Tag: needs assessment

“Managing Development. Understanding the Inter-Organisational Relationships” book

My interest in this book and hence its value for my work stems from the importance of relationships between organisations, as a driver of close work for common purpose in development management. In other words, we follow the assumption that better we work together, better are the results in projects and beyond. There is general donors and governments’ consensus on that. The practice of it is more nuanced though (will come back to that in another post).

The book essentially answers the question: how can relationships between organisations be managed so as to build the public action and outcomes desired from development interventions? Its content is organised around three “ideal types” or modes of structuring inter-organizational relationships:  competition, co-ordination and co-operation. The authors warn us that these types shall not be understood as stand-alone and rigid concepts. There are significant overlaps between them and each comes with strengths and weaknesses, each peculiar to development stages and contexts.

The book might seem more academic, yet the background research abounds with practical relevance. Therefore, I come back to this book when relationships between and with stakeholders become too complicated and we seem to distance ourselves from our starting point. It helps understanding organisations’ dynamics, which jointly with the science of human behaviour, is a valuable knowledge to succeed in development management.


Human resources management dilemmas: a story

Everyone was pushing for his dismissal. His client, the project sponsor, the implementing agency. All except for me. I’ve dragged on the file for four months, for as long as I could, given the pressure from all sides.

A letter from the client to the project sponsor put an end to his contract. We settled for a mutually agreed termination of the contract and a bit of extra paid days.1.4

In the three weeks that followed from his resignation letter, he displayed the model of best professional behaviour. He was cooperating in his hand-over to a remarkable extent. I tried my best to respond to all his e-mails (up to seven a day some days), his telephone calls. I knew it was important to him. To talk to and to listen to him.

There was no blame. Just a set of circumstances.

A farewell coffee, a farewell note, cc-ed to entire team and a recommendation letter. A warm shake of hands and an eye contact to last throughout years. The least I could have done.

I often missed his honesty, integrity, eloquent communication style and a sense of humour to envy. Rare qualities these days.

My takeaway lesson from this is simple: As project managers, we need to look beyond strict client-consultant relations and understand the numerous complexities involved. Thanks to this mindfulness, I would like to believe, he was fully supportive of all management interventions that were required.


his last e-mail to me                                                                                                                                   10 June 20xx

I hesitate to say, “You’re an absolute darling”, for obvious reasons … but you are.



Gender mainstreaming: a ladder

I was in gender mainstreaming training some time ago. Two hours into the learning, a participant exclaimed: “but we deal not only with women in our projects!”. You can picture the facepalm of the trainer.Quite often I also hear what a hurdle it is to ‘mainstream gender” and other cross-cutting issues into development work. There are a number of simple approaches to befriend what became a standard requirement in projects.Use a “ladder” for instance.Step 1. Find out if gender matters. A gender impact assessment (GIA) will bring the answer. GIA will identify answers to:

  • is the project objective linked with gender inequality patters? The most common patterns relate to differences in the: access to decision-making, representation; access to resources; social/legal/financial status and entitlements.
  • will reaching the project objective affect women and men in a different way/women and men of different age groups in a different way?
  • will the above cause inequality? if yes, take Step 2.

Step 2. Get data. I know, “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”. And it is not about numbers. It is about the way they influence things and decision-makers.  “Figures often beguile me” wrote Mark Twain. Yes, numbers can charm or deceive. Triangulation can help break the charm sometimes.

Step. 3. Prevent/solve inequalities at the levels they manifest themselves. It can be project organisation matters (for example, the membership of Steering Committees) or policy matters influenced by the project (for example, through expert opinions on a draft law).Across all three steps, check you assumptions. Is what we know true/valid? Is this what both genders want/aspire to…? I came across “Testosterone Rex” by Cordelia Fine. See if this review “Goodbye, beliefs in sex differences disguised as evolutionary facts. Welcome the dragon slayer: Cordelia Fine wittily but meticulously lays bare the irrational arguments that we use to justify gender politics.”—Uta Frith, emeritus professor of cognitive development, University College London” will serve as in invitation to read it. Or, this article “A Feminist Biologist Discusses Gender Differences In The Animal Kingdom” by Suzanne Sadedin, Evolutionary Biologist on https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/04/13/a-feminist-biologist-discusses-gender-differences-in-the-animal-kingdom/

Each project/development work is different and many gender complexities will arise. And it is rare to reach the 100% gender mainstreamed target. It is still possible to bring a meaningful change/two and by starting small.

Sometimes, it is about giving the floor or creating a forum for all voices to be heard equally. It reminds me of an organisation 50% made of women who had less then 10% representation in decision-making bodies. Supporting an inclusive strategic planning exercise for both the organisation and the women association helped put a first stone into the road towards a more equitable representation and inclusive decision-making.