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Listen to the poor

November 22, 2010

On Australia’s Development Policy blog, ActionAid’s Archie Law rightly says that we should listen more to poor people when deciding development policy:

…who determines what value for money is?   The voices of people living in extreme poverty need to be the loudest voices when the government is determining how effectively Australian aid money is being used and each and every aid dollar should maximise the development outcomes for people living in extreme poverty.

…the real drivers of social change in developing countries tend to be social movements who function in their own unique way and such movements rarely, if ever, comply with the traditional modus operandi of the aid community which is “provide resources, implement activity, monitor output and evaluate outcome.”

This is true everywhere. Most people in the world don’t operate according to management consultancy norms. Listening to poor people means not just doing a few consultations or holding a workshop. It means making a genuine and concerted attempt to involve local people, to discover how they effect change, to ask them what they want from aid. A lot of the information collected may be subjective and difficult to quantify; but better that than ignore the poor.

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