Canada’s contribution to development and humanitarian assistance is recognized around the world. Its official development aid is $5 billion annually. Canada is eighth in aid transparency and has attracted strong relationships with partner countries.
In 2007, the government of Canada pledged to make development assistance more effective, focused, and accountable by allocating 80 percent of bilateral aid to five thematic priorities in 20 countries. Questions about aid effectiveness still linger, however.
Development consultant Ian Smillie observed: “Aid is going down; Africa is out of favour; the private sector – with mining companies in the vanguard – is in the ascendant; and NGOs are to be seen and not heard. Moreover, the demand for visible, short-term results is likely to drive the bulk of our development assistance into places with near horizons and ambitions not far removed from Canadian commercial, political, and security interests.”
Canadian technical advisors commonly work alongside developing country counterparts in triangulated project teams. Partners take the lead in defining, delivering, measuring, and harmonizing results with national needs and priorities. They exchange knowledge and expertise and build capacity using functional networks and communities of practice. More than 70 percent of donor-funded projects are south-south instead of conventional north-south partnerships.
IPAC’s Aid on Demand is a much-heralded model that has been applied to 101 Deployment for Democratic Development projects totalling over $20 million in technical assistance. It has proven cost effective, with minimal start-up costs, no in-country overhead, and no paid downtime.
What is different is the shift from grand reform strategies to manageable, problem-based projects. A focus on small-scale projects involving a small team of advisors produces rapport, interdependence, and responsive results. The approach assumes built-in demand, sufficient capacity, best fit rather than best practices, and intensive client engagement.
Lead consultant Gordon Evans shared transferable lessons learned at the 2013 IPAC book launch:
• Get the scope right;
• Find the real problem;
• Make it job relevant;
• Do it, own it;
• Build networks, seek allies;
• Cost it;
• Be politically astute; and
• Deal creatively with adversity.
This innovative model is being considered more broadly by the international development community.