Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How to stay on top by speaking the right language in the 21st century: "Multilateral Aid" & "Budget Support"

Progress in our sector, as in life, comes from “creating an enabling environment” for ideas to interract and cross-fertilize, a thing also known as “collective intelligence”, which, according to Nathan, means that good stuff always comes out of interaction and collaboration between great minds.

This is a good thing for sure, that also explains why it is so crucially important for us experts to spend much of our precious time in meetings and workshops. We do it for the sake of progress and evolution – the future of our sector depends on it.

But the best thing about our business must be the high number of experts ready to roll their sleeves and get the theoretical game sorted for all of us. Always at the cutting edge, HRI remains fully commitment to “shifting paradigms” in order to increase the eloquence of proposals we submit to donors. We’re privileged that way, and I’ve noticed since we adopted the latest “development discourse” it has become even easier to mobilize resources by closing deals behind the scenes with donors or bullying less well connected partners into HRI partnerships: it feels good to know that for example when major donors "sole-source" a massive grant to us over impeccable lobbying, they actually compliment us on adopting the latest ideas flogged by development punters.

It’s also pretty much why HRI bothers to have a twitter account, by the way, or a blog – Nathan the intern sometimes complains about having to write regular posts and 140 character long messages to complete strangers formulated in line with HRIs strict corporate style guidelines, but how else can we take the pulse off the punters from all the way here in Comoros, a place on another planet?

It has also been suggested to us that we create a facebook profile – to better market ourselves to the young and hip, to tomorrow’s donor bureaucrats. I’d be up for that, just worry that we couldn’t handle seeing that we’d have less friends than certain competitors partners – the pressure, the pressure.

Every so often, Nathan the intern is preparing a little brief for me, containing a list of subjects that are currently discussed and found to be in favour with the most influential minds in the sector and we immediately incorporate them in our “discourse” to better please both donors and potential critics. That fact alone will certainly convince even the most bitter of our critics that we are the flexible, agile organization that this century of ours needs.

For example, we have already put "Multilateral Aid" under our belt. Several of our affiliates are international governmental organization and as a “best practice” i could mention HRI’s own Women and Tradition Forum (WTF), based on a protocol 42 important countries have signed after a high level “technical meeting” we organized at the Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel in Entebbe, timed shortly after the place was graced by the Clintons, back in the day.

The meeting has produced what has been since known as "The Entebbe Declaration" – strong commitments on empowering women, as long as that does not interfere with cultural and traditional norms in the respective countries.

At the meeting, government representatives agreed to pay an annual fee as a membership to HRIs network. The money would formally come out of the respective ministry’s budget, but given that the all countries in question “lack resources” in the meantime we simply use HRI donor funds in the respective countries to contribute for this fee, just to “bridge the gap” of course. We file the whole thing under “system strengthening” and it is indeed another HRI win-win: dodgy governments get to beef up their international credentials without actually committing to anything, and HRI gets to position itself as a facilitator of international collaboration – a position very much in favour with donors. As a bonus, we sell the whole thing as “multilateral aid” and please the academics as well.

Also, we have already adopted “Budget support”, a thing punters started promoting as the aid of the 21 century. In plain English, "budget support" means that donor money goes straight to the government budget – a perfect position for HRI in most countries we are working in and here is how it works:
  • We start with an informal meeting with donor’s representative where we bond over anecdotes about the unreliability and ineffectiveness of the respective government;
  • We then address the reality that money put into the government budget cannot be traced and, given the fact that it is distributed by percentage by an paranoid authoritative executive branch, we wonder what can be done to avoid taxpayer dollars to go into say the defense budget of given country;
  • Helpfully, at this point HRI makes the inspired recommendation to give the money directly to the Ministry of Agriculture budget, point at which a HRI local staff (former government employee, still a ghost employee at the ministry, due to a human concern for his pension) brought along for this single purpose volunteers the insight that the Ministry of Agriculture does not have a bank account and its centrally allocated budget gets distributed in random batches with an average of six years delay;
  • Then, the signature HRI win-win move: why doesn’t HRI as a strategic government partner not handle these funds on behalf of the government (paying salaries, procuring stuff etc), while also placing a few advisors in this and the other commission to ensure the right decisions are taken?
  • Before long, MoUs get signed, partnership meetings get called, ministry offices get refurbished, capacity gets built, systems get strengthened.

 Yes, reader - like you HRI & affiliates are looking forward to another century of effective, life-saving, empowering, high impact aid. 
You're welcome.


  1. I worship the cyberspace you write on.

  2. so is 'capacity building' anything like body building? how can it be given a steriod injection?
    and is 'sole-sourcing' anything like the 'soul sourcing' some (all) Churches are into?

    Thanks for your consideration in helping me resolve these longterm outstanding personnal questions.

    Keep up the good flow of good info on how to increase devlopment of our shared condition.