27 June 2012

Branding and Aid: DfID's New Logo

DfID unveiled the new logo for UK aid yesterday. Now people receiving aid from the UK will have the pleasure of seeing the Union Flag with some important information that it is from the British people. The point is to take credit "for the results that UK aid delivers." Secretary Mitchell drives the point home saying, "I believe it is important that aid funded by the British people should be easily and clearly identified as coming from the UK. It is right that people in villages, towns and cities around the world can see by whom aid is provided."

The logo looks awfully familiar...

Ah, yes. USAID brands its aid with nice and big lettering and the all too important "from the American people."

A few months ago, I was at event (I frankly do not remember what it was for) where a US congresswomen spoke of visiting aid projects a couple years ago. She was dismayed that the project, a newly built school, had no evidence of it being a US-funded project. She proudly told how she demanded that a plaque be placed on the school so that everyone can know it was "from the American people."

The announcement by DfID and the USAID story bring forward the question as to when and how to take credit. Certainly donors want recipients to know who gave them the aid in order to take the credit that is due. The problem is when the credit becomes more important than the act and drives the action.

An argument could be made that it does not really matter as long as the programs work and the aid is distributed. The other side of the coin is that visibility may trump good programming that is not so sexy and easily seen on an everyday basis. Branding is very much a part of aid programs. NGOs do it just as frequently as donors through uniforms, trucks and distributed goods.

What balance should exist? The reality is that branding is not going away any time soon, so how can policies ensure that brand visibility does not stand in front of good aid and effective development?