Is the problem of development assistance that there is not enough money?

More money would help, surely.

But in fact, how much would it help?

I’m claiming that really problem with a lot of the private development assistance is that these people, who are carrying out the actual work, are not able to position their efforts behind the common objectives. When the right hand does not know what the left is doing, how could the outcome be even close to optimal? And when so much of the resources are wasted in overlapping work, how much good will the extra money do?

Currently it is basically impossible for a small NGO to know who other similar organizations are working in the same area, and what projects they are running (and it’s very resource-consuming even for a larger one). Most common way of knowing about others is the accidental running into the other organization on the street. Internet helps, but only to a degree: like one of my interviewees said, “Online you find everything, and still you find nothing”.

I have been researching how social media could help in making the work by NGOs and foundations more effective, and have come up with very similar ideas that the today beta-launched Jumo builds on. Their idea is to connect the large audience to the NGOs doing this important work.

Great! I’m all excited that finally someone is applying at least a bit of the same approach that I have!

But still, the site is not what would address my problem. Maybe the later versions will grow to be more than a social network for good. Because I believe that developing such a site from the needs of those doing the actual work would allow them to:

  • know easily about the other initiatives, so that they could position their efforts, utilize synergies and reduce overlap.
  • keep up with relevant information from their colleagues so that they could do the actual development work better
  • and to foster their connections and common identity so that they could actually realize that here we are all aiming for the same things so let’s at least work together.

And that’s what I think would make the private development assistance more effective.