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Relationships Matter: The Best Kept Secret of International Aid?
While working for DFID (Department for International Development) in Bolivia, the author arranged for the UK Government to finance two parallel initiatives for people in marginalized communities to secure identity cards--and thus the right to vote. One initiative financed a consortium of grass-roots organizations; the other financed the State’s electoral commission. Although both initiatives aimed to get identity cards into the hands of more people, they way they went about it based on very different diagnoses of the causes of the problem. Both initiatives were relatively successful. However, when, after the author left, a second phase of support was planned with a wider group of donors, it was decided, for reasons of efficiency, to bring these two initiatives together under a single financing umbrella. Negotiations to design the common program dragged on for more than two years, leading to a collective loss of energy and creativity. A subsequent independent evaluation noted that by forcing the different initiatives--and organizations--under a single, multi-donor-financed umbrella, donors failed to take into account the different world-views of the implementing organizations and the mutual mistrust that prevailed between them.