This Week: Volunteerism Gains Traction in the Global South, Innovation Crucial to Evaluation

USAID Ebola aid

USAID increases its aid to combat Ebola (source: John Moore/Getty Images)

The international community continues to ramp up its response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.  U.S. contributions now total nearly $250 million dollars, including various types of aid from USAID, the Department of Defense, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  However, there is question over whether this is enough

Poor monitoring systems of infections and a dearth of data are underlying challenges in combatting the spread of disease.  While development banks are chipping in millions for medical supplies and hospital facilities, there remains a shortage of health workers and trained professionals on the ground. What role should international donors play in strengthening health infrastructure in West Africa?

Meanwhile, a growing number of volunteers from the Global South, particularly women and youth, are helping other countries address development challenges.  Volunteers from the Global South now account for more than 80% of 6,807 United Nations Volunteers and may bring different skillsets and unique firsthand experience to development projects. 

Delegates at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing Nations earlier this month discussed the dire circumstances they face due to rising sea levels and climate change. They identified citizen participation and capacity building as critical to achieving the sustainable development goals.  UN Volunteers also recognized volunteerism as a key driver and mobilizer of the environmental movement, at both local and global levels.

Sept 2014 ADB Panel

September 9, 2014: “Evaluation and Innovation in Asia” panel at the Asian Development Bank in Manila.  Ashwani Muthoo, deputy director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development's Independent Office of Evaluation, shares his team's experience evaluating how IFAD promotes innovation.
(Source: The Guardian/Eliza Villarino)

While local involvement is important to the success of development projects, evaluation of these projects is also crucial.  Last week at the Asian Development Bank’s event on “Evaluation and Innovation in Asia,” Tarsis Kabwegyere, Ugandan Minister of General Duties, emphasized the need to focus on not donor’s goals, but society’s: “Let’s all be doctors and fix the stethoscope to listen to the heart of the matter. Find the heart, then [conduct] the impact evaluation there.” 

But is evaluation “at odds with innovation” if organizations decide to not fix what isn’t broken?  Speakers from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, African Development Bank, and International Fund for Agricultural Development agreed that innovation should be viewed as integral instead of harmful to evaluation.

Interested in how citizen feedback shapes the priorities and successes of global development?  Follow AidData’s live reporting on Twitter from our Citizen Engagement event this Wednesday!

Katie Paulson-Smith is the Special Assistant to AidData’s Co-Executive Director based at the College of William & Mary. 

Tags: AfricaebolaaidDevelopmentdatahealthdonorssouthUNvolunteersvolunteerismSIDSislandnationsevaluationcitizenengagementparticipationInnovation