The Circle(s) of Life

Nants ingonyama bagithi, Baba!

There’s been some chatter on twitter (where else?) about an upcoming ‘Careers in International Development‘ seminar in DC. Folks attending will pay $65 to hear from professional recruiter for two hours on how to get themselves, well, professionally recruited. And that’s nice.

But then what?

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What does aid look like?

Last night on twitter there was a discussion around this chart, produced by Global Humanitarian Assistance (@gha_org), who incidentally have a mighty fine looking website that you should visit.Map of Aid Players

GHA’s Map of Aid Players

Saddo pedants like me leapt in to say: its great that it has most of the key players nicely arranged, but it is not really a map in that is actually misinformative about the locations, flows and relationships between these players. More of a nicely arranged taxonomy, in which at-a-grasp visual meaning seems to have been deprioritized in order to put the aid recipient in the centre.

My concern is that as a result it might actually lower the comprehension of how aid works, especially for the casual drive-by viewer. The most obvious one to my mind is that donor agencies, global funds and UN agencies predominantly do not interface directly with aid recipients, but mainly work through developing country governments and NGOs for that first mile/last mile of aid provision.

Tariq Khokar put put out a challenge to crowd-source a better version, based on the original diagram. That editable diagram is here. However Tariq also drew attention to this diagram which I think is a much better starting point, in terms of the actual information within, though it is unfortunately a bit spaghetti-and-meatballs:

Spaghetti alla beneficiana

I’ve taken a first crack at reshaping it into a diagram slightly more visually intuitive. To me, anyway! It’s certainly not yet up to information-is-beautiful standards but perhaps an iteration in that direction.

Aid relationships & flows (after Hosni Kharas)

I’ve left out some important detail (ie: reverse flows, internal absorption inside each box) because I couldn’t chart that quickly in half an hour at lunch. (Seriously, for the want of a big thick arrow pointing one way and a little one pointing the opposite way…). There’s also a whole subset of boxes you could put inside the ‘voluntary organisations’ box, from grant-making foundations, to INGOs, to national and local NGOs. The size of each box is important in this visual representation. Should they be size for the cash value they pass on to the next entity, or for the number of people/organisations involved, or some other estimation of their importance?

And of course the key thing missing from this chart is the ‘community’ line from the original GHA chart. Let’s add an element of that for some real perspective.

Aid flows including remittances

(Source for remittances to poor countries figure: Migration Policy Institute.)

I might be able to improve on it a little in coming days using Visio. Maybe even with colours, innit!

So, over to you lot. Is this worth building on? How can we improve this?