CARE Failing Forward
We are not superior: lessons on working authentically with local organizations

We are not superior: lessons on working authentically with local organizations

May 11, 2021

Mona Sherpa from CARE Nepal reflects on lessons learned in responding to emergencies in true collaboration with local partners. "We are not superior. Learning has to go both ways," she says. It's not just about your plans on paper or your commitment to principles, but also your actions and your systems.

Don’t Try to Win: Lessons from innovation failures in the humanitarian sector

Don’t Try to Win: Lessons from innovation failures in the humanitarian sector

April 9, 2021

"Don't try to win for yourself. Try to win for impact." Rahul Chandran talks about what he terms the catastrophic failure of innovation in the humanitarian sector, why importing the Silicone Valley model of innovation and scale doesn't work, and how collective action and anti-racism are the only solutions. "Scale isn't about big" is just one of his provocations to the sector at large.

We are not immune: unlearning white supremacy in international development

We are not immune: unlearning white supremacy in international development

December 7, 2020

"If you are not uncomfortable, you are not having the right conversations." Andres Gomez de la Torre from CARE talks about what we have to do in our work to be actively anti-racist. From the big changes to the small habits, from the individual to the organization, we need to accept that our work is built on a history of colonialism, and we all have to do the work to change our ideas about what it means to support social justice. "It's not just an HR issue. Thinking that is a mistake." We have to make changes across all parts of the organization, and do the work as individuals."

Dream Big, But Move Methodically

Dream Big, But Move Methodically

October 29, 2020

Hazem Fahmy from CARE Egypt talks about the journey from being a country office to becoming an independent member of the CARE family. What are some of his key lessons? First, don't spend all your time planning--test out actions and adapt. Second, learn to listen for what people aren't telling you; trust is critical for organizational change. Third, keep your principles firmly in mind as a north star. It can be easy to lose track of why we're transforming in the excitement of growing a business.

Implementers vs. Allies

Implementers vs. Allies

October 14, 2020

Tatiana Bertolucci--CARE's Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean--talks about what she learned closing the CARE Brazil office. We need to engage with curiosity and treat organizations in the global south as powerful allies, not people who merely implement our agenda. We also need to invest in more diverse boards. "There is knowledge everywhere if we will listen to it." Another lesson is "scream for help sooner" when something is not working.

CARE of 1000 Papers, Part 2: Improving the way we work with partners in crisis

CARE of 1000 Papers, Part 2: Improving the way we work with partners in crisis

June 18, 2020

Puji Pujiono of the Pujiono Center and Victoria Palmer from CARE Canada talk about their paper based on the Sulawesi response in Indonesia.This time, they talk about what organizations can do once a crisis has already started to have better success with partners, and help them achieve their goals rather than hurt them.

CARE of 1000 papers: How our best intentions can hurt local activists

CARE of 1000 papers: How our best intentions can hurt local activists

June 3, 2020

How do international NGOs create problems when they team up with local activists? It's the CARE of 1000 papers, where our processes are so focused on reducing risk that we bury local groups under the weight of our expectations, and don't give them the support they need. Puji Pujiono of the Pujiono Center and Victoria Palmer from CARE Canada talk about their paper based on the Sulawesi response in Indonesia, where we learned a lot about what we can do BEFORE we reach out to local partners so that we're truly helping response and empowering those partners. Stay tuned for part 2, where they discuss what we can do once a crisis hits.

It will never happen in 6 months: Lessons from building financial apps in Uganda

It will never happen in 6 months: Lessons from building financial apps in Uganda

March 4, 2020

Melch Natukunda from CARE Uganda talks about trying to build the first ever financial services app that linked poor rural women to banks. What's the biggest lesson? "it’s not just financial services. Anything we do should be trying to lighten women’s burden and help her with the other challenges she’s dealing with.” It's also about remembering that, "at a bank, someone is looking at this project and saying, 'is this giving me profit?' That will never happen in 6 months." You need at least 5 years to build something that will really work, but once you've got it, it can work for millions of people.

Scale and Replication: How the MENA Region is Using Failure to Create Programs that Last

Scale and Replication: How the MENA Region is Using Failure to Create Programs that Last

January 2, 2020

"Fear of failure is the only thing that ensures your dreams won't come true." Hiba Tibi from CARE's Middle East and North Africa hub talks about what they're learning from programs that didn't work, and how they are using those lessons to improve sustainability and scale. A big lesson is that Women's Economic Empowerment programs have to focus on both gender equality AND solid business cases--but many programs only manage one or the other. You can check out more lessons in the recent paper: Bringing Gender Equality Closer to Women's Economic Empowerment.

What’s Wrong With Happy Families?

What’s Wrong With Happy Families?

November 21, 2019

How can using the phrase Happy Families actually hurt women and set feminism back? Jayanthi Kuru-Utumpala and Zainab Ibrahim from Chrysalis--a CARE affiliate in Sri Lanka--tell us lessons learned from the EMERGE project engaging men and boys, and working with feminist groups. Some key lessons: let local groups take the lead, engage with respect and humility, and pay attention to your wording. Concepts need to translate not just in language, but also in ideology. Also check out the paper on working with social movements, and how we can improve women's rights by taking a back seat.

Be Bold and Realistic: Creating space for project plans that will work

Be Bold and Realistic: Creating space for project plans that will work

August 22, 2019

Yawo Douvon and Barbara Jean-Claude from Haiti talk about the importance of being bold when it comes to admitting that something won't work. It takes courage to point out that goals and expectations are unrealistic, and that we might not get everything done. Getting good context analysis--even in emergencies--building solid donor relationships, carefully monitoring data, and being proactive in communications when something goes off track are all tips that can help you through a rocky project implementation. (French version will be coming the week of August 26th.)

It’s All About Backup: When Experimental Systems Go Wrong

It’s All About Backup: When Experimental Systems Go Wrong

April 3, 2019

In our first ever Francophone episode, Fanomezantsoa Randrianarisoa from CARE Madagascar talks about what happens when you launch an experimental monitoring system before partners are ready for it. Besides challenges getting the data you need, there are serious risks to sustainability. Investing in people's skills, creating back-up plans, and aligning with global systems are some of the solutions.

Dans notre premier épisode francophone, Fanomezantsoa Randrianarisoa du CARE Madagascar explique ce qui se passe si vous lancez un nouveau system d’évaluation avant que l’équipe ne soit prêt. Il n’y a pas seulement les difficultés de trouver l’information, mais aussi les risques pour pérenniser le system. Les leçons appris comprennent : un appui au personnel, l’appropriation du system, et l’harmonisation avec les autres systems.

What makes dreams impossible: How we can miss the mark on creating programs that last

What makes dreams impossible: How we can miss the mark on creating programs that last

January 2, 2019

Hiba Tibi from Palestine talks about her favorite quote: "Fear of failure is the only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve." Even in crisis and fragile settings, we must programs that create space for women's empowerment and will be economically viable in the long term. We can't let the changing environment prevent us from focusing on equality that will last. Check out the recent paper on how to do that with Women's Economic Empowerment programs, and the thinking on how to approach the Humanitarian and Development nexus for long term change.

Mistake Money, Premortems, and other ways to incentivize talking about failure

Mistake Money, Premortems, and other ways to incentivize talking about failure

December 13, 2018

Susan Davis of Improve International talks about how we can incentivize talking about failure so we can make new mistakes rather than continuing to make the old ones. She also talks about how we can resolve problems as we find them in the Guidelines for Resolving Problems with Water Systems. Some tools she suggests are the Nakuru accord, pre-mortems, and innovative financing mechanisms—what she calls “Mistake Money”. What's the key? Getting communities involved in the conversation.

Fourth Quarter Failure: How we got the FY18 budget wrong, and what we’re doing now

Fourth Quarter Failure: How we got the FY18 budget wrong, and what we’re doing now

October 31, 2018

Michelle Nunn discusses how CARE's FY18 budget missed the balance between audacious goals and operational excellence. She ends with a call to all staff to err on the side of candor and speak truth to power.

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