Because I work in the international development sector, I’m ever conscious of the lack of bottom line economics that our private sector peers work with i.e. International development doesn’t work for profit and is normally not judged by what it brings to the bottom line ($). To the contrary, like government, international development effectiveness has many times been judged on its ability to spend money – the so called ‘burn-rate’ metric, when talking project management. The more it spends and meets original spend plans, the more development is judged to be delivering succesful program – I’m not sure if I’m supposed to call that effectiveness, as I cant attest to the value (effectiveness) that follows spending, in order to meet burn-rate metrics.
International development sector systems have been designed to deliver projects, in extremely tight and boxed timelines, much like governments work within extremely tight fiscal parameters. It can be a tick-box exercise at times. The good news is that for many working in international development, the passion to help those that are vulnerable is never short. Perhaps the latter, may be good compensation for the lack of zeal and drive to make ever huge profits, that drive our private sector peers toward being ever more effective
Even with the passion mentioned above, without clear bottom line metrics, international development will always find it hard to define and have proper steers towards effectiveness.
Effectiveness-governance has been left to organisational and donor judgement calls, at times extremely diluted by the various dilemmas that extreme poverty throws to those trying to address it. For example, how will you measure the effcetivenss of organisations fighting Ebola and its complexities in west-africa or an organisation trying to stop FGM in areas of Africa that accept it culturally? It is not as simple as a balance sheet and income statements, that show how much you have earned on top of what you spent.
It is the above situation that all in international development or indeed any social-bussiness, have at times used to their advantage when avoiding clear-accountability and it’s direct consequence, increasing effectiveness. Increasingly, whole development organisational eco-systems are being challenged to show value-addition in the face of constant or worsening poverty metrics – it is no longer enough to be passionate about eradicating poverty – the new paradigm is about proving value for money and increasingly, linking effectiveness to success at shifting the fortunes of the poor in a clear sustainable manner
This blog, interests itself in all aspects that look at redefining effectiveness paradigms for the development sector, learning from our private sector peers and I dare say, other new, cutting edge, and increasingly succesful international development actors.