The failure of Development Education

17/08/2010 at 9:39 am 8 comments


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Entry filed under: NGOs. Tags: .

Does Aid Work? – Absolutely! In defence of NGO overhead costs

8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. heike  |  17/08/2010 at 10:17 am

    Yes! Finally some thought provoking statements – and I don’t mean by Dochas (which tends to be though provoking anyway) but these are issues that are most often not discussed. I think in particular it has to do with differences in opinion as to what deved is and should be doing and a general ambivalence regarding the aid issue (and I’m including myself here).
    Regarding the first point the question is first of all if Development Agencies really are natural allies – or are they rather odd bedfellows? After all, deved should be as critical of NGOs as it should be of government policies, making the issue of funding even more complicated. Deved is not about supporting NGOs though very often the expectation is that it should – this gets further complicated by NGOs having deved sections themselves which are sometimes seen as being more about promotion than about deved.
    Certainly deved has not engaged deeply with humanitarian principles or with politicians – and least not to the level that it has become visible and made an impact. However, the problem may lie also in the second point – engagement with the media. Deved is very bad at engaging on an ongoing basis with the media for a number of different reasons. One outcome of this is that deved work is not known. For example, aid (humanitarian, long-term / short-term etc) has been and is discussed internally, in workshops, in public events … but we are very bad in publicising that (and we are even worse when it comes to the impact of that). At the same time, aid issues have been picked up by deved – see article on Haiti in the Galway Advertiser in January of this year (or have a look at our blogs), and I’m sure there are other examples. But they are not known, which is our own fault.
    Anyway, before I continue waffling and / or digging my own grave I’ll leave it at that. After reading some more comments (hopefully!) I may be back with more … 🙂

  • 2. Brain Teaser  |  17/08/2010 at 10:55 am

    Fundamentally, the biggest failure of DevEd is that it has masqueraded as education, while really being an ideology for social transformation.
    It is fundamentally dishonest to engage as a deved actor, while the reality is that deved is a marketing tool for social change. DevEd, rather than seeking to be informative and educate society- especially those undergoing formal education- on what the system is- providing a non-biased history of how the world got this way- deved tends to provide a jusgement based view of history.

    This view of history pre-judges the debate between various types of libertarianism, liberalism and utiltarianism, nunaced to say that the developed world has carried out some form of injustice on the rest of the world.
    This is an opinion, most probably right, but agenda driven education, especially in a world that does is averse to having morals and ethics enforced, going to fail to engage on any of the levels mentioned above.
    The four failures cited above are related to an agenda driven deved sector:
    -the failure to engage with Development NGOs results from the NGOs seeking to engage with principles of impartiality, neutrality, non-politicisation and non-judgement. Dev Ed is essantially none of these. Ideas of social justcie and how they manifest themselves are essentially political, and partial- even on a global level. NGOs are not comfortable telling the Irish public that they are essentialy tainted by guilty of ancestry, that what Ireland now has, is the result if ill gotten gains.
    – the failure to engage with the media again falls on the the fact that DevEd tends not to be a factual, informative appproach, but an ideology that is represented in society through other more interesting, attractive, often more engaging, actors, who are doing more than trying to transform society through subversion. DevEd can engage the media by using a research and learning approach, rather than appealing to emotions and rhetoric.
    – the failure to engage with humanitraian principles is simply the result of not being based on humnairatian principles. Humaniratian principles are those that drive humanitrain aresposnes. Dev Ed has nothnig to do with a humanitraian response, but is to do with social and societal change. The amalgamation of development and emergency responses occurs through a grey area of response, but to claim societal change is based on humanitrian principles is fundamentally misleading and this approach will further deepen the hole which DevEd is now in.
    -failure to engage with politics. DevEd has not failed to engage with politics. DevEd is politics and it is a failed political mechanism because it fails to proclaim itself as political. Politics are not interested as they realise that engaging with deved is essentially embracing the opposition- or railing aganist its local and national constiituency base.

    DevEd assumes it is is education, whereas it is not- it asumes values and mores and then interprets societies based on those vlaues, and seeks to educate based on an assumption that these values are the ultimate and best values. No more than communism or capitalism, there are areas of right and wrong atht people will hold polarised opinions, and by resorting to emotion and rhetoric in seeking to promote these ideals, deved is a parody of what society considers education to be- informative and non-politcal. DevEd should stop calling itself as such and rename as what it really is, cosmopolitanism.

  • 3. Colm Regan  |  18/08/2010 at 4:38 pm

    Response to the Dóchas DE Survey
    First of all, thanks to Dóchas for taking the initiative on this, a debate within Dóchas on the place of DE in its agenda is long overdue, I agree that the network has significantly underperformed in the area of development education and I hope this represents new energy and focus.
    Before answering the four questions posed, a number of preliminary observations:
    – DE has not failed to produce indicators of impact, a number of studies and reports have done so but the debate is all too often turned into one about developing certain types of indicators around inappropriate objectives such as generating public support for government aid programmes and policies or support for the fundraising and advocacy objectives of individual NGOs.

    – The Dóchas survey refers to a more ‘fundamental’ level of failure – that of failing to engage stakeholders – THIS IS NOT TRUE – DE has very successfully engaged a whole raft of stakeholders from student and teacher groups to subject associations, to colleges of education and universities; from individual youth groups to national youth organisations and structures; from individual trade unions to ICTU etc. I could mention church groups, VEC structures, community structures etc., etc. This ‘sleight of hand’ in referring to DE needs to be challenged.

    The challenge referred to in the Dóchas survey is the perception that DE has inadequately engaged some stakeholders and those referred to specifically are three of special importance to Dóchas – aid agencies, the media and politicians, so please, let’s be clear about the challenge!

    – How the questions are posed is important – one key assumption in the questions is that DE has failed to win over development NGOs and we can all spend time answering this question/challenge but if I pose the question differently – development NGOs have failed to recognise and support the key importance of DE in development and have significantly failed the Irish public as regards their entitlement to education for and in development, the question is slightly different.

    Dóchas has routinely failed in its stated mandate in DE; this does not simply represent a failure on the part of its DE group but much more significantly a failure on the part of its Executive Committee in not insisting its working group was more effective. The history of DE in Dóchas has always been fraught as regards DE.

    However, let me state clearly, it is my view that DE has significantly failed many of its key stakeholders and itself and these failings must be addressed but how we understand how such weaknesses and failings came about is an interesting topic in its own right.

    I my view DE has been spectacularly successful given the poor level of support and resourcing it has received over the years proportionately to the task it was asked to undertake. A cursory examination of the DE landscape 30 years ago reveals a desert pretty much – today’s landscape is altogether different. Perhaps the most significant success has been in replacing the NGOs as the leading sector in DE with a much broader and more representative range of structures and organisations and, in particular, the state. School, youth and adult education syllabi illustrate the change; college degrees and courses ditto; textbooks and newsletters also; study visits and placements etc. And most of this has been achieved on a shoestring with the active anti-educational messages and behaviours of many aid agencies and with significant difficulties in holding on to quality personnel attracted by the glamour and salaries and security of the aid sector itself.

    Much more could and needs to be said but on another day ….

    To the four questions posed by Dóchas.

    1. I agree; development agencies have hugely and disproportionately cut DE funding from the poor levels previously existing. As a result, I agree that co-financing is problematic, hugely so at a time when other possibilities for funding are also being slashed and where the danger is that the state becomes the predominant funder with all the inevitable consequences that follow. Why they have done this is a matter of considerable debate – ruthless competition between agencies for funds from the public, the glut of fundraising by an exploded ‘aid sector’; the growing domination of agencies by ‘professional’ fundraisers, administrators and lobbyists; the hiring in a PR agencies and spin merchants with little allegiance to the big development picture and the needs of the longer-term etc. As agencies became bloated in size, they were subjected to serial restructuring where DE usually became answerable to fundraisers, ‘communications’ experts and advocacy and policy personnel; job descriptions became emasculated and twisted and the amount of time allowed for DE became miniscule.

    However, I do agree that DE itself has also failed through poor quality work (backed by even poorer analysis), its failure over many years to firmly link DE with development and our many dalliances with other forms and shapes of political education (in short our failure to demonstrate in real ways our commitment to the human development agenda of the world’s poorest); our fascination with endless meetings without outcomes; our ‘preciousness’ over a whole range of issues and our failure to challenge the obvious flaws and weaknesses of many of our own agencies. DE has spectacularly failed to challenge the NGOs as evidenced by recent international reports on the DE landscape in Ireland today (the recent DE Watch Report is but one example).

    I strongly disagree that DE has failed to link with the issues many development NGOs are working on – I am aware of ongoing, consistent and engaged DE work on aid agendas, women’s rights, HIV and AIDS, climate change etc. – the list is endless. I agree, the work could be better (and better resourced) but to say we work in ‘splendid isolation’ is indulgent nonsense.

    2. DE has indeed failed to effectively engage with the media but have you tried selling the education message in the face of the relentless, massively funded and resourced, PR agency designed and spun fundraising and marketing messages of the aid agencies? Ireland is locked into an ‘assistencialist’ perspective vis-a-vis development and doing media focused DE in this context is very, very problematic. It should also be noted that some of us have chosen not to engage with the media, not to appoint media personnel and not to issue press statements that further clog ‘communication’.

    I think the whole debate on the linkages between DE and the media needs considerably more discussion and clarification as to what precisely our agenda might be.

    3. I fail to understand the apparent link between the lukewarm FUNDRAISING response of the public to the recent Pakistan appeals from aid agencies and DE – were we supposed to swing into action and urge the public to give money to agencies? I also fail to get the leap from this Pakistan focus to humanitarian relief and DE and its fundamental values base. I was not aware that DE organisations primarily focused on the structural causes of poverty – I thought aid agencies such as Christian Aid, Trócaire, Oxfam etc. did this? If I examine any of the foundational documents and statements re DE, the mandate I find is the ‘education’ of Irish people in development issues, our duties in the world, our responsibilities to the poor etc.

    Resources such as 80:20 Development in an Unequal World (and its precursor 75:25) clearly engaged with humanitarian principles and more recent documents such as Debating Aid (and its accompanying advocacy resource) and 5:50:500 all explicitly engage with the humanitarian agenda. I am aware of many other resources from other organisations that do likewise but I will leave them to speak for themselves.

    However, I do agree that we need to do much, much more on the values base of our work and our agenda and I believe DE has not done its share of the heavy lifting in this regard.

    4. I am not sure how to reply to this challenge. Obviously the funding base of DE is fragile – we need to take responsibility for this ourselves and campaign to get the aid agencies engaged effectively along with a host of other potential funders including philanthropic organisations (many of them also do not value DE because of poor previous experiences!). DE organisations need to become more active in generating their own income – this is a must to develop and maintain independence from both government and aid agencies.

    The campaigning question is difficult – campaigns that have focused on particular issues have annoyed individual politicians and the more conservative media and aid agency leaders. I am not surprised the government does not fund such campaigns – I would be more surprised if they did! What DE needs to do more effectively is convince Irish Aid that campaigning is a legitimate and necessary part of development cooperation work. Campaigning will remain a difficult area into the future.

    As a DE organisation that has done education work with politicians in the Dail itself, I disagree with the Dóchas proposition but I find the statement ‘it has also failed to understand the political environment in which it is working’ arrogant and silly. I guess non-DE folk in Dóchas do then, eh? Stop being superior!

    As for being accused of being ‘shallow and aloof’, I have reached for my Dublin Dictionary and checked out my response – the second word is ‘off’.

  • 4. Eimear  |  23/08/2010 at 10:13 am

    Hi, I was wondering how I can access the original article, since it seems to have been moved.
    many thanks,

  • 6. Matthias Fiedler  |  26/08/2010 at 12:54 pm

    I have provided key points to the Dochas survey but felt it is also important to add a few points to the original blog. Colm in his reply has already picked up some important points; I just wanted to add/re-iterate some:

    If we want to talk about impact of Dev Ed we need to look at the stakeholders that many organizations working in Dev Ed have identified over the years, not the ones that others think we should have. If we look at the level of integration of key Dev Ed messages and methodologies in educational settings (schools, teacher training colleges, universities, etc.) as well as how global issues are dealt with in national curricula and courses across the country (not to mention the resources produced over the years) it has to be said that people working in Development Education have had a massive impact. I agree that we have to work harder on issues of quality but there is evidence of real impact of Dev Ed in Ireland over the last 20 years in the places that Dev Ed is targeting, ie schools, colleges, universities and youth work to name just a few.

    I would also like to point out that it is important to recognize that we are talking about a sector that receives less than 1% of the overall ODA budget so we need to be realistic about what can be achieved and what can be expected. In the light of this it is, to say the least, ironic to blame the lack of public ownership of the development agenda entirely on Dev Ed. I wonder how far we would be in terms of public ownership if a considerable amount of the money that has been put into communications and public information (not to mention fundraising) had been allocated to interventions and activities that are genuinely Dev Ed for, let’s say, the last five years. My feeling is that we would be further ahead of the game by now….

    I would also strongly disagree with the second reply (Brain Teaser). Dev Ed is not an ideology, the reply – in my view – reveals a lack of understanding what development education is about.

    I terms of the four failure of Dev Ed listed in the blog I would add the following:
    1. DevEd has failed to engage with Development NGOs
    Heike and Colm in their reply have made valid points about questioning the way in which this challenge is posed by the blog. The assumption that the NGOs are the closest allies in support of DevEd is indeed missing the point somehow. We all know that some NGOs don’t really see the value of Dev Ed at all or just pay lip-service in terms of their commitment to it. You could see this as a failure of the Dev Ed sector (which has failed to win them over) or as a failure of the NGOs but I wonder what would happen if we stopped blaming each other about this and start talking about why Dev Ed was once (when many NGOs started off) seen as an essential part of their development work. It might be a good point to start a discussion about the fundamental importance of educating people in the North about development issues AS a contribution to the development work we are all involved in. If you talk to development professionals, everybody agrees that we need structural chances and a change of mind in terms of the charity-model NGOs are often still promoting. I would maintain that Dev Ed has a lot to contribute to this discussion!

    2. DevEd has failed to engage with the media
    I partly agree with this statement but also think Colm’s point about the actual possibilities for DevEd to influence the media is a valid one. It is a big challenge for a small sector to engage meaningful with the media and compete with well financed PR, fundraising and communications people. It is also difficult to “sell” the DevEd which is more complex than the simple messaging we often see about development issues in the media. I would hope that the DevEd sector takes up this challenge and develops ways of how we can engage with the media without reducing our messages to a level of simplicity and catchiness that defies the purpose. I also think it’s a bigger discussion for the whole professional development sector as some of the messaging to raise funds is actually counter-productive to what DevEd is trying to achieve (e.g. messages framed in a simple charity approach or that suggest that solving global problems is simple (let’s be honest about it: it’s not! I’d say that the public appreciates and deserves some honesty!)). Finally, I think one way of starting this process is for Dev Ed people and communications people to sit together and start talking to each other.

    3. DevEd has failed to engage with humanitarian principles.
    I can’t say that I agree or disagree with this point, I simply don’t understand it. I would have thought that a lukewarm response to appeals would reflect on how well the fundraising is doing but I can’t see the connection with Dev Ed; unless the blog suggests that Dev Ed should be a support mechanism for fundraising which I hope it doesn’t. I would also argue that by concentrating on “structural causes of poverty” and global justice issues DevEd has worked intensively to engage with humanitarian principles. This challenge does reveal – in my view – a lack of understanding and knowledge about what DEvEd is doing and has been doing.

    4. DevEd has failed to engage with politics.
    I am not going to respond to the point about the political analysis bit in the challenge, I am after all a polite person. From IDEAs point of view I suggest a look at the publications on our website, and articles submitted by IDEA to a variety of journals. Many of our member’s have also engaged in political analysis but I let them speak for themselves. I am not sure if “politics” also means policy here (or simply influencing politicians). In terms of policy there is definitely a challenge ahead for DevEd, namely to work on educational policies to help and enable educators to integrate DevEd more into their work.

    Let the conversation continue, it’s an important one!

  • 7. Bobby McCormack  |  26/08/2010 at 7:13 pm

    Great to see the contributions and debate to what are interesting points. I responded to the survey but would like to make a few points firstly in repose to the challenges outlined and secondly (more importantly to the possible underlying issues).

    I work within an organisation (Development Perspectives) that tries to work in partnership with many other organisations and sectors. We work closely with Trocaire and other partners who I dont need to mention here but the point is simple. The Dev Ed sector is varied as is the broader Development sector in terms of desire for and levels of engagement across stakeholder groupings. In general terms I would argue closer co-operation and engagement would benefit all involved in what I hope are shared goals. It should be noted – Those efforts need to be mutual.

    I do believe Dev Ed can and should use the media more as part of its work but an analysis of why this is not the case would make for interesting reading. A radio producer is on our board, we have had five interviews on three radio stations in the last few months and had a small 20 minute slot on DCTV. Not bad for an organisation with an entire budget, which some might spent on two prime time TV ads. If the blogger wants advice on how to use the media cleverly with little or no cash, just give us a call.

    In relation to the Dev Ed sector and humanitarian principles – I do think greater knowledge of Development/Humanitarian work is necessary within the Dev Ed sector. I`d also argue greater knowledge of the Dev Ed sector is required by others (as evidenced by reading the blog and some of the responses). Surely, we can reach agreement that we may share similiar if not the same goals but work differently to contributing to their achievement. An interesting point to note would be to peruse the successfull (in terms of getting funding) projects funded by Irish Aid under the Higher Education Partnership measure. Which theory of Development does each successful project ascribe to? Do they know of other ways of describing understanding Development? Many practitioners in Development need to deepen their knowledge of Development. Maybe we could share our understanding/views/opinions of these issues. Who better to faciliate that much needed debateit than someone from Dev Ed?

    In relation to politics – Dev Ed is political as but so is education. (unfortunately “Brainteaser” doesnt get this). An example of good Dev Ed practice in relation to this – DP and Trocaire are working on a workshop targeting Politicians in the Meath/Louth area. Ground work has been conducted and we are excited by the possibilities. Another example of work in this area is an advanced Dev Ed Practitioners programme which DP, Trocaire, Kimmage DSC and Development Education Network – Liberia are involved in. 10 pax from across Ireland as well as 12 from Liberia are doing workshops in Bong county, Liberia in September faciliated by amongst others Senator Franklin Siakor who happens to be a Presidential Candidate. Interestingly enough, DEN-L are broadcasting it nationwide on their radio programme.

    This debate is important to have at any time but especially so at this fragile time (in terms of financial constraints). In my opinion, the blogger illustrates at times a lack of knowledge of “others” work and what it involves. We all could and should do more to inform ourselves of what others are up to/ why they do it/how they do it. A knowledge deficit exists internally in the Development sector and its doing none of us any favours. More co-operation across sectors/within sectors is needed and given the values many of us share, its interesting to note that conflicts/cracks could appear, which will distract all of us from far bigger challenges whilst we examine our navels. Let not our analysis lead to paralysis but if we think education is expensive or not worthwhile try ignorance….

  • 8. Son Gyoh  |  27/08/2010 at 10:21 pm

    Reading through the comments I detect the same crisis beleaguering DE, a system of knowledge and practice defined and understood in different ways by different people without a hint of what the assumed beneficiaries make of it.
    Aside from his label of DE as an ideology I tend to agree with Brain teaser when he points out the shift in discourse from competencies that address structural changesin global injustices/inequality which is the underlying remit of DE.

    I think the great effort to isolate advocacy which in my view is not all about campaiging as other dialogic approaches are currently making connections with policy makers in Australia (public tours to engage politicians).

    DE has certainly broken boundaries in terms of pedagogic frontiers but at the expense of public focus/interest in the root causes of global inequality.. DE has strived to focus on reinventing itself as an academic descipline with great difficulty and contradictions. The failure it assumes today is a direct consiquence of this provisionalism it has embraced when it was repackaged in the UK around ODA agendas with Ireland following on that path.
    There is need to review the competenciesDE seeks, re-evaluate its link with advocacy as the hardware that might provide the space and voice for the south and evolve more plural ways of learning and knowing beyond the school curricula and the framing of underdevelopment on charity aid. The NGOs seem poised to take this direction through their research work but need to strike a balance between marketing themselves and operating as sites for knowledge reproduction


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