The Listening Project Issue Paper: International assistance as a delivery system

Collaborative Learning Project
Publication language
Date published
01 Sep 2008
Collaborative Learning Project
Research, reports and studies
Accountability and Participation, Accountability to affected populations (AAP), Comms, media & information, Conflict, violence & peace, NGOs, Organisational

As the Listening Project has worked with many international and local NGO colleagues to arrange Listening Exercises in a broad range of countries, we have repeatedly had similar experiences. People in agencies’ headquarters and in field sites are genuinely interested in participating in this collaborative listening and learning effort, and talk about its importance and relevance to their work. However, time after time, we have run into challenges in organizing the field work and in getting agency staff to be able to commit the time needed to listen, analyze and reflect on what people in recipient communities have to say about international assistance efforts. The fact that this pattern was repeated under such varied circumstances and by so many competent and committed people led to the Listening Project’s analysis that many of the challenges were somehow intrinsic to the way that the international assistance system has developed and is currently conceptualized and organized.

This Issue Paper lays out the evidence assembled by the Listening Project that explains how and why this pattern is virtually inevitable under the circumstances of today’s international assistance system. It suggests that the current “business model” of the international assistance system actually makes open-ended listening to local people, and the arrangements to do so, very difficult indeed. This Issue Paper differs from the other ones in that it does not only report on what we have heard from people in recipient societies, but also includes the evidence from CDA’s experience in organizing the Listening Exercises and from discussions with a number of aid agency colleagues.