One of the things that are beginning to be present in many development efforts is the interest, capacity, and commitment to experiment with what works in the field. Today, design thinking, neuroscience approach to changing behaviors and fostering sustainable change, and the newest innovation in block chain has opened the doors for conversations around what we can borrow in other sectors, industries, and other disciplines that complement the role played by experiential and participatory, people-centered technologies.
Instead of focusing on problems and needs, these thinking revolve around solutions and takes into account the experience of end users of solution-based interventions. Rapid feedback from users engenders a series of testing that encompass the process of finding the most optimal products and services for the target users. Instead of using the traditional monitoring and evaluation, the feedback to market approach is a sure way to validate and test assumptions immediately with fewer costs and less time. The traditional development approaches have become archaic and ineffective in most of these cases.
The obvious path of using best practice from elsewhere may not be useful in many contexts. Best practice internally is the better best practice. Demonstrate where is the best practice and who are already doing it in the organization or community and magnify it for the others to emulate. That works more than imposing an alien idea or concept or model of thinking to people that have no clue as to its origins and benefits.
What to look for when using a borrowed idea?
1. Check the origins, benefits, and contextual usage. This may not fit in many contexts and situations. Is there an indigenous idea or concept that can be used instead? Are these ideas stem from a larger systems thinking or a product of innovation from other disciplines that complement existing knowledge systems?
2. How will it be embraced politically, socially, intellectually and culturally?
3. Budget the time and training costs of training people to the idea. It takes time before an approach is integrated in an organization more less in a community context. Look for advocates and champions.
4. Who are the resistors and what are the reasons for resisting? Look for underlying reasons and needs of people. Always, there is an organizational and personal objections. Find these out.
5. Reinforce new learned behavior and thinking with incentives and practical application consistently.
6. Always prepare for social proofing. That the idea has been tested, proven to work, and cost less than most of its contemporaries. Social proofing is the lubricant to cement community buy-in from leaders and early adopters.
More on these for sure. What are your thoughts for ideas borrowed and taken to new meanings and applications in development sector?
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." - Michael Jordan
When you failed at something, it's not as if you are the worst in the world. It’s just that you didn’t succeed.
Do not generalize one failure into your character or that it represents your whole life. Well, so what?
It’s never too late to go back to it and do it better, more, faster, lesser, and just use plain common sense.
The muscle that you should be exercising is your resilience muscle.
Any time that you hit a snag or a setback, or failed in something. It is not the end of the world.
Or the alternative didn’t work out or failed from the outset. The passion and mission are still there.
Take hold of the opportunity to learn from what happened.
Next time, get better at it. Chip on it slowly until you get what you dream of.
How can you motivate people? You can’t motivate people. Motivation is from within.
Those motivation speakers are fluff. They do the song and dance but afterward, you go home the same person.
Nothing has changed.
When organizations pay for motivation speakers, the CEO or executive is literally putting monies down the drain for no ROI at all. Only fluff and drama.
Motivation speaking is a billion-dollar business without any evidence of gain or return on the part of customers. Who are they kidding with their antics? T
hey cry and laugh and cry again in their whole speech. At least, with clowns and comedians, you know what you going to get.
The best motivation is finding out what you really love to do.
This is the fundamental question that will actually make you feel better and your life better.
I advise high schoolers on wanting to enter the international or community development sector to find out where their interest lies and hone in on their strengths.
These interests and strengths are the stuff some great careers are made of.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Rajah, the Co-Founder of one of the province’s top international development organization based in Lacombe, A Better World Canada.
A Better World works in 5 areas: education, health, water, agriculture, and income generation in recipient countries for typically 5 to 10 years. They partner with government, local agencies, and the people living in the community to manage and operate the projects, ensuring they become permanently independent. They work primarily in Eastern Africa, but also invest in communities in need around the globe, for example, Bolivia, Afghanistan, and even Tibet. They have a strong volunteer base from Canada that visits communities throughout the year, monitors, and prepares progress reports.
Talking to Eric Rajah, the Co-Founder, I noticed three points that stood out from our interaction.
Like other forward-thinking organizations, he is very candid about the failures they had experienced in the past 28 years of the organization. When he started the organization in 1990, A Better World decided not have offices in the countries where they have projects because they believe in training local leaders to be responsible for their change efforts. They still believe in that principle up to this day.
There was one failure that stood out from their journey. Six months after the grand opening of the school that they funded to be built, Eric came back and visited the location. He found out that classes were not being held and nobody used it. Upon further investigation, he found out that the classroom was sinking. This was a construction issue. The local school board managed the construction and handed the contract to one of the relatives of the board director.
The result was very clear. He told the school board the ABW will not work with them again unless they fix the problem. The school board went to their MP, where the MP chastise them for the unethical practice.
The experience was a lesson to be learned. After the incident, any project with the community has to have a strong assessment in terms of capacity and actually working with them on the design, management, monitoring and evaluation of the project. Listening to the people, understanding their concerns and needs, and estimating their capacities, abilities, and existing assets are very important to get a good grasp of the context on the ground.
Corruption, tribalism, competition, bribery, and other unethical practices/mindset have posed as challenges in the success of their projects in the developing countries. There was one incident that they decided not to work in a particular community in a particular country. They discovered that the community leaders’ real intent was money. There was no intent to improve their situation for the better with an outside support. “They asked for things that they don’t really need,” added Eric.
There were other related issues on this interview. Here is the short excerpt. Enjoy!
When we fail in our organizations, companies, and as individuals, there is a tendency to hide it as it is embarrassing, deflating, and ultimately hurts the ego. But if this not a life and death situation, or flying in a commercial plane, or undertaking a heart surgery, failures should be instructive.
Failure should enable us to see that it did not work and learn from it in a constructive way. Instead of assigning blame, firing employees or suppliers, or doing a drastic action, it is important to get the key lessons and move on.
In international development and community development, there are tons of mistakes and clear failures that have been made. Some organizations are open about it like coffee houses that are open to anyone who would like a nice coffee. Some organizations have put in under the rug and kept quiet because of fear that if funders and donors would find out, they are dead ducks.
But to be honest with you, this is an extreme situation. The lack of funders support is not about that you have made a mistake or failed in the projects funded, it's because either it is an unwinnable pursuit in the face of evidence in the first place, or second because of unethical, dishonest, and other practices that prove misaligned to their fundamental principles and values.
Great funders do not pull out because of failures. They actually encourage experimentation and creative problem-solving.
It is important that lessons learned are encouraged including great failures and mistakes. What happens in many conversations and roundtables is that, they pat each other in the back that everything is going well, but, these are rarely genuine conversations. No one wants to be vulnerable and to be put on the spot on issues that might affect their public image or reputation.
What happened is that people discuss what works and did not work? These are discussions that are very much watered down and never instructive. I looked at a lot of evaluations and evaluation findings and my favorite spot is the lessons learned section. While some organizations are truly being honest about their failings and inadequacies, and laying it all bare and dry. Some have not really come up to the integrity test. Again, fear of donors not funding them again or investors going away.
When you cover and hide it, then you see it repeated in other organizations. They don’t know any better. Some of them have just started a non-profit, put up their first projects in one developing country with the advice of so and so, etc. Nobody has told them. There is no book that gives light. There were textbooks in the policies and politics of aid but there are no books on the practices that work and the basics of doing good. Conversations in the sector are more fluff than actually useful.
Like other sectors that embrace failure or integrate failure constructively in their learning and evaluation eco-systems, it is high time to put failures in their best light. As the wise adage says, the wise person is that one that learns from someone’s mistakes and doesn’t have to make it himself/herself. Let’s share our failures the way we do with our successes. Let’s make it a conversation piece next time we talk about innovation, results, and impact. Let's us help those who have just started and needed a clear -don't do these things, please! caution.
Share with us your failure and what have you learned from it?