Practical Insights on Failure

failure in international development

Failure is the f-word in international development. Unspoken in polite company, yet a reality we all must face.

Failure in International Development

We often work in failed states, in market failure economies, on intractable problems that have stymied others for decades, if not centuries. How arrogant or foolish of us to expect success 100% of the time?

But if you read our project reports, we have “uneven successes”, “lessons learned”, and every other euphemism we can imagine just to keep from saying one simple word: failure.

Project Failure Examples

We are on a mission to make failure acceptable in development discussions. There is great value in examining our mistakes and learning from failure as we go beyond the easy and the simple.

Let’s navel-gaze at where we have all gone wrong in international development:

10 Common ICT4D Myths Still Relevant 12 Years Later

10 Common ICT4D Myths Still Relevant 12 Years Later

Published on: Aug 18 2022 by Guest Writer - Comments Off on 10 Common ICT4D Myths Still Relevant 12 Years Later
 Information and communication technology is changing the world around us day by day. Most of these changes are, of course, for the better. One of the first groups...
6 Reasons Why We Keep Failing at Digital Development Interventions

6 Reasons Why We Keep Failing at Digital Development Interventions

Published on: Feb 03 2022 by Guest Writer - 10 Comments
Clearing out boxes of old books and reports recently, I was struck by how many ICT4D initiatives there have been over the last 20 years, many of which have simply...
Why Google and Apple Failed at COVID-19 Digital Response

Why Google and Apple Failed at COVID-19 Digital Response

Published on: Dec 10 2020 by Wayan Vota - 6 Comments
Back in April 2020, Apple and Google announced COVID-19 contact tracing technology for iPhone and Android mobile phones. At our Global Digital Health Forum session...
Why ICT4D Projects Fail Even With Community Engagement

Why ICT4D Projects Fail Even With Community Engagement

Published on: Sep 24 2020 by Guest Writer - 1 Comment
Successes in development projects are often reported but failures, however minor, are typically omitted from many types of reports. This is not a helpful practice...
Fail Festival DC is Dead. Long Live Failure!

Fail Festival DC is Dead. Long Live Failure!

Published on: Nov 08 2018 by Wayan Vota - 18 Comments
Way back in 2009, we organized a Twitter Chat on Failure with Michael Downey moderating the freewheeling discussion. Born from that conversation was Fail Faire,...
9 Lessons Learned in Rolling Out Dimagi’s Mobile Device Management Pilot

9 Lessons Learned in Rolling Out Dimagi’s Mobile Device Management Pilot

Published on: Nov 01 2018 by Guest Writer - Comments Off on 9 Lessons Learned in Rolling Out Dimagi’s Mobile Device Management Pilot
Enumerators, who are people like you and I, like to download Candy Crush, Facebook, YouTube videos, mobile screen savers, to their mobile phones, and use up significant...
9 Lessons Learned From Failed ICTforAg Interventions

9 Lessons Learned From Failed ICTforAg Interventions

Published on: Jun 06 2018 by Wayan Vota - Comments Off on 9 Lessons Learned From Failed ICTforAg Interventions
The potential for ICTs in agricultural development is almost endless and numerous applications are being developed and deployed. However, whilst everyone would...
In ICT4D We’re Principled, But Are We Practiced Enough? – Your Weekend Long Reads

In ICT4D We’re Principled, But Are We Practiced Enough? – Your Weekend Long Reads

Published on: Feb 17 2018 by Steve Vosloo - 2 Comments
Starting with the Principles for Digital Development, we now have principles for many development sectors,and principles for cross-cutting themes, including principles...
Surprise! Esoko’s Agricultural Market Prices Are Private Sector Failures

Surprise! Esoko’s Agricultural Market Prices Are Private Sector Failures

Published on: Jan 04 2018 by Wayan Vota - 15 Comments
We’ve all heard of Esoko, the ICTforAg company specializing in market prices for farmers. Starting in Ghana in 2007, then expanding across West Africa and...
Why Our Cash Catalog Was A Failure

Why Our Cash Catalog Was A Failure

Published on: Nov 30 2017 by Guest Writer - 3 Comments
The Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network (ELAN) works to improve the effectiveness and impact of digital payments in humanitarian response. Within this...