P1000899 (2)

Do you want people to use your technologies? Do you want people to feel invested in and passionate about your work? Do you want honest feedback on your projects from the community?

Most people do. Then why is it that most projects fail after the project instigator returns home?

Here are a few reasons why, and a few questions to help you avoid the development project graveyard:

1. Local resources. Are your materials locally available? Is your labor locally available? If not, how do you expect your project to be maintained locally?

2. Transparency. Do the beneficiaries of your project understand how it works down to the smallest detail? Can they fix it if something breaks? We can not hand people black boxes and expect them to last. Appropriate technologies are not Mac computers; you cannot bring them to the Apple store whenever something goes wrong and expect the part to be magically fixed. They must be transparent so people can fix them themselves.

3. Cost. Did you charge people for your solution, or did you give it away for free? If you gave it away, how will you sustainably fund your initiative? And, do you honestly expect people use, care for, and maintain a free product with the same attention as one purchased? If something is worth using, it is worth the investment. This shows that the user wants the product, and has committed enough that he or she will continue to use it after you have left.

4. Exit strategy. Does your project have an exit strategy? In other words, do you have a plan for either concluding the project or taking it to a point where you are no longer necessary? It is not enough to develop such a plan halfway through. You need an exit strategy from day one if you want your project to be locally sustainable. Because, unless you plan on moving to your project site indefinitely, locally sustainable means that you are no longer in the picture.

5. Presentation. How do you show people your product? In a showcase, or during a hands on demonstration? We believe what we can touch, and what we see works. Field work is not a lecture hall; simply talking at someone gives them no reason to invest in your product and no comfortable opportunity to ask questions. Let people try it, let them see the results. They will probably even have suggestions for improvements.

This is not an all-encompasing list. These are merely a few points to get you started.

(Photo: Ofuman, Ghana, 2008.)