UK Aid, accountability and optimal logo placement
DFID has just produced a new version of its UK Aid logo. While there is general grumbling about the jingoistic addition of the Union Jack and its similarity to the USAID logo – the current iteration is not vastly different than the original – introduced three years ago (one of the first things I blogged about) by the previous government.
These sort of emblems have always made me uneasy. When I worked as a civil servant in Malawi, my printer was branded with a “from the American people” sticker (as was my USB stick). The presence of the sticker made me feel like I should be worshipping some unseen god who delivered me office supplies which only ran on 120 volts.
Douglas Alexander, DFID’s last minister under the Labour government, once said that he wished every DFID-funded classroom would have some notice telling children and their parents that the UK was responsible, and that this would help accountability. The rest of us ridiculed that idea, dismissing it as a Trojan horse for self-promotion.
However, perhaps Mr. Alexander was correct in his assumption that emblazoning everything with “UK Aid” could – in theory – increase accountability. If DFID funded something which utterly failed, then it would be incredibly obvious to everyone around. Just one photo of a derelict Union Jack-stamped school would make for pretty poor press. This might create incentives to make aid more effective.
Yet, if the folks at DFID realize this and are rational – instead of trying to be more effective, it’s much easier just to be more careful with sticker placement. Put stickers on high-profile, “successful” ventures (think bags of food rather than say, good governance) and avoid putting stickers on anything that looks like it might fail. So DFID won’t need to be more effective, just more discerning with their stickers.
These people have no shame
Funny. Frustrating. Sad.
“Suddenly there were no conversations about new democracies in Africa, or investment opportunities; the potential consumers were represented as too sick to labor, let alone to shop. This became the burden of caring Americans whose consumption practices can give a sick child in Africa ARVs or provide mosquito nets against the ravages of malaria.”
“That is why Kristof’s stories about American NGOs and enthusiastic young travelers in Africa, meant to encourage Americans’ interest in the continent, are so disturbing. They allow the Africans to be consistently present but irrelevant to the project of making Africa safe for Africans.”
-Kathryn Mathers, “Mr. Kristof, I Presume” Transition Magazine, 2012 no. 107
Summary/description here: http://africasacountry.com/2012/02/09/shameless-self-promotion-9/
Are these the real development experts? (My first post for Co.Exist)
A 2008 essay from the Results for Development Institute’s Dennis de Tray, revised earlier this year:
A key to giving countries the time they need to develop is allowing people to see their government begin to function. What the international community needs to do is to help nurture this critical relationship. Unfortunately they often do quite the opposite.
Donors talk a good capacity building game, but do they put their money where their mouths are? In this essay, I argue that a combination of wrong incentives, wrong institutional models, wrong time frames, and wrong capacity problem puts donors in the capacity stripping business in the short term, and most egregiously in countries that can least afford it…
For development, alongside how, there’s also who.