Organizational Learning in Housing Sector Nongovernmental Development Organizations: Recommendations for Enhancing Development Effectiveness
Journal IssueVolume 17, 2010
Despite sizable investment over the last forty years to improve housing conditions and quality of life in substandard settlements, success has been elusive. Meeting the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goal of achieving significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020 seems unlikely given recent projections. The 2006 report of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme indicates that nearly one billion people live in slums, with that number predicted to double by 2030. Given the current debate on U.S. foreign assistance reform and serious questions about the effectiveness of development aid, it is more important than ever to candidly examine initiatives to improve slums and the lives of slum dwellers and to grapple with the question of why existing funding levels and good intentions have not resulted in the hoped-for improvements in the lives of the world’s most poor. The U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Department of State and other donors of official U.S. foreign aid channel significant development assistance through nongovernmental development organizations (NGDO). NGDOs that choose to accept government funds are impacted by U.S. development policy, and the effectiveness of U.S. development assistance is deeply impacted by the quality of NGDOs’ work. Given the reality that housing interventions have grossly inadequately addressed the housing crisis in developing countries, the ability of NGDOs to learn from the past and adapt their approach for the future is of pressing importance to meet the need for adequate housing and to meet other global challenges. This paper examines factors that hinder the ability of NGDOs working on slum issues to learn from the past, especially those related to NGDO success at organizational learning. Key lessons learned are examined and recommendations are proposed to enhance the ability of NGDOs to learn and thus better serve the needs of their focus population.