KM on a dollar a day

Musing on knowledge management, aid and development with limited resources

Development 2.0 – it’s more than tech, it’s remaking an industry

with 11 comments

(picture: Villages in Action 2010 – a real life example of applying the principles of Development 2.0)

Back in 2009 Giulio Quaggiotto, then with the World Bank produced an excellent thought piece “A Development 2.0 manifesto” that outlined 13 principles to apply the principles on web 2.0 to the development sector which started off a lot of interesting discussion around the potential this has to offer.

I know in Giulio’s new role in UNDP he has been stirring up discussion on the same issues and how they might be taken forward in the organization’s work. Yesterday Johannes Schunter a colleague of his wrote a great piece  on his blog “Development 2.0 is not ICT for Development. In fact, it is something entirely different!” prompted by the internal discussions, and the reaction of some that Development 2.0 is just a ICT for Development with new branding and some different technological tools.

This is all very exciting stuff, so I wanted to share a few of my own thoughts to add to the discussion. Like Johannes, I’m concerned that some people see the idea of “development 2.0” as being mainly about technology. I prefer to look at it as a new approach based on a set of principles which could potentially transform the way we think about and do aid and development work.

The application of technology (especially new social technologies) facilitates these changes, making possible what might not have been feasible in the past – but I believe the exciting part, and the bit we should always keep in sight are the underlying principles – how they can benefit development and THEN how technology can support them.

After thinking about this some I’ve come up with some high level principles abstracting a little from Giulio’s original manifesto. For me Development 2.o is nothing less than a reworking of our existing approach to encompass the following basic but also in some ways revolutionary ideas:

1. Transparency and accountability – the work of all players in the development sector should be visible in a straightforward manner so that everyone can easily see how much money they spend, where it comes from, what projects they are doing, who they procure from and more. This provides an important basis on which organizations can be held accountable to their key stakeholders whether funders or beneficiaries. Initiatives such as IATI for development agencies is a big step forward – but this transparency also needs to extend to governments with transparent budgets, and needs also to include  effective accountability mechanisms that hold organizations and individuals accountable building on the open access to information on what they are doing.

2. Participation and empowerment – “not for me but with me”. Development work needs to find effective ways to listen to and understand the perspective and needs of “beneficiaries” and include them in programme design, implementation and evaluation, both to ensure that they are meeting real needs an a contextually appropriate way, but also to ensure the elusive concepts of “ownership” and s”sustainability” i.e. that the beneficiaries believe it and are committed to keep things progressing, even when external support is removed.

3.  Distributed and diverse collaboration – there are a wide range of different actors who can work together on development taking on different roles or contributing to a common effort. These can include not only aid agencies and recipient  governments but also beneficiaries, civil society organizations, academia, private sector organizations and private individuals. Increasingly this will also include south to south co-operation. Increasingly this can span locations, and can be more informal and loose than traditional co-operation agreements that are often based on contractual arrangements or partnership MOUs.

4. Innovation and adaptation – rather than tackling a problem with a standardized top down solution there needs to be a more conscious effort to adapt approaches from elsewhere and evolve them based on local context and experience. This will include incremental improvements and changes to respond to changing circumstances. It will also involve innovations and trial and error – and diversity in approaches trying out new approaches to problems or simultaneously trying and comparing different approaches to the same problem.

5. Knowledge driven – with all of this data on accountability and performance, all of this experimentation and adaptation and the involvement of a diverse range of partners, one of the killer-apps in the new development will be knowledge – the ability to capture, share understand and apply new learning whether it be previously unavailable data and analyses, or stories from personal experience. And this is not only about “producing” more knowledge but it is about using it effectively including creating a demand for its use. It will also be about connecting people together who can help each other as much as connecting facts and data to where they can be of use.

6. Open – this perhaps summarizes or overlaps wit some of the above points. For knowledge to be transferred, or for participation to occur, an collaboration to be fostered there needs to be openness. This is both conceptual openness – willingness to accept new ideas, work with new partners etc. but also structural openness i.e. eliminating physical and virtual barriers such as proprietary software systems, restrictive copyright, paywalls, professional cartels.

7. Technology enabled not technology driven.  This goes back to my original point. Technology enables us to do many things on the above list that would be impossible or extremely difficult without it. But the technology needs to be in  service of the goals of development, not an end in itself, as seducing as that may be (we all love our toys!). Technologies can be applied in development in ways which support these principles, but also in ways which distract from them becoming a focus in itself, or even worse worse by undermine them and creating new ways to keep information and ideas locked up.

What do you think of this list – do you agree? Are there any major principles I’ve missed?

Bonus: Owen Barder’s paper “Beyond Planning: Markets and Networks for Better Aid” is an excellent discussion piece on how use of the “technologies” of markets and networks might help remake aid in line with some of the principles I’ve outlined here. It’s a great read and he’s much more thoughtful and articulate than I am.


Written by Ian Thorpe

June 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

11 Responses

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  1. My own ruminations on Development Aid 2.0 are focused on your second (and from my perspective most important) point, participation and empowerment. Check them out at:

    Jennifer Lentfer

    June 17, 2011 at 7:34 am

  2. Thank you very much for this very interesting article. I like the the way how you moved from the fact that we at this time and age are assuming that the infrastructure for ICT is already there and we are moving beyond that into changing the culture and the use of ICT. Indeed, in some countries in the Middle East, as Johannes mentioned, mobiles have mobilized entire nations to change not only regimes, but also the habits and culture.

    I have been discussing with my fellow knowledge management team leaders at UNDP and the group what Johannes mentioned and have been advocating for it. knowledge-based economies and knowledge societies that are not simply introducing computers and internet to schools, but using knowledge for innovative learning, innovative industry and more efficient public and private services. Again, some might jump and say it is e-economy or e-industry, but it is not. The need for workers to acquire a range of skills and to continuously adapt these skills underlies the “learning economy”. The importance of knowledge and technology diffusion requires better understanding of knowledge networks and “national innovation systems”.

    Whereas an information society aims to make information available and provide the necessary technology, a knowledge society aims to generate knowledge, create a culture of sharing and develop applications that operate mainly via the Internet. The goal of the knowledge society is to fill societal needs, create wealth and enhance quality of life in a sustainable manner.

    The knowledge economy is a term that refers either to an economy of knowledge focused on the production and management of knowledge in the frame of economic constraints, or to a knowledge-based economy. In the second meaning, more frequently used, it refers to the use of knowledge technologies (such as knowledge engineering and knowledge management) to produce economic benefits as well as job creation. The essential difference is that in a knowledge economy, knowledge is a product, while in a knowledge-based economy, knowledge is a tool. This difference is not yet well distinguished in the subject matter literature. They both are strongly interdisciplinary, involving economists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, geographers, chemists and physicists, as well as cognitivists, psychologists and sociologists.

    In the next two weeks, while in New York, i’ll dedicate some time on better defining, for development agencies the two concepts in terms of our innovative support on Development 2.0.

    Iyad Abumoghli

    June 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    • Iyad – Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. Look me up while you are in New York!

      Ian Thorpe

      June 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm

  3. Organizing for Knowledge

    Hi, Ian,
    did I say I love your blog (yes, I know, I am repeating myself)?
    But this one is an outstanding post (I haven’t followed your references, so I am looking at this in the totality of exposed ideas).
    It makes a lot of sense to me (not a development expert) and also with impact e.g. for the Corporate Responsibility considerations.

    Knowledge driven!
    Here I feel myself competent enough to have a view, or better a vision, as I think you can push this point even harder. I have not outlined the concept anywhere yet (but we are experimenting with it internally in Ericsson “organizing work for re-use” – so not in an development environment), so it might be very sketchy: What I see often as a problem in Knowledge Management is that it is retrospective in its approach. First project, then think about KM. Problem with it: Too late, too slow, hard to digg for re-usable Knowledge Assets as everything has been tailored towards the success of the project, not towards the creation of knowledge. Learning is very difficult, because a hypothesis (to be verified or falsified) is not formulated and thus must be reconstructed.
    Therefore I propose to turn the order of sequence around: Organize for knowledge.
    First organize for knowledge, then execute project.
    Will outline in detail at:


    Gerald Meinert

    June 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    • Thanks – interesting idea – look forward to reading about it more as you expand on it on your blog

      Ian Thorpe

      June 17, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  4. I am completely agree with you, and list you present are really interesting and off-course it is major principle which you had been presented here. would you have another such blog?


    June 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

  5. Dear Ian

    Very nice set of principles … reminds us why we are working in this ‘industry.’

    Also reminds me of conversations some 10 years ago when ICT4D was still young and upstart concepts like ‘e-development’ were evolving.

    In a short piece (, I argued that we should see ‘eDevelopment’ as a different, and a better, approach to doing development, in which:

    E means effective – ‘Effective development’
    E means empowering – ‘Empowered development’
    E means efficient – ‘Efficient development’

    and eDevelopment is a new way of working – as ICT-enabled ways to do development differently and better,..

    The strong points of web 2.0 are the potential for empowerment … the ‘social’ aspects, and the centrality of being open. ICT4D was (and is) so focused on the T that perhaps it needed web 2.0 to really change the paradigm!



    Incidentally: it might be really interesting one day to research some of the related concepts and terminology we use in development, where they come from, when they were born … and became extinct. Who knows, maybe we will soon be talking about ‘development 3.0’ giving meaning to development!

    Peter Ballantyne

    July 5, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  6. […] Quaggiotto and a response by Ian Thorpe who points out (and rightly so) that development 2.0 is more than tech, it’s remaking an industry. His view is closest to what I was thinking of, because when I apply agile concepts to […]

  7. […] } #themeHeader #titleAndDescription * { color: black; } – Today, 1:53 […]

  8. […] of the Development 2.0 manifesto and its subsequent, more eloquent, elaborations by others (see Development 2.0 – it’s more than tech, it’s remaking an industry and Agile development: What human development can learn from software […]

  9. […] blog “Openness for Whom? and Openness for What“. I’ve also tackled the related issue of “Development 2.0” or the new way we can/should be doing development work taking advantages of changing […]

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