"How do you find out what the Haitian people really need now, nearly three weeks after the earthquake? You ask them." That is from this article in the Washington Post today by David Brown about a survey the UN is conducting of Haitians to learn about what is happening on the ground. The article continues:
Until fairly recently, disaster responders relied on their senses -- and their common sense -- to identify problems. The notion of measuring what you could see was viewed as an academic response to things such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.
That view has changed.
Assessment that involves the Haitian people, thank goodness. Of course G-d is in the details (or is it the devil is in the details?), so it is too soon to sing the praises of this effort, but this sounds hopeful and should be followed closely. (Sounds like some of the data is being collected, or may be in the future, on cell phones...not sure how that works. Are there cell phone applications (iPod apps?) for conducting surveys? How open ended can the response be that way?)
I have starting reading some reports and reviews of US policy in Haiti and other countries that the Government Accountability Office, Office of Management and Budget, and the National Research Council have written in the past few years that all emphasize how little assessment and evaluation is ever done on development, relief and democracy programs. Hopefully that is staring to change and will allow for critics and supporters of these efforts to have more fruitful discussions of how they should be managed and overseen. More on that later this week.