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Development in 3 Sentences

I liked this formulation from the blog The Coming Prosperity, posted today as a link on Twitter:

If solutions are known, need $$. If solutions are knowable, need evaluations. If solutions are evolving, need entrepreneurs.

Consumer Warnings: This comes at the end of a long diatribe against You-Know-Who (associated with $$). I’m not sure the author is a reliable guide to other people’s work, since Yours Truly is incorrectly associated with “evaluations.” But I still like the 3 sentences above.

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  1. Brilliant.

    Two issues this brings up vis a vis international agencies:

    1. Many international development agencies treat everything as known or knowable, and therefore as needing $$ or research.

    See for example a recent thinkpiece on malaria as an evovling problem, which illustrates how the narrow focus on known solutions was one of the contributors to the resurgence of the disease:

    2. There is little space for creative entrepreneurs in most agencies, so they tend to be forced out, unless (a) they are hard as steel or (b) able to live with a incredible degree of cognitive dissonance and compromise.

    An earlier post ‘The Aid Leadership Paradox’ examines this issue:


    Posted February 5, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  2. Great to see this quote featured on AidWatch. I appreciate the shout-out to The Coming Prosperity. Thanks!

    I do admit to having had some initial difficulty parsing the “Consumer Warning” that followed. As my Twitter postings today reflect, I was not at first able to differentiate among “You-Know-Who,” “Yours Truly,” and “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.”

    Having gotten that straight, I still have one comment–really, an inconsequential quibble–having to do with your suggestion that my assessment of other people’s work is not entirely reliable. Hmmm. You justify this scurrilous accusation with the follow claim: “Yours Truly is incorrectly associated with ‘evaluations.'” I infer that this sentence refers to the link in my post titled “Dr. Know” from the word “evaluations” to the Amazon site for at book titled “What Works in Development” that you co-edited with Jessica Cohen.

    Now I’m not sure exactly what the division of labor was between you, Jessica Cohen, and the 16 illustrious (and I *don’t* use that word lightly) authors involved in producing this book. Presumably it was such that you didn’t do all the work. Therefore: a link to the book is not a link to you.

    Since it was the book (& associated event) to which I in fact referred in the post in question (and that book is not you) than the question regarding my reliability is properly framed in this way: Does the book, “What Works in Development,” emphasize the evaluation of aid (both micro- and macro interpretations possible). My contention, expressed here and here, is that it does. If you have any disagreement with that claim, I’d be glad to hear it. If not, would be great if you’d amend the above “Consumer Warning” accordingly.

    Further comments on any of my posts relating to *your* work (e.g. and here also welcome.

    Posted February 5, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink
  3. … & by the way, in case not obvious by the attention I lavish on your work, I think your contributions to economics are fantastic. More of you & there might be some hope for us economists. So, thanks again!

    Posted February 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  4. Phil Jonat wrote:

    Since solutions are always evolving…need entrepreneurs.

    Posted February 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Bonnie Koenig wrote:

    Clever as a short slogan with a lot of truth to it, but of course reality is often much more complex… For example, not all solutions call for money…

    Posted February 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Permalink
  6. Lawrence wrote:

    I understand the fascniation with coming up with the smallest, simplest way to say things. In mathematics, you always try to get to the most basic formula that you can. But I feel like this one is too cute for its own good. Although I understand it, my main argument against it is that you need each and every one of those things, for all three scenarios.
    Secondly, you need them to continually be input into the process. I would not consider anyone of them more valuable than another in any situation. I understand you weren’t claiming that this little equation could solve the world’s problems, but it just clearly stood out to me as an empty statement.
    Again, it doesn’t make that much sense if you read it from a ground level perspective. We need money for an entrepeneur to be able to carry out any initiative. The only reason it may seem more important, is because everyone throws money at something they see as a “known solution.” But known solutions and money are nothing without the solutions themselves. And the solutions are not the idea, the money, the blueprint, the hardware, but the solutions are the IMPLEMENTATION of those aspects and inputs through the people that use the money, that follow the plan, that input the idea and theory, and monitor the results, all simultaneously. The simultaneous nature is the key component to any success, and one that is clearly left out of your “equation.”

    Posted February 18, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

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