Editors Note: We started Failfaire almost two years ago to create a space where it was ok to be honest in our field of “tech for social change,” and admit that many projects that we all undertake do not succeed. Today is yet another Failfaire here in New York where practitioners come together to discuss how and why our projects failed. We will be writing about this tomorrow to give you more on the #fails presented, but in the meantime were absolutely astounded today to see the following blog post from Daraja about their Maji Matone project. It takes guts (and foresight) to admit so publicly that this project has not succeeded. We wrote about Maji Matone here before. The project was designed to provide local accountability for water services by way of local, grassroots monitoring via SMS. The post below was oroginally published on Daraja’s blog here and is reposted here with Daraja’s gracious permission. We are grateful for the post, and for the honesty.
Admitting failure in this way is easy to support in theory, but much harder to do in practice. It may be accepted practice in the for-profit world, but it’s uncomfortable for a donor-dependent NGO. Would it be easier to continue half-heartedly with a programme that isn’t working or close it down quietly and hope that nobody notices? Of course it would. But those approaches would not benefit anyone, wasting money and missing out on valuable opportunities to learn. So we’re taking a different tack, embracing and publicising our failures, and trying to make sure we (and others) learn as much as possible from the experience
We’ve already started looking into these ideas and more, and over the next few months we will share our conclusions widely. We will be commissioning external analysis to give a more independent viewpoint, and of course this blog will provide an ideal platform to share our own thoughts. We will also use other channels, such as the AdmittingFailure website and FailFaire movement.
And at the same time, we will also be doing some serious thinking about how we take the programme forward without this citizen monitoring component – informed of course by the analysis of why the programme failed to deliver. A more traditional research, analysis and advocacy programme? Partnerships with the media? Strengthening the role of MPs in rural water supply policy debates? Continued rural data collection but using a network of trained volunteers rather than pure crowd-sourcing? We have ideas and we have commitment, and we’re confident that a redesigned programme will have us back on track before long.