"We Want to Report about Everything!" How the Technologies of Results-Based Management Protect the Comfort Zone of Donors in International Development Cooperation

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Christoph HAUG , Department of Sociology and Work Science, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Donor agencies legitimize their existence by producing activity reports which show that they are making a difference. Evidence needs to be produced that links the donor to the results achieved by its partner organizations. Such evidence usually comes in the form of reports which the partners are obliged to deliver before they receive the next slice of funding.

The present paper examines this practice of exchanging funds for reports, asking how it affects the relationship between the development partners. The focus of the analysis is on how reporting requirements of Results-Based Management (RBM) structure the communication between donors and recipients and thereby organize global social relationships in asymmetrical ways, allowing donors to appropriate the credits for the work done by the recipients of their funds.

Based on a case study from donor funded HIV/AIDS work in South Africa, the analysis finds two conflicting languages: the language of results and the language of grievances. The paper shows that a significant source of donor power lies in their ability to structure the communication between the partners in a results-oriented way and thereby frustrate attempts of grievances-related storytelling. However, the study also documents the urge of some community based organizations to “report about everything”, meaning: not only what the donor wants to hear. Attempts of “telling the whole story”, including grievances outside the scope of the donor’s program, are interpreted as expressions of dissent aimed towards the construction of a dialogic relationship between donors and recipients. It is discussed whether this is possible within or alongside with RBM, or whether dialogue based on local experiences implies a rejection of the RBM framework.