Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Award Season, Avatar and HRI on Twitter

It’s been a while but I’m back online ready to continue reporting from the frontlines of HRI state of the art development. It’s RFA season of course, which for those in the know is a time when loads of efforts are invested in creating the appearances of competition while making deals on the side and getting the money where it belongs – in HRIs and our affiliates’ account. Basically RFA is USAID procurement short-hand for a process in which political interests are combined with “priorities” that are irrelevant in a given country but sound pretty good in Washington DC and then a meeting with partners is called to give the whole thing an appearance of participation and ownership (to be fair we also love participation & ownership at HRI). Eventually, the official request for applications is issued and HRI or one of our affiliates will prove to be the best placed to bag the money. Spending it is pretty easy as we usually just hand it out to all the other organizations ("sub-recipients”) who have unsuccessfully applied for it with USAID, to do the same thing that they are doing anyway, plus of course we keep a certain amount for overhead, admin costs and so on.

It’s also global fund season of course and the situation here is a bit different. As Principal Recipients in quite a few countries, HRI and our affiliates find it pretty hard in principle to spend all the global fund money (round this, round the other, confusing stuff). What we do however, is we blame the slow spending on the country team & coordination and continue to apply for every new round prioritizing capacity building of course and “creating an enabling environment”. 

You may remember last time I checked in I was in cape town doing important work around ownership and stuff. Well I had an epiphany in the flight back where I was taking refuge from the “it-used-to-be-better-back-in-the-day” chit-chat with my fellow passenger in first class by checking out the on-flight entertainment system, the only viable alternative in my experience to not having to have that conversation while flying in or out of South Africa. Anyways, this is how I got to watch Avatar, that movie that was all the rage a few months ago and that’s when I had the epiphany. The irony of a loud anti-colonial movie in which some American dude becomes the savior of noble savages somewhere on another planet has not gotten lost on me, but the most beautiful thing is how often the movie hit home for me in its similarities with HRI. The plot will sound familiar to any technical advisor with the right arrogance to ignorance ratio who, although doesn't know anything about the country or the people where he gets posted and has only a marginal knowledge of what he is supposed to be doing, becomes active in all sorts of meetings in which his proud local counter-parts translate for him. In his reports all stakeholders seem to be on the same page, working together towards a grand goal while the “big tree” is burning. You may  think otherwise but to my knowledge HRI has not been consulted on the script.

Oh, and one more thing – HRI is on twitter as well. I thought since we’re cutting edge and all why not go 2.0 like everyone else? Still figuring the whole follow this follow that part but do expect regular twat twitter wisdom from yours truly. 


  1. The last time i got invited to a FUCK syposium (Focus on Underdevloped Capacity awareness in Kenya...) in the swanky Serena Hotel In downtown nairbi, (550$ a night thank you) the bloody gravy on the gravy train was lacking in both spice and luster. I only got one hat, a pen with a logo and a tiny bottle of Fuji Springs Save the earth mineral water. (I threw all of them out the window on the way to the airport to support local small scale recycling entrepenures).
    HandRelief could really do some good work here, i was not even allowed a P3 grade hazared alowance, i feel mentaly scarred that i could only caharge to the company card 2 bottles of Chabilis for the taxi ride and they did not even make me feel drunk enough to feel numb enough to ignore the poor on Uhuru(Freedom) Highway.
    as the Etonian grandson of winston churchill said to the village louts taunting the new boys at school said.."Oi, fuck off or i'll squash you with my wallet!'

    Keep up the commentary on our beloved AID. lets save everyone from themselfs!

  2. Duke: you should work for us. you could lead our renewable energy affiliate - i have this cutting edge plan that involves selling sub-standard overpriced solar pannels to UN agencies as part of HRIs contribution to the Logistics Cluster (LGF).

    maybe we should meet at the norfolk over a dignified cocktail and discuss details next time i'm in NBO.

  3. You're a pussy Kurtz. Why don't you reveal who you really are? Easy to be all cutting under a pseudonym isn't it? You're probably a shameful and silent douche-bag in public, just taking your pay check. Actually - I take it back. You aren't a pussy. Human genitals CREATE - all you can do is destruct. You aren't original. You are a derivative.

  4. Love this blog! The previous commenter clearly must be the USAID guy you had lobster with.

    I'm busy preparing an application for a potload in extra budget support for countries affected by the crisis. I was told by the guys to make sure my numbers created the right gap that they could fund. Over a fabulous fully paid lunch of course. Sadly no lobster, but the prawns were out of this world.

  5. Is something wrong with being a pussy, Anonymous? I have owned one all my life and she seems to be just fine aside from the occasional mood swing.

    Dr. Kurtz,

    May I express my admiration for your excellent organization? I was silly enough to leave the development industry for the private sector a couple of years ago during a fit of frustrated idealism. I am better now, and glad to see that there are enterprising aid pioneers such as yourself operating in the industry.

    Might I interest you in my services as a consultant, at a reasonable price of course. My chief area of expertise is tokenism. I have mastered the skill of presenting an "intelligent African" face at any meeting where one might be required. Being a woman, of course, I have to charge a double fee because it allows my client to tick two 'representation' boxes at once.

    I can produce a credible British Educated, American Educated, East African, Southern African and Francophone African accent (in English) as the situation may require, although I must warn you that my West African accent is only rudimentary. My costume wardrobe is quite extensive and will wear Batik and sandals or the two Christians (Dior and Louboutin) depending on the audience's requirements.

    Do let me know if you have any need for my services, i am sure we can come to an agreeable understanding.


    La Negresse.

  6. What? Where? Dignified Cocktails? We can even charge the paltry Tip on a VISA?

    Count me in. Absolutly.

    12 or so Long Island Ice Tea's, a few tequillas and beers and a place called Florida 2000, we can solve most of the worlds problems by 6:30AM.
    I have reputibly sources who tell me that this was how the Agoa and UNDP Vision 2015 were created.

    If mimicry is the best form of flattery then blatently stealing buisness..ummm...devlopment ideas is the best form of buisness...ummm...development.
    We must discredit forestry as a climate change mitigation model(CCMM), i hear of people planning to do arial seeding. What? Its far too cheap and it works far too well.
    As a decorated, Phu-d'ed and professional begger for the beggers of E.Africa this is tatamount to a hostile take over and may actually make me a 'real begger' (RB).

    I propose a meeting/conferance/workshop (with overtime pay, per diem's, out-of-pocket allowance, spending allowance, sitting allowance, hazared allowance, and paternal leave) involving beeches, big shiney cars, endless Vegas buffets(drugs and food!) and big shiney smiles to provide for inputs, calculations and remidies for external negative eventualities for our employment security to make for a more sustainable Sustainabiltiy buisness and how to fully capitalize on devloping the Devlopment industry into a higher yielding tax free rung on the social-consumer ladder.

    Work Smart, Not Hard and Look Busy, Jesus might be Comming!

  7. I propose Hand Relief International to visit Mpanda Rukwa region and see how much it is needed there. Kids pass standard seven but most of them do not go to secondary because of the involved costs, schools do not have most crucial equipments....may be HRI can connect them (schools) to areas with materials, ets

  8. Ma chère Negresse,

    Je viens de découvrir votre blog, j'adore, très Canard Enchainé. Enfin une voix qui 'cut the crap'. Looking forward to reading more.

    La Vilaine G

  9. my dear knave, i can confirm the rumours - the vision 2015 (as well as some footnotes of the MDGs) were indeed developed in "Crazy House", as we used to refer to it and HRI had obviously a key role to play in. The whole thing was then agreed on in Diamond Plaza nearby, killing hang-overs with chicken tikka prepared by Kana the tikka wizard, an old HRI employee who found a new life in the gastronomy cluster. I can also confirm that Jeff Sachs refused to taste the chicken (for sanitary reasons he claimed) which may have compromised the juju.

    Ma chere Negresse: why dont we put a vacancy out right away to create the illusion of equity and then offer you a generous package as our Executive Director of Tokenism - we must grab you at any cost. At functions we then can go around whispering It's not what you think - she's actually very qualified.

  10. Ma chere Vilaine G,

    Thank you for your kind remarks. Let me assure you that whatever you may have heard to the contrary, I am not in the duck business, except for a fine appreciation of foie gras.

    Chained or not, the filthy creatures are too noisy and hungry. Doesn't matter how many fat brown envelopes one throws their way, they never seem satisfied.

    And Dr. Kurtz: your proposal sounds excellent. Just one little amendment: Executive Director of Diversity plays better than ED of Tokenism. You never know when one of those fiendish do-gooder types might come across HRI and unleash yet another storm of complaints about your lack of seriousness. They can be so earnest, and do not appreciate your efforts in the fight against whatever it is that the funders say you are fighting.

    Warm and tipsy regards,
    La Negresse