Saturday Morning Reading #38

Do it right then quickly
Get it right then do it fast. Image from Matt Andrews.

Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring development consultants, learning from the bad guys and from mistakes, distortions in humanitarian assistance and doing things right before you try to do them quickly.

1. Development Consultants: Over-paid, Over-rated, and Over-used | AID LEAP

“Funders also often allow organisations to count consultants as a programme cost, while full time staff count as administrative costs. If you hire a staff member with expertise in child protection, you look inefficient and bureaucratic. If you hire a consultant at twice the cost you look dynamic and action orientated.

In the short term, I would love to see a TripAdvisor equivalent for consultants. Something where clients could rate consultants and provide feedback in an open forum. Think of it as
In the long run, however, there’s only one thing which will really make a difference. Development organisations need to stop relying on consultants and invest in their own staff.”

2. Advocacy and Lobbying: What Can We Learn from the Bad Guys? | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power

The list: Control the ground, spin the media, engineer a following, buy in credibility, sponsor a think tank, consult your critics, neutralise the opposition, control the web, open the door and offer jobs. NGOs can’t/shouldn’t use all of these tactics but there are some that could be adapted.

3. Glorious failure: the joy of learning from your mistakes | Scott Macmillan – Global Development Professionals Network

“Despite the vogue for failure, it’s not often that nonprofits admit to it. For one thing, people are not clay pots. We need to be careful about blithely celebrating failure when their lives and wellbeing are at stake, especially when it results from programmes that were poorly designed to begin with.”

Scott discusses early failures by BRAC and how the organisation learned from these to grow in scale and success.

4. The way we give disaster aid to poor countries makes no sense | Tim Kovach – Vox

Media coverage and distance play a big role in how much assistance is given to victims of disasters.

“In the weeks after the floods, Pakistan received just $16.36 per person affected. That pales beside the $388.33 per person affected for Pakistan’s earthquake, or $1,249.80 per person affected for the Indian Ocean tsunami.”

“”To have the same chance of receiving relief, a country at the other side of the earth must have 160 times as many fatalities as a country at zero distance.” This type of neighborhood bias has clear ramifications for countries in the developing world. Compared with disasters in Europe, those occurring in Asia-Pacific and Africa garner 36 percent and 21 percent less relief aid, respectively.”

5. Political Patience, part 3 | Matt Andrews – The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development

I find this making a lot of sense in my own context in Zanzibar.

“I often find new political leadership speaking about introducing reforms that will generate something like the Malaysian ‘Big Fast Results.’ This seems to assume that they have small, slow results and the management challenge is one of scale and speed. But what if the management challenge is more severe, and the government is not producing anything at all–or the government produces things that are of poor quality (regulations that are not enforced, roads that do not last, police services that are corrupt, schools that produce poor teacher quality, clinics that fail to dispense proper health care, etc.)?”

“Political patience, on the other hand, supports a management and reform process that builds quality before it forces speed and scale (as in the figure below). This is essentially what PDIA aims to do–gradually address the problems with organizational failure, working at a rational (but fast-as-possible) pace to establish the wherewithal for an organization to function successfully. Political patience helps to support and protect this kind of process. This patience is usually built on clear and prioritized views of ‘what is important’ (where the list is not very long) and is maintained through adherence to a structured process of ‘building’ with constant feedback and learning. It is not clean or easy but it is structured.”

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