El 15 de septiembre fui invitado a la Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional al Desarrollo (AECID) para dar una charla sobre nuevas ideas y debates emergentes sobre eficacia de la ayuda en el mundo anglosajón en torno a Thinking and Working Politically, Doing Development Differently o Results-Based Approaches. A pesar de la densidad de contenidos y la miríada de acrónimos, la presentación despertó un debate bastante animado, y con suerte habrá plantado semillas que piquen la curiosidad de algnos de nuestros expertos. Para quien esté interesado en lo último en innovación y los desafíos de gestionar el cambio, comparto aquí el powerpoint de la presentación.
Meses después de haber tomado la decisión de bloguear principalmente en inglés, de repente me llega la oportunidad de escribir para un público español. Ironías de la vida. Y esto viene a cuento de una iniciativa encomiable de la gente de ISGlobal y el editor del blog 3500 Millones., quien la semana pasada orquestró una visita de parlamentarios españoles a Londres para comprobar de primera mano cuán diferente es la política de desarrollo aquí: el nivel de compromiso político entre los principales partidos, la audacia e independencia del ministerio de cooperación al desarrollo (DFID), y los considerables fondos públicos que se dedican a la investigación independiente para mejorar la calidad de la ayuda.
Yo ya he escrito en otras ocasiones sobre las limitaciones del sistema español, aparentes incluso para un observador distante como yo. Pero es que cada encuentro personal con trabajadores de la AECID confirma esta impresión, hasta tal punto que la comparación entre Reino Unido y España resulta francamente deprimente. Lo interesante – casi podría decir, lo esperanzador – de la reunión de la semana pasada fue constatar que estas limitaciones no resultan invisibles a todos nuestros políticos, y que las ganas de hacer las cosas mejor quizás creen un espacio para el debate e incluso la reforma.
Hay muchas cosas que me gustaría aportar a este debate, como investigador en un centro independiente financiado con dinero público, como académico que intenta ayudar a los practicantes, y como participantes ocasional en varios debates punteros sobre el futuro de la ayuda (Doing Development Differently, Thinking and Working Politically…). Pero si todo va bien, mis contribuciones sobre estos temas no serán ya aquí, sino en el blog 3500 millones. Porque lo verdaderamente interesante de la investigación aplicada no es gritar a la nada como un eremita en el desierto, sino sumar otra voz más a una insurgencia intelectual en ciernes.
For English, press 1; para Español, pulse 2.
[Re-posted from the ESID blog]
Last week DFID’s research team hosted representatives from four research programme consortia on development, including ESID, for a debate and set of presentations on what we have found so far and what – if anything – DFID can do about it. Without going into details – there were surveys, concepts, migrants, onions, and even vampires – it was yet another interesting opportunity to witness that uncomfortable interface between academic and practitioner frustrations. In a very polite and reasoned way, researchers shouted to DFID staff that “context matters, reality is complex, and you’d better take politics into account!”, while DFID staff in turn shouted back that “we too are subject to a political context, and you’d better show us how what you are suggesting would work in practice!” Of course, this being a professional event in the UK, there wasn’t any actual shouting; but one could sense the deep-seated frustration, misunderstanding, even recrimination underlying the entire event. Eventually, we ended up where all these meetings seem to end: with the realization that everyone needs to do more to facilitate stronger researcher-practitioner linkages. Which is not a bad message at all. But it still makes me wonder what comes next. Continue reading
People who have met me in person know that I am a skeptic, either out of conviction or because somebody has to be. Part of this comes from my upbringing: too many Marx brothers films growing up. Like all good Marxians (of the absurd persuasion), I enjoy quoting Groucho’s famous message to the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills: “Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.” Therefore, I find it difficult to say the following: I seem to have joined a club, and it is one I am happy to belong to. Damn you, Doing Development Differently! Continue reading
Statement from the October 2014 ‘Doing Development Differently’ workshop [re-posted from here]
Too many development initiatives have limited impact. Schools are built but children do not learn. Clinics are built but sickness persists. Governments adopt reforms but too little changes for their citizens.
This is because genuine development progress is complex: solutions are not simple or obvious, those who would benefit most lack power, those who can make a difference are disengaged and political barriers are too often overlooked. Many development initiatives fail to address this complexity, promoting irrelevant interventions that will have little impact.
Some development initiatives, however, have real results. Some are driven domestically while others receive external support. They usually involve many players – governments, civil society, international agencies and the private sector – working together to deliver real progress in complex situations and despite strong resistance. In practice, successful initiatives reflect common principles.
- They focus on solving local problems that are debated, defined and refined by local people in an ongoing process.
- They are legitimised at all levels (political, managerial and social), building ownership and momentum throughout the process to be ‘locally owned’ in reality (not just on paper).
- They work through local conveners who mobilise all those with a stake in progress (in both formal and informal coalitions and teams) to tackle common problems and introduce relevant change.
- They blend design and implementation through rapid cycles of planning, action, reflection and revision (drawing on local knowledge, feedback and energy) to foster learning from both success and failure.
- They manage risks by making ‘small bets’: pursuing activities with promise and dropping others.
- They foster real results – real solutions to real problems that have real impact: they build trust, empower people and promote sustainability.
As an emerging community of development practitioners and observers, we believe that development initiatives can – and must – have greater impact.
We pledge to apply these principles in our own efforts to pursue, promote and facilitate development progress, to document new approaches, to spell out their practical implications and to foster their refinement and wider adoption.
We want to expand our community to include those already working in this way.
We call on international development organisations of all kinds to embrace these principles as the best way to address complex challenges and foster impact. We recognise the difficulties, but believe that more effective strategies and approaches can generate higher and lasting impact. Continue reading
[Re-posted from the ESID blog]
Two weeks ago Harvard Kennedy School and ODI co-hosted a very particular kind of workshop, entitled “Doing Development Differently”. I say particular because I have not attended anything similar in my years as a grad student or researcher: the list of participants was small, largely a self-selected group mixing incredibly qualified veterans and refreshingly energetic newcomers; the format of sessions was heavily geared towards interaction, so that everyone felt like a contributor; the pace of debate was relentless, with real space for reaction and accumulation; and the point of it all was not simply to share knowledge or pad a CV, but to build a community and even lay down the foundations of a manifesto. Credit for all this must go to the three individuals who led the experiment: Harvard‘s Matt Andrews, and ODI‘s Marta Foresti and Leni Wild. Reacting against the unfortunate trend of getting the “usual suspects” of aid together for yet another session of group therapy, they conceived and successfully executed a different model for informed policy debate. Continue reading