What Makes Good Aid *Good Aid*?

14 Nov

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28 Responses to “What Makes Good Aid *Good Aid*?”

  1. Zehra 14 November, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    The Red Cross has something called the Better Programming Initiative (BPI)…born out of the Do No Harm but taking it a bit further. Looks and connectors and dividers primarily within a community. Fits well within the ‘assessment’ category—actually UNDERSTAND what is going on…ie’ analyze. And write it down so that people know where you are coming from (not just the affected population but colleagues, donors, etc).

    And, World Vision (I know…I’m amazed too), but they have this FANTASTIC tool on APPLICATION of lessons learned….and doing it as a team, at the start, during and end of responses…I can’t recall what it’s called now, but I bet you can google it…and get this: they are happy to share the tool…and it’s a good one.

    Phasing is a huge pet peeve of mine by the way….I’m going to (with the oh so copious time I have I on my hands) look into designing an indicator based system…we need to take into account CONCURRENT needs and respond to those…not to our artificial timelines…(it’s relief…look, now it’s recovery!).

    Thanks for this….enjoyed.

  2. Marianne 14 November, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    Nice work, I’ll be sharing this one around. Interestingly, I think what you identify here are pretty much the same factors that make any community development project effective, whether international or domestic. Now I’m back to working mostly here in NZ I realise that pretty much the same range of issues arise here… And pretty much the same principles and practices are needed to avoid them. I’ve been known as the ‘process’ nag in most of the organisations I’ve ever worked in, and I now wear the title with pride!

  3. J. 14 November, 2010 at 7:15 pm #

    @Zehra – Sure enough, many of the large NGOs as well as some smaller ones, develop their own, organization-specific paradigms and tools. DNH, LCP, CS, Hearth, BPI… As I see it, nearly all of these fall either into the assessment/evaluation part of PCM (‘knowing what’s going on’ is putting it very well), and more broadly into what I’d call “tool box.”

    Thanks for reading!

    @Marianne – I’ve certainly done my share of whinging about ‘process’ on this blog, but to clarify, that was all directed towards internal NGO bureaucratic processes.😉

    But in terms of good development process, being the “process nag” is a compliment indeed. Good aid and good development never happen by accident.

    And I think you’re absolutely correct: exactly the same issues apply, whether one is trying to work internationally, cross-culturally, or in one’s one neighborhood at home.

  4. Ian 15 November, 2010 at 7:06 am #


    Excellent list – almost surprised there is not more controversy in the comments.

    A couple of things I’d add to the list:

    1. Effectively navigates local issues – here I mean not only local partners, but also taking account of, and working through (or around) local culture, politics and power relations. Having evidence-based programmes that don’t take into account, how to get people with power let you do what you want to do or better even support it is an essential element of getting things done.
    2. Sustainability – buzz word I know, but what I mean here is having some form of thinking about an exit plan – what happens when the external resources disappear, will it be either no longer needed, or will it be picked up by government communities or local NGOs and does the project pave the way for this to happen.

  5. MJ 15 November, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    I’d agree with Ian’s additions.

    Of the original list, however, I detect a slight contradiction. That is to say we need items 2-5 because we never really get (1) absolutely right. Let me explain some more …

    Most poor peoples’ horizons are not broad enough to fully understand what would most benefit them (especially when looking longer term). So we have to help them through that decision making process, but in doing so it is next to impossible to separate out our own motives and goals, and we end up guiding them to choose whatever it is we can offer. (Many poor people have also realised this is the best way to get a project, even if it belongs firmly in the bad aid bin.) Thus our need for good process etc. to help us disentangle what is needed from our preconceptions and prejudices.

    However, we should also not forget the benefit of experimentation. A subject for a forthcoming post of my own …

  6. Katherine 16 November, 2010 at 5:27 pm #

    Thank you.

  7. Katherine 16 November, 2010 at 7:21 pm #



  8. angelica 20 November, 2010 at 6:29 am #

    damn good analysis. period.

    I agree with @Ian’s addition, especially the whole issue around an exit plan, it should be part of any strategy form day one. Almost have clear goals and marks that indicate the program is reaching its goal and it’s time to start thinking about wrapping up. too often the implementors have no desire to reach this point.

    the second comment is just a highlight of something you said in your original list (which goes back to overhead costs, and how someone needs to talk with donors about this). Training and workshops are almost looked down as a waste of time and money.

    • aba 12 August, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks a lot, I learned a lot from these posts. What would you consider a complete, self-critical, useful monitoring and evaluation form to apply once projects are implemented? Thanks again.


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