31 January 2013

Gates Takes Letter Tour to Colbert

Bill Gates continues his 2013 letter tour and makes his latest stop on the Colbert report.

Meanwhile Ed Carr challenges Gates' idea on measurement in a blog post today. He argues that a strong aversion to failure makes it hard to accomplish much of anything.
I agree completely with the premise that better measurement (thought very broadly, to include methods and data across the quantitative to qualitative spectrum) can create a learning environment from which we might make better decisions about aid and development. But none of this matters if all of the institutional pressures run against hearing bad news. Right now, donors simply cannot tolerate bad news, even in the name of learning. Certainly, there are lots of people within the donor agencies that are working hard on finding ways to better evaluate and learn from existing and past programs, but these folks are going to be limited in their impact as long as USAID answers to a Congress that seems ready to declare any misstep a waste of taxpayer money, and therefore a reason to cut the aid budget…so how can they talk about failure?