As I was sitting in a year-end retreat, I started jotting down this list of things that the development aid world could use more of in 2013. I offer it as some food for thought for the year ahead.

  1. Aid organizations that are external-facing, employing attentiveness to “taking the pulse” of the customers and partners they serve and the world around them. No more head-down, power-through focus on “our programs”. Time to look up and outside of our own systems, requirements, and politics.
  2. Macro-micro linkages. After all, it’s all about the layers, joining policy—program—practice—reality.
  3. Expert facilitators who can translate between people speaking different languages, e.g. economists and activists, presidents and community leaders, poets and scientists, to ensure fruitful dialogue rather than diatribes.
  4. A renewed focus on capacity building, this time based on people’s identified needs. It’s fundamental, and hard to measure or not, it’s more important than service delivery.
  5. Experts in building functional and practical client/beneficiary feedback mechanisms, i.e. people who can close the loop and create the institutional incentives to ensure it continues.
  6. lowered aversion to risk-taking. What have we to lose?
  7. Well-resourced funding mechanisms that distribute more funds, to more actors, in smaller tranches.
  8. People who specialize in working across disciplines and sectors, specialists in generating connections that would not typically come about.
  9. The courage and honesty to talk about aid’s most difficult topics – race, power and privilege.
  10. Behavioral psychologists who can tell us more about how perception is formed and how decision-making works by those in power. (Hint: Time to stop diagnosing the poor’s behavior and look at those whose decisions structurally enable poverty to persist.)
  11. Storytellers that can convey complexity.
  12. An ability and willingness to keep watch for often unpredictable dimensions of change and progress that don’t occur in a logframe.
  13. Moral leadership. We need all the echoing voices we can find to bring Freire's and Biko's and Ghandi's (and, and, and...) ideas into aid’s day-to-day reality.

What would you include in your list for development aid in 2013?

"Everything has been thought of before, but the difficulty is to think of it again." ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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This post originally appeared at: http://www.how-matters.org/2013/01/06/13-thoughts-for-aid-in-2013/

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Does aid need a 12-step program?

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Comment by valerie yule on January 11, 2013 at 1:13am
Communication is of vital importance. 'Globish' as an easily spoken version of English,is used by a billion of the world's people, and is preventing the further fission into 'many Englishes'. But it needs updating of English spelling, which prevents the disadvantaged and foriners from lerning both the spoken and written forms, one from the other. Most other languages hav updated their writing sistems to a major or minor degree. It is realy simpl to cut out the unnecessary dificulties in English spelling.
Investigate! Experiment!

Beginners learn 36 very common irregular spellings which make 12% of everyday text, as ‘sight words’ and are not too many to learn, especially as they appear all the time: - all almost always among come some could should would four half know of off one only once other full/ful pull push put their they two as was what want who why, word, very, and international word endings -ion/-tion/-sion/zion.
After those 36 words, cut out all surplus letters (6% in everyday text) and change all misleading letters (4%) and there u ar!
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spelling.htm

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/spelling.htm#word Can you spell? The best of us may not be perfect.

and see http://blogs.msdn.com/naturallanguage/archive/2006/07/05/old-vs-new...

http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/literacy.htm
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas
http://www.ozreadandspell.com.au/ A half hour cartoon overview of reading and spelling, especially useful for learners who are stuck somewhere
http://home.vicnet.net.au/~ozideas/writsys.htm Writing systems of the world

Then the poor can comunicate as wel as the advantaged.
Comment by Andrew Campbell on January 7, 2013 at 9:17pm

Jennifer, Thank you,  May I submit an added point that I believe is missing in most discussion both in the literature or conferences.  I would add economic leadership between socio-ethnic groups.  Just a thought. 

Comment by Michael Donahue on January 7, 2013 at 3:44pm

Jennifer, as always your words and efforts always generate a series of thoughts for me. I appreciate your efforts and expertise. 

I would add,  creative conversations across sectors, distinguishing what is; "aid."

The distinctions between "knowledge" and "being" and no this is not semantics. Very related to the "storyteller of complexity."

Aid organizations stop focusing on "serving."  Tends to keep in place the idea of us and them. I have no doubt the number one experience we label as happiness is to contribute to others, and some would argue essential to our human nature, yet the language of "serving" does not serve collaboration.

I love the notion of the "behaviorists"  as I always thought back in my university days that they were shoved aside by the emergence of the social psychology/social work world. At that same time, though I am very much aligned with number 10 I would not want to see a single focus and find it limiting to avoid conversations and the stories,

 the [why] people behave the way they do,  and not be including those we often times poorly refer to as poor, at the same time. It would be important to so many of your list to not exclude past practices, so we do not throw out some important information we may have overlooked.

I do not disagree with the value of number 9 yet I would like to suggest that all those are limiting and often times get us stuck.  What I mean is, I am beginning to see those terms/subjects as stops in dialogue, debate and often lead to simple argument and the inability to consider how to bring/include diverging perspectives towards resolution of perceived issues, problems and efforts. I do prefer Fuller's notion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rankism if only for the observation that all are included in this conversation. What I mean is, all of us must participate in that conversation.  As an aside, from the first time I was introduced to this notion, I have attempted

to observe in myself, when, where, how and with who, (with who becoming less important as I do it with all walks of life! ),  I "rank" others.  Once, while in a conversation with a former street fighter and now an appointed politician in South Africa, he said to me; 'In SA we took the US constitution and inserted the word dignity every time we saw the word, freedom. Try it out! One word can shift so much! 

I am also clear that PP& R are essential to the conversation, as I am male, over 50, White European,(strange distinction),  and live in a country club neighborhood, in a country club city, in a country club country. (And note how those words define me in your thoughts and give rise to unsubstantiated notions. Would it change things if I said I was also part Lakota?)

Yet those conversations can often leaves us hamstrung, imbedded in identity conversations,  (important to me mind you!) and we then waste so much time sorting that out so we can make less then generous attempts at collaboration.

Oh and I just love number twelve! We call that the; Yellow School Bus in the Fog conversation. The willingness and the attention to that which would be described by former USA Sec. of State Rumsfeld as the; "don't know what we don't know."

Most of all Jennifer, thanks for demonstrating number 13. 

Comment by Craig Zelizer on January 7, 2013 at 11:30am

Thanks Jennifer, a great list. I would also love to see more about how to develop creative and sustainable funding.

Comment by Ema Miroslava Billings on January 7, 2013 at 10:14am

Thanks Jennifer this is really helpful and important for all of us to remember.....the people we serve need always to be kept in the forefront of our work. I'm happy to see that # 9 was included! Wishing you a very happy and fruitful 2013!

Comment by ANDEBO PAX PASCAL on January 7, 2013 at 9:25am

Thanks Jennifer, I am happy with your list. It puts the people to be served, first then the rest of the aspects of aid work (planning, implementation and evaluation) are centred around this. An enabling environment for people to have the ability to make changes to their lives.

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