(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Funny enough, the night before AidSource proposed us to think about "How would we make aid better" here, I've spent a 4-hour dinner & a bottle of red wine discussing about this with two friends and expats aid workers who live in the region and came over to my country for holidays.
I would have loved to have more time to further develop my "three wishes". Unfortunately I've been having way too busy weeks, but I didn't want to lose the chance of expressing my 3 wishes & getting the extra point for only posting at AidSource. So here it goes as it was in my draft word file:
1) Listen, engage in a conversation, and listen again: Since the days I did my MSc dissertation I'm quite shock to see the difference between the theory in participation and empowerment, the discourses written in the ivory towers, and the real thing happening in the ground. I'd love to see an aid & development sector that listen to those who know best: the main actors of their own development. Those to whom we serve really know their problems. They also most of the times know the solutions. So if a project would start by listening, then engage in a continuous conversation while implementing, to finish listening again (and not just measuring ROI like if we are producing candy), the world would be a much nicer place. The third step of listening should obviously be followed by engaging in the next conversation on what kind of development people want and responding to their ideas of development and needs. Not OUR ideas of what is a good lifestyle for them.
2) Stop working in silos: The complexity around the issues that we approach in our work call for a holistic approach and multi-disciplinary teams. We shouldn't only be thinking on mainstreaming gender or making sure we understand a certain age-group or cohort. We should be mainstreaming community-based adaptation to climate change, human rights based approach and disaster risk-reduction, among others. An excellent call for a holistic approach is the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Kari-Oca 2 presented at Rio +20:
We continue to inhabit and maintain the last remaining sustainable ecosystems and biodiversity hotspots in the world. We can contribute substantially to sustainable development but we believe that a holistic ecosystem framework for sustainable development should be promoted. This includes the integration of the human-rights based approach, ecosystem approach and culturally sensitive and knowledge-based approaches.
3) More investment in learning. To "get it right" there is no other way than to learn. Each context is different. Each community is different. Each year things change. The political economy of each country is different. The variables that affect how social change happens shift and turn as if they were dancing to the rhythm of Colombian salsa. So instead of investing in "scaling up", the sector should invest in knowledge-driven development. Home-grown knowledge-driven development. Integrating multiple knowledges. Learning and sharing learning in a format that it also can feed into local discussions and not only in ivory towers of academia. I dream of a world full of action researchers that involve local people as co-researchers and merge scientific knowledges with traditional knowledges. A world where this is the rule and not the exception we present in nice conferences. A world where learning and acting upon that learning is the best way to be accountable to each other.