Development Work Explained

What is development work?

Work aimed at helping a country become more competitive across many overlapping sectors, from health, to education and many places in between. The key to development is sustainability. Programs and projects should be able to continue on their own without further input from aid organizations. At some point a country should reach a point in development where foreign aid is no longer essential.  Development work and humanitarian aid are very different in aims and objectives.

What is an NGO?

An NGO is a Non-Governmental Organization, that is, any aid organization not run by a government such as Red Crescent/Red Cross or Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

What is a stakeholder?

Anyone who has a stake in the aid work being done. Stakeholders can be community members, philanthropists, and oftentimes include the staff of the actual NGO.

What is a beneficiary?

Those people who are being helped by the aid work.

Why can’t governments take care of their own country’s problems?

That’s a very complication issue. In some instances, an NGO has a lot of experience in a certain field such as training medical professionals. Additionally, some countries have undergone recent wars and turmoil resulting in lack of infrastructure or paradigm societal shifts. Others experience terribly destructive natural disasters and consequently need humanitarian aid.

What is humanitarian aid?

Humanitarian aid is emergency assistance given to help troubled peoples survive natural disasters (Pakistani earthquake 2005), civil wars (Liberia ’89-’96, ’99-’03) or other traumatic hardships.

Are there any criticisms of development work?

There certainly are. Moving from humanitarian aid to development work can prove to be a formidable obstacle. Beneficiaries might become aid dependent removing incentives for people to work on fixing the root of the problem because they can rationally expect more aid and assistance in the future.

Some aid organizations concentrate on project completion at the expense of monitoring and evaluating results. This means some projects are completed without adequate evaluation of outcomes, which means in the end, the problem may not be solved. Not evaluating projects also leaves room for corruption and a further erosion of trust in development work from community members.

There are often turf wars between aid organizations. All aid organizations struggle for funding; this means that these organizations sometimes battle against each other with the same goal in sight, developing communities. If they complete projects, their donors will be happy. If they get undercut by another organization, donors will be unhappy. Unhappy donors mean less money for future projects. This gives organizations incentives to fight against each other, trying to complete projects with similar objectives. It is an odd conundrum to be fighting against each other in order to help people. Part of the goal of this website is to increase sharing amongst organizations. Sharing information at the most rudimentary level is essential for development work.

It is safe to say that phasing out less relevant programs and acknowledging efficient, meaningful developmental projects will be good for all stakeholders: good for the NGOs, good for the beneficiaries, good for the economy. Development Now wants to provide a small piece of the infrastructure that will give both NGOs and beneficiaries knowledge about which programs are working and why.

Won’t countries become dependent on the aid they get?

Not necessarily. If everyone contributes something, whether it is time, tools, labor or money, they have an incentive to ensure the project’s success. This is an essential element of development work: contributions from beneficiaries themselves. If everyone has a stake in the project the chances of success increase dramatically.

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