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Admitting Failure


A mistake is made somewhere in rural Tanzania. It is not publicized – a donor might be upset. Two years later, the same mistake is repeated in Ghana. 6 months later in Mali. And so the story continues as it has for over 60 years.

A district water officer in rural Malawi has a radical new idea to get communities to invest in repairs. A mid-level bureaucrat at UK’s Department for International Development comes up with a bold plan to change the reporting requirements for one of their grantees. A project officer at an international NGO writes a memo proposing a pilot project that would target only market-ready farmers. But none of them share or execute on their ideas because the failure associated with innovation is not rewarded in development.

By hiding our failures, we are condemning ourselves to repeat them and we are stifling innovation. In doing so, we are condemning ourselves to continue under-performance in the development sector.

Conversely, by admitting our failures – publicly sharing them not as shameful acts, but as important lessons – we contribute to a culture in development where failure is recognized as essential to success.

Donors – large and small – can better understand and support the work they fund. Institutions and individuals can learn more from each other, and test more innovative approaches – and either avoid what’s already been tried or enter into these experiments with eyes wide open.

Competition for financial support in the aid sector has resulted in a ‘worst practice’ – secrecy. This site and those who support it are attempting to correct that error, and create a best practice of openness, transparency and honesty. We’re all in this together. We’re on the same side in the fight against poverty, inequality and unnecessary suffering in too many forms. Let’s admit our failures to find greater successes.

Submit your Failure now

Full Disclosure:

This site was conceived and created by Engineers Without Borders Canada. It is intended to be a collaboration between like-minded NGOs, governments, donors and those in the private sector. We want it to quickly grow beyond any one organisation, but in the meantime we’re excited to invest the time and resources necessary to help it evolve.

It is very much a work-in-progress. We welcome honest feedback and ideas. And we welcome collaborators and help from anyone. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Source: Admitting Failure Website

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