Knowledge is Power – In today’s blog post Manuel Etter follows the historical traces of this saying emphasizing an action-oriented quality of knowledge rather than its power maintaining virtue. In a second step he links this historical meaning of knowledge with the future of development cooperation. He questions the conditions and determinants that permit to find adequate answers to the issues of the future. He asks how development cooperation and above all knowledge management and exchange should be organized in order to meet increasingly global challenges. (more…)
Recently, there was a meeting in USAID on complexity theory and development. DEVCO is developing guidance on political economy analysis. The World Bank just published a research paper on participation that singles out standard management approaches as main reasons why participatory approaches normally do not work. In our business, when the big ones start talking about something, there is change in the air. And in fact similar developments are taking place in most donor agencies. (more…)
By Adrian Gnägi
A few weeks ago I participated in a training course on impact oriented monitoring and evaluation. The course really helped me organizing my thinking on managing development programs for impact. Time and money very well invested, I found. One critical moment for me was when one of the trainers presented an overview on results terminology. Even though her presentation was introduced with a Confucius citation (my translation: “if the concepts are not right, the order of things is lost”), she presented the 4 terminology clusters as “some do it like this, others do it like that”. I felt compelled to explain why I think this free choice of results terminology to be wrong. Since I was struggling to explain it in simple words, I decided to write it up. That’s what this post is all about: why results terminology matters. (more…)
The “Facebook Revolution” is in everyone’s mouth: How come? What does the power of web 2.0 imply for operational activities aiming to increase participation in socio, economic and political change processes? Patrick Kalas (former ICT4D officer/SDC) illuminates the phenomenon, not without sparking a critical reflection on its side-effects, and shares keyfindings from an upcoming SDC workingpaper on the issue.
“……..I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”
(Invictus by William Ernest Henley)
The genie is out of the bottle. Scanning the news reveals that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) such as mobile phones, Internet, Satellite television and social media are having an effect on events in the so-called Arab Spring. The “Facebook Revolution” is becoming a buzzword. Not sure how and why, click here. Does this have any practical significance for our operational activities in projects or programs aiming to increase participation in socio, economic and political change processes? (more…)
by Adrian Gnägi
How is it possible that
- social change is emergent and therefore cannot be precisely planned for, but
- LogFrame is the standard tool in aid for planning and reporting on social transformation?
Is theory wrong or are development practitioners systematically lying about what they are doing? In this post I argue that the issue is not lying, but rather precariously muddling through. Imprecision and cascade reporting are the two main techniques used in our business to reconcile LogFrame and emergence. This is unhealthy.
In a recent blog post on what has gone wrong with MfDR (Managing for Development Results) I argued that support for social transformation should not be conceived using LogFrames. In a comment, Rick Davies expressed puzzlement with this demand. I can easily understand why people do not want to let go of LogFrame. The LogFrame approach is backed by the most powerful lobby in our organizations: it is the middle managers who make it our standard. LogFrames are still here after 50 years because middle managers get from them what they need: a nutshell project summary; the link between resources, activities and results; and indicators for measurement and reporting. LogFrames are a great tool for organizing funding relationships. Unfortunately, they are utterly inappropriate as guidance for implementation (see my earlier post on the usefullness of different program formats). This is why we need to go for the institutional struggle, that’s why the standard must fall. (more…)
By Adrian Gnägi
There is growing international frustration with the way the MfDR (managing for development results) agenda developed. In this post, I reflect on a widely read article by Andrew Natsios, former head of USAID.
A few weeks ago IDS organized an event entitled “the big push back meeting”. The aim of the meeting was to galvanize a movement against the “current trend for funding organisations to support only those programmes designed to deliver easily measurable results”. During the event, a recent essay by Andrew Natsios on what has gone bad with the results agenda in aid was frequently referred to. Natsios message is that “Obsessive Measurement Disorder” (OMD, “… an intellectual dysfunction rooted in the notion that counting everything in government programs will produce better policy choices and improved management”, p.4 ) has spread in development agencies to a degree that it nowadays prevents transformational development. He claims that the drive for transparency and accountability has become the major enemy of good development practice, the main obstacle for developmental impact. Natsios is careful in pointing out that the results agenda was well intended and produced some desirable change in aid. His focus is on the loss of balance, though, on the sickening consequences of taking into account what is measured only. (more…)
- The project manager is an agronomist by training. He does his best. But since the project is to support the development of municipalities, he is on a very steep learning curve.
- The project management team was planned with 4 professionals. Since some of the funding proposals were turned down by donors, the partner organization only recruited 2 staff. They did not adapt the activity plan, though, so staff are constantly overstretched.
- And so on: the IT system is not working properly and project staff therefore cannot access guidelines and templates in head office, the desk officer is on maternity leave and the project team therefore is cut off from advice and governance, the project was conceived without Government consultation and therefore is not integrated into the national dynamic, the partner organization is new in the country and therefore has no allies yet etc etc..
Bad, really bad. Not entirely unfamiliar, though. But what really left me speechless was my friend’s conclusion: “I will make sure this agronomist is put through an at least 5 day project management training next year”. (more…)
The need for a trustful (learning) culture that is open for emerging patterns of collaboration
By Manuel Flury
SDC experiences a period of far reaching organisational change. The management informs the collaborators via the SDC-Intraweb and exchanges with the middle cadre. Collaborators share their questions in the cafeteria, chatting around filing cabinets and walking through the corridors:
“What thematic policies are still valid?” - “Is poverty alleviation now just one of several aims of SDC or still the main “raison d’être”?” – “Nobody knows exactly how thematic experts may bring in their concerns!” – “There is lacking information, and the interfaces are not clear.” – “The service level agreement with the newly created support at Ministry level was elaborated without even consulting us.” - “The new regulations and guidelines for elaborating credit proposals are nowhere to be found on the Intraweb.” – “The guidelines for the office management report are just approved, there is no scope for any adjustments now.” (more…)
By Adrian Gnägi
This is the third post inspired by the conference “Evaluation Revisited: improving the quality of evaluative practice by embracing complexity” held in Utrecht on 20./21. May 2010.
A few weeks ago, Freiburgstrasse 130 (SDC Head Office) was struck by an earthquake. Work flows stopped, the atmosphere changed, some colleagues shut their office doors and stopped talking, others wandered from office to office and talked for days. Something unprecedented had happened: In one single operations committee meeting, 3 entry proposals for local governance programs were turned down. Millions of Swiss Francs, months of preparatory work, scores of people concerned. Emotions, arguments, alliances, strategies, formal and tacit norms – one huge mess. But one overriding impression – what had happened was not right. Within days, roughly one fifth of SDC Head Office staff had signed a petition to senior management. No one can remember having seen something like this before.
By Adrian Gnägi
A few days ago, a colleague working in a partner country passed by in SDC Head Office and gave a presentation about his work. He presented frighteningly impressive graphs that show how fast desertification is advancing. Many rural herding families will be forced to migrate to the cities in the coming ten years if nothing happens. Luckily, the Government drew up a state-of-the-art national action plan, based on the international convention against desertification. Donors have aligned with this action plan and support the Government through harmonized aid modalities. The country is moving towards a mining economy with few new jobs outside agriculture, though, the colleague concluded, and the major challenge for the future will be to channel some of the mining revenues to poor rural families. (more…)
By Adrian Gnägi
On May 20th/21st 2010 I participated in a conference entitled „Evaluation revisited – improving the quality of evaluative practice by embracing complexity“. In the lines below I sum up my take on this most inspiring event.