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Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid

by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects

Lisa Schirch

on 15 May 2014

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Transcript of Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid

“The lack of flexibility and short time spans for projects creates difficult conditions. Short-time approaches are one of the main factors that instigate failure. In spite of this, the donors ask for sustainability!”
Government official in Afghanistan
“Donors want to put communities into the same mold. Instead of adapting project activities to fit the funding, the funding should be adapted to meet our needs…donors should be tuned in to our needs and priorities. They should not impose. They should ask for input from the bottom, from the grassroots level. Projects that parachute from on high will not succeed.”

Staff of a government-run rural development program in Mali

“Donors look at immediate needs, but may not be aware of why there’s a problem. Why is the child sick? They need to stay longer to get an idea of the real problems.”

A person in Kabul, Afghanistan
Theory of Change for a Collaborative Aid System:

The role of international assistance in promoting positive social, political and economic change is to expand the range of options that people in a society can consider, to engage with them in weighing the costs and benefits of each option and, from this, to co-develop and co-implement a joint strategy for pursuing the changes they seek.
In a collaborative aid system
Monitoring, evaluation, and follow-up would be done by providers and recipients on the results and long-term effects of assistance
“What impact are you talking about? The impact is just spending money. Goods are delivered with no sense of social development. There is no interest to develop people; it is all reduced to practicality. Just know how to write a report. The focus is on skills put into the framework of outputs with no reflection included.”
Director of a Lebanese NGO
5. In the externally driven aid delivery system

Monitoring and evaluation is done by providers on project spending and delivery of planned assistance
In a collaborative aid system
Aid providers would fit money and timing the strategy and realities on the ground
In a collaborative aid system
There would be collaborative decision-making by aid providers and recipients
“Participatory planning is just a phrase. Money and time are limited from the donor side and an agenda has already been set long before agencies go into communities.”
-Local government official in Sri Lanka
3. In the externally driven aid delivery system

Aid providers drive decision-making
In a collaborative aid system
Context-relevant programs would be developed jointly by recipient communities and aid providers
In a collaborative aid system

Aid providers would focus on supporting/reinforcing capacities and identifying local priorities
1. In the externally driven aid delivery system

Aid providers focus on identifying needs
Thank you!

Time to Listen is available for purchase on Amazon and you can download it for free at

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Feedback and questions: dbrown@cdainc.com
Theory of Change for the Externally Driven Aid Delivery System:

By efficiently providing tangible and intangible inputs, international actors can effectively cause, catalyze, or support positive economic, social and political change in other countries.
4. In the externally driven aid delivery system

Aid providers focus on spending on a pre-determined schedule
2. In the externally-driven aid delivery system

Aid providers use pre-planned and pre-determined programs
Dayna Brown
Director, Listening Program
CDA Collaborative Learning Projects
Full transcript