Posted on January 14, 2011 at 5:16 pm
For the past two years, I’ve called for charities to admit their failures. I wrote about this issue just last week in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. So I’m happy to announce that today a new website was launched to provide a platform for admitting mistakes, and it’s aptly named admittingfailure.com (the site is up and running but some sections are still under development). Engineers Without Borders Canada and GlobalGiving have already included stories of their own mistakes.
I challenge all charities to publicly admit and share their mistakes, and I challenge all donors to write to the nonprofits they support and encourage them to share their mistakes as well. We all know that mistakes are made all the time in aid and development. It’s time to stop hiding them and start learning from them.
I congratulate Engineers Without Borders Canada for their bold step forward.
Here is their press release:
On the evening of Friday, January 14, Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) will publicly launch a new website “admittingfailure.com” and make a bold challenge to development charities across Canada and around the world: stop fearing failure, start learning from your mistakes. Along with the website, we are releasing our 2011 Failure Report. The report has an introduction written by Bill Gates Sr. and a conclusion written by development expert Ian Smillie, author of the 2009 book, Freedom From Want; The Remarkable Story of BRAC.
The website will be a space for charities to share their mistakes and lessons learned. The report is a collection of stories about failed projects and what we have learned, written by EWB’s African Programs Staff, Canadian Staff and management. George Roter, EWB’s CEO, sums up the report: “Tangibly, the EWB Failure Report is a collection of stories. Fundamentally, it is an example of the process of innovation we would like to see across international development.”
This launch will be EWB’s effort to get a seemingly simple but virtually non-existent practice adopted throughout the development sector. The need for this sort of practice is summarized by Ian Smillie in his conclusion authored for the Failure Report “The development business is largely uncharted territory. If we knew how to end poverty, we would have done it a long time ago. And yet the enterprise is notoriously risk-averse; donors demand results and punish failure. The development challenge is not to avoid the risk that comes with charting new paths. It is not to deny failure. It is to learn, to remember, and to apply what is being remembered.”
Other posts on the topic:
NGOs hope to benefit from failure – Guardian Poverty Matters blog
Admitting Failure: Excellent idea – Humanosphere
Mainstreaming complexity and failure – Shotgun Shack
Failure without borders - KM on a dollar a day