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#103 Coordination

October 26, 2011

Submitted by Kaz_Taj

While Expat Aid Workers do not appear at first glance to be any less awkward than the average person, they sure do spend a lot of time obsessing about coordination.  Nary is the project, investment initiative or targeted funding that does not commit to full coordination with other donors, like-minded partners and the all-sacrosanct stakeholders.

Coordination for Non Expat Aid Workers

Just like the giant squid, coordination is pretty much assumed to be real but just too darn elusive and rare to ever actually emerge, blinking in the sunlight, from the murky depths of aid theory.  Perhaps most fascinating of all with coordination is not that it would be so hard to achieve (five aid projects in maternal & child health care x 45 women and children / 10 consultants on the ground = not necessarily the results one would hope for), but rather the extent to which every Expat Aid Worker believes in it, every donor agency believes in it, every NGO believes in it.  Coordination is it.  It’s the magic bullet, the Golden Fleece that will cover over all faulty design plans, all weak risk analyses, all high transaction costs, and all negative mid-term program evaluations.

The Myth of Coordination, like all myths, is built on a kernel of truth.  Once (in the days of telexes and flights having to stop over in Gander, Newfoundland, on their way to Post), School No. 5 in the small village of Deepindahola was built three times over by three innocent and unsuspecting projects.  Then (in Deepindahearta), two Aid Workers actually came to blow over who would get to use the one patch of land available that was angled at less than 45 degrees to pilot the new winter wheat variety.  Something had to be done; Aid Workers could not engage into vile competition for resources; life was hard enough on the ground as it was.

Enter coordination that guarantees a harmonious, scuffle-free, field environment where the Japanese take the north and the Swedes the south and operations are managed by an independent Project Implementation Unit under the (Oh Joy!) ownership of the national government.  Coordination achieved, the country is saved, mom will be so proud.

Coordination for Expat Aid Workers

In practice of course, as in most things in the life of the Expat Aid Worker, things are different from what the brochure promised.  Since this is a family publication, I will spare you having to glimpse into the true feelings harbored by US-Funded Development Project #1 towards Europe-Funded Development Project #2.  Coordination We will uphold, but the bastards better not mess up with the sources of Our baseline data because Parliament will not stand for it; We may be willing to compromise but, unlike ThemWe have to be accountable to the funding agency; Ours is serious business, not charity.

But let’s not dwell any further on such negative things as reality or genuine feelings and return to the undying love of the Expat Aid Worker for coordination.  He or she loves it so much that there might just be only one management principle that is dearer to his or her heart:

Harmonization.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2011 7:50 am

    Now you’re talking…

  2. October 27, 2011 11:43 pm

    acutal quote from a critically acclaimed “multi country synthesis” i am currently reading….

    “But even in cases where the enabling environment is relatively
    well established, there are often challenges around dissemination of roles and
    responsibilities, and a lack of harmonisation and coordination.
    The findings from the studies highlight the fact that for scalability of approaches
    to work well, there needs to be strong policy, planning, investment
    decisions and capacity building done at a sector level, with the goal of setting
    clear frameworks for all actors to function within. This type of scalability
    is associated with those countries that have a relatively high degree of harmonisation
    and alignment of sector organisations to national policies and
    frameworks.”

    I think the authors would make great case studies for your above article

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