3 things that annoy me today

3 Aug

Three things that annoy me today:

NGOs. We need fewer NGOs. There, I’ve said it. There are too many NGOs. Too many INGOs, too many LNGOs, too many SLoNGOs, too many bloated BINGOs muddling along, resting on their laurels. For goodness sake far, far too many clueless startups. There is a glut of impromptu, unqualified, parasitic participants in this field. Time to ban from the sector those who don’t add value. We will improve aid outcomes, not to mention make everyone’s life easier. Time to make this all about quality rather than quantity.

Yes, I see you, over there in the back corner, nodding vigorously, all smug, certain I’m not talking about you. Don’t get too cocky…

Development. NGO-style development doesn’t really work.  At least not very well. There, I’ve said that, too. There is simply no evidence to support the grandiose claims of large-scale, sweeping change made by development organizations, practitioners, and institutional donors. Meta theories and grand strategies look great on PowerPoint and make awesome cleverly titled books. But they don’t bear fruit on the ground. Okay, okay. Sometimes one-off projects work on a limited, local scale. Yet even there the successes are random enough that it’s hard to pin down the rhyme or reason. So stop fronting.

You want to make a difference in the aid sector, get your disaster response house in order.

Provincialism. It’s international aid. IN-TER-NAT-IONAL. This enterprise is, by definition, about moving resources, ideas, people from point A to point B, specifically for the purpose of making changes at point B. Make peace with this reality. Yes, I know how things sometimes look. But expats in the field are not the problem. Poor people management, indiscernible mission focus, lack of organizational discipline, being donor-driven, and general cranial-rectal inversion are the problems (among others).

I think we can all agree that ideas, plans, and strategies need to be evaluated on their own merits, and not on the basis of who came up with them. Let’s remember that that knife cuts in more than one direction.

* * *

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

12 Responses to “3 things that annoy me today”

  1. solemu 3 August, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    High hopes dear J, high hopes…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUxKgtFHDo8

  2. angelica 3 August, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    oh dear, glad I don’t have a meeting with you today🙂

    but yeah, one of the problems is that everyone Criticizes, and everyone else nods assuming they are referring to someone else….

  3. T 3 August, 2011 at 12:54 pm #

    Your rants make me happy. Is that wrong?

  4. Sam Gardner 3 August, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    A bad hair day? I want great NGOs. NGOs that don’t take the place of local civil society, but support it. Is that too much?

  5. terence.wood@anu.edu.au 3 August, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    “There is simply no evidence to support the grandiose claims of large-scale, sweeping change made by development organizations, practitioners, and institutional donors.”

    I don’t know: improving human development stats the world over provide some suggestive evidence in support of the argument that, while aid can’t transform countries outright, it can contirbute to meaningful and sustained improvements in people’s quality of life. Aid’s no panacea but I think we can expect more of it than effective mitigiation of humanitarian crises.

  6. Tio Fox 3 August, 2011 at 7:41 pm #

    Do I ask too much if I am agree with your opinion?

  7. Emma Redfern 4 August, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    Frankly you don’t go far enough, we should all get out right now!

  8. David Week 4 August, 2011 at 1:37 am #

    Love the term “cranial-rectal inversion.”

    I agree with point three. Aid is not a miracle: it’s all just one big transfer payment. Railing against aid workers is like railing against civil servants. Railing against white people is racists and ethnocentric, because 95% of aid workers are not white.

    All these micro-NGOs do seem annoying. But one has to look at the ecology of aid, in other to understand where they fit in. In a healthy economy, there will be big corporations, there will be SMEs, and there will corner stores. And there will be many more of the latter than the former. We tend to forget that Oxfam, WV, STC and MSF all started out as corner stores, a meeting in someone’s living room, a zero-budget, zero-org with not much clue to begin with.

    Most micro-NGOs will die. A few will persist as micro-NGOs. A very few will grow into something significant. And even small NGOs can have a global impact. See the history of ICBL. Campaigned to ban anti-personnel land mines. Won the Nobel Peace Prize.

  9. Anonymous 4 August, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I’m a raving fan of your blog, no idea how to email you though. I just saw this sequence and immediately thought of you. Beginning at 9 minutes, “we didn’t think it through” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6gmB-jYd-c&feature=youtu.be

    • J. 4 August, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      That is a great link. Sure enough, even at the most basic level, this humanitarian aid thing is a lot harder than it looks. Don’t get me started.

      My email address can be found in the “About” page (click the link in the header). But what the hell. I’ll tell you now here, too: talesfromethehood(at)gmail.com

  10. tropluxe 8 August, 2011 at 2:39 am #

    “Too many NGOs. Too many INGOs, too many LNGOs, too many SLoNGOs, too many bloated BINGOs muddling along…”

    Am I the only one who read that and began involuntarily humming the Flight of the Conchords’ Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor?

    Anyway, if you’re having the kind of day that prompts a blog entry titled: “3 things that annoy me today”, this might help. Works for me every time.


  1. How many NGOs do we need? « Bottom Up Thinking - 9 August, 2011

    […] my blog reading, and I’ve been struggling to catch up ever since. But I couldn’t let this piece from J of the ‘hood just pass by. He says: “We need fewer […]

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