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.

Where White Feminism has Failed: Linking women’s empowerment with anti-racism

Where White Feminism has Failed: Linking women’s empowerment with anti-racism

February 1, 2021

Allison Burden, CARE International's Head of Programming, reflects on where white feminist traditions have failed at anti-racism, what that means for white feminists to improve their own behavior (hint: listening and humility are two big tips), and what that means for the system of international development where we're working towards equality, human rights, and decolonization.

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."

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: 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.

9 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong: Lessons from Global Cash Programming

9 Things You’re Probably Doing Wrong: Lessons from Global Cash Programming

December 4, 2019

Holly Radice--CARE's Global Cash and Voucher Assistance Advisor--talks about the most common mistakes she sees when people implement cash programming. Some of her tips? Pay attention to GBV, focus on women and engage men, and most of all--don't be afraid of cash! There are lots of resources that can help you get it right.

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.

Design For Everyone, Not for Experts

Design For Everyone, Not for Experts

October 30, 2019

"You need to design for real people, not for experts." "Be ruthless with what you really need, and what's just nice to have" Isadora Quay from CARE's Gender and Emergencies work discusses CARE's Gender Marker, and all of the attempts it took to get to a tool that would actually work for the organization, not just the experts. It's about building tools that can turn everyone into a gender champion, and not tools that contain everything. The other secret? Design on a napkin!

Embracing Imperfection: Rapid Gender Analysis and Knowing You Don’t Have All the Answers

Embracing Imperfection: Rapid Gender Analysis and Knowing You Don’t Have All the Answers

September 12, 2019

Isadora Quay talks about the process of developing CARE's Rapid Gender Analysis, and how embracing imperfection is key to saving lives. When we want everything to be perfect, that often means we delay or prevent sharing any information at all, which can be catastrophic in humanitarian (and development) settings. Making tools useful for a broader range of people, and focusing on practical, tangible suggestions, and analyzing results in plain language for non-experts are some key lessons to take forward. "Act fast, there's a huge need for real information in real time." Isadora argues that failure is inevitable, so we need to learn not to prevent it, but to manage it and learn from them.

(English Version) Tell Yourself You Don’t Know Everything: Lessons Learned and Near Misses from 25+ years of VSLA

(English Version) Tell Yourself You Don’t Know Everything: Lessons Learned and Near Misses from 25+ years of VSLA

August 9, 2019

By popular demand, we've translated the August 1 Francophone episode into English. When CARE first started working with Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) in Niger, we nearly broke the model because we were sure that we knew what to do, and women were wrong. Field staff were afraid to tell us that women were sharing out the money--a practice that is now a cornerstone of a global approach reaching millions of people. Why? Because it went against all of our assumptions about economic empowerment. Dr. Fatma Zennou from Niger talks about how to create a culture where people are not afraid to highlight innovations and the unexpected, where money isn't everything in empowerment, and where we help women put their voices together for change.

The Art of Humility: Accepting Reality and Learning From Failure

The Art of Humility: Accepting Reality and Learning From Failure

March 27, 2019

Ian Lathrop from USAID’s LEARN project talks about how to show the art of humility, and learn from failures so we don’t repeat them. After action reviews, pause and reflect, and having leaders model behavior are all practical actions he suggests for getting better at this. Some of the resources he suggests to create space for learning from failure are USAID Learning Lab - CLA Maturity Tool Resources, the video on Community Connector and CLA: Proving the Concept, and Learning Lab’s failure blog.

Implementation is Not Enough: Applying Lessons from Agriculture Practices that Farmers Won’t Use

Implementation is Not Enough: Applying Lessons from Agriculture Practices that Farmers Won’t Use

February 19, 2019

Octavio de Sousa from CARE Mozambique talks about our recent post-project evaluation of agriculture adoption. Some practices the community never adopted—but didn’t tell us until 5 years later. Some they did adopt, but market forces made it impractical after the project ended. Octavio reflects on how power dynamics, safe spaces, and incentives can prevent us from making the best impact possible, and from applying our learning. Read the Learning Brief published with our partner FANRAPAN here.

A Year of Listening: Why we struck out with social movements the first time we tried

A Year of Listening: Why we struck out with social movements the first time we tried

November 7, 2018

"It's all about being slapped in the face by others" says Sofia Sprechmann--CARE International's Program Director--about how CARE misfired on its first effort into working with social movements in Latin America, and how we had to focus on listening and building trust.

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