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