what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sound and fury – signifying nothing?

I’m now at the stage of creating the slides for the 10 minute presentation of my paper at the Varna Conference on 20 May. It’s a deeply depressing (but salutory) experience to have spent several months crafting a 25 page paper (with almost 100 footnotes!) and then find – when you look for the basic message - that it seems to say so little! What does this say about me? Or about the nature of administrative reform? Perhaps that should be the focus of my presentation??

The basic points in the paper are that –
• The EC programme of technical assistance is a multi-billion euros industry and policy field
• The European Court of Auditors published a fairly strong critique in 2007 – which was about its procurement procedures rather than the effectiveness of the tools used
• The EC’s 2008 response – its „Backbone strategy” - basically said that the overstretched staff of its 80 European delegations should try harder to achieve 4 things – demand-driven solutions; better project design; better selection of experts; and more project flexibility (already possible during the inception period). This is a cop out!
• Serious gaps in the analysis were failures to analyse the companies and individual consultants who are the real „backbone” of the TA
• There are too many cowboy companies winning projects by dubious means – and using experts they don’t know; who have arrived in the business by accident; and who receive no training (A paper I had presented to the 2006 NISPAcee Conference had questioned the „accidental” nature of the comeptitive procurement system used by the EC TA)
• The project basis of the EC TA is questionable – it lacks sustainability
• Perhaps there is another model - which strikes a better balance between competition, flexibility and sustainability?
• The second part of the paper looks at the difficult contexts of the EC Neigbourhood countries and suggests that few of the (overly rationalistic) tools in the reform toolbox of the EC will work there
• Change is a mysterious process for which the logframe (a tool for the construction industry) is totally unsuitable. This is recognised in the development industry
• Experts in adminsitrative reform lack insights into these wider development processes – and are stuck at stage one of a four-stage process which has been mapped by development experts
• EC TA is a deeply paternalistic model of change

It's been a useful exercise to list these points. Between now and Monday I have to elaborate them and decide what the slides should actually say for a 10 minute presentation - bearing in mind what the other presentations will be saying!!!

The painting is one of several Emilia Radusheva ones which have suddenly appeared. She has been in the Netherlands and her paintings seem to have dried up. But no longer. She has a very distinctive style and is, with Juliana Sotirova and Michko Constandinov, one of my favourite contemporary Bulgarian artists.

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