Just do it

Development Policy29 Jun 2010Pepijn Jansen

Okay, so I am not that much into the whole development thingy right now – mostly working with large business in the maritime industry. This looks like an entirely different branch, but the main difference is that people design ships instead of development projects. They also keep themselves busy with things like knowledge management, evaluation … and they hire consultants to do the thinking for them on that part (that’s where I come in). They’re just people doing their jobs, just as you are probably doing your job right now.

Well, let me rephrase something. The main difference between the development sector and (for example) the maritime industry is that people in industry acknowledge they are just doing their jobs. And they think (for the most part) that it should be done effectively and efficiently. This means that, for them, something as potentially vague as knowledge management needs to be useful. So I don’t start by telling people how enormously complicated things like knowledge are (I promised myself not to bash ‘complexity’ any longer). Or why you can’t plan to change the world. No, they just want solutions to real-life problems, such as the loss of scarce knowledge because too many people are retiring at once.

What I’m getting at is that, sometimes, people in the development sector seem to be doing a lot of useless things. Or at least they do things that do not directly affect their primary objectives. Writing strategic policy documents that no one will follow; defining indicators that will never be met; listening to some guru babbling on about some vague theory that they should really take into account when doing their job (and thus making the policy even more useless because all it states is that ‘this document should guide you in the direction of … but of course we all know that the world is always changing, so never mind, because we can’t do anything about it, but let’s write a policy on how to spend our money on defining indicators …’). Is it really necessary to complicate development work in such a way that it is becoming really hard to see what the point is?