One Step at a Time

fresh on the int'l dev scene, traversing the developmental landscape in search of a place to lay my head, find my feet and sink my teeth


I participate. You participate. They decide.

Mike Keller over at How Matters has gathered some interesting highlights of a new report from CDA Collaborative Learning Projects (a bit of a mouthful) entitled ‘Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid’. The report brings together findings from discussions with over 6000 aid beneficiaries and local aid workers as to their perceptions of the aid industry. Out of all the excerpts, it was this quote that particularly stood out for me: 

“This is how the verb ‘to participate’ is conjugated: I participate. You participate. They decide.”  -An indigenous businessman and grassroots development worker, Ecuador

This quote is supported by many similar comments, all from differing locations, and highlights the scale of the misuse of participatory research methods within certain realms of the aid industry.  What should be a closely defined research process is often merely a tokentistic effort to appear inclusive and accountable.

See the rest of the report’s highlights in How Matters’ summary here.

To me, this publication serves as the counter to the more quantitative ‘UK aid attitudes‘ report produced by IPPR and ODI last year. That is not to say that the opinions of the public in the donor country are vastly different from those on the receiving end; in fact, there appear to be some underlying parallels in both reports. Both are unsupportive of increasing, or even maintaining the current levels of spending on aid, citing concerns about the inefficiencies in delivery. You have to wonder who are the true stakeholders in the aid industry, if both the donors and beneficiaries are calling for ‘smart aid’ and yet these calls continue to fall on deaf ears.