The changing landscape of international development
By Charlie Habershon, PA international development expert
What do a bunch of scientists, engineers, service designers, innovation experts and policy makers have in common? A few things actually. We’re fortunate that many of them work at PA, that they all love a challenge and they have a commitment to, and passion for, international development. So what are the shifting aspects we’re seeing when it comes to the international development landscape?
Technology is being used as ‘business as usual’ rather than a disruptor – with the success of start-ups such as mobile phone-based money transfer M-Pesa™, there’s a growing appetite to use technology to help the poorest in society. Smartphones are the key to transforming how aid is provided, and the number of handsets in Kenya has risen from 330,000 in 2001 to 38 million in 2016 in a country with a population of nearly 45 million. The challenge for deploying technology solutions is to ensure the programmes embrace its potential and adapt services to maximise it.
It’s not about the money, it’s about jobs – with a huge growth in youth unemployment, there’s a real need to look at innovative solutions to help businesses grow and bring in foreign direct investment to create jobs. We’ve previously delivered investment services on behalf of the UK for many years so we know what it takes to support 2,000 companies to grow their UK business and, in doing so, secure 150,000 UK jobs.
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The ‘A’ word – we’re all familiar with Agile as a methodology and its application in solution development and business change. We’re growing accustomed to adaptive management in the international development context and the associated desire for management of the system in a different way. The movement to adaptive programming is undoubtedly positive, but there’s still a lot of thinking to be done about how this can work most effectively and how capability is built within the system.
Play nicely or don’t play at all – perhaps more than in any other sector, the international development community is encouraged and open to partnerships and collaborations. The recognition that all capabilities can’t be vested in one organisation is a healthy acceptance of the limitations and strengths of individual partners. Partnerships are therefore very important and are being formed to deliver success. We recognise that some will be short-lived and opportunity-driven, but others will endure over time and adapt as the market continues to change.
Most importantly, we see a desire to do development differently. There’s widespread agreement that the current ways of working need to change and that the sector needs to look harder for examples of great practice and innovation beyond international development. We’re really excited about this – the sky’s the limit!