(The Humanitarian Social Network)
This post originally appeared on AidSpeak, the external blog for AidSource admins. Read the original here.
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How YOU Would Make Aid Better
We want to thank those of you who took the time to churn out a few hundred words and go through the 5 or so mouse clicks necessary to add your thoughts to our collection of blog posts on how you would make aid better. For those new to the conversation, read the original call for posts here.
Altogether seven bloggers managed to get a post written and added to the collection by the deadline (see the whole collection here) with Jennifer Lentfer adding a post several days after the deadline (good thing no donor funding was on the line) and Wayan Vota sharing some predictably smart-aleck advice on our Facebook page.
mmullen gave us six suggestions for how to make aid better (we’d only asked for 3, so bonus for us!). Read the whole post here. All of his suggestions were good, but we particularly liked suggestion #5:
There are three things that dictate success of a project: a) what is in the proposal meaning the actual program design, b) the mechanism by which the decision is made about the destination of the funds and how the funds are given out, how quick or slow this process is, reporting and sign-off responsibilities, indirect, management lines, head office/donor location, transparency, and c) how committed and vested the implementor is to the project design. Stop fetishizing the first one and ignoring the second two. (Emphasis added)
Our good buddy and AidSource member Timo Luge reckons that it’s all about abolishing earmarking, strengthening coordination and reforming the security council (!). He expounds here. Of course all of those are awesome, but we found ourselves applauding the very first one:
I think it is ridiculous and against the intentions of most non-institutional donors, that some disasters are overfunded, while others barely have money at all. The problem, which many people don’t understand when donating money, is that money earmarked for disaster A cannot be used for disaster B, even if all needs in country A have been met. This leads to absurd situations where the affected population in some countries benefit from “aid deluxe” while beneficiaries in other countries get nothing.
One of our very own bloggers and co-founder of AidSource, J., also gets in on the actionhere. Tales From the Hood might be closed, but J. is still with us:
It doesn’t matter if you or eventually will end up as a finance officer or an IT specialist or a marketer. It doesn’t matter if you immediately move back to DC and spend the rest of your career in life-saving InterAction meetings. It doesn’t matter if you just left a senior exec role in the for-profit sector in favor of ‘giving back’ in the NGO sector: If you’re in the aid world and you want to supervise other staff, exercise financial authority, fill some externally-facing representation role, or have final say in decisions over “this, not that”, “here, not there”, “these people, not those”, you have to have spent at least six months on the front lines (not in a nice regional office in Johannesburg or Singapore) interacting directly with the core business of the aid industry. You have to have put in six months dealing firsthand with both the chaos and uncertainly of the field, as well as the realities of decisions made over your head which run counter to the obvious from your point of view. Before you sit in a cubicle and direct others, you have to have proven yourself capable of doing the basic, unsexy grunt work of helping programs run.
Dominic Haslam of Sightsavers shares seven ideas, and it’s a good thing because our favorite comes in at his #4:
INGOs should treat development resources as belonging to the poor, not to themselves. If you can’t spend it properly and with quality outcomes (or you don’t know whether it’s working or not and aren’t trying to find out), either don’t raise it or give it to someone who can.
We’re just saying.
AidSource member extraordinaire, Zehra Rizvi takes it to the limit one more time (here) and hits us with her best shot right out of the gate with her first (and in our opinion best) piece of advice: Get HR right. In her own words:
If you don’t meet qualifications or do a bad job, you should be fired. We fret so much about firing people. But seriously, if you suck at your job, why should you be hired again? In line with this is of course, that organizations should be training their people better. Train people seriously. Look at what their real gaps are and put them in situations where they CAN succeed. Too often we just stick people in positions since the position is empty and it needs a body in there. That is SO irresponsible. I could go on about this forever and people are looking at certification in aid work now but I still think there are some real gaps there.
The biggest gap for me and the question I feel like no one wants to touch is: Not everyone is suitable to do this work. Spare that person and let them know that. Accountants make a lot of money but I’m not suitable to be one so therefore, I am not one. And if someone is doing aid work, support them as much as possible to succeed. We tend to be the least humanitarian to ourselves when doing this work.
Our mate over at WhyDev.org and AidSource group facipulator, Weh Yeoh, has a really good post on the WhyDev blog. Rather than try to copy/paste the entire thing, we’ll leave you with his first and best tidbit. Simply:
Let’s make aid and development truly about “beneficiaries”, once and for all.
And finally the fabulous Soledad Muniz weighs in here. It seems to us that her first and third recommendations (“Listen…” and “Learn…”, respectively) really resonate with each other in all the right ways.
I’m quite shocked 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.
We could stand to see the world be a much nicer place, too.
And with that our call for posts on how to make aid better is a wrap. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop writing, though. If you want to share your thoughts on how to make aid better, go ahead and write your post. Add a comment to the thread below this post with the link to your post. We’ll tweet and FB the best ones!