In addition to sharing my adventures in development with my friends, family, and other readers, I generally try to stick to a couple of principles in my blogging. One, I try not to involve my work to an extent that would jeopardize any of the work that we do. And two, I try to keep a limit to airing my often conflicting sentiments about the international development field.
That being said, I felt it only appropriate to share what the top in the industry are saying. Andrew Natsios, former head of the US Agency of International Development (USAID), is speaking out against the layers of bureaucracy that often work against doing the best possible work – both for the people we are serving, and in the best interest of the American people.
Having recently won $28 million in funding, for proposals that my team and I have developed this year, I’m clearly an optimist in thinking that we can find ways to make a difference despite the issues that exist in development.
One of the little understood, but most powerful and disruptive tensions in established aid agencies lies in the clash between the compliance side of aid programs—the counter-bureaucracy—and the technical, programmatic side. The essential balance between these two in development programs has now been skewed to such a degree in the U.S. aid system (and in the World Bank as well) that the imbalance threatens program integrity. The counter-bureaucracy ignores a central principle of development theory—that those development programs that are most precisely and easily measured are the least transformational, and those programs that are most transformational are the least measurable.
Relieving the tension between the counter-bureaucracy and development practice would require implementing new measurement systems, conducting more research on overregulation and its effects, reducing the layers of oversight and regulation, and aligning programmatic goals with organizational incentives.
Feel free to share your comments about development!