Waylaid Dialectic

April 27, 2011

Read About it Here First! The Next Big Thing in Aid!

Filed under: Aid,Development Theory,Social Justice — terence @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , , ,

It’s hard to escape the fact that we development folks are, at times, awfully Charlie Brownesque. Like Charlie Brown, who was forever being fooled by Lucy’s promise to hold the football while he kicked, we keep falling for things we shouldn’t. We’re suckers for the Next Big Thing all the while forgetting how the last big thing left us in the lurch, or how the the big thing before it did the same too.

And so we have, Cash transfers (either conditional or unconditional – CCTs and UCTs) and Cash on Delivery Aid (COD) lining up as the latest Big Things offering to hold the ball for us. Micro-finance, the last big thing, is looking rather bruised, while ICT for development has got to be feeling even less loved these days.

I’m no fan of COD aid, but I’ve got nothing against CCTs and UCTs. They were introduced to South America by the Worker’s Party, who I still kindof idolise, and there’s good evidence that they really have worked well in some places. But I’m deeply sceptical of their potential as panaceas. Which is another way of saying I completely agree with Laura Freschi’s measured scepticism at AidWatch.

The good news here at least is that Freschi is making reference to recent DFID funded research. DFID, it would seem, have learnt a few lessons and seem to be systematically gathering evidence before hopping on the Cash Transfer bandwagon.

Which is kind of cool. Imagine if the next big thing in development wasn’t a thing at all, but rather an approach: move slowly based on the evidence you can use. And consider context before adopting stuff which worked elsewhere. Even this wouldn’t be unproblematic but it would surely have to be better than falling for the latest fad time and time again.

On a completely different subject, but linked by the theme ‘these are people are I don’t normally agree with’ I reckon Jonathan Glennie is almost word perfect in his critique of Zizek.

Blog at WordPress.com.