What's your role in ICT4dev?

Linda Raftree of Plan USA. Photo by: IDS Knowledge Services / CC BY-2.0

How can we help people in the developing world build capacity and share information? That question is at the center of what promises to be a fascinating InterAction Forum in the coming days.

The alliance of U.S.-based international nonprofits expects to welcome almost 1,000 attendees and around 350 institutions to its 29th edition annual gathering. The motto, “engage. learn. build,” fits this conference as much as it befits the aid community at large.

Highlights of this year’s forum, held April 28 to May 1 in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the U.S. capital, include an opening keynote by U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and a closing session with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a Young Professionals Summmit and a gala dinner and Julia Taft Leadership Award for Jo Luck, the former Heifer International president who now consults and advises the Obama administration on global food security and gender issues.

Linda Raftree, senior advisor on innovation, transparency and strategic change at Plan USA, will be speaking at two panels, on aid transparency and digital mapping. In her realm — as elsewhere — technology and partnership are often key to success, creating not-so-strange bedfellows from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

NGOs partnering with global firms run the risk of being criticized for helping big business explore new markets, Raftree acknowledged. But these partnerships are essential to sustainable development, and can be phenomenally successful when done right.

Cross-sector and public private partnerships are becoming ever more sophisticated, and the private sector, in particular, ever more engaged. Corporate partners often want to be involved from the very conception of an aid project, Raftree said. Gone are the days when roles were clear: Government provided seed funding, the private sector donated goods and NGOs built capacity.

It’s not easy to evaluate the success of a long-term initiative meant to change people’s behavior, for instance; that won’t get easier for PPPs. Donors will continue to demand data regularly to gauge the success of a project. They’ll continue to be criticized for “stringent” reporting requirements.

And NGOs want to ensure the work they do gets recognized properly — from the public as much as their partners and donors. Which raises another question that should be at the core of this year’s InterAction Forum: How can we best show our success building capacity and sharing information in the developing world? 

Learn more and attend the InterAction Forum 2013 in Washington.

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