Are you a square? Or a blob?

Could this video could also be about international aid? Hmmm…do you think? (HINT: Yes!)

The Parable of the Blobs and Squares from James Mackie on Vimeo. HT Janis Foster’s blog, Big Thinking on Small Grants.

In the international aid context, the squares of the future (donors and INGOs) must also focus on building their own skills to accompany and support blobs (local groups, community leaders, and grassroots initiatives), rather than overpower or co-opt them. A deeper understanding of the challenges blobs face in serving vulnerable families and communities in the developing word is key to unleashing their potential.

Squares continue to refer to the absorptive capacity needed to implement large-scale programs and as such, blobs are implicitly coerced to develop such capacities in order to gain access to squares’ resources. Instead, we need sound organizational development initiatives that will increase blobs’ responsiveness and resourcefulness, rather than distract them from their constituency. A new set of fundamental skills is necessary for those working in the square institutions–the ability and penchant to understand and work with blobs of any size or type can and should become a core capacity of squares.



Aid squares, how are you restructuring and revising your processes, rather than asking your blob “partners” to change?




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3 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    That video is so funny. It’s really not about the squares changing, or the blobs changing. It’s about finding a way for each party to bring their best to bear on a situation. Great material to start a reflection on managing for results… Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    A stunningly successful example of co-production in a grants program is Peace Corps SPA grants (USAID funded):

    It works because the one criteria is a minimum 25% community contribution to every project, with 50% recommended. It’s basically a 1:1 match for any grassroots microproject involving one Peace Corps volunteer and less than $2000.

  3. Jessica McRitchie #

    This is why Asset-Based Community Development is a tool. Developing a community and fostering the skills that the community posses helps the community be able to fend for itself after the NGO’s leave. The NGO’s should be a tool in the tool belt of development, the goal should always be to have communities and eventually countries be able to take over after a period of time.

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