I attended two entirely different Washington D.C. aid industry events yesterday.

The first was a Society for International Development panel entitled, “M&E in the For-Profit and Non-Profit Sectors: Differences and S...” and the second was “Be bold! Risk and reward in U.S. Foreign Assistance” hosted by Oxfam America. (You can take a look at my live tweets from the first event using the #MandE hashtag and the second using #ReformAid.)

The contrast of these two events could not have been more stark. The first focused on the means of fulfilling “contractual vehicles” i.e. servicing donors’ needs and minimizing risk, while the Oxfam event launched their new report, “ The Politics of Partnership: How donors manage risk while letting recipients lead their own development.

As a worker in the aid industry, I believe our most pressing challenge is to ensure a more inclusive discourse that genuinely listens and responds to those the system is claiming to serve. Therefore, we must change our understanding of what we value (ownership) and what we measure (social change).

Only one of these events hit the mark for me yesterday and got us closer to fixing the problems that continue to plague and perplex the aid industry. You probably don’t have to guess which one.


This article originally appeared at: http://www.how-matters.org/2011/12/14/a-tale-of-two-realities/


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Tags: America, Development, International, M&E, Oxfam, SID, Society, Washington, accountability, aid, More…assistance, change, community, development, donors, effectiveness, evaluation, for, foreign, industry, international, management, monitoring, ownership, partnerships, risk, social


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Comment by GOPI KANTA GHOSH on December 15, 2011 at 8:44am

I am thankful for your blog which helps us to realize how we are misled. But in spite of uprisings we have long way to go.

Comment by Jennifer Lentfer on December 15, 2011 at 8:40am

Thanks for this dose of cynicism @Gopi. The wounded, yet hopeful idealist in me recognizes the situation you describe, however, as having so much room for improvement! I am working still in the aid industry because there is so much that can be done to explore, unleash, and promote the potential of community leaders, grassroots groups and local, indigenous organizations as the fundamental focal point of effective development aid, in the process increasing the demand for human rights and development. The promise and potential of far-reaching and responsive small grant mechanisms to help enable grassroots movements to emerge and gain strength is extremely exciting for me, but you're right, a subtlety of practice to give thoughtful and careful support where it is needed is indeed difficult within the current project cycles that currently dictate our day-to-day work in the aid industry.

Nonetheless 2011 has been a “shake-up” year. With the Arab awakening in North Africa and the Middle East and the emergence of the Occupy Movement, there have been many, many moments infused with energy and inspiration to put more local and national actors in the driver’s seat of development. As the pendulum swings, the “expertise infusion” development model is being transformed before our eyes.

Comment by GOPI KANTA GHOSH on December 15, 2011 at 7:57am

Therefore no one interested to solve real problem. Problemss are imagined for someone to make money. So world suffers.

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