We’ve embraced digital transformation alongside of cash. Therefore, we are collecting more data, about more people, and using more technology. We are running faster than ever, but how much progress are we making? We have optimised, chased efficiencies, and sought ‘value for money’ but the efficiencies and value were defined from our perspectives not those we seek to help. And we may be able to become more efficient. We may, as an industry, become all six sigma black belts. But as any respectable six sigma black belt will tell you, the last 1% gain costs as much as the first 99%.
But now what? Cash programming is more acceptable now, which is great. But again, now what? Now the hard part begins. Most organisations have embraced cash programming in a way that allows them to keep their organisational and operating models.
The digital and cash revolution will roll on. However, now as we over the hump of ‘cash is acceptable’, we will likely enter a period of creative destruction. Particularly in our operating models. Most humanitarian organisations operate project management models or logistics models. Some have or are trying to move to a data company model, but the vast majority of us are still thinking about moving things from A to B – cash or something physical. Even our ‘services’ are metric-ed as a factory – what are your numbers, your throughput, and reach?
The models that brought us growth and certain types of efficiency will also be our demise. It is a race to the bottom and someone will always be cheaper than us.
And here’s the rub (or at least one of them) or skeleton in the closet. We don’t reach the most vulnerable. We reach and seek out the majority. Our metrics of optimisation, efficiency and ‘value’ don’t work for the most vulnerable. The most vulnerable are the most vulnerable because they are hard to reach, fallen through the cracks already, and vulnerable. The elderly, disabled, sick of Ukraine were not able to flee their homes. They were stuck and remain stuck. And for us to get aid to them is expensive in every definition of the word.
The choice is up to us.