A recent economist article talks about getting better results from development projects:
There is tremendous untapped capacity in unlikely places – Sudanese villages, public sector institutions in Kenya, and countless other developing world communities.
In Sierra Leone:
“Only 1,000 people used HIV/AIDS Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) services over two years. Then, over 100 days, a small local team increased use of VCT services by 17,500.”
“We can set a policy that out of each dollar spent on projects and programs, 10 cents are spent on unleashing this local performance capacity reserve. This would apply equally to “hard” infrastructure projects and to “soft” training or capacity-building projects. We contend that this step alone would improve these programs’ and projects’ impact by at least a factor of 10, or even 100.”
However I don’t think whether the money went to “hard”, “soft” or “capacity building” was what caused the 100-fold increase in people tested. Instead, I think these were the important factors:
- Local org.
- Local org decided VCT testing was it’s own priority.
- Local org used local people in smart, cost-effective ways (including local volunteers)
- Local org did not wait for outside help, outside directions, or outside financing
- Local org provided a FUN incentive to get tested.
Fun and Local
The authors overlooked the power of fun in their commentary. Without fun, people are generally unwilling to waste time doing things, even if those things are in their own best interest – like getting tested.
I’ve also written previously that funding for fun, local projects needs put more of the resources in the hands of local people, not governments, agencies, or even local authorities. Currently, the bigger the project budget, the smaller the percentage of money reaching local people.
A Better Project Budget Breakdown:
That 10 percent should go towards local organizations with fun ideas, and used to build systems that help mobilize local people. Organizations with a clear goal in mind who have had any previous social impact in their community – such as getting 2,000 people tested – should be allowed to tap this money.
I think GlobalGiving does this. Our due diligence process identifies competent organizations with a demonstrated social impact (even if small). We teach them how to mobilize people, donors, and articulate a clear vision for themselves. We’re building a SMS feedback loop system to allow these organizations to better keep in touch with their communities. And we try to to make it fun.
I think these other suggestions from the article were good:
- More coaching, less managing by outsiders.
- A space where local orgs can build a sense of ownership, commitment and confidence, and identity.