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.
- 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.
- Macro-micro linkages. After all, it’s all about the layers, joining policy—program—practice—reality.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- A lowered aversion to risk-taking. What have we to lose?
- Well-resourced funding mechanisms that distribute more funds, to more actors, in smaller tranches.
- People who specialize in working across disciplines and sectors, specialists in generating connections that would not typically come about.
- The courage and honesty to talk about aid’s most difficult topics – race, power and privilege.
- 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.)
- Storytellers that can convey complexity.
- An ability and willingness to keep watch for often unpredictable dimensions of change and progress that don’t occur in a logframe.
- 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