Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Embracing failure and giving beneficiaries a voice

In Ethics, International Development on December 13, 2012 at 9:10 am

This post is actually about two distinct but connected topics: embracing failure and giving beneficiaries a voice. It was only after writing the piece Do you get your market’s vote? that I stumbled upon this TED talk by David DambergerWhat happens when an NGO admits failure.

In it Damberger beautifully articulates the principle I was talking about in my previous post. Rather than go down the route of NGO closure, he instead wonders about how we might innovate to give beneficiaries a vote.

The other part of Damberger’s talk is around failure. This is a topic I hear people talk about a lot, but struggle with how to bring it to life. The most powerful part is when he shares his own personal regret about a failure he was engaged with, and the downside of the ‘do-gooder-as-hero’ myth. He also points to Engineers Without Borders (Canada) culture of embracing failure, and a fabulous website they developed which unpacks and explores failure – Admitting Failure. Well worth checking out.

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