Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bottom Up

Dear Colleagues

The idea of "bottom up" rather than "top down" has been talked about in development circles since the 1970s ... but rather little has ever been done to change the modus operandi of the major development funders so that "bottom up" could ever become a reality.

The World Bank, the UN, Governments, bilateral development agencies may talk about "bottom up" but their structure and their procedures are totally "top down". By their very nature, and the mandates they operate under, these organizations can never really and trully embrace the concept of "bottom up".

However, the corporate world has made use of the "bottom up" idea in its search for productivity, and has embraced the idea of devolution. In terms of operational performance, this application of "bottom up" works well. Of course, strategic decisions still get made at the "top", and devolution is only used for some, but by no means all. of the activities.

The hero of American society ... the entrepreneur ... is also an example of what "bottom up" accomplishes. The typical entrepreneur starts at the bottom, and is the bottom. There is no top. But working at the bottom, a successful entrepreneur is able to grow and put more "bottom" underneath and become a regular organization.

In the field of development, a community centric approach has the key elements of "bottom up". If the priority needs of the community are used to define what gets done first, the performance of development is likely to improve by an order of magnitude. This is almost for sure. In my 30 plus years of being involved with development, it has been rare to see development resources applied to the most useful work, but rather to some activity that was "politically correct" but essentially useless. Instead of development being something that we should all be proud of, development is an embarrasment. So much spent for so little result.

With today's technology it is becoming more and more practical to mobilize the data that are needed to have a "bottom up" development environment. While Tr-Ac-Net has not yet deployed all the elements that are needed, it has moved a long way in that direction, and it will not be much longer before all the pieces are in place.


Peter B in New York