Bill Easterly writes:
One approach to a successful aid project just is to immerse yourself in the local community, put local people in charge who are themselves highly motivated, be adaptive and flexible to respond to whatever the local people think about how they can help themselves, so that you customize the “standard project designs” to fit local circumstances. Most aid projects fail because there is nobody in the field making all these necessary adaptations and fixing unanticipated problems as they arise. The moral of the story is: be a Searcher and not a Planner.
He also writes that the secret to successful aid “is that there is no secret.” He does not believe in RCT methodology applied to aid effectiveness.
This kind of aid project is based on a lot of personal, face to face interaction, developing trust and a shared vision, so it is small scale, it has to let things proceed at their own pace, it can’t meet rigid pre-set output targets, it could never be judged by a rigorous “randomized controlled trial” methodology. In short, it involves the kind of tacit knowledge and individual adaptation that could never be converted into a routinized project implemented by the official aid bureaucracies. It breaks all the rules, and it works.