Monday, July 27, 2009

Addiction to Foreign Aid?

So, if you haven't seen it, check out the Editor's Note titled Domestic Disturbances in July's Jordan Business. Marwan Kardoosh takes a hard look at the dependence of NGOs on foreign aid. It's an interesting dichotomy I've noticed since living in Jordan. There is a fairly prevalent anti-colonialism mentality (rightly so), while at the same time a hunger for, really an addiction to, foreign aid. The idea seems to be, we don't want your ideas or advice, just give us your money.

The challenge in this is that this dependence on aid encourages two primary negative behaviors. First, NGOs find aid that is available and create programs to get the aid. In other words, they don't spend time doing due diligence on what the group they serve needs, they don't build annual plans (or 3 year plans) and seek aid-granting organizations that specialize in those types of programs. If US AID is having a sale (excuse my literary license here) on funding for democracy programs, the NGOs rush to create a new program to receive this aid. If the EU is giving out money to create a strategy, the NGOs rush to find someone to give them a quote on the strategy work. In neither case do they necessarily need these items, but it's the funding they can get, so...

This behavior pattern leads to the second major challenge - sustainability. When organizations create a program to meet funding availability, it typically has neither local passionate support nor funding. As a result, once the original foreign funding is terminated, the program is unable to stand on its own. Creating a new custom-built program every year is simply not sustainable. Without an accurate and compelling business case, new programs should be tabled.

Mr. Kardoosh suggests that "assisting, not insisting, on particular policies and solutions" is necessary. I agree that this is absolutely vital. Equally as vital, though, is the building of more civic-minded funding and local social and corporate social responsibility. While we see a few very wealthy families support and fund causes of their choice, there is little recognition of the necessity across the broad range of the social spectrum. In the US, most giving comes from the middle class rather than the wealthy. And those who can't give money typically look to ways to give time. In Jordan, the time of educated, experienced volunteers is worth more than all of the foreign donations put together. I do agree whole-heartedly with Kardoosh's assessment that we should "place more emphasis on ... the need for independent local innovation in development, rather than full reliance on foreign know-how." And, I would add, foreign funding.

At any rate, I'm glad to see people like Mr. Kardoosh placing emphasis on this topic and beginning the conversation. All in all, the July issue of Jordan Business was well worth the read.

Happy Addictions!


At 9:31 AM , Anonymous kinzi said...

I bought this one too, and was challenged by the editor's note.

My husband turned down a fund raising job with an NGO that wanted to create programs that fit potential donor requirements. Wrong, all the way around, imho.

Yet I think of some local groups who don't have any concept of budget transparency or accountability. They want to spend as they see fit and answer to no one. Those strings should stay tight.

At 2:32 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, indeed one needs balance. But regardless of your spending patterns (and transparency is a much overlooked necessity), dependence on foreign aid is troubling for sure.

At 11:38 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


At 7:15 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Margaret, Ahlan wa sahlan (welcome). I'm glad you've enjoyed your visit. Come badj and visit again soon ;).


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