(This is coming from a few situations and conversations I have been in, and from the personal introspection and angst from those. A lot of this applies to me as well. It’s in no way a Rainmatter view, and I’d like to merely make a point, not paint everyone and everything with a broad stroke. There’s a lot of great intent and work happening out there, and I truly acknowledge, respect that and am thankful for it)
So the village had a problem. Many problems, in fact.
A reporter wrote about it. In English. Of course. There was much discussion, and lament. There were cries for a need for a policy, for immediate attention, for protests against the inefficiency and the inaction of the government, against the complicity of the market and the middlemen, and the apathy of the average citizen sitting in the comfort of air-conditioned offices - even in generally comfortable Bangalore - far away.
A concerned citizen got into action. Some ideas were imagined. Other ideas were proposed, some based on experience somewhere else. Some of those didn’t exactly solve the problems, but they were good ideas put forth by good people with good intentions.
The citizen spoke to many, and decided to take an idea forward to try out. She discussed it with a few experts and other who might be able to advise on it and even help with it.
Many wanted to fund the effort, but with clearly identifiable goals and beneficiaries in the first year. Departments were excited to work with the citizen, but of course, there were tactical needs and the political economy that needed certain small but very easily visible outcomes that had nothing to do with the problem. Knowledge partners wanted to create evidence, do more research, understand and analyze the problem well. Many solution partners suggested the exact solution that would work for this idea almost exactly as perfectly as it worked for a dozen ideas earlier that did not quite solve things.
The citizen got pulled into conferences. Even international ones. Even academic ones. The pros and cons of the idea were laid threadbare. Consultants created strategies around it that magically included all the tech and solutions they had been talking about for numerous other solutions. Entrepreneurs and incubators drove innovation pushes for making this idea a reality. Research papers were written. Policy drafts did the rounds. Some even showed up in the dailies as the most ignored parts of the news.
A year and half passed.
The overwhelmed citizen eventually got past the moat of conferences, meetings and literature, and a pilot or two got assembled into a proposal with all the advice, ideas and recommendations from all the above discussions informing it. The proposals did the rounds, got edited heavily to map well to theories of change and eventually became glorious dockets of hope and impact. Outside of the core issues the village had, the pilots addressed a dozen different SDGs, provided sustenance for half a dozen orgs, and created success for at least 3 multilaterals and philanthropies. The government declared a large scheme that, merely through the act of the announcement, considered this solved for large parts of the country.
Some of this even got implemented on the ground. Some of that even included the community.
The citizen, the NGOs and the multilaterals and philanthropies got pulled into another dazzling round of conferences and seminars, invited to talk about their experience and learnings from such a successful effort. Videos and movies were shot. Art was created. It was much celebrated.
As the pilot winded down, the carefully crafted support structure to deliver benefits withdrew, and the benefits slowed down to a halt.
The village, in the meantime, had given up on the problem ever getting solved, and in fact, moved on to other problems as the weather changed and the once arid region started receiving excess rainfall and as a result, flooding and crop loss.
Elsewhere, awards were declared. Case studies were published. The successes of the pilots were rolled into playbooks and strategies to be replicated elsewhere. Of course, absolutely nobody believed anyone else so new pilots were being imagined for the same problem, with fresh funding, more conferences and seminars and articles. All in English, and in other words.