Factories, Compliance, and Aid

by | Nov 26, 2021 | ICT4D, Learning |


Seth often talks about the difference between education and learning as relating to our mindset. When we ask ‘will this be on the test?” we are in the education mindset. When we ‘teach the test’ we are also in that same mindset. It is the education, industrial, I have a certificate mindset. This is different to learning. Learning is application. It is about trying, failing, trying again. About exploration, wonder, pulling apart, putting together again, building puzzles without the picture to go by, and about seeing connections. Learning is often connected with a purpose – I want to learn how to upholster so I can restore an old sofa. I want to learn about growing and storing vegetables so we can grow more of our own food. And so on.

This week I’ve been musing on how in the aid world we are so focused on compliance. Compliance feels to me like education or ‘will this be on the test’ type of thing. I listened to Nick from Ground Truth Solutions speak this week talking about how the aid sector measure outcomes based ‘resource mobilisation’ not change or impact in the lives of the vulnerable people we seek to help. And now it connects. Compliance is all about resource mobilisation. Compliance is our version of ‘will this be on the test?’ And all are children of the industrial complex.

Learning is about wonder, joy, exploration, and helping others. It is circular, zig zagged, messy, intense, light, and frustrating all wrapped up into one. It asks the hard questions and listens to others. Learning is about improving. And it is not opposed to standards or even compliance to standards. However, it flees from compliance for compliance sake.

Compliance and resource mobilisation are assembly lines. Factories into which certain inputs are put in with outputs generated. There is limited variation because what is measured is the resources mobilised. What is done with the resources has limited impact on the factory.

Perhaps it’s time to re-imagine the factory.

Photo by carlos aranda


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