valued enough to keep up themselves after project funds and staff left.
* There is great need for compassion in development. Parts of the system are broken when we development workers push projects designed abroad, don't have time we know is vital to take to involve participants, feel such pressure to perform, to prove impact that we work 80 hours a week, race to meet donor reporting requirements…
There are so many fascinating trends out there right now which we need to address mindfullly, and understand how our participants need our help to address:
* Over 50% of the world's population is under the age of 30! So should we design youth-centric development? Have them as our main respondents and designers?
* Even though we produce 1 ½ times enough food for every man, woman and child on the planet, nearly a billion people go hungry while over a billion are malnourished …. but social movements are changing that. How to address redistribution issues, water scarcity, food waste, etc, together?
* Women produce 60% of the world's food, get 10% of its income and own 1% of the world's property. We are making progress on women's rights by deeply embedding women in development, looking at activities through a 'gender lens'. How much more could we do if they designed programming to fit their circumstances?
* Financial and Youth demographics in Africa show will tip the scales in terms of country-led development as "Africans are perfectly capable of representing themselves and developing in ways of their own choosing. The African diaspora is making massive contributions to their countries-of-origin, not just in terms of sending back money (about $50 billion annually), but also in terms of reclaiming the development discourse."