Upon reading the Effectiveness-lab’s phony development narrative series 1, my development peers hang me out to dry. Some did not take well the attribution of the enduring state of peasantry and poverty in Uganda, to the International NonGovernmental organisation (INGO). The Effectiveness-lab stands by its position i.e. that the INGO in Uganda has failed the poor and has been mostly ineffective in doing its job. We have heard statements from development practitioners like ‘the Uganda government has not done its bit’; even then, we have not seen evidence that exonerates the INGO in Uganda for failing the poor
If there is proof that the results of the recently concluded population census In Uganda are wrong, we may consider shifting our position. We also know that back in their posh Kampala offices – INGO’s shall critically analyse the results of the census, well aware that many will question their efforts of the last fourteen years. Can INGO’s prove that the results of the last Uganda census, specifically ‘economic exclusion’ of the poor are ‘wrong’? If they cannot, INGO’s in Uganda then have a problem to solve – and perhaps one that borders on their credibility!
INGO’s in Uganda understand very well that debating certain results of the Uganda population census can become a poisoned chalice for them, and we explain why: INGO’s operate in an industry sector that mostly self ‘appoints’ and ‘controls’ the equivalent of ‘external auditors’ for their program work. Wielding such power over their ‘auditors’, INGO ‘end of project evaluations’, paint a rosy picture of the state of poverty. We bet that from the so-called ‘end of project evaluation’ reports, Ugandan INGO’s can show the world evidence that they have changed the fortunes of many Ugandan peasants from absolute poverty to something better; to the Ugandan INGO, many peasants in Uganda are involved in petty trade, contrary to what the population census results report.
Our problem at the Effectiveness-lab is that these so called ‘end of project evaluations’ have a fundamental failing – the INGO program-evaluation industry sub-sector is run by ex INGO seniors, big consulting interests with self-interest in the perpetuity of the INGO industry sector, etc. To a certain extent, it is like the gravy train, and we know how good that leaves many of us that work or have worked in development.
It is true that over time, extremely successful industry sector leaders whether in the for-profit or non-profit sectors, amass so much power and influence over others in the industry sector; such power has been used to control and manipulate industry sector level ‘checks and balances’. Moreover, checks and balances that are meant to ensure that such powerful entities, also remain effective and efficient and continue to serve the interests of the masses. Industry sectors that have controlled and manipulated such ‘checking and balancing’ regimes have gotten into trouble; the global banking sector and how it plunged the world into a near economic catastrophe is a poignant example – the ripple effect of which, we still feel today.
Is the INGO in Uganda and the international development sector heading in the direction of a compromised ‘checks and balances’ regime? Well, we won’t attempt answering this question with a linear Yes/No answer. Instead, we ask the questions below, whose answers should in turn help answer the question about a compromised ‘checks and balance’ regime by the INGO:
- Are the results of the Uganda population census correct i.e. that 69% of households are engaged in subsistence agriculture and are yet to join the money economy in Uganda and that Only 31% of Ugandans are engaged in any form of income generating activity (stagnant since 2002)?
- Do you imagine that Uganda’s INGO economic ‘project evaluations’ show the same level of economic exclusion of the poor like the Uganda population census?
- Are the INGO’s working with the same population that has informed the Uganda population census figures?
- How can the impact of the INGO work in Uganda, however, minuscule, not change the population census results (bullet one above) in a positive manner?
- Given the number of INGO’s running pro-poor economic programmes, how could they fail to improve the figures in bullet one above even by a percentage point or less? Is it a botched critical-mass?
Development friends, something is wrong, and we need it fixed in the immediate. I have worked in international development for many years – a key motivation in starting the Effectiveness-Lab blog was to challenge development practitioners mindset about the manner international development is done. Whether on the inside or outside of international development, the Effectiveness-Lab shall continue to challenge the status-quo. It has to be better and SMARTER
In 2015, the Effectiveness-lab run a blog on the need for a fourth-sector in development – the other three sectors being: civil society, government, and the private sector. In the fourth sector, we may get the kind of leader and mindset that will change international development. A leader that will bring a different narrative, and not fear of the unknown. A leader that will undo what is and do it again – what is is done from scratch may stand the test of time; and on a bigger note, what is new, may bring about the death of the INGO
Read more about
The INGO crisis of Identity and how to address it
Gabazira’s blog – The Effectiveness-lab:
The future of the INGO – a comparative analysis
Having listened to feedback on the phony development narrative Series 1 from very accomplished development friends, it’s about time we looked again at some of the Effectiveness-lab’s blog conclusions on civil society:
This was the conclusion to the blog, The INGO crisis of Identity:
‘It is my conviction that the INGO that will survive to deliver next-generation development should have already started changing elements of its DNA. It is currently mid/late cycle of stage 2 above i.e. the ‘midlife-crisis INGO’. Given the right leadership, an open mind, and the knack to innovate, the latter entity should arrive at stage 3 i.e. ‘4th-sector entity’ five to ten years from now. This 4th-sector entity is: small, nimble, & an effective operator with a new value proposition and re-found brand-strength.
The battle will be won not on size, physical footprint, or country dominance for those countries with a culture of wanting to dominate. Instead, it will be won by people that bring 4th-sector thinking to development discourse and tailor services and products towards real needs of the beneficiary.’
Is the Ugandan INGO ready for this shift?