When creating The Development Practice, the first question we got from many folks was: What makes you different from all the other international development consultants out there? In some ways we need to say that we are not that different from other passionate development professionals who want to solve real problems for real people, and who want careers that expose them to a variety of organizations, initiatives, regions, and problems that need solving....but, that's not a great response for clients who want a capability statement and value proposition. So what makes us different?
We think that development projects need to be holistic, adaptable, and relevant to what works in practice for different communities. Our work is guided by a network of practitioners who (i) understand development from a holistic perspective; (ii) are culturally responsive to the communities we work with and; (iii) create practice-oriented solutions for our clients. Our Practice is grounded in these principles.
We showed that value statement to a fellow practitioner who helped us set up the business idea and her immediate reaction was "word vomit." Fine, I get that, but we do believe in those principals and do not consider them an empty words even if they come close to a lot of other word jargon that exists out there. She referred us to two other organizations that had manifestos that really inspired us- The Agile Development Manisfesto for ICT4D Projects and the Management Innovation eXchange (MIX) Manifesto. Can we leave it at that?
MIX Manifesto Principles:
- Everyone Wins When Everyone Shares
- Every Innovator Deserves a Hearing
- Accomplished Innovators Deserve Acclaim
- The Most Important Problem is the One You Care Most About
- It's Good to be Humble
- The Devil's in the Details
- Innovation is a Social Process
Agile Development Manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
- Working software over comprehensive documentation (Working projects over endless reporting)
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
- Responding to change over following a plan
Essentially we want to work hard, focus on real problems, develop projects that address those needs, create genuine partnerships, and build on the shared knowledge of everyone we are lucky enough to learn from. We also want to work with professionals who are focused on what works in practice. So what does our "word vomit" practically mean?
- Holistic Perspective: We do not shy away from complexity and believe that the strongest programs and organizations are those that consider a problems and solutions from all angles. We work with Practitioners who not only have deep knowledge of their own organizations and sectors- but who also understand how other stakeholders and initiatives can affect their outcomes.
- Culturally Responsive: We believe that real results can only be achieved through building real relationships with partners. All assumptions about what could work need to be validated with communities themselves, and we expect our understanding of global challenges to evolve as we learn what is important in different contexts and to different partners.
- Practice Oriented: We like to nerd out on data analysis, research, and theory, but at the end of the day we know that knowledge is only as good as the action it translates into. We believe in designing projects and systems based on the best evidence available and which build in monitoring and learning in a way that keeps the focus on impactful implementation.
As we get to work, we will keep refining these ideas until we have time to sit again and think about what a full Practitioners Manifesto should say. In the meantime, we would love your thoughts on continuing to develop these ideas. What should be in the manifesto? What are we missing from the above? Also, what is in your personal manifesto for working in the development sector?