Dear development leaders in Davos: Learn to be plumbers

A scene during this year’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Photo by: Ciaran McCrickard / WEF / CC BY-NC-SA

DAVOS, Switzerland — Standing in the main hallway of the Congress Center on the last day of World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, last month, I stopped development leaders as they passed and asked a simple question: “What’s your main takeaway for the global development community?”

The big agency chiefs, senior NGO executives, and social entrepreneurs paused in their tracks, pursed their lips, and looked to the ceiling. They were suffering from a common affliction here: Information overload. The savvier ones turned the question back on me, and I stammered something about needing more time to process the many futuristic innovations and geopolitical trends highlighted during the week.

Now, some days after that intense period of hypernetworking and big thinking, I’ve come to a conclusion about what this year’s Davos gathering meant for our community: Development leaders need to be plumbers.

With a dozen years to go before the finish line of the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to get the underlying plumbing right in order to have a chance to reach those goals. That plumbing includes everything from having the country-level data to track progress against the goals to having the project-level data to know what’s working and what’s not. It’s also about having the financing tools in place to mobilize trillions of dollars in investments at the macro level and the financial inclusion systems in order to reach specific individuals most in need at the micro level. Most importantly, it’s about the development leaders of today building out the best systems so the development leaders of tomorrow can focus on delivery.

This article is for Devex Members

For full access to the content of the article sign in or join Devex.

About the author

  • Raj kumardevex

    Raj Kumar

    Raj Kumar is the Founding President and Editor-in-Chief of Devex, the media platform for the global development community. He is a media leader and former humanitarian council chair for the World Economic Forum and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. His work has led him to more than 50 countries, where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community.