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 Shared Advantages” 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.