12 Habits of Highly Effective ICT-Enabled Development Initiatives

This week we talked a lot about the best and worst practices of ICT4D projects and FailFaire.  A classmate rightfully pointed out that most projects we talk about and look at are failures, and it seems to be difficult to find good examples of successful ICT4D projects.

Many are familar with Stephan Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and I bring to you the 12 Habits of Highly Effective ICT-Enabled Development Initiatives from Bridges.org.  I found that these 12 Habits are all good examples of best practices for creating a successful ICT4D initiative, and are consistant with what we have talked about in class.  Bridges.org does a good job of describing each habit and their importance, as well as providing the questions you should be asking your self each step of the way.

The 12 Habits are:

  1. Start by doing some homework. Look at what has worked and what has not worked, study good practices in the area, and build on what you have learned.
  2. Conduct a thorough needs assessment of the community to be served so you can plan to do what is actually required.
  3. Make it local: ensure local ownership, get local buy-in, work with a local champion, and be context specific.
  4. Engage a local problem-solver with some degree of responsibility, and involve them sufficiently so they can identify and address problems as they arise.
  5. Form sound partnerships and collaborations, and be good partners and collaborators.
  6.  Set concrete goals and take small achievable steps. Be realistic about outputs and timelines.
  7. Found your initiative on technology-neutral concepts so it can be adapted as needed to accommodate technology change over time.
  8. Found your initiative on technology-neutral concepts so it can be adapted as needed to accommodate technology change over time.
  9. Identify and understand the external challenges you face, and take practical steps to address them.
  10. Monitor and critically evaluate your efforts with effective tools, report back to your clients and supporters, and adapt your approach as needed.
  11. Make your initiative sustainable over the long term — either by bringing in sufficient income to be self-sustaining, or by delivering on a social mission so effectively that it is worthy of continued donor funding.
  12. Widely disseminate information on what you are doing and what you have learned so others can avoid your mistakes and build on your efforts.

Most of these habits seem obvious and have been mentioned and talked about both in class discussions and readings.

I found Habits 7, 8, and 12 especially interesting.

In Habit 7, it is pointed out that since technology is constantly changing, it is important not to get locked down on a specific technology as well as making sure that technology chosen can “stand the test of time.”  Choosing “technology-neutral” approaches will leave wiggle room for the project to adapt to any changes in technology.

Habit 8 specifically targets the digital divide, and that initiatives should aim to include groups that are marginalized.  It is easy to assume that ICT4D initiatives inheritly work to close that gap, since the target groups are the poor, discriminated, and marginalized, however it is important to remember that each nation and each community will have their own marginalized populations, and ICT4D initiatives should work to close that divide as well, not just the divide between the developed and the developing.

Habit 12 urges professionals to share their projects, successes  and failures so that all those in the field may learn from them.  This Habit connects “full circle” to Habit 1, which calls for initiatives to build on past projects.

In a field where there seems to be so much failure, there is certainly a lot of room for growth and learning, which professionals seem to try and encourage from each other.  This is a field where a win for one, is a win for all, and everyone must work together to achieve the greater goal.  The 12 Habits can help direct and focus project designs, and can be used to hold organizations accountable.

While there are many “best practices” and “checklists” (such as that in the Plan International article), I found this list to be one of the best that I’ve seen.  It is honest, practical, and thoughtful, and goes beyond the simple steps for drafting a project.

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2 responses to “12 Habits of Highly Effective ICT-Enabled Development Initiatives

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