The AidSpeak Dictionary

This is a sampling of actual posts on Twitter that I requested (@bill_easterly) last weekend for “decodings of aid/development jargon” .  Inspiration was from 40 Publishing Buzzwords, Clichés and Euphemisms DecodedI don’t necessarily endorse any implied viewpoint, if any.

“beneficiaries” : the people who make it possible for us to be paid by other people –@monanicoara

“bottom-up” : don’t ask someone what might work, just make something up instead –@thejoeturner

“baseline” : a point which is so low that positive results are the only possible outcome – @ANLevine

“accountability for results” — we keep all our promises by  issuing new promises – @bill_easterly

“bottoms-up development”: downing single-malt whiskey in one shot at Davos – @Arvind11d123

“civil society involvement”: consulting the middle class employee of aUS or European NGO –@dangay

 “community capacity building” : teach them what they already know –@fauvevivre

“demand-driven approach” – you create the demand and then you respond to it –

“empowerment” : what is left when all the quantifiable variables give non significant results –@MarianaSarastiM

“entrepreneurial” : vaguely innovative and cool, but definitely nothing to do with the hated “market” – @jselanikio

“experienced aid practitioner” : has large number of air miles in account – @thejoeturner

“expert” : I read a book about the place on the plane –@savo_heleta

“field experience” :  I can’t bear DC anymore –@MarianaSarastiM

“gender” : counting how many women attend your meeting –@liamswiss

“Global North” : White academics; “Global South” : Indian academics  –@Isla_Misty

“innovation” : we’re sexy, you want to be associated with us –@DarajaTz

“leverage” : we’re not paying for all of this –@katelmax

“low overhead” : volunteers run headquarters –@thejoeturner

“low-hanging fruit”:  we were already going to achieve this anyway – @Global_ErinH

“mainstreaming” : forgetting – @swampcottage

“microfinance” : not as good as sub-prime lending – @lippytak

“meetings” : our grant said we had to host an event – @Global_ErinH

“per diem”: what we have to pay local officials to attend our meetings – @Afrophile

“participatory stakeholders” : people who should solve their own problems –@UCGHR

“participation” : the right to agree with preconceived projects or programs –@edwardrcarr

“partnering with other institutions” : we’re raising barriers to entry – @JustinWolfers

“political will” :  I have no comprehension of the incentives faced by the people who I wish would do stuff I want @m_clem

“practical solutions” : photogenic solutions –@thejoeturner

“pro-poor” : the rich know best –@james_tooley

“RCT” : research method yielding same results as qualitative work at 10 times the cost –@texasinafrica

“rent-seaking behavior” : everything not nailed to the floor will be stolen- @charcoalproject

“outreach” : intrude –@langtry_girl

“ownership” : we held a workshop –@dangay

“raise awareness” :  no measurable outcome –@jonathan_welle

“scale-up” :  It’s time for follow on grant –@HunterHustus

“sensitize” : tell people what to do –@zw1tscher

“sustainable” : will last at least as long as the funding –@thejoeturner

“tackling root causes of poverty” : repackaging what we’ve already done in a slightly more sexy font –@thejoeturner

“UN Goals”: making up targets for problems we don’t understand paid for with money we don’t have – @jacobhorner

Notes: I have done some very minor editing for spelling and clarity. 

24 Responses to “The AidSpeak Dictionary”

  1. Joe Turner (@thejoeturner) September 20, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Oh dear, looks like I’m far more cynical than everyone else. apologies.

  2. How Matters (@intldogooder) September 20, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    Check out “Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords,” edited by Andrea Cornwall and Deborah Eade (2010) Published by Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam GB.
    http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/downloads/bk-deconstructing-development-buzzwords-010910-en.pdf

  3. Kamiel Verwer / kindmankind.net September 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Great list! It’s so important “aid professionals” have a sense of self-deprecating humor.

  4. Sanjib Subba September 26, 2011 at 10:02 am #

    Great one Ashu. Everyone in the Developing World would enjoy this for sure.

  5. Octavio Tamayo Baras December 28, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    This is my little contribution:

    Dictionary: the only place where words continue being virgins.

  6. Octavio Tamayo Baras December 28, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    Dictionary: the only place where words continue being virgins.

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