Vision Lent 2020

CUInternationalDevelopment

LENT 2020

PRACTISING DEVELOPMENT: WHAT CAN WE DO?

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT


DEAR READERS

Lent term has seen us explore the topic of ‘Practicing Development: What Can We Do?’, with the aim of

understanding how we can make an impact ourselves both during our time at Cambridge and in the future.

Events have ranged from the impacts of voluntourism schemes that students may undertake during

their studies, to the story of a Cambridge technology start-up attempting to tackle water poverty at

the grassroots level. In addition, we were extremely lucky to have Baroness Brown of Cambridge and

Daniel Zeichner MP debate tackling the climate crisis from a UK political viewpoint, following on from

last term’s theme of ‘The Climate of Development’’.

I would like to thank all our guest speakers for taking their time to tell their stories, and for the events

team for organising such a great set of events. Similarly, I would like to thank the Vision team for once

again producing such an amazing magazine in such a short space of time, and the rest of the committee

for making all of this possible.

Whilst unfortunately CUiD’s events for this academic year now draw to a close, this brings the great opportunity

for you to become more involved with the society. Applications for the 2020/21 Committee will

open at the start of Easter term, and I couldn’t encourage you more to apply!

I hope you enjoy reading this copy of Vision, and if you have any questions about CUiD then please do get

in touch via email at president@cuid.org.

William Green

CUiD President, 2019 –20

As university students, we are often faced with the frustrating reality that although inequality and other

developmental problems are rife, there is little we are able to do to work against these issues. In this

edition of Vision, we hope to explore some of the ways by which we can help, at present and in the future.

Our writers draw on experiences of academics and students working in development as well as

on theoretical debates and current events.

It is bittersweet to announce the final edition of Vision this year. I want to thank the commendable editorial

team, who have provided comprehensive feedback on a very tight schedule – all while balancing a

Cambridge workload. Our artistic director, Katherine, has brought the work of our writers to life through

her incredible designs. Throughout the year, the CUID committee has worked hard to organize events

and a magazine tackling the question – ‘what can we do?’. While we don’t claim to have answers, we do

hope that we have been able to engage with this question and encourage you to consider contributing to

development efforts around the world. If you are interested in our work, do consider applying for a committee

position in the coming academic year.

With love,

Munira Rajkotwalla


CONTENTS

3. AID ON THE EDGE OF CHAOS: RETHINKING INTERNATIONAL

DEVELOPMENT IN A COMPLEX WORLD (BEN RAMALINGAM)

REVIEWED BY ELLA DUFFYY

5. CALAIS: INTERNATIONAL AID WHEN THE CAMERA STOPS

LUKE CAVANAUGH

7. TECHNOLOGY X DEVELOPMENT: HOW 3D PRINTING CAN SOLVE THE

WORLD’S WATER CRISIS. IN CONVERSATION WITH FRANCESCA

O’HANLON, CEO & FOUNDER OF BLUE TAP

KATHERINE WHITFIELD

11. PUT DOWN THE PITCH: WHY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS

MORE THAN JUST YOUR GOOD IDEAS

ROSIE WRIGHT

14. BEYOND ’POVERTY PORN’: THE IMPORTANCE OF POSITIVE

NARRATIVES IN PRACTICAL DEVELOPMENT

JACOB ARBEID

19. AFRINSPIRE: TACKLING THE ROOT CAUSES OF POVERTY

LIN BOWKER-LONNECKER

23. INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT FROM THE INSIDE: TO WHAT EXTENT

IS THE CYNICISM JUSTIFIED?

CAMILLE BARRAS

2


Other articles in this issue themed ‘Practicing

Development’ may focus on what individuals

can do in development in terms of campaigning,

petitioning and volunteering. However,

international development is mainly practiced

through aid agencies, government departments

and large funding bodies. So, while it is

useful to foster conversation around how we

can work at the community level within the

current international development system we

must also talk about transformation of the way

things work at a global level.

Aid on the Edge of Chaos picks apart the current

system of international aid and lays out a

deeper intellectual foundation for the promotion

of innovative projects happening within

contemporary development. Ramalingam argues

for a major overhaul in the way that aid

agencies work, criticising the system for being

too concerned with discrete problems and

‘simple’ solutions, completed within a budget

cycle, than it is for contextual, networked aid

projects. He posits that, more often than not,

development practitioners are asking the

wrong questions, in the wrong way. This focus

not on what needs doing, but on how things

need to be done is what sets this book apart

from others. Ramalingam uses insights from

complex adaptive systems science to argue

that we should be viewing the societal systems

that aid intervenes in more like ecosystems

than machines. This lens allows us to see that

the problems aid agencies are facing are interconnected

and dynamic; changing one thing

can have a huge emergent effect on other

things within the system.

REVIEWED BY ELLA DUFFY

Ramalingam begins with a hefty description of

the aid landscape as it currently is, which is

arguably unnecessary as his critique is a wellversed

one in both development studies and

in popular literature. However, he goes on to

attest that development projects usually fail

essentially because they do not account for

the relationships between many different, dynamic

variables and instead focus on an isolated

issue and an isolated solution. Parts two

and three of the book firstly describe how insights

from complexity science can help


illuminate a more effective way of practising aid

and secondly go on to show how these insights

are already promoting change through innovative

projects in development

right now. Complexity

science is already

being applied

in finance, business,

ecology and other

social sciences, and

Ramalingam comprehensively

demonstrates

its relevance

to the design of development

projects.

From mobile money

interventions in Kenya

to civil service reform

in Timor Leste,

he shows the importance

of understanding

development

as intervening

in non-linear systems.

In the third section of

the book, Ramalingam

discusses a

number of methods

from complexity science

and their application

in development

interventions in

recent years. Examples

he uses span

from projects involving

agent-based modelling and participatory roleplaying

to network analysis and identifying positive

deviance in a system. One of the earliest examples

he uses is that of Lansing & Kremer’s (1993)

agent-based model of rice farming in Indonesia.

Farmers in Bali are collectively organised around

temples enshrined to water gods and have been

for many centuries. The temples emerged as a

form of governing water use, and therefore cropping

cycles. The model was developed in response

to a controversial project from the Asian

Development Bank, called ‘Massive Guidance’,

which set out to increase yields through mandating

double and triple cropping and use of fertilizer

through a top-down system of control. The project

was an attempt to bring ‘sustainable development’

to rural populations but caused a drastic decline in

rice yields over a

decade. Lansing

& Kremer’s

(1993) computational

agentbased

model

demonstrated

that the temple

system of governance

already in

place, where water

use is organised

through the

temple network,

was already the

most efficient

form of system

organisation. The

temple system

emerged from

the bottom-up in

response to the

specific ecological

and social

conditions of the

Balinese ricefarming

landscape,

and Lansing

& Kremer

played a large

part in showing

those involved in

the Massive

Guidance project

that their intervention was intervening in the

wrong way.

There are no quick fixes for ¨wicked¨ problems.

The worlds’ complexity means that genuine development

must be seen as an iterative process,

changing for new contexts and new people. If we

understand the world that development intervenes

in a series of interlinked complex systems, we may

begin to start asking the right questions rather

than assuming the right answers. Aid on the Edge

of Chaos paints this picture and should be on the

reading lists of both scholars and practitioners of

development.

4


LUKE CAVANAUGH

SOMEWHERE AMONGST THE FLASHY VOL-

UNTEERING ADVERTS PROMISING ‘THE

SUMMER OF YOUR LIFE’, ENTICING UNIVER-

SITY STUDENTS IN WITH THE PROMISE THAT

‘THIS WILL LOOK GOOD ON YOUR CV’, LIES

THE CALAIS MIGRANT CRISIS: GREY, DULL,

DREARY, AND MOSTLY FORGOTTEN.

A few summers ago, refugees fleeing to Europe

were very much flavour of the month, covered

for weeks on end by news organisations from

around the world. But then, in 2016, the ‘Jungle’

was demolished. And that was it. The news

crews packed up and went home, and the

French and British governments presumably

thought that the migrants would simply return

home. Except that was not it, and they didn’t.

Since the camp was demolished, I have spent

three weekends volunteering in Calais with the

local Cambridge Charity CamCRAG. Recently I

met a long-term volunteer who was volunteering

in Calais when HelpRefugees was founded in

September 2015. Her tales of driving fire-trucks

through the camp without a license as the de

facto fire warden, being on-call quite literally

24//7 from her caravan in the ‘Jungle’, and eventually

being forced to leave after contracting tuberculosis,

are nightmarish. But at least the


eyes,

them.

and donations, of the world were on

The first time that I travelled to Calais, I was

greeted by the sight of young men being forced

to sleep under motorway bridges for protection

from the elements, and the buzz of the few local

pubs and bars did little to detract from the

plight of those huddled

outside them.

The second time I

went, I was struck by

just how many fences

had been put up in

the two months between

my visits.

There would be no

more refugees huddling

under bridges,

where the crawl

spaces had now been

fenced off, and the

visible presence of

riot police around the town suggested that

there was more than the mouvement des gilets

jaunes keeping the French justice system occupied.

Then, just a few months ago, we were

sorting through donations in the warehouse

when a call came in. French riot police had just

raided a refugee camp early in the morning,

confiscated their tents, spare clothes, and presumably

any other worldly possessions, and we

desperately needed to get some new donations

out to them.

Of course, with a well-established and efficiently

run warehouse, volunteering in Calais is not

dangerous like it used to be, nor is it particularly

physically demanding. But as the conditions for

volunteers has gotten better, those for refugees

have got far worse. The work that the volunteers

do is kept a secret from the locals, such is

the anger against the migrant population, and

the gate to the warehouse kept securely fastened

to keep the police out. The world’s sympathy

to the situation has long-since faded, but

the problems nevertheless remain.

During my visits to the Calais warehouse, I have

always been struck by the levels of organisation.

Spending my Saturdays chopping wood,

or pitching tents, I notice both the long-term

and short-term volunteers moving like clockwork:

chopping, bagging, packing, delivering

wood to the approximately 1,000 refugees currently

in Calais, or cooking 1,200 meals a day in

the kitchen. Convening at lunch for tales of garlic

peeling sessions that left the hands smelling

for days, and bright pink puffer jackets that had

been donated provide us with enough laughs to

fill the hour, and

there is an overwhelming

feeling

that despite the situation,

we are really

getting things done.

But in amongst the

brownies for volunteers,

the laughs

and the music, are

stark reminders of

why we were there.

Running down a

Calais beach, I

couldn’t help but realise how uninviting the water

was, and how bleak and desolate the shore.

Launching a dinghy into the sea was unimaginable,

and yet people are forced to do it every

day.

IN AMONGST THE GLITZ AND GLAMOUR OF

‘VOLUNTOURISM’, WHERE THOUSANDS OF POUNDS

ARE RAISED A YEAR BY STUDENTS LOOKING TO

WORK ON A SUMMER CAMP, TO BUILD A SCHOOL,

OR TO COLLECT BUTTERFLIES IN THE AMAZON,

WHERE VOLUNTEERING AND INTERNATIONAL DE-

VELOPMENT HAS BECOME A BUSINESS, THERE

ARE STILL REAL PROBLEMS CLOSE TO HOME.

And closer still than Calais. One only needs to

look outside their college gates to see the rampant

inequality and homelessness in Cambridge,

or to the news story over Christmas of

the homeless lady giving birth outside of St.

John’s, to realise that volunteering goes beyond

those schools and summer camps. There is no

doubt that International development should

have a place in every student’s experience, but

one can’t help but wonder if this place is, for as

long as businesses seek to profit from volunteering,

in grey and gritty Calais.

6


TECHNOLOGY X DEVELOPMENT:

HOW 3D PRINTING CAN SOLVE THE

WORLD’S WATER CRISIS

IN CONVERSATION WITH FRANCESCA O’HANLON, CEO & FOUNDER OF BLUE TAP

KATHERINE WHITFIELD

FRANCESCA O’HANLON FOUNDED BLUE TAP IN 2016: A TECHNOLOGY COMPANY CREATING

PRODUCTS THAT IMPROVE ACCESS TO HIGH-QUALITY DRINKING WATER IN LOW RESOURCE

SETTINGS. BLUE TAP’S CORE PRODUCT IS THE CHLORINE INJECTOR, THAT AUTOMATICALLY

INJECTS DOSED CHLORINE INTO HOUSEHOLD LEVEL WATER SYSTEMS. HERE, WE TALK TO

FRANCESCA AFTER HER TALK: ‘TECHNOLOGY X DEVELOPMENT: HOW 3D PRINTING CAN SOLVE

THE WORLD’S WATER CRISIS’, ABOUT THE GENDERED NATURE OF HOUSEHOLD WATER MAN-

AGEMENT, SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AND CLIMATE PRECARITY.


Earlier you mentioned that women are disproportionately

responsible for household water

management. However, I noticed that that capacity

building and training workshops run

by BlueTap seemed to be with plumbers who

are mostly men. How does the gendered nature

of water management and maintenance

work when implementing use of the product?

‘That’s really interesting, and it’s something that I

really want to change. Basically, most of the interaction

with water and the management of the

water in the house is by women. But for some

reason, all of the technology is controlled by

men.

With our technology, ideally you would have

someone checking on it once a month, just to

make sure it is dosing right. And that kind of job

always comes down to the men. It’s the same

here, the thought that ‘because it is knowledge,

that must be difficult, and therefore the men

must take charge of it’. But it actually makes so

much more sense for the women to be trained in

things like checking the system, because they

are the ones who have this intuition about the

water because they are the ones working closely

with it on a daily basis.

One NGO that we went to visit in Uganda do this

really cool thing with rainwater harvesting. Rather

than just building the tanks for the households,

what they do is train women in engineering

and construction and then the women can

build other tanks for other people and earn an

income, and its just so effective. It’s especially

effective for women’s confidence because they

suddenly have these skills and are valued as

these people that could be the ones who take

control of their water supply. So, it’s a model I

would really like to simulate. The issue is, like I

say, that we don’t have that many women who

are plumbers.

Where I would like to get to with our technology

is that it is so simple that you don’t actually need

to be a plumber to install it, so you can just be a

local vendor associated with BlueTap. We can

train them so that they have certification. In that

way the product would become way more accessible

to women.

SOMETHING I AM REALLY INTERESTED IN IS

THE DEMOCRATISATION OF TECHNOLOGY.

This would be done by making it affordable and

making sure people aren’t intimidated by it and

that they understand it. Because most technology,

if it is designed well, shouldn’t be intimidating.

So that’s really a place I would like to be.

Right now we have got to work with what we

have got, and it is that the plumbers are men.

We work with some plumbing students who are

19-20 and 35% of those students are women, so

it is shifting a lot, but… these fields are often

very male-dominated’.

It’s interesting what you say about the democratisation

of technology, in regard to access,

as it’s like the accessibility of the product

physically, as well as the accessibility of

the knowledge available to actually use the

product.

It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy right, like ‘I

am not technical, I don’t know how to use this’

and so people don’t even feel worthy of learning

how to manage the technology. It becomes

closed off and its completely wrong’.

You mentioned that you founded BlueTap as

a social enterprise. Could you explain a little

about how a social enterprise works regarding

selling a product rather than charitable

giving? Were the reasons you decided to run

BlueTap as a social enterprise rather than an

NGO charity?

‘I think if you speak to most NGOs these days,

and there are a few that are exempt, they spend

so much of their money and activities monitoring

and evaluating their projects because they need

to create metrics to assess how successful they

are, how they are perceived by the community,

and you can kind of overcome all of that by saying

‘people are paying for this, so they want it’.

And there is also the other thing that if your

technology is actually wanted

And because, until we can get to the point where

we can employ Ugandans – which hopefully will

be towards the end of the year), whilst we are

still foreigners working in a country, it’s the best

way to know that the technology is actually wanted.

That’s part of the reason for the model.

But also, the second element is that we do want

to boost the local economy and for the profit

from this to stay with the plumbers.

8


As we said before, this works really well on a

small scale. I am not sure how this would work

upscaled, I have no idea. If we are working in 26

different countries, I don’t know how possible it

would be to work directly with the plumbers. But

on a small scale, it’s a really good interactive

model’.

[question asked by audience member during

talk]: Is there something to be said for being a

small start-up organisation rather that a largescale

NGO in terms of working closely and effectively

with communities, establishing relationship

of trust and open communication?

Yeah I really do. I feel really strongly about this. A

lot of people I work with feel very patronised by

big NGOs – not to discredit the incredible work

many of them do, but more to state that there is a

difference between aid work and collaborative

working. The difference between Tom and I, as

two engineers from Cambridge, and two engineers

from Uganda, is that where we are from

differs in economic terms. There is no difference

in our knowledge or skills.

SO WORKING ON A SMALL COMMUNITY

SCALE SEEMS TO BE A MODEL THAT IS MUCH

MORE EMPOWERING … COLLABORATING,

SHARING IDEAS, SELLING TECHNOLOGY,

ADAPTING TO AND LEARNING NEW WAYS OF

USING THE TECHNOLOGY.

[question asked by audience member during

talk]: Any advice for students who have an

idea and want to be an entrepreneur?

The best way to be an entrepreneur is just to do

it. The best thing about it is that you can just do it

tomorrow… You can just wake up with an idea,

make a website, and go. One thing that deters

people is the risk. It’s always going to feel terrifying

because you are running away from this security.

That’s why being a student is prime time to

become an entrepreneur and at least trying it out,

because there’s less risk. If it doesn’t work out,

you tried, and you’ve still got the security of higher

education. And if it does work… it’s a win-win

scenario.

Could you explain a little bit more about who

the main target audience of BlueTap is?

WHO THE AUDIENCE IS ENTIRELY

DICTATED BY THE TECHNOLOGY

Its kind of dictated by the fact that the original

problem came from working in Mexico City, with

Mexico being an emerging market, so its not at all

the poorest billion living in rural areas. So the way

that the technology works is that it kind of has to

work alongside a rainwater harvesting system or

flowing water. And to have flowing water, you’re

probably not in the poorest 700million people. I

think the right kind of solutions for the poorest

people is, in lots of ways, government or aid provided

water or large particle filtration rather than

chlorination. So, I guess the reason we are focused

on the ‘middle market’ is because that is

right for the technology. Ideally, if we could sell in

loads of different markets, we could grow our revenue.

And because we are a social enterprise, we

could put that money back into projects. We

could then start developing new technologies that

are right for the poorest billion. But yes, it is really

just dictated by the parameters of how the technology

works.

Finally, in relation to what you mentioned

about access to flowing water… what challenges

do you foresee in the future in regard

to climate-related threats and the increased

severity of droughts? How do you see this impacting

water security and safety? And what

do you feel may be possible solutions?

For me it is super interesting, because the whole

inequality of climate change is most represented

by sub-Saharan Africa. You know, it is interesting,

because I started my PhD – which is in climate

change and water security – in 2016. And when I

start it, there was a lull in interest in climate

change especially in the UK, because Brexit was

happening, Trump was happening… people kind

of got distracted by sort-term political events. And

once those calmed down, in the last three years,

compounded by the fact that we have seen a series

of extreme events in more notable countries

that have more press coverage (like the forest

and bush fires in the US and Australia), people


are now taking climate change really seriously.

But, you can see the impact of climate change

really clearly five years ago in sub-Saharan Africa.

Firstly, sub-Saharan African is warming at a

faster rate than anywhere else in the world.

Secondly, it is more obvious in places in where

people are so reliant on the weather patterns to

create agriculture and food. And when people

are very well connected to the weather, the

changes and shifts are incredibly noticeable.

THE WAY THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS GOING

TO IMPACT THE WORLD IS THROUGH WA-

TER. THROUGH FLOODS, THROUGH

DROUGHTS. ADAPTING IS KEY.

Personally, rainwater harvesting is one of the

best technologies to help people adapt to climate

change and become more resilient. Because

its good in the way that people are managing

their own water with autonomy and ownership

which is empowering. My view is that

the BlueTap technology partners really well with

rainwater harvesting.

Also, rainwater harvesting along with water filtration

basically provides a buffer for climate

unpredictability. 80% of the population in

Uganda works in agriculture. You have had for

100 years these weather systems – rains – that

will come in May and last until October. And

now they will come, you know, for two weeks at

the end of August, which really throws people

off. And for 100s of years, people have planted

exactly the same crops and every year they

have grown. So, adaptation involved using different

crops that can grow in the changing climate.

And also, rainwater harvesting to provide

a buffer as a storage of water. My view is, again,

at a very community-level scale: community

projects are really going to help people in

adapting to climate change. It works on a scaleout

kind of system, where if you work at a community-level,

it moves out to have an impact on

a global scale.

One of the global consequences of that, is that I

think we have seen nothing with the refugee

crisis of 2015. Once parts of sub-Saharan Africa

become uninhabitable, the geopolitical consequences

will be overwhelming. you will see the

worlds biggest refugee crisis. The way to mitigate

that would be to help people adapt.

I THINK ALL THE RESOURCES IN THE

WORLD SHOULD GO INTO HELPING PEOPLE

10


ROSIE WRIGHT

IT’S A BALMY DAY IN SAN JOSE WHERE

ALMOST 100 YOUNG WOMEN, FROM

ACROSS THE GLOBE, HAVE COME TO PITCH

THEIR IDEAS FOR CHANGING THE WORLD.

THEY’RE FINALISTS IN A COMPETITION TO

DESIGN AN APP WHICH TACKLES A SOCIAL

PROBLEM. THEY ARE ALSO A PERFECT IL-

LUSTRATION OF THE GROWING PHENOME-

NON THAT IS SOCIAL INNOVATION.

Popularly understood as using new ideas- and

sometimes technologies- to bring about positive

change, social innovation is enjoying increasing

public attention even whilst being debated

in the academic literature. Frequently, as

in the competition above, it’s also linked to entrepreneurship

and an intention to combine

doing good with making a sustainable profit.

This enables it to offer promises of new directions,

which have obvious appeal in a world

which still seems to be reeling from the global

financial crisis whilst the challenges of climate

change and growing inequality loom ever larger.

That appeal is forging a new movement: nearly

19,000 girls originally entered the app competition

and it’s just one of hundreds of hackathons,

crowdfunding contests and enterprise

incubators I’ve seen appear in the last few

years. Naturally a number of those are emerging

here in Cambridge, hoping to make the

most of the potent combination of professional

expertise and a passionate student population.

Typically they favour short-term approaches,

designed to help generate new ideas, develop

innovators’ business acumen or enable funding

provision.

Much of this activity is important and exciting,

especially when it’s integrated with international

development. To date many development

challenges don’t appear to be responding to

traditional NGO approaches nor conventional

capitalism, creating opportunities for these new

ways of working. It also offers a way for individuals

to use their expertise in developing solutions

in contrast with other forms of involvement,

such as voluntourism, which have been

criticised for encouraging enthusiastic but unskilled

interventions. And with the spread of

new technology, particularly smartphones, in

areas where other forms of infrastructure (and

often state intervention and regulation) are

lacking, innovation invites hopes of being able

to ‘leapfrog’ to new solutions. For example, M-

Pesa, the mobile phone money transfer which

has supported business growth where there

are few physical banking services, or microfinancing,

which aims to encourage enterprise

through small, affordable seed loans, are frequently

held up as hopeful examples.

Yet, despite all the potential I’ve seen in my

years working in this area, I’m still often uneasy,

reminded of the old aphorism about the


bad results of good intentions. Part of this is

due to the focus on speed and quick fixes, as

the “fail fast” mantra of innovation meets short

Cambridge terms and busy

schedules. It’s an approach

that lends itself to

assumptions and heuristics

which are problematic in

development. The Gapminder

foundation has

painstakingly demonstrated

how even highlyeducated

individuals frequently

hold incorrect or

outdated views. As its cofounder,

Hans Rosling,

summarises in his book,

Factfulness: “Every group

of people I ask thinks the

world is more frightening,

more violent, and more

hopeless—in short, more

dramatic—than it really

is” (2018, p11). It’s a mindset

that doesn’t lend itself

to Balanced accurate solutions

yet one that isn’t always sufficiently challenged

when working in short timeframes.

Similarly Daniela Papi-Thornton, former Deputy

Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship,

notes that many schemes are

designed to supplement existing skills with

better business acumen rather than improved

problem knowledge. She recommends instead

a ‘problem apprenticeship’, which involves

a full appreciation of how social issues

develop and the realities of tackling them. She

also notes the rise of “heropreneurs”, frequently

wealthy, white graduates, and a focus

on celebrating their individual achievements,

rather than on understanding systems and cocreating,

which risks continuing old narratives

about external interventions by elites.

The emphasis on novelty and looking forward

can also be problematic. It makes it easy to

overlook the actual success of activities that

innovation proposes replacing and obscure

the possibilities in reintroducing or transposing

older, and especially, non-technological,

ideas. However successful interventions can

take many years and low-maintenance ideas

often work better, as many NGO workers- witnessing

piles of obsolete

equipment abandoned

after donors

failed to provide any

ongoing upkeep support-

can testify. The

growing intertwinement

of innovation and enterprise

also concerns me;

whilst ventures with a

profit-making element

could offer a more sustainable

alternative to

perceived aiddependency

they are

also vulnerable to the

darker side of marketization,

for example

some micro-credit

schemes have incentivized

repayment by encouraging

the social

ostracization of those

who default on their loans.

None of this is intended to discourage anyone,

but rather as a preface to a conversation

about how we can make best use of the dedication

and cutting edge knowledge of those

who would like to make a difference, which

may involve challenging the habits the social

innovation sector has fallen into. In that spirit

here are four key considerations for anyone

interested in starting a social venture or running

events and societies encouraging others:

CONTEXTUALISING YOUR IDEA

There are many tools to support the visualisation

and organisation of social enterprises with

one of the most popular being the business

model canvas. However, whilst invaluable for

articulating a concept, they often aren’t designed

to place ideas within a wider ecosystem-

even though it’s often not the nature of

an idea, but the specifics of its environment,

which allows its success or failure. M-Pesa, for

example, has been very successful in Kenya

12


but transferred less successfully into other

countries, with its critics suggesting this reflects

different regulatory regimes and access levels.

Therefore consider supplementing other tools

with Papi-Thorntons ’impact gap canvas’

(available free at http://tacklingheroprneurship.com/).

Many of the innovators I’ve mentored

have found this immensely useful, as it

helps bring tricky but essential issues such as

underpinning power dynamics and the risk of

unintended consequences into conversation.

UNDERSTANDING WHO YOU NEED TO WORK

WITH

Another benefit to contextualising your work is

being able to map other actors working on your

chosen issue, sometimes prompting the realisation

that your novel idea isn’t quite so new after

all and your efforts may be better spent joining

an existing collaboration. In line with SDG 17’s

focus on creating partnership, it is important to

challenge where new ventures might risk diverting

essential funding or undermining state

legitimacy alongside identifying the real provision

gaps that need to be addressed by new

approaches

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO ENSURE

ACADEMIC EXPERTISE IS COMBINED WITH LIVED

EXPERIENCE OF THE TARGETED PROBLEM OR

LOCATION, BUT CO-CREATION IS OFTEN MORE

COMPLEX THAN IT APPEARS.

Often an implied bargain is struck so that individuals

supply their expertise in return for becoming

beneficiaries of an innovation, However

those benefits frequently fail to materialise,

leaving cynicism in their wake. Instead consider

any such expertise as effectively a consultancy

service and arrange to provide individuals with

progress updates and recompense them as

appropriate. Alternatively consider how you can

volunteer your skills to support grassroots innovation

instead, such as mentoring at competitions

like the one mentioned above.

CHALLENGING YOUR ASSUMPTIONS

As Nobel Prize winner Esther Duflo points out

in the 2011 book Poor Economics, you can find

data to justify almost any perspective on poverty,

demonstrating the need to critically assess

what’s available. World Bank and OECD data

can be useful at an introductory level to analyse

trends and see whether an issue sufficiently

entrenched to require an innovation, whilst the

JPAL centre Duflo co-founded has online data

from nearly 1000 randomised impact evaluations

available for more specific analysis (www.

Povertyactionlab.org/evaluations). Furthermore,

if working with students without a development

background it may also be useful to share Gapminder’s

resources on global facts and developing

more accurate general heuristics in this

area ( www.gapminder.org/).

CHOOSING WHICH BEHAVIOURS YOU WANT

TO INCENTIVISE

If you’re running a project or event, review the

incentives you are offering, particularly around

prizes or grant funding. Whilst communicating

solutions is an important skill, it is not the same

as implementing them, so consider whether

you want to evaluate people solely on their abilities

to ‘pitch’ an idea or take a more holistic

approach. How could you instead value practical

approaches to tackling problems, such as

mapping complex systems of actors or identifying

existing initiatives.

Encourage groups to think beyond novelty by

asking them to improve to existing ideas or analyse

why feasible innovations failed and to

consider risks through identifying unintended

consequences or negative incentivization in

proposed innovations.

Social innovation is an evolving field and therefore

there is still plenty to be discussed around

best practices. I remain as excited today as I

was, as a competition judge back in San Jose,

about its potential to inspire action where elsewhere

I had seen mounting compassion fatigue.

However, in order to honour that potential

and prevent a return to disillusionment for

our generation and the next we must go beyond

simply generating ideas and instead be

part of building the systems that incentivise

sustainability, integration, knowledge and humility

to ensure we make the contributions that

really matter.


A wide-eyed, malnourished African child, his

hand outstretched. At the bottom, a tagline:

“He’s starving; only you can help.”

TURN ON A TELEVISION ANYWHERE IN THE

DEVELOPED WORLD AND THIS IS AN IMAGE

YOU’LL SEE AGAIN AND AGAIN: HEART-

BREAKING IMAGES OF DEVELOPING-WORLD

DESPERATION TO WHICH ONLY THE EN-

LIGHTENED, GENEROUS VIEWER CAN

SUPPOSEDLY PUT A STOP.

JACOB ARBEID

Beginning in the 1980s with the Live Aid appeals,

such ‘shock effect’ publicity - intended to

motivate donations out of purely negative emotions

such as guilt, shock or sadness - have become

a mainstay of some of the world’s largest

development NGOs, such as UNICEF (annual

expenditure: £4.5bn) or Oxfam (£400mn). Yet

appeals such as these have become increasingly

controversial: for example, prominent Nigerian

-American writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

made headlines last year for her critique of NGO

Aid ads, which she saw as perpetuating the kind

of ‘white saviour’ narratives reminiscent of the

colonial era.

Such a strategy could potentially be justified if it

was at considerably more effective in motivating

greater donations, and the continued use of

such appeals by many development charities

suggests they believe this to be true. Yet a growing

body of literature across economics, psychology

and development studies show an increasingly

mixed picture. This reversal of consensus

centres around two phenomena:

‘compassion fatigue’, and engagement with

global issues. The former is defined as a gradual

lessening of compassion over time, in response

to images of others in stressful situations. Researchers

such as UCL’s David Hudson have

applied the concept to aid advertising, observing

that in some cases, participants who were exposed

to the kind of shocking images used by

many development NGOs were - paradoxically -

less likely to donate. In such cases, the compassionate

part of participants’ psyches was overwhelmed,

and often they simply disengaged altogether.

14


Yet Hudson also sought to study how framing

the developing world in different ways affected

attitudes towards global development. Ultimately,

participants who were exposed to the negative

imagery were less likely to be optimistic

about the ability of development organisations to

deliver on their promises, and less likely to support

their taxes going towards development aid

or peacebuilding efforts. And why would they?

Such images do little to show the huge progress

that has been made on global development: the

billions of people that have escaped poverty, or

the near-doubling of global life expectancy in the

last 60 years, for instance.

Still, the Hudson study offers a way out of this

conundrum, and moreover one that can give direction

to any student struggling to understand

how they can sensitively and effectively ‘practice

development’.

As well as exposing participants to charitable

appeals based on negative emotions, the study

examined participants’ attitudes to aid and development

after exposure to an alternative,

‘positive’ ad: a child holding a sign reading

‘Future Doctor’, with a tagline seeking donations

to “help educate the next teacher, farmer or

doctor”.

THE DIFFERENCE IS A SUBTLE ONE, BUT IN

RECASTING NGO DEVELOPMENT AID AS A POSITIVE,

COOPERATIVE PROJECT WHERE LOCAL PEOPLE

HAVE AGENCY, SUCH AN APPEAL SIDESTEPS THE

DUAL PITFALLS OF COMPASSION FATIGUE AND THE

PROMOTION OF MISLEADING, PESSIMISTIC OR

EVEN OFFENSIVE ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE

DEVELOPING WORLD.

Ultimately, Hudson found that in some cases the

alternative appeal increased the likelihood that

participants would make a donation; more impressively

participants across the board saw

themselves as more likely to engage with global

development - through their voting, volunteering

or future donations - when compared with the

‘negative’ sample.

Such studies provide an important counterweight

to the dominant model of development

charity, yet putting their conclusions into practice

seems more difficult.

FOR STUDENTS, WHO ARE OFTEN WEIGHED DOWN

BY WORK AND DON’T HAVE THE RESOURCES OF

MAJOR NGOS, IT SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE. UNTIL LAST

YEAR, I WOULD HAVE SAID THE SAME; THAT IS UN-

TIL I GOT INVOLVED WITH MAY WEEK ALTERNATIVE

(MWA) .

MWA was founded on the premise that giving

and celebrating need not be opposites; and that

our world-famous May Week offered the perfect

opportunity to bring the two together. Rather

than manipulating people into giving out of guilt

or shock (and the accompanying ‘white saviour’

narrative this promotes), the initiative seeks to

encourage students to make a thoughtful, motivated

and positive donation - informed by transparent

statistics on the often impressive impact

students can have.

Students are invited to join, and then make a donation;

they then come together at a Summer

Party in May Week (funded entirely by sponsors,

so that 100% of donations go to charity), to crystallise

this positive atmosphere around giving

and celebrate their impact. The suggested charity,

the Against Malaria Foundation, provides lifesaving

anti-malaria bednets to some of the

world’s most vulnerable people; in working with

national malaria boards and local health workers,

it also avoids potential ‘white saviour’ dynamics.

Preventing the spread of malaria has also been

found to be an effective way to engender broader

economic development, with the decrease in

missed school and work days ensuring that every

pound spent on malaria prevention has a

multiplier effect in developing-world economies:

this is particularly so for women who often bear

the burden of caring for sick relatives. Ultimately,

this is just one of the reasons why AMF has been

consistently ranked by charity evaluators as one

of the worlds’ most effective charities.

In this way, MWA has built an organisation

around changing our narratives of giving; by

many accounts it has been a successful one. In

the two years since its founding, they have


people from malaria) from hundreds of students; with

over 200% growth a year, theirmodel of positive and

engaged giving appears to be catching on. The ultimate

aim is not merely to raise funds, but to change

attitudes to giving and global development with the

aim of creating lifelong altruists. Anecdotally, at last

year’s Summer Party I found myself surrounded by

people asking me questions about the fight against

malaria; their engagement and positivity, very different

from how so much charity is traditionally done,

was a genuine joy to behold.

THEREFORE IN AN AGE WHERE CONVENTIONAL

MODELS OF NGO DEVELOPMENT ARE

INCREASINGLY COMING UNDER FIRE, WHAT CAN STU-

DENTS DO TO ‘PRACTICE DEVELOPMENT?’

MY (ADMITTEDLY BIASED) ADVICE WOULD BE TO JOIN

HUNDREDS OF OTHER STUDENTS AND GET INVOLVED

WITH MWA. BUT BEYOND THAT,

EMBRACE A ‘PRACTICAL POSITIVITY’. A POSITIVE NARRA-

TIVE CANNOT ALONE HELP ADVANCE GLOBAL DEVELOP-

MENT, BUT WHEN JOINED TO A CONCRETE PROJECT -

WHETHER A STUDENT

INITIATIVE LIKE MWA, AN ACTIVIST CAMPAIGN OR IN

YOUR FUTURE CAREER - IT CAN PROVIDE

CRUCIAL TOOLS FOR A LESS OFFENSIVE, MORE EN-

GAGED AND ULTIMATELY MORE EFFECTIVE

APPROACH TO DEVELOPMENT.

16



KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED ON OUR

FACEBOOK PAGE FOR MORE

INFORMATION REGARDING ROLES

AND APPLICATION DEADLINES

18


AFRINSPIRE IS A CHARITY BASED IN CAM-

BRIDGE WHICH WORKS WITH AND SUPPORTS

PARTNER ORGANISATIONS IN UGANDA AND

OTHER COUNTRIES IN EASTERN AFRICA. IT

WORKS AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL, TO UN-

DERSTAND AND TACKLE THE ROOT CAUSES OF

POVERTY. FOR THIS, TRUST AND COMMUNICA-

TION WITH THE LOCAL PEOPLE TO UNDER-

STAND WHAT IS NEEDED IS VERY IMPORTANT.

Afrinspire’s founder and CEO, Ian Sanderson, has

been travelling to Uganda for more than 20 years,

and the impact that he has made in that time is truly

inspiring. During the summer, he offers students

the opportunity to join him in Uganda for 3 weeks,

allowing them to see the work he does first-hand

and help facilitate the Afrinspire Young Entrepreneurs

Conference. The different parts of Uganda

we visited encompassed the eastern, northwestern,

western and southern regions of the

country, with our base locations being either Kampala

or Mbarara. I became involved with Afrinspire

myself last year, while attending this trip. Now I am

on the committee of the Afrinspire Cambridge Student

Society, which aims to foster and maintain

links between Afrinspire and the students in Cambridge.

This article describes several of the projects

that we visited, in particular in some of Afrinspire’s

core focus areas of employment and enterprise,

female empowerment, and the education of

children and young people.

LIN BOWKER-LONNECKER

A large role Afrinspire plays is in facilitating teaching

of skills to assist people to lift themselves out of

poverty. The Young Entrepreneurs Conference in

Mbarara is a key part of this. I was able to help facilitate

the conference during my trip; however,

Afrinspire also runs other conferences such as the

Afrinspire Women’s Conference. Approximately

forty peoplefrom all over Uganda, as well as nearby

countries such as Burundi, attended the conference,

with the aim of learning new business skills,

including how to help their ventures succeed.

Youth unemployment is high in Uganda, and required

practical skills are often not taught sufficiently

in school or missed completely by those

unable to attend school. Teaching people business


skills equips them both with a means to create

an income for themselves and also to create

other jobs in their community.

The sessions offered covered a range of topics,

such as understanding markets, recordkeeping,

and designing

a project.

For the project design

exercise,

groups of eight

people worked together

through the

various steps needed

to set up a business

while considering

all the challenges

that this entailed.

My role was

to lead one such

group, ensuring

that everyone was

contributing and

offering up suggestions.

The business

skills I had learned

in my manufacturing engineering degree were

not only useful, but also showed how skills

learned as part of a degree in a theoretical setting

are transferable into the real world in order

to help people.

Some of the people at the conference had already

started their own business, and Afrinspire

offers a Young Entrepreneurs Fund to give financial

support to people who have business

plans that can improve their communities. During

the conference, a visit was made to one of

these successful ventures, a juice production

business, which had received this funding in

2017 and is now a registered company. In total,

28 projects have been supported, creating

more than 100 jobs and helping more than 600

people.

We also visited job creation and training centres

such as MidPro and Uganda Development Services

(UDS). Midpro offers vocational training

courses such as car mechanics, plumbing, hairdressing,

fashion and design, whereas UDS offers

skills training, for example in IT skills.

UDS also ran a specific women-orientated training

course, which helped 20 women. We visited

two of these women, both of whom were previously

unemployed, but were now successfully

working as a fruit seller and on a mobile money

stall respectively. Other women were able to

start their own businesses,

for example in poultry,

soap-making or crafts.

The program overall has

the greatest impact if

women without jobs are

targeted, which was not

always the case. Mathematical

aptitude is vital as

part of this education process,

as the women need

the everyday business

skills of setting a selling

price, or having

knowledge of the expected

overall income.

These factors may be

missed when people are

starting out in their business

ventures.

Helping women gain business skills empowers

them. In Uganda, men are more likely than

women to get an education, and the literacy

rate for men is much higher than women.

THE FUNCTIONAL ADULT LITERACY (FAL) PROGRAMME

IS A UGANDAN PROGRAMME, WHICH IS DELIVERED BY

THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT AND ASSISTED BY NGOS.

THROUGH EDUCATION, THIS PROGRAMME GIVES WOM-

EN A GREATER VOICE IN THEIR COMMUNITY, ALLOWING

THEM A LARGER INFLUENCE IN DECISION-MAKING AND

HIGHER ECONOMIC ACCUMULATION.

We were able to visit multiple FAL groups in

various stages of advancement across Uganda.

Rose Ekitwi, who is a partner of Afrinspire and a

leader of the FAL program, has trained teachers

for more than 70 groups across Uganda. She

travelled with us for part of the trip to see the

progress some of the FAL groups were making.

By and large they were running well, and we

were able to attend a graduation ceremony in

Namasagali, where several FAL groups and 45

people in total were graduating from the programme.

20


The FAL programme is primarily built around

teaching reading, writing, numeracy and English

skills. While Uganda has only two official languages,

English and Swahili, there are approximately

40 different languages spoken in the

country because of the many different ethnic

populations. The two core books used to implement

the programme have been translated into

22 local Ugandan languages, and lessons are

taught in a practical context which can be readily

applied to daily life. Often, the leaders of the

FAL groups are already community leaders,

and existing groups such as church or savings

groups may turn into FAL groups. One of the

first lessons involves learning how to write their

own name, which led to a beautiful moment

when we visited a FAL group and the members

of the group presented what they had learned.

The members of the group proudly wrote their

own names onto the blackboard, which they

had not been able to do before starting the program.

Other lessons in the program incorporate skills

such as hygiene, healthy living, and farming.

For example, there is sometimes the perception

that having more children means that there are

more children to take care of you when you are

old, whereas the FAL program teaches that you

should only have as many children as you are

financially able to take care of. FAL teaching

resources are also geared towards gaining

skills which are useful for starting businesses.

In a village called Gabusan near Tororo mountain,

we visited three new FAL groups which

had just been formed, consisting of roughly between

20 and 30 people. From the first group

alone more than 70 people would be helped,

due to the sizes of the households of those involve;

someone gaining literacy and numeracy

skills does not just solely benefit them, but also

their entire family. The second group of 25 people

was asked about their education, with 10

never having been to school, whereas some

had managed to get a primary school education.

Overall Afrinspire works with 105 FAL

groups in 10 districts in Uganda. Groups typically

contain 15-20 people, primarily women,

with each person having a family size of 7-10

people.

The longer-term impact of FAL was also shown

when we visited Rise and Shine Nursery, which

had initially started as a FAL group. However, it

was extended into the nursery as the parents in

the group also wanted their children to get an

education. The education of children and young

people is also a major focus of Afrinspire, as

despite Uganda offering free education in theory,

this is often inaccessible due to the distance

and terrain the students would have to traverse.

Afrinspire has supported a number of schools,

either through paying school fees for specific

pupils, or by providing money for stationery and

facilities. During the trip, Afrinspire supplied

funds to a school to pay for food for the teachers

and students, as the region had been heavily

affected by the late rainfall and start of the

wet season. This is an example of how Afrinspire

listens to the community and takes into

account their specific requirements at a certain

time.

I have described just some of the ways in which

Afrinspire is making a massive impact. We also

visited a water jar project which stores water for

use in households, as well as a farm trying different

crops and growing methods where the

obtained knowledge can then be used in other

farms. Afrinspire also works with people who

are frequently discriminated against, such as

the disabled community. For example, in Kabale

a disabled singing and dancing group has been

formed, which is a way for the disabled community

to become empowered. The group welcomed

us with a performance, initially showing

us how badly they had been treated in the past,

whereas the following act presented the abuser

repenting and being welcomed back into the

community.

The best part of the trip was visiting and interacting

with a variety of extremely inspiring people,

who are attempting to make real positive changes

in their communities and who have achieved

a great deal already. Uganda is very different to

the UK, and a major challenge for me was seeing

the level of poverty that people experienced

in many of the regions we went to. The key part

of Afrinspire’s success is the collaboration with

the local partners, working towards the common

goal of achieving the most positive impact on

Uganda’s communities.


20


This is an autoethnographic attempt to

sketch some answers to these questions,

based on my work experience in various

countries and across different ID organizations,

including IOs, NGOs, government

cooperation agencies and consulting

institutes. Drawing on subjective insights,

this piece provides reflections

regarding ID’s effectiveness, projects’

relevance, matters of organization and

efficiency, the role of politics and the

state, as well as ongoing reforms. A

word of caution: the focus here is on implementation-related

issues, leaving

aside the question of the very existence

of ID and more fundamental criticisms of

the "development apparatus” from

scholars like Arturo Escobar.

(1) EVIDENCE.

The trillion-dollar question of whether aid

“works” has been a matter of protracted

debate. There is no simple answer to it,

and researchers such as those from J-

PAL (whose founders Banerjee and

Duflo were among the winners of the

2019 Nobel prize in Economics) have

proposed to approach it through rigorous

impact evaluations of specific interventions,

rather than venturing overgeneralizing

statements.

CAMILLE BARRAS

A FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS FACING A YOUNGER RELATIVE OF

MINE WHO WAS ABOUT TO COMPLETE HIS MASTER’S DEGREE,

AND INTERROGATED ME ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE WORKING IN

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT (ID). HIS QUESTIONS WERE

TINGED WITH THE SCEPTICISM THAT OFTEN COMES WITH GOOD

ACADEMIC TRAINING ON THAT SUBJECT. THIS BROUGHT ME

SOME TEN YEARS BACK, WHEN I WAS ASKING MYSELF SIMILAR

QUESTIONS. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO WORK IN INTERNATIONAL

DEVELOPMENT? HOW DO ID ORGANIZATIONS OPERATE IN

PRACTICE? ALSO, IS THE CRITICISM FREQUENTLY DISPLAYED IN

THE MEDIA JUSTIFIED? CAN ONE SEE A CHANGE HAPPENING?

OR ARE PRACTITIONERS POISED TO GIVE IN TO CYNICISM AFTER

SOME TIME?

Rising financial constraints and public

pressure, coupled with international instruments

such as the Paris Declaration

on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and subsequent

Accra Agenda for Action (2008),

have contributed to a general shift towards

evidence-based and outcomeoriented

programs. As a result, ID agencies

are increasingly relying on tools

such as a theory of change or logical

framework, and embedding monitoring

and evaluation (M&E) and impact evaluations

into programs.

WITH A FEW EXCEPTIONS, HOWEVER, A

WIDE GAP REMAINS BETWEEN THEORY

AND PRACTICE.

Evaluation requirements are oftentimes

frowned at on the grounds that ‘we know


What we do and what the effects of the project

are’. Some agencies still use (budget) delivery

rates i.e., input indicators rather than output /

outcome indicators, as a benchmark of performance.

Understanding of M&E is sometimes

shallow among key project staff, not only concerning

cutting-edge experimental designs or

complex data analysis, but also more basic elements

of questionnaire building for example.

ON THE ONE HAND, A CERTAIN DEGREE OF

INERTIA IS UNAVOIDABLE, BECAUSE

ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE AND CAPACITY-

BUILDING TAKE TIME.

Yet, one can hardly deny that there is little fluidity,

and a mutual mistrust between academia

and practitioners, resulting in silo thinking and

behaviour. That said, there is of course legitimate

wariness towards “over-evaluitis” at the

other extreme.

(2) RELEVANCE.

Beyond the issue of whether a project achieves

its intended outcomes lie the essential question

of whether it does address pressing problems,

and with the right approach. If a needs assessment

is usually an essential component of any

proper planning process, carrying it out thoroughly

in practice is a tricky task.

PROJECTS CAN FAIL TO MEET A DEMAND,

PERHAPS MORE EASILY THAN ONE MAY THINK. A

NUMBER OF REASONS - POLITICAL, STRATEGIC,

PERSONAL - CAN SPUR THE LAUNCH OF A

PROJECT, RATHER THAN REAL NEEDS.

Contrary to common belief, ID programs are not

necessarily (or at least not always) imposed

from the outside - that is, shaped by international

actors based on external, strategic considerations.

International and national stakeholders

are often intertwined in project planning and

implementation, as also argued by Leininger in

her paper ‘Bringing the outside in’ (2010). But

even when national actors including governments

and NGO staff are involved in decisionmaking

regarding programs, there can nevertheless

be a substantial gap between the urban

upper middle class elite that they usually represent

and beneficiaries from deprived communities,

thereby complicating needs assessments.

A further hurdle is a certain tendency toward

copy-pasting of programmes and its corollary of

little out-of-the-box thinking, exacerbated by

scarce time and financial resources.

(3) EFFICIENCY.

Slow processes, an absence of streamlined procedures,

and palpable hierarchy lines are frequently

part of the daily frustrations of ID practitioners.

Especially in large organisations, one

might have (on bad days) the impression of

working for a bureaucratic monster or a “selfmaintaining”

machine. Half of the acronyms

used by the IO I worked for were still an unfathomable

mystery to me after more than a year –

my efforts to learn them were countered at each

Monday morning meeting, when a new bundle

of fresh acronyms appeared. This inevitably induces

organizational inefficiencies, as well as

practices such as bunching of large-scale conferences

at the end-of-year period to prevent

underspends.

ANOTHER PERHAPS SURPRISING AND

DISAPPOINTING ASPECT OF ID IS THE RELATIVELY

LOW LEVEL OF COORDINATION BETWEEN

ORGANIZATIONS.

At times, the reality of the ID “business” looks

more like coopetition, if not overt competition –

for funds, for ownership of results, for personal

prestige – resulting in duplication, wasted resources,

and loss of knowledge.

In spite of many shortcomings, there are silver

linings. Moreover, not all is always what it looks

like. One should avoid too much shortsightedness.

Take for example study tours. A

common practice in ID, they consist in organizing

visits of a few days, usually abroad, for a delegation

of officials or stakeholders to gain exposure

to “best practices”. Some would say that

they typically involve considerable expenditure

and little tangible return on investment.

YET I PERSONALLY WENT FROM COMPLETE

SCEPTICISM TO A SOMEWHAT MORE OPTIMISTIC

VIEW. IF WELL-PREPARED AND WITH THE RIGHT

PEOPLE SELECTED, STUDY VISITS CAN YIELD

BOUNTIFUL FRUITS.

24


I witnessed these visits contribute to building a

much-needed direct communications channel

between policy-makers and the project staff who

accompanied the visit. Similarly, policies of a foreign

country were then mentioned as an example

to follow by an MP during a parliamentary

session.

(4) POLITICS.

Politics has sometimes been considered as

“standing in the way” of ID, and development at

large. Carothers and de Gramont (“Aiding Governance

in Developing Countries”, 2011) have

shed light on how the acknowledgment that

states have a central, unavoidable position within

ID led to the emergence of governance support

as a standalone programme area of ID in the

1990s.

POLITICAL ECONOMY ANALYSES,

WELL-DESIGNED INCENTIVES AND EFFECTIVE

GOVERNMENT LIAISON ARE CRUCIAL TO THE

SUCCESS OF GOVERNANCE ASSISTANCE – AND ANY

ID PROGRAMME.

But besides strategic rationales, involving the

government is also essential in terms of democratic

legitimacy. If elementary education becomes

primarily delivered by NGOs, corporate

money can “buy social change”. Regardless of

donors’ intentions and the program’s outcomes

(whether children learn better or not), this nevertheless

grants a great deal of decision-making

power to non-elected stakeholders, as shown in

a recent documentary by The Economist

(“Charity: how effective is giving?”). Furthermore,

do not long-term, sustainable solutions imply

state capacitation? Nonetheless, state involvement

raises a set of thorny questions. How

do we avoid ID projects overloading public servants

with new tasks, and instead ensure projects

are aligned to state priorities, capacities, and job

descriptions? How do we build effective longterm

partnerships in spite of the turnover of public

servants that coincides With elections? How

can we curb politicization, or better draw the

line? How do we prevent corruption and rentseeking

behaviour in general?

These observations are drawn from mere subjective

snapshots of a very complex and vast reality,

and certainly fail to mirror its diversity. They may

also stress too much the negative, problematic

aspects and not do justice to the dynamism and

innovation taking place. ID is also undergoing

reforms. The progressive change towards highstandards

impact assessments is an example.

New financing

mechanisms – result-based financing (RBF), impact

bonds and pay by results schemes – have

come into being. ID increasingly talks about, and

integrates, design thinking, agility, digitalization,

and big data. South-South cooperation is happening,

shifting away from old-fashioned North-

South financing and knowledge transfer, bringing

with it rich potential.

TO RETURN TO THE INITIAL QUESTION:

WHEREAS MALPRACTICES AND INEFFICIEN-

CIES MIGHT BE COMMON, THE FULL PICTURE

IS

DEFINITELY LESS CLEAR-CUT. THE INSIDE

REALITY OF ID HAS NOT TURNED ME, NOR

FORMER COLLEAGUES MORE GENERALLY,

INTO CYNICAL PERSONS. BUT I HAVE BE-

COME

MORE REALISTIC AND

PRAGMATIC.

The ID sector is filled with highly capable and

genuinely committed people. Looking at all the

initiatives and projects I have worked for, the impact

was always noticeable. Going to the “field”

and meeting with children, farmers, local politicians

across different countries meant hearing

stories of change and empowerment.

HOWEVER, AT RISK OF SWEEPING GENERAL-

IZATIONS, I WOULD SAY THAT A LOT COULD

BE DONE DIFFERENTLY AND BETTER.

Programming could without a doubt benefit from

more novel, creative, outcome-oriented approaches

from a project’s main objectives to the

fine-tuning of its annual plan. There is space for

more thinking on interventions’ impact, sustainability

and relevance – as well as for more critical


CREDITS

EDITOR MUNIRA RAJKOTWALLA

SUB-EDITORS IONA STEWART, ELLIE FOX, KIARA VAN HOUT

AND ERDEM DORJKHAND

ARTISTIC DIRECTOR KATHERINE WHITFIELD

A SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS:

26


VISION

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

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