Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

A Story about the International Development Industry: Chapter 1

About a month ago, my friend Patrick posted this comment:

Interesting work, Beth. I am curious, if you were to position public engagement on a two axis plane, one being meaningful public engagement (so the low end would be tokenism, the high end empowerment) and usefulness of engagement output (so the low would be ‘not at all, data is too low fidelity’ and the high would be ‘amazing, this informs my planning and decision making), how would you position AVM compared to other tools you have encountered in Ghana, SA, and Canada?

First, a “two axis plane” is known as a graph to the rest of the world.

Second, I haven’t answered his question because let’s say, hypothetically, that I would position AVM on the low end of either of the axis – it’s not very professional to criticize this project online on the public interwebs.

Instead, I’m going to tell you a story that one of my friend’s told me (let’s call her Amy) about her work in Ghana.  All the names will stay vague, but it’ll illustrate some common frustrations with the international development industry.

Chapter 1

Once upon a time, Moon Industries sent out a call for proposals for a project that they wanted to fund.  An organization read the project details and decided that they wanted to do it.  They asked another organization to partner with them to do the technical aspects and a third organization to run the training workshops.  The technical organization suggested to the first (coordinating) organization that they hire a fourth organization that had experience working in the Ghanaian government.

Amy works for the fourth organization.


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