In the world of ICTD, failure is widespread and results are controversial. One of the reasons behind this widespread failure is the need for the organizations to always look good, dubbed the “Oscar Night Syndrome.” Because of this, there doesn’t exist a solid (arguably any) Monitoring and Evaluation culture in ICTD. It’s been proposed that targeting the Oscar Night Syndrome requires revamping the M/E culture. While this is an important aspect, I think what we really need here is a complete paradigm shift in the way we approach ICTD.
One of the reasons driving this need to always look good is the need to impress donors to receive project funding. But what if instead of expecting clean, cookie-cutter results, donors wanted the real picture? What if they were more impressed with honesty and detailed results from intensive monitoring and evaluation techniques than with masked lies and feigned success? Furthermore, the nature of these grants are often on the short-term, meaning there is little time to let the entire project play out and positive results to come through. If grants were extended, a project that seems to be faltering at the beginning would have time to use effective m/e techniques to tweak and improve the project as it goes.
To come to this place of non-judgement and openmindedness in terms of failure, there must be an open discussion between all involved in the projects: the donors, project coordinators, recipients. If projects are failing simply by a superficial desire to not let anyone down, we have a very easy solution at hand: not demand that no project ever fails. If a concerted effort was made to hold workshops and seminars at the ICTD conferences worldwide, we could begin to open the discussion and expectations to one of honesty. Once everyone is one the same page-that it is better to admit a project’s flaws and learn from them than to cover it up-the widespread failure of ICT projects wont be so widespread.