In studying ICT4D this semester, three things really stuck with me throughout every reading and every class discussion. The first was to be unwavering or relentless in your efforts to affect change. The second thing I learned was to be humble and be hungry for knowledge, not to become complacent. Finally, I learned to plan with the future in mind.
Working in development and aid, it is very easy to become burnt out. We devote a lot of time and energy, both physical and emotional, to causes we really care about and are often unsuccessful or unrecognized. Granted you can’t expect to be incredibly successful on your first attempt, and if you are, people may see it as a fluke. Don’t get discouraged. It’s important to work for causes that we’re really fervent about. As a class we developed an extensive list of best practices. It’s not like we don’t know what we’re doing and or what to expect. But successful projects/programs come from experience, so don’t be any less enthusiastic about a project because it failed the first time. Keep revamping it and adapting it until you have the results you want.
That being said, once we have seen success in our efforts it’s important not to become complacent. After a ton of hard work and resulting success, pat yourself on the back but don’t be smug. I’m not saying we should be overly critical of ourselves, but keep in mind that complacency leads to stagnation. Constantly interact with other development professionals and hear what they have to say. For the most part, a lot of our projects involve people. So if we can’t hear each other out and take others’ opinions into consideration, our projects will never evolve and we’ll be remembered as “one hit wonders.”
Finally, plan for the future. Even if it’s only a pilot program have a vision for 5 years down the road, 10 years down, and so on. Think of the greater impact that your proposed changes will have on the society as a whole and not just your target population. With most grants only valid for a year or two, we often find fault with the way in which projects are funded. Instead of faulting the funders, though, we can adjust our own practices. Have some kind of grant proposal template that you’re constantly revising and editing. When you plan your project and you write proposals for your first grants, you should already have your next proposals planned out for when the first grants run out. Also plan for the future of your target population. Will your project be obsolete in 5 years? Or even less? Have a good idea of what your project will look like 5 years out before you even think about 1 year out.