International development and governance projects have a notorious track record. Every day, it seems, we hear another report of foreign aid siphoned off by corrupt officials and projects losing money to bureaucracy and inefficiency. Take this story, published last year in The New York Times: The Egyptian government, hoping to increase internet access, had established over 2,000 telecenters across the country. But an independent researcher found that almost none of the centers were functioning; in one city, just four out of 23 were active. The telecenters weren’t being used in large part because they weren’t even necessary—the rise of internet cafes in Egypt had made them redundant.

“The failure, in other words, was in not understanding the ecosystem in which the telecenters would be operating,” said the Times.

Too often, projects like these are born and developed by corporations, foundations, governments, and other institutions without a day-to-day understanding of the lives of the people they’re meant to help. There’s no shortage of good intentions, hard work, and committed individuals. Where the field of development falls short, however, is in process.

This is an extract from the first post in a 7-part series from Panthea Lee on Core77. Read the full post→

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