Lessons Learned & Informed Decisions

Global Development & International Investment

The transition away from the Aid industry mindset*

As a result of the Aid industry, the expectation of many local partners at the offset of a new collaboration with a foreign partner is the donor-driven structure. Local partners may expect that their salaries and other programme running costs shall be paid for by foreign donors, that foreign donors shall provide administrations services, pieces of training as well as equipment, consumables, service and maintenance, free of charge. The problem with the Aid industry is though that scientific research has found that the system preserves poverty. HR&S has developed the “Strategy for Change” (SfC) and is implementing this tool in every programme that we run. SfC includes, among other changes, a shift in mindset from donor-driven programmes to “equal partnership research, innovation and social enterprising for improved livelihood”. This change includes the understanding that salaries are not paid for by HR&S, training is not given for free by HR&S, programmes are not funded by HR&S. Instead the HR&S local RISE centres are social enterprises that generate the income required to do local social good, in deep, close and caring collaboration with HR&S Sweden. HR&S benefits from the Lean startup model, the Lean business model and the Agile strategy.

Testimonies by NGO´s in Liberia

When inviting many NGO’s in Liberia to the webinar on “Global development and international investment”, the responses were:

  1. Many people expressed their interests in the training.
  2. To pay has remain one issue.
  3. Their choice of interest. Some have interest in training around procurement, logistics , proposals writing, M&E, Reports Writing, Strategic Plans Development and similar issues.

Reflections

  1. The NGOs wants to be trained to serve the Aid industry. Not their people.  Their customer is the aid industry. They are the service providers to Aid Industry, Not to Liberia
  2. If people focus on training to serve the aid industry. Who shall serve the people ?
  3. This is an expected approach by the NGOs under the circumstances as Liberia right experinece extreme economic hardship and things are moving backwards for a lot of people.
  4.  The mistake is obviolusly not with the people but with the aid industry.

Conclusion

  1. The aid industry develops a realtion with the NGO´s and not with the people.
  2. The institutions that can reach the poor, the social enterprises, do not get the attention of the Aid industry.
  3. As a result of the Aid industry relations, the NGO´s have the oppinion that service should be provided for free, which generates yeat another obstical for the Social enterprises to get established.

HR&S Branches – team spirit

Background: During 2020 and 2021, HR&S paid small reimbursements to the RISE Centre operations team, EUR 300 per person and programme they were coaching on. The same deal was made for the auditors. The funds for the reimbursement were generated through the ActionInvest programme.
Lessons learned: The HR&S CEO reflection and lesson learned was that if HR&S pays, even if it is a small a reimbursement, HR&S may give the wrong message. We may give the message that the set-up is Aid still and donor driven, that the team members only needs to attend some of the meetings and maybe do a small assignment if the task is clearly spelt out, to get this reimbursement. We may give the message that there is money available in abundance. What we want is instead, self-driven RISE Centre team members, who take own initiatives to coach the programmes and to generate income for the RISE Centres.
Informed decision: If the income instead is dependent on team activity  the team may become more focused.
The sources of income are still small mid 2021; membership fee, interest and webinars, but we can scale up all of them and also create new sources of income. For example, good internet access can be an additional value proposition. Thus, what we shall focus on from now is how to generate income locally for local RISE Centres.
The coaches will be reimbursed at a level decided on by HR&S Sweden and HR&S Branches together, the cost is covered by the locally generated income. Also the auditor will be reimbursed at a level decided on by HR&S Sweden and HR&S Branches together, but this cost will be covered by ActionInvest until further notice, as the auditor is an external resource.

Testimonies

“Le développement en Afrique passe forcément par l’éducation, la santé et surtout la nutrition car un peuple affamé n’a point d’oreille. Donc je pense pour ma part que nous devons investir dans l’agriculture et la transformation afin de nourrir le plus grand nombre de personnes qui ont faim. C’est un problème crucial actuellement un peu partout sur le continent et le Togo ne fait pas exception.”

The ambition of the local partner

Quote by the CEO: “Support within HR&S concerns satisfying the needs and expectations of the receiver and not satisfying the needs of the donor.” Thus, if the outcome is not to be expected or is not measured based on evidence, and if the support is not linked to a local partner’s expressed ambition, then HR&S will not involve itself in that specific support programme.

Accountability

The Aid industry has not always been able to keep accounting, auditing, transparency, and accountability at the highest level in their programmes. This has created gaps that have to be addressed and that now constitute outcome challenges for HR&S. HR&S always address accountability management in the programmes, and accountability management is a parameter in the Strategy for Change.

Signed agreements

It seems that one of the consequences from the absence of rule of law, is that even though we develop and sign agreements, it is like this agreements never existed.
The reflection is that if we do not have rule of law, also signed agreements are not honoured….like, there is not reason, and thus no tradition to respect signed agreements. It is not part of the social culture.
 If this is the case, then we have to make a plan.

Research Management

Access to funds

Testimonies: Researcher (not PI) “My outcome challenge is lack of funds”. This testimony is stated by almost every researcher asked.
The SfC requests “What is the activity” the answer is “none”. Lesson learned, the challenge is not “Lack of funds”, the challengs is lack of fundraising activites.
Follow up questions; why are you not engaging yourself is seeking funds? Everyone answers one or several of the following: “I do not know where to apply”, “I do not know how to apply”, “I do not have time”, “I thought it was the PI only who should seek funds”.
Informed decision: Develop and manage monthly or bimonthly fundraising commeetties that meets regurlarly with effective and efficient meeting agendas. Committee members shares assignments, shares knowledge and support each other in developing research grant applications. PP Awarenes raising on research grant application review criteria and the mandate of grant institutions (not aid institutions).

Access to Equipment

Testimonies: Researcher often claim that “My outcome challenge is lack of equipment”. This testimony is stated by almost every researcher asked, who is involved with laboratory work.
The SfC requests “What is the activity” the answer is “none”. Lesson learned, the challenge is not “Lack of equipment”, the challengs is lack of activities related to ensure access to properly funtioning equipment.
Follow up questions; why are you not engaging yourself with ensuring access to properly funtioning equipment? Everyone answers one or several of the following: “I do not know which piece of equipment I need”, “I do not have the funds”, “I do not have time”, “I do not know what to do to get involved with ensuring access to scientific equipment”.
Informed decision: Link key stakeholders to the Laboratory management programme. 

Access to Trainings

Testimonies: Researchers often claim that  “My outcome challenge is lack of training events”. This testimony is stated by many researchers asked.
The SfC requests “What is the activity” the answer is “none, or very little”. Lesson learned, the challenge is not “Lack of access to training events”, the challengs is lack of activites related to providing access to training events.
Follow up questions; why are you not engaging yourself in activities related to providing access to training events? Everyone answers one or several of the following: “I do not know how to involve myself with enabling access to training events”, “I do not have funds for training events”. know where to apply”,  “I do not have time”, “I do not consider it to be my responsibility to arrange training events”.
Informed decision: Change mind-set from expecting training events to enabling training events. 

Literature review *

Outcome challenge
The university librarians tend to have access to keywords to main databases, but the researchers and the technicians are now aware of this opportunity.
Activity
Establish a link and facilitate communication between librarians and researchers.
Encourage workshops by the librarians for the researchers and technicians on increased access to literature.

Ideal Customer Hypothesis

Lessons learned has shown that the Outcome Challenges  “expecting donations and free training” as well as “bureaucracy” are difficult for us to beat within the Public Scientific Institutions. Thus our Ideal Customer Hypothesis in the HR&S Lean business model are the Private Scientific Institutions and the R&D department within the Private Sector.

Laboratory Management

Access to advanced equipment

Testimonies: Researcher and technicians (not PI) “My outcome challenges is lack of access to advanced pieces of equipment”. This testimony is stated by almost every researcher and the technician asked, who is involved with practical research.
The SfC requests “What is the activity” the answer is “none”. Lesson learned, the challenge is not “Lack of equipment”, the challenges are lack of activities.
Follow-up questions; why are you not engaging yourself in having access to equipment? Everyone answers one or several of the following: “I am waiting for the management to sort it out”. “I do not know which piece of equipment that I need”. “I do not have a research plan that explains which type of equipment that I need”. “I am not seeking research funds to procure equipment nor consumables”. “The pieces of equipment in my laboratory is broken down.”
Informed decision; i) network among technicians,  ii) fundraising committee as mentioned elsewhere,  iii) develop service & maintenance strategies.
Testimony: “Some of us have been wondering and looking waiting higher authorities approvals on status of our labs and equipment but you have open our eyes and heart to network for solutions.Thankd n God bless you.”

Ideal Customer Hypothesis

Lessons learned has shown that the Outcome Challenge “bureaucracy” is difficult for us to beat within the Scientific Institutions and the Governmental Laboratories. Thus our Ideal Customer in the Lean business model are the Private Laboratories and the International Equipment Manufacturers.

Social Enterprising

Investment capital for extremely poor individuals

For extremely poor individuals, the best approach is to begin building their financial assets and skills through savings rather than debt. In table banking, members save and borrow immediately from their savings.
HR&S can increase the capital available during the start-up phase of a Table Banking programme and enable more members to borrow maybe twice or three times their savings, at the same time.
An interest of 10 % reimburses the management staff of the Table Bank as well as communication equipment, internet and computer, Or the Table bank programme decides to have no interest and no costs.

Rule of law

Corruption combined with lack of rules of law keeps Sub-Saharan Africa poor.
Money is pouring into the region, many want to support and invest, but the opportunities are wasted.
This is our real assignment, how to handle the situation in actual practice, at the people level.

Accountability management

Corruption combined with lack of rules of law keeps Sub-Saharan Africa poor. When HR&S Action10 offers loans to poor social entrepreneurs the money may not be paid back.

With no local representation and a new partnership, HR&S can expect that nothing is paid back, 0%. Even if agreements are signed, and the loan conditions are thoroughly discussed, it can still be expected that nothing will be paid back, and due to lack of rule of law, there is no authority to turn to. HR&S assumes that the reason is a combination of the Aid Industry experience combined with lack of resources, harsh living conditions with immediate needs (food, healthcare school fees), lack of business management capacity, and widespread corruption.

After two-five years of collaboration, assigning local coaches and auditors, training on business management and the HR&S tools, and awareness-raising about the HR&S standards, both with programme management partners and with local coaches, the paying back can be expected to be 50-70%.

If the local coaches and local auditor accept the HR&S standards, acts with internal motivation and regularly interacts directly with the programme management partners and in relation to their education and capacity; evaluation planning, accounting, branding & public relations, survey management and professional auditing, then a payback of more than 70% can be expected.

HR&S informed decisions

We build our operations on the reflections that 60 years of enormous amounts of aid money has not helped the poor but the number of extremely poor people in Africa is still increasing. This proves that poverty reduction is a very difficult task. This difficult task requires professional institutions.

Return on investment

We have invested a lot already, in six countries Sub-Sahara African countries. Our niech is equal partnership social enterprises, offering products and services providing social good, while in parallel ensuring a sustainabe economy.
But we have lost much too. Maybe we have the wrong strategy.

In some instances we suffer from the lack of rule of laws. Institutions to turn to, if agreements are broken.
We also suffer from what we call “the aid attitude”,
i) that investements may be considered donations rather than business investment that evenutally shall generate a joint profit despite written agreements, and
ii) weak accounting and transparency.

Customer segment

CSR
Lesson learned. We have come to the conclusion after evaluating various indirect CSR platforms that it is too much work, far too little money and also really uncertain. At the same time, all these indirect platforms indicate that there are opportunities.
Informed decision. HR&S shall do not engage in indirect CSR activities, we invest in DIRECT CSR instead.

 

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