Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The new aid giants (3)

On Nov 19, 2007 George Kent responded to my message

"Big money has the potential of being useful, but success is not likely if the resources are not accompanied by appropriate planning efforts. It is very difficult to find any serious planning at the global level for dealing with these big issues. Who will do the planning? To whom will the planners be accountable?
Aloha, George"

The following is my long winded reply which makes the point that planning needs to take into account what happens at the community level. The message included from Kris Dev gives an example of a local school planning something they wanted ... something that would probably not have been on the agenda if planned from any central agency.

Dear Colleagues

George Kent's message asked about who will do the planning and to whom will the planners be accountable. A very important question. Big money has the potential of being useful, but success is not likely if the resources are not accompanied by appropriate planning efforts. It is very difficult to find any serious planning at the global level for dealing with these big issues. Who will do the planning? To whom will the planners be accountable?

My position is that global planning ... State planning (Gosplan) and the like do not work very well. Years ago (nearly 50) I studied the French approach to planning, and was impressed by how in the planning process, they framed the goals, and then left it up to society to do everything that was needed unless it was clearly counterproductive. This contrasted with the British socialist planning of the time that constrained rather than guided.

I guess I have been in the planning business all my career ... corporate and development. The most effective plans were the ones I did not make. We used to refer to this as the NIH factor ... Not Invented Here. So while I was "in charge of" planning, my best plans were always made by other people, other departments.

I also learned that a good plan was far less important than a team of good implementers with good motives. Good implementers actually plan on the fly and improve even the best of plans. In fact, truth be told, most plans are a terrible sub-optimization of what is possible because there are few planners that know very much beyond planning methodologies.

My value as a planner was that I could stop really bad things happening ... not that I could make great things happen. And the possibilities to do great things are everywhere, and one has to wonder why it is that we have planned our way into such a poor performing planet.

In the relief and development sector, my friends have pushed me in the direction of community centric sustainable development were the human resources and the natural resources of a community are combined to do the best possible activities for the benefit of the community ... with the support of an external world, and without doing damage to the external world. The community is the natural locus for performance metrics about development progress ... and in the community there is easy accounting and clarity about accountability.

This is not just talk about "bottom up" but truly walking "bottom up". My expectation is that bottom up community centric sustainable development will easily outperform the top down UN/World Bank development model ten fold.

The message below forwarded to me by Kris Dev from Chenai in Tamil Nadu, India is an example of CCSD in practice.

My favorite UN funded project was in Shenge, Sierra Loene some years back where the expatriate project leaders had the community drive the project with amazing results.

There is hope when development is done right and planning is used to get development going in the right direction ... planning that is not a control mechanism but a guide. Control comes from accounting and accountability ... and the community are the judges of what is delivering value.

I hope this answers the questions raised by George.


Peter Burgess

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Kris Dev
Date: Nov 19, 2007 7:49 AM
Subject: Fwd: Community Awakening Tsunami strikes Amithanallur Village, Ellapuram Block, Tiruvallur District, TN

Amithanallur Village in Ellapuram Block of Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu is struck by a new Tsunami - the "Community Awakening Tsunami". The village is poised for a big change - It is waking up from its slumber. The sleepy community is now turning vibrant thanks to the initiatives of the community themselves led by their leader Mr. G. Karunanidhi, Panchayat President and the initiatives of Social Activists and NGOs.

In the Grama Sabha meeting held on Gandhi Jayanthi day (October 2, 2007), it was resolved to set up a Community College christened as "Amithanallur Community College (ACC)" by the community, of the community and for the community. A Self Help Group (SHG) was set up to administer the affairs of the College in a meeting held by the community on November 18, 2007 (a few photos attached).

Mr. G. Kannan, Panchayat President of Amithanallur, a local resident of the village (son of a freedom fighter and Village Head of Amithanallur for fifteen years,after independence), is truly following his father's foot steps and the driving force behind the community college. He was proud to present us his development activities for the community and the women of the community were all praise for him.

Panchayat Presidents of three other neighbouring villages viz. Thirunilai, Akkrampakkm and Madura vaasal are members of the SHG. They were supported right from the beginning by Mr. K. Rangaiyan, Retired Block Development Officer of Ellapuram Block, Mr. Pal Arasu, a Gandhian worker from Kanniya Kumari District with more than 40 years of dedicated community service and Mr. H. Ramalingam, President and Mr. Purushothaman, Secretary, and members of GCT78, (alumni of Govt. College of Technology, Coimbatore 1978 Batch), a not for profit NGO set up for Benchmarking Engineering Services in Social Sector.

Mr. Kris Dev, ICT & e-Gov Consultant, Life Line to Community / Business offered to extend development support to the Community College, to set up Village Knowledge Centre.

The community college will cater to all the people in the Ellapuram block of Thiruvallur District, consisting of 53 Village panchayats and Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA), the project anounced by Dr. Manmohan Singh, Honourable Prime Minister, in his speech on 15th August, 2003 on the concept promoted by Dr. Abdul Kalam, Honourable President of India, to bridge the rural-urban divide and achieving balanced socio-economic development.

Anbarasi, K, a married woman with a child, who has passed the 12th standard, came forward, to become the first Principal of the College. She is determined to pursue her higher studies and obtain a doctorate degree and lead by example. Her husband. Sankar, D., who has studied up to 5th standard and working in a factory as a loader, is also determined to take up vocational course as part time student.

One of the first few enrollments, was Aravind Nehru, a sixth standard student, who desires to become a Collector. Another was Ganapathy Govindarajan, a 11th standard student who wants to become a doctor, as the village has no doctor. The community volunteered to extend support to deserving students.

The Community College passed the resolution to conduct various informal courses to empower the community members in their chosen field of specialization. Informal certificates named "Kanavu Pura (Dream Bird)", "Vellai Pura (Peace Bird)" and "Seyal Pura (Action Bird)" would be given to deserving citizens in the next Gram Sabha on
26th Jan 2008.

Amithanallur Community College, a transparent community initiative, through its Grama Sabha, would truly empower the marginalized rural poor and deserves support from all including central Government, State Government, National and International NGOs, NRI Community, Educationists and Educational institutions, corporates as a part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

For more details contact:
1. Mr. G. Karunanidhi, Panchayat President, Amithanallur Village, Ellapuram Block, Tiruvallur District, TN at 91 99 526 72829.
2. Mr. Purushothaman, Secretary, GCT78, ( at 91 94 443 85195 /
3. Kris Dev, ICT & e-Gov Consultant, Life Line to Community / Business ( at 91 98 408 52132

Peter Burgess
The Transparency and Accountability Network: Tr-Ac-Net in New York
IMMC - The Integrated Malaria Management Consortium Inc.