How best to plan, manage and coordinate?
The focal point of many years of failed development has been top down planning and resource allocation together with a preoccupation with profit at the expense of value. The idea of micro-up bottom of the pyramid empowerment rather than the prevailing top down development model holds the promise of better performance, but there are practical difficulties.
TVM addresses the broad issue of data and its use for decision making, oversight and accountability. This can go a long way towards addressing the challenge of bottom of the pyramid empowerment, the allocation of scarce resources and accountability for their effective use.
With government, decision making at the top!
If government is the focal point, then planning, management and coordination will be at the top … and it will not work.
In parallel with the “top” level initiatives, there needs to be a series of modest scale activities that have focus on community and are able to be managed and coordinated to do tangible work. These activities can successful and contribute to community progress. These activities can work and contribute to the reported success of organizations
Nevertheless it will be at the “top” that there will be an ongoing assessment of performance … and the establishment will keep on doing its statistical compilations at this level. These statistical series have some value … they are a long time series, and though they are almost 100% useless for decision making they do serve as fairly useful proxies for aggregate performance.
With community, decision making bottom-up
Activities are community specific … or place specific. Activities that are priority in a community are those that can address priority needs in the community. The best place to ascertain community priorities is in the community … and it is in the community that there should be planning.
Many communities have multiple deficits … and in these cases addressing only one of the deficits may not have much impact.
Which disease to die from?
A child may be treated for malaria and live because this is a global priority for donors … but then die a month later from some water-borne disease that is not being addressed.
Planning and assessing progress at the community level is very much easier than trying to get the same level of certainty at a national or global level.
At community level … multi-sector coordination
Almost nothing will work when it is planned “in a silo” with the plan to operate “in a silo”. This is the planning model for most single sector initiatives … and explains why most of these initiatives are impressive failures. This is the planning model used almost universally by the World Bank, the UN and official development assistance agencies like USAID, DfID, and others.
Attempts to coordinate a set of single silo initiatives at the “top” so that they work together at the community level never works. Usually this merely adds another level of coordination on “top” of what is already, not to mention adding expense, while doing nothing tangible for coordination at the community level.
Expertise is sector specific, and to be useful it needs to be able to reach the community and the activities where the expertise is used. Expertise may come to an activity in a variety of ways ranging from an Internet connection to the engagement of consultants and organizations with deep sector knowledge. Broadly speaking the key know-how should be “pulled” into the community to address some priority rather than being pushed.
For a continuum of progress there has to be deep understanding of what can be done at the community level … everywhere! A starting point is to have a modest set of community level data which may, over time, be expanded as the community progresses.