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The Fail Faire DC 2011 Impact: A Renaissance of Failure in ICT4D

By Wayan Vota on October 24, 2011


Two weeks ago, ICTworks led the organization of Fail Faire DC, an amazing celebration of failure as a mark of leadership, innovation, and risk-taking in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in scaling ideas from pilots to global programs.

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Our goal was to continue the Fail Faire movement started by Mobile Active, and make failure more acceptable in the international development community. So far, the impact of Fail Faire DC 2011 is greater than we anticipated. Yes, the event itself was amazing, and others agree, but more importantly, it spawned a greater conversation around failure and the need to fail if we are to expand our profession.


Here is a quick tour of the Fail Faire DC impact to date:

  1. Learn about the 10 levels of ICT4D failure, including the “epic fail”, better know as the face palm
  2. Check out the FailFaireDC photos on Flickr. Relive your favorite slides and remember your favorite presenters.
  3. Read the Slate.com article. We had a great write up, complete with the academic underpinnings to our erstwhile activities.
  4. Read a presenter’s first-person account. Tessie San Martin, CEO of Plan International USA was a FailfaireDC presenter and is proud of her failures
  5. Learn how NOT to plan a FailFaire. Ian Thorpe explains that going big is not a path to success
  6. And how to fail successfully. Or that’s the boast from NDI Tech, who somehow failed to attend FailfaireDC.
  7. Join Admitting Aid Failure, the second Aid Blog Forum. The aid bloggers are taking our idea to the Internets.
  8. While “just say no” to admitting failure is the American Public Health Association’s contribution, as talking about failure might scare off donors
  9. Yet EWB admits failure annually and still somehow gains funding and buzz
  10. Look for a FailFaireNYC. Mobile Active is teaming with Unicef to have a FailFaire in New York City this December.

Most of all, remember to fail in everything you do. Only then are you showing leadership and innovation in pushing the boundaries of what is possible in scaling ICT and international development.


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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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One Comment to “The Fail Faire DC 2011 Impact: A Renaissance of Failure in ICT4D”

  1. sburton says:

    Thanks for the summary and links! I think Fail Faire is a great movement and a vital–yet challenging and potentially ego-bruising!–step towards improving our work and avoiding repeating past mistakes. It’s encouraging to see how much it is being embraced by the practitioner community!

    I wish I could have attended, but with all of the information available on line I feel like I was practically there! I see that FailFaireNYC is planned for December – have there been any rumblings about events in 2012? I’m back in Toronto at that point, and would love to attend/possibly be involved in organizing!