Monday, May 2
“We saw the signs of a famine unfolding within a few months. We alerted the system, diverted food going to other areas in Sudan, including Darfur (!). We established 20 distribution hubs in a country that has no roads, and no centers. We threw all books on procedure out through the window, we cut every corner. It was unplanned and messy. Implementation was a nightmare. But we got the job done; we managed to avert the crisis, through a fivefold increase of our operations in an exceptionally short period; weeks and months, not years.
But I certainly hope and pray that no one will scrutinize our operations, without understanding fully the circumstances - and the objectives. Rules were broken, forgotten or neglected. We did not document and analyze. If someone wants to hurt us they can do it by comparing our actions with the rules of the book. But it is the best operation I have been part of…..”
I had earlier in the day read two reports on large initiatives and programs in South Sudan. Interesting, full of state of the art analysis, well put together.
But so boring….and so predictable. (I disguise so you will not know which reports I am talking about. But be sure, it could have been any of many.) This is the standard procedure:
You commission a study to look into how the Sudanese Government and/or the international community took into account a particular perspective such as conflict prevention, or climate change. Then you bring in a team who are top notch in that particular discipline. You know the answer: they will tell you that the conflict prevention aspect was not properly addressed in the planning/implementation/follow-up process, at least not on the local/regional/national level. Or that the longer term aspects of the environmental interventions have not been sufficiently analyzed….. All written in the lingo of the discipline, beware of mistakes in that area, because then you are out.
But if you ask for the context and the results- given the circumstances including the political restrictions of that time - you do not find much. And learning opportunities are actually lost. These long drawn reports, are read by very few. In order to learn from what has been done, the looking back exercise must be quick, dirty and focus on the total process, be holistic. And involve those who did the job.
This disease is not new, but still spreading in the international system. But we also see many examples in our own society. There also seems to be a standard set of criticism – followed by a standard response, which simply mirrors the criticism.
Those who scrutinize and report on things that have gone wrong - be it an accident, a disaster, something that is not functioning in an institution or organization - always ask for action. Action is always a new policy, or a revised plan. A document, anyway. The answer is always to say that we have to look into our systems, revise our policies or produce a new one: on how to support children in need, handle environmental problems in our municipalities or environmental hazards in business and industry.
When did we hear anyone say that “No, we do not need a crisis group, we have colleagues, relatives and family being the support after this terrible accident.”
A couple of weeks ago I heard a teacher complaining, or rather explain, in radio that she/they spend more and more time documenting and writing plans. “That is what consumes our energy and absorbs us.”
I would love to hear someone say, “No, the answer to the problem of xxxxxx is not another plan, policy document. It is not new control mechanisms. And it is not a question of resources, even if we had more; we would not prioritize a new plan or control layers.”
Someone who would dare to say, we can’t plan and control everything: Shit happens.
It takes guts but would be - So refreshing.