Kriss Deiglmeier at Stanford’s Center for Social Innovation wrote a great piece on who gets paid for impact in international development.
Below is an excerpt; read the full article here.
“Frustrating. Galling. This is how some of the best social sector leaders I know describe the fact that funding to intermediaries and consultants often dwarfs the support they receive for their work on real issues at the front lines. I’m not talking a small differential — the disparity is large.
Here’s a fictitious example that illustrates the disparity, based on several true stories: A well-regarded international nonprofit uses mobile technology to educate youth and bring local populations into the global economy. Say it receives a $50,000 grant to execute its programs and open a new location in India. That is terrific. But then the same funder turns around and pays $500,000 to a fancy consultancy to assess the work of this nonprofit and a number of its peers and write up a report to inform the foundation’s grant making strategy on this fast-paced, emerging field. The consultant has little experience at the nexus of new technology and developing markets and no on-the-ground expertise. Therefore, they must lean heavily on the nonprofit’s knowledge, networks and experience to gather information for its report. In another instance a well-known social entrepreneur was invited by a consulting organization to collaborate with a corporation in a “shared value” venture. The social entrepreneur was skeptical, concerned about the time the project would require and that it would take valuable time from him and the entire organization. Eventually he was convinced that the opportunity’s benefits would materialize quickly and agreed to the venture. As of today, 18 months into the process, the social entrepreneur has given his knowledge, time, and organizational resources to advance the project, with no gains to speak of. He has received no compensation for his contributions or his staff’s to the “shared value” proposition. On the other hand, the consultant is getting paid for every hour of work involved in brokering the project.
Does the tendency to compensate intermediaries more generously than the people actually doing the work bother you as much as it bothers me?”