“But will this be sustainable?”
This is a question I find it harder and harder to tolerate it in discussions about international development. (Luckily, due to my nature and to this blog, I rarely have to bite my tongue.)
I share this though because we as aid workers and funders need to challenge this notion of the necessity of the “sustainability” of activities within aid projects. Basic services to people must be sustainable. Training workshops must not.
I do not expect the fire house or the library down the street from me in Washington D.C. to be sustainable. In fact, I expect these public goods to be funded in perpetuity.
But by whom? That is the important question. I vote to make sure these services stay in tact in my own community.
Therefore, donors must be more careful not to employ a double standard in their expectations, especially of local civil society organizations. Let’s talk about sustainability, yes, but let’s also make sure it’s not just an empty question.
For a great read on what genuine sustainability of water and sanitation services in the developing world should mean, I recommend @NedBreslin of Water for People’s paper “Rethinking Hydro-Philanthropy: Smart Money for Transformative Impact.”
And while I’m at it, what about “innovation” in aid?