Development Stories About Failure

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Panama City, Panama | Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl

Rarely do organizations share their stories of projects gone wrong. So I was intrigued by this New York Times blog post‘s mention of Admitting Failure, a website the collects stories about development failures (hat tip to my friend Ellen Lee for telling me about the NYT post). There are only a handful of stories so far, including a couple from Engineers Without Borders Canada and Water for People.

I find the idea behind this site rather refreshing. What do you think? What would it take for you or your organization to publicly admit failure?


Maureen Littlejohn says:

February 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

It’s a super interesting subject…there is a shift afoot! You should read my cover story, published in Monthly Developments Magazine,Nov. 2012.. “The Real “F” Word: NGOs Fear of Admitting Failure.”


Duncan Katuramu says:

March 6, 2013 at 4:49 am

I love this article. As a Communications Specialist working in Africa, I have come across the same institutional syndrome of focusing on the positive stories only. Organisations are learning institutions. I think a better story can be told by recognising your weakneses and improving them. In fact, telling a story of how you started out wrong makes for a better and more engaging reading than reading all about perfection. The world is simply not perfect. Am not necessarily advocating for displaying dirty linen in public but simply recognising that approaches to programme implementation can be improved and that staff are employed to try out new ideas and improve them based on local conditions or challenges. I think that going forward, the world needs this kind of approach to its work. We are not perfect and admitting it publicly is a manifestation of accountability to all stakeholders around us. Thank you for this observation.


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