Over the past decades, rigorous blueprints that conceptualize development interventions in a simple and structured manner have become the norm. The conventional thinking is that prescribed project designs — where strategy, metrics and outcomes are set early on — can better manage risk and partner performance, and thus ensure optimal development impact.
Such methodical approaches, however, are not without controversy. Amid the mixed results that large donor-funded programs have often yielded in the face of complex challenges, discussions within development circles are increasingly focused on an improved way forward, and the fundamental changes that it will require. This is notably the case of the Doing Development Differently movement — an eclectic group of development practitioners seeking alternative paths to better development outcomes.
The denunciation of the mechanistic style of current development practice forms the central tenet of this growing community of experts and professionals, which had its second gathering in Manila, Philippines, last month. In particular, they believe that greater development progress depends largely on the ability of funders and implementers to finally embrace two major realities of development work: the importance of socio-political dynamics and the uncertainty common to developing world contexts.
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Favoring a step-by-step development process in which continuous learning and feedback loops are used to produce solutions that are “fit to context” and politically smart, DDD ultimately envisions aid projects and programs that are exploratory, iterative and adaptive.
Manola De Vos is a development analyst for Devex. Based in Manila, she contributes to the Development Insider and Money Matters newsletters. Prior to joining Devex, Manola worked in conflict analysis and political affairs for the United Nations, International Crisis Group and the European Union.
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