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How can big aid organizations become Fit for the Future? Summary of my new paper

Duncan Green's picture

My navel-gazing paper on the future of INGOs and other big aid beasts came out last week. Here’s a summary I wrote for the Guardian. Thanks to all those who fed in on earlier drafts. Oxfam’s Deputy CEO Penny Lawrence gives a semi-official response.

UK International Search and Rescue teamA miasma of existential doubt seems to hang over large chunks of the aid industry, even here in the UK, where I’ve argued before that a combination of government, NGOs, think tanks, academics, media, public opinion and history constitutes a particularly productive and resilient ‘development cluster’. The doubts materialize in serial bouts of navel-gazing, worrying away about our ‘value add’ and future role (if any).

So when asked to add to the growing pile of blue sky reports, I decided to approach the topic from a different angle: what does all the stuff I’ve been reading and writing about systems thinking, complexity, power and politics mean for how international NGOs and other big aid beasts function in the future?

The result, published this month by Oxfam, is a discussion paper, Fit For the Future? But if you can’t face its 20 pages, here are some highlights:

Campaign Art: Children Share their Dreams for the Future

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Our Future World, a nonprofit organization aiming to inspire and connect young people, launched a global campaign using the hashtag #TweetaDream in more than 35 countries. The campaign asked children and youth across the world to share their dreams for the future by answering the question “What if every child was inspired to seek genius?”  In response, children and youth sculpted, painted, photographed and used a variety of other resources to visually demonstrate what they want to achieve. 
 
VIDEO: #TweetaDream


Quote of the week: J.K. Rowling

Sina Odugbemi's picture

J.K. Rowling "We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."

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J.K. Rowling, a British novelist best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, selling more than 400 million copies. Rowling has led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 
The Challenge Of Connecting The Unconnected
TechCrunch
Every time we return to or sign up for an Internet service (e.g. Facebook, Google, Gmail, YouTube, etc.), we rely on what UX experts call a “mental model” for navigating through the choices. A mental model is essentially a person’s intuition of how something works based on past knowledge, similar experiences and common sense. So even when something is new, mental models help to make sense of it, utilizing the human brain’s ability to transcode knowledge and recognize patterns. For instance, most of our grandparents can hit the ground running with changing the channel or increasing the volume when handed the remote control for the latest television available in the market today, squarely because of a well-developed mental model for TV remote control units. But our grandparents may not have the same level of success when using Internet services, smartphones or tablets. Under-developed mental models in these domains are their primary obstacles

Beyond Magic Bullets in Governance Reform
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Domestic reformers and external donors have invested enormous energy and resources into improving governance in developing countries since the 1990s. Yet there is still remarkably little understanding of how governance progress actually occurs in these contexts. Reform strategies that work well in some places often prove disappointing elsewhere. A close examination of governance successes in the developing world indicates that effective advocacy must move beyond a search for single-focus “magic bullet” solutions toward an integrated approach that recognizes multiple interrelated drivers of governance change.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

The State of  Broadband 2014:  Broadband  for all
Broadband Commission for Digital Development (I​TU and UNESCO)
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to promote the adoption of effective broadband policies and practices for achieving development goals, so everyone can benefit from the advantages offered by broadband. Through this Report, the Broadband Commission seeks to raise awareness and enhance understanding of the importance of broadband networks, services, and applications to guide international broadband policy discussions and support the expansion of broadband where it is most needed. This year, the Report includes a special focus on the importance of integrating ICT skills into education to ensure that the next generation is able to compete in the digital economy.

Facebook Lays Out Its Roadmap for Creating Internet-Connected Drones
Wired
If companies like Facebook and Google have their way, everyone in the world will have access to the internet within the next few decades. But while these tech giants seem to have all the money, expertise, and resolve they need to accomplish that goal—vowing to offer internet connections via things like high-altitude balloons and flying drones—Yael Maguire makes one thing clear: it’s going to be a bumpy ride. “We’re going to have to push the edge of solar technology, battery technology, composite technology,” Maguire, the engineering director of Facebook’s new Connectivity Lab, said on Monday during a talk at the Social Good Summit in New York City, referring to the lab’s work on drones. “There are a whole bunch of challenges.”

How Should INGOs Prepare for the Coming Disruption? Reading the Aid/Development Horizon Scans (so that you don’t have to)

Duncan Green's picture

Gosh, INGOs do find themselves fascinating. Into my inbox plop regular exercises in deep navel-gazing –both excessively self-regarding and probably necessary. They follow a pretty standard formula:

  • Everything is changing. Mobile phones! Rise of China!
  • Everything is speeding up. Instant feedback! Fickle consumers! Shrinking product cycles!
  • You, in contrast are excruciatingly slow, bureaucratic and out of touch. I spit on you and your logframes.
  • Transform or die!

How Are African Youth Doing? Interactive Map Helps Visualize Progress and Challenges

Ravi Kumar's picture

Available in Français

What can be done to help African youth improve their prospects for a brighter future?

The first step might be to understand the challenges they face.

Recently, Microsoft Chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates wrote a terrific piece in the Wall Street Journal on why we need to measure the world’s problems to solve them. “You can achieve incredible progress if you set a clear goal and find a measure that will drive progress toward that goal…,” said Gates.

That’s true.

What Can South Asia Do to Make the Big Leap?

Ejaz Ghani's picture

Last week, I discussed the optimistic and pessimistic views of South Asia's development potential. As I highlighted in my book, Reshaping Tomorrow, South Asia is among the fastest growing regions in the world, but it is also home to the largest concentration of people living in conditions of debilitating poverty, human misery, gender disparities, and conflict.

I also ask if South Asia is Ready for the Big Leap. The optimistic view is that India will achieve double-digit growth rates benefiting the rest of South Asia. The pessimistic view is that growth will be derailed by structural and transformational challenges. In this entry, I will make some suggestions on how South Asia could realize the optimistic view.

What can be done?


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