Working in social development, there’s a tendency to get excited about the latest-and-greatest invention that will “transform the lives of the poor”, without much consideration for what is perhaps the hardest component to get right: humans.

Recently, we have seen the emergence of a number of initiatives to bring light to failures (both spectacular and minor):

  • Admitting Failure“an open space for development professionals who recognize that the only ‘bad’ failure is one that’s repeated. Those who are willing to share their missteps to ensure they don’t happen again. It is a community and a resource, all designed to establish new levels of transparency, collaboration, and innovation within the development sector.”
    • Readers are encouraged to submit their own experiences with failure in the development sector. An example: the PROFIT project in Zambia, aiming to increase competitiveness in the cotton industry.
  • FAILFaire – “Learning from #FAILs in ICT and Mobiles for Development”
    • FAILFaire involves hosting events that bring together development sector professionals to share their failures.

A PopTech talk by Kevin Starr (of the Mulago Foundation) talks about three “spectacular” failures: One Laptop per ChildLifeStraw, and PlayPumps.

Pakistan’s Reality

Here in Pakistan, we hear of development projects, big and small. However, we hear little of their success (or failure!). It’s time to get those stories out into the open, for people working in the development sector (whether NGOs or the budding social enterprise space) to learn from!

What are the failures you’ve heard of? Let us know in the comments!

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