KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

A day without dignity – listening

with 5 comments

Saundra Schimmelpfennig is organizing a countercampaign to Tom’s shoes “Day without shoes” entitled “Day without Dignity.” Here is my contribution:

People have a lot of ideas, good and not so good about how to help the poor. But often these are as much informed by the beliefs and the needs of donors, researchers and aid workers as they are the needs and desires of the people they are intended to help.

Yet the poor themselves have needs, desires and hopes. They also have valuable insights into their situation and local knowledge about what might or might not work to improve it, or what it would take to introduce new ideas from the outside.

Even without these insights, surely the poor have right to a voice, to say what they want, and what they think about what is being done for them in their name.

But isn’t it hard to know what the poor really want, or what they think about our work? While it might not be easy, there are in fact many ways that we can listen to the poor. Here are just a few examples, most of which don’t involve sophisticated social media or “crowd-sorcery”:

Opinion polls:

Gallup: Sub Saharan Africans rank the MDGs

Participatory qualitative research:

World Bank: Voices of the Poor

Citizen Journalism:

Global Voices Online

The One Minutes Junior (short films made by young people)

Beneficiary feedback surveys:

Recipient Perceptions of Aid Effectiveness after South Asian Tsunami

Complaints and anti-corruption mechanisms

Report from U4 anti-corruption resource centre

Local partner surveys:

Keystone survey of local NGO partners

UNDP survey of local partners in Mali

Participatory M&E:

Government and Social Development Resource centre report

Other feedback mechanisms and tools

List of feedback mechanism examples from Aline

And this is just a few examples – saying nothing of the possibilities offered by use of emerging technologies such as social media, cellphones, open data etc. So why don’t we do this more?

On the other hand, perhaps we should just give them free shoes?


Written by Ian Thorpe

April 5, 2011 at 9:25 am

Posted in rants, smartaid

5 Responses

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  1. […] A day without dignity – listening – KM on a dollar a day […]

  2. fab! I totally need this now…. was just looking for examples of beneficiary participation mechanisms…



    April 5, 2011 at 8:08 pm

  3. Perhaps I am too rich to judge, but isn’t the poorest who has no voice? Great post on “Knowledge Mobilization”.


    Gerald Meinert

    April 7, 2011 at 6:53 am

  4. […] or listening via videos.  Ian Thorpe wrote a blog that provided a number of resources for ‘active listening’. The Listening Project is another good […]

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