I had the good fortune to participate in the recent FAILfaire event in DC organized by the MobileActive  NGO and the innovations team  at the World Bank Institute. What's a FAILfaire, you ask? In the words of the organizers :
"While we often focus on highlighting successes in our field, it’s no secret that many projects just don’t work – some don’t scale, some aren’t sustainable, some can’t get around bureaucratic hoops, and many fail due to completely unanticipated barriers. At FAILFaire we want to recognize the failures: the pilots that never got anywhere, the applications that are not delivering, the projects that are not having any measurable impact on the lives of people, and the cultural or technical problems that arise."
While investigations into 'failure' like this to promote learning are increasingly common in some parts of the private sector, the public sector has been, for the most part, quite reluctant to engage in this sort of thing (the bureaucratic incentives for doing so point in the wrong direction for most public officials and civil servants). Hopefully last week's event provides some additional 'courage' for organizations active in international development to permit their staff (as well as those NGOs whose activities they often fund) to participate in and benefit from such learning opportunities, both within the walls of their own institutions, and publicly as well.
- Those interested in the concept may also wish to follow the related Twitter account, @failfaire .
- My FAILfaire presentation was drawn from the EduTech blog post titled Worst Practice in ICT Use in Education .
Please note: The image used at the top of this blog post ["failure is not (only) child's play"] comes from Flickr user KimNavarre  via Wikimedia Commons and is used according to the terms of its Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license .