A new way of thinking about global development

Development organizations should learn about people and listen to what they want. This is hardly a revolutionary concept. And yet it has proven difficult to internalize and act upon.

For an industry better known for furnishing donor-funded projects with expert consultants, producing authoritative reports, or advising governments on how to develop, a surprising bulk of the most cutting-edge thinking — and the most transformative products and services — are from organizations willing to admit what they don’t know.

For many of the leaders and organizations who brought their visions of the future of development to Devex World, that willingness to challenge orthodoxy — and to relinquish some control of the agenda — begins with letting go of development “beneficiaries” and finding better ways to serve development “consumers.”

At Devex World, development leaders begin to embrace what they don't know.

"I want people to consider me as their first lady, whatever group they belong to. This has been very clear for me ... They call me 'bibi jan,' which is the term you use usually for a grandmother, and they're very comfortable with me, and I'm very comfortable with them too."
— Rula Ghani, first lady of Afghanistan
International organizations “need to be more aware of the changes that are happening on the ground … you need to make sure that whatever you’re doing, you have asked the Afghans what they want. Do they have an opinion? Do they have some other idea they’d rather do? Talk to them so that you can really help, not as a donor and a beneficiary, but as equal partners."
— Rula Ghani, first lady of Afghanistan

Read more from First Lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani in a Q&A with Devex Senior Reporter Michael Igoe.

She worked to end FGM and child marriage in the Gambia. Now, Safe Hands for Girls founder Jaha Dukureh shares her new approach to advocacy.

She worked to end FGM and child marriage in the Gambia. Now, Safe Hands for Girls founder Jaha Dukureh shares her new approach to advocacy.

“I constantly have to remind donors that for us this is not a career option. For us this is our life. This is about our children … And if the development sector really wants to see an end to FGM, they have to trust the people on the ground … For us whether the funding is there or not, this is our life. We’ll show up and we’ll do the work.”
— Jaha Dukureh, Gambian women's rights activist and anti-female genital mutilation campaigner

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called into Devex World from his second visit to the frontlines of the Ebola response effort in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He cited significant progress in DRC, but warned that the world is failing the Central African Republic.

"It's a neglected crisis — political, financially, operationally. The international community has neglected the Central African Republic, and this is not right."
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general

Here's more on Tedros' response to Ebola in DRC and the Central African Republic.

"This is a new era of development, where African development will be driven by Africans, and poverty will be fought by people and the communities that live it everyday."

"Global development can't be a closed club any more. It needs to be rich with a diversity of ideas, all working to achieve the global goals."

Carine Umuhumuza, Devex associate director of communications

New funding models

Financial innovation isn’t just for Wall Street. It’s driving a whole new way of doing development.

Ray Washburne, CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, confirmed the newly proposed U.S. development finance corporation would maintain strong environmental and social safeguards.

"When I showed up, as all you know, OPIC had been zeroed out in the president's budget, and a lot of people asked, especially in my Senate confirmation, why am I taking a job that's being eliminated."
— Ray Washburne, OPIC CEO

In this Q&A, the OPIC CEO discusses his first nine months on the job and the issue of USAID linkages, as well as some of the other concerns that are being raised at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Consumer-focused health care

New business models and imperatives around climate, health, and supply chains are converging, creating real business opportunities and lasting change.

A mother in Uttar Pradesh, India — pregnant for the fourth time and having already lost one child — needs adequate medical care to ensure a safe pregnancy and birth.

“How do we save [this mother] and her baby during this pregnancy?” asked Sema Sgaier, co-founder and executive director of the Surgo Foundation.

The answer is straightforward — three antenatal visits to a government hospital; the right medical supplies at the right time; and health care professionals who know how to keep pregnant mothers and their babies healthy.

But in Uttar Pradesh, an Indian state that has proven stubbornly dangerous for pregnant mothers and their babies, those steps didn’t seem to be adding up.

The answer, they found, was not that nurses lacked tools and knowledge, but that they had stopped considering risk prevention as their primary goal. The gap was not training — though training remains critical — but a dysfunction in the accountability system that was distorting incentive structures inside.

“What if we think about the mother in a village in rural India with the same kind of sophistication as we think about the upper-middle class Chevy buyer in the suburbs of New York?"
— Malcolm Gladwell, Surgo Foundation trustee

Donor-driven health and development programs still tend to privilege risk-avoidance and control over responsiveness to a broad and diverse base of development “consumers,” said Karl Hofmann, president and CEO of PSI.

“How can we trust that the person doing the self-test will not harm themselves? How can we ensure that they’re connected to the right medical support? We can’t possibly trust the consumer with this technology — which is exactly what people said about home pregnancy tests.”
— Karl Hofmann, PSI president and CEO

Read more on the conversation at Devex World.

“As much as we’d like to, we will never get out of the institutions and the thought processes of people our age. So let’s get the people who can.”

— Mark Dybul, former executive director of The Global Fund, calls for investment in youth, not another big institution. Read more.

Data revolution: New tools for development

Data is fundamentally transforming, changing the way all projects are designed.

"The disconnect that I often come up against is that, while practitioners have access to a vast amount of data — and while there’s a lot of excitement about its potential — unfortunately, the data doesn’t always drive better decision-making, and therefore, real progress."

— Catherine Cheney, Devex senior U.S. West Coast correspondent

"There's nothing that is more frustrating than when you get data that you think is positive or negative and giving you signal — but it turns out to be fraudulent."
— Maury Blackman, Premise Data president and CEO
"We've come a long way but we can go so much further."
— Susan Reichle, International Youth Foundation president and COO, reflects on her days working with data in government.

“Humanitarian organizations need to be there to catch the refugees who are arriving.”

—  Journalist Wil Hylton on the Venezuelan crisis

Building an education movement

Tell me a story. A way of thinking about advocacy that’s fit for this era of social media conversations.

The U.N. Declaration of Human Rights guarantees free elementary education to every child, and while enrollment levels have gone up to nearly 90 percent since the 1970s, 260 million kids are still out of school.

Global education, so long neglected by donors, appears to be having a renaissance, with recent activity in the sector, from the Global Partnership for Education receiving its biggest yet replenishment, to the recently announced G-7 commitments to girls education.

So the question is: How do development professionals capitalize on this momentum to transform the education sector? What role does creating a narrative and storytelling around these issues play in galvanizing this support?

“Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts.”
— Kevin Bleyer, best-selling author and speechwriter

Innovating at scale

Delivering real, measurable change to people in need today by the millions is no buzzword, it’s the future of global development.

“How can we use these really amazing things that have been there within these communities, and actually then think about scalability in that way? Because I think some of the best products have scaled within communities without technology … and it’s because the products have had value.”
— Shivani Siroya, Tala founder and CEO

“We do have to think about scale from the beginning … but there’s a real place though for community.”

"If we work together, collectively, this tool has the ability to advance sustainable development — and not only advance the SDGs, accelerate their impact. Are you ready for it? I'm talking about trade."
— Devry Boughner Vorwerk, Cargill corporate vice president of global corporate affairs
“For those who have the power and the ability to come to the table and agree, they owe it to those who can’t.”
— Devry Boughner Vorwerk

Devex World 2020

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