In the wake of the massive, worldwide response to the Ethiopia famine in 1984 and 1985, international development organizations grew in size, and began to attract increased public scrutiny. As a result, consciously or not, we began to adopt many private-sector practices, and to import a number of basic for-profit cultural influences. Has this been good for our sector, or bad?
Based on my own experience, I think the answer is mixed: in some ways the systems and ways of working and viewing the world that we imported from the business world were of crucial help as we scaled up in the 1990’s and beyond. But in a number of fundamental ways, these influences have undermined the effectiveness of our agencies, and the sector in general.
In 2010 I presented a paper on this topic at the “Reconceptualising Development” workshop, held at Deakin University in Melbourne. It will be published later this year, and is attached here.