Is the system of international aid about to collapse?

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So says Owen Barder. Money quote:

So we may be on the brink of a collapse of the entire “business model”, as traumatic as the closure of newspapers in the United States (the UK is a year or so behind).  Perhaps we should see this as an opportunity, rather than a threat.  Collapse may be the appropriate response, an opportunity to build a new system from the bottom up.

While the problems of complexity layered upon complexity that Owen points to in his post are very real, I don't think the comparison between international aid and business models bares scrutiny. If a business gets overly burdened by excessive layers of hierarchy and co-ordination, it will simply be forced to go bankrupt (with some notable exceptions during the recent financial crisis). But if aid agencies fail to deliver, this does not necessarily force them out of business. Given Owen's earlier post on variation and selection in the aid world, I get the feeling he may only be half serious about this one. 

(H/t: Giulio Quaggiotto)


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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