Time and age turns our pages

Maybe it was Twaweza*’s bad luck to have Bono extolling their work on holding local governments accountable when there’s little evidence to point to in the matter. But time and again funding NGOs, bilateral donors, ‘local’ NGOs claim credit for stuff that…. well…. they haven’t actually done.

I remember the discussion with someone who had got a lot of money to do Public Expenditure Tracking. He didn’t know how to do it, his staff didn’t know how to do it. They didn’t even know if it was worth doing or not in their District. I asked him to level with me. We looked at each other over our mugs of tea and he replied: “ah, si unajua dunia ya wahisani?” Don’t you know the donor world?

I remember bringing ‘celebrity’ advocates (I had actually never heard of them) to see a ‘partner’ organisation’s  work. None of what we saw was directly supported by us (we supported their HQ costs and some benighted advocacy work). All was presented to the visitors as having been funded by us.: the big modern market place; the dynamic women’s group now selling to a supermarket; the road that took us there. Our HQ trumpeted the same stuff in newspapers back home.

I remember the NGO that was funded to do certain stuff in villages even though it had…. already done that stuff and it didn’t need doing again. Was the donor interested when I told them? Not really. Was the recipient NGO worried? Not particularly.

Thankfully most of my employers have been a lot more honest. But those examples aren’t so extreme.  From what I know, Twaweza is working on some interesting and innovative stuff. I just don’t know exactly what it is and obviously neither does Bono. And to be fair, they are happy to raise some awkward questions about how this business is conducted (over 2mb..). But if you’re going to end up in the NYT, then be prepared for people to google in follow up.

The overwhelming need to keep telling positive stories that keep the money flowing is a trap. Don’t be caught in it. Do things in sequence……… which takes time.


*link changed Feb 11 09 to take you to their new website, not the interim Hivos hosted one.

4 responses to “Time and age turns our pages

  1. Good idea with the videos!

  2. Do you know any honest development organisations? Please mention one, I will send their address to Bono and Twaweza. A director of an establish northern org explained to me once the fine art of planning development work. He knew for certain the plans would not work but he was still doing it.

    • I know many good ones actually. But they need to rub shoulders with the charlatans as funding agencies are very reluctant to call out the latter group, which just grows and grows.

  3. Pingback: Dead Aid? « Serengeti Advisers Media

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