What Went Wrong?
Using technology to ensure that aid beneficiaries’ perspectives lead the discussion on the impact evaluation.


Inverting the traditional power dynamic

When discussing the impact of foreign aid, the voice that is most important to the conversation is also the one most likely to be missing: the voice of the aid beneficiary. Our mission was to elevate the concerns of aid beneficiaries to the forefront of the conversation around the efficacy of foreign aid.

I find that the development came to our area as a directive from the most top officials. It came as a dream. You may wake up one morning, and you may find the development at your doorsteps. No choice as to where it is coming. No choice as to what is the most needed.
— Charles Makusu, Primary School Teacher in the Chikwawa District of Malawi

How might we build a system that allows beneficiaries to report aid projects that are negatively impacting their communities and share that feedback with the broader international development community?

Pairing qualitative stories with quantitative data

Aid reporting often focuses on individual human stories, and while most audiences are sympathetic to those individual stories they are easy to dismiss as unfortunate but isolated occurrences. In reality, the issue is pervasive. Are team looked to crowd-sourced community reporting to highlight the individual stories while revealing the pervasiveness of the issue.


Leveraging accessible technologies

When designing our reporting system we looked towards the most accessible and affordable communications technologies—radio and SMS phones—to ensure there were the fewest possible barriers to participation.

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Crowd-sourcing citizen feedback

To get the word out, we partnered with 3 local community radio stations across, all of which already discussed international aid on their regular programming. This helped our CTA connect with relevant audiences while ensuring our reach was almost nation-wide.

Over eight weeks, What Went Wrong? received 443 submissions about 33 unique projects.

See the interactive version  on Tableau Public .

See the interactive version on Tableau Public.


Translating community reports into publications

One of our biggest challenges was crafting tweets of citizen reports that were specific, actionable, and accurate—trying to strike the right balance between championing the concerns of the citizens and avoiding casting undue blame on the aid organizations who were working hard to help people in need.

From those 443 citizen submission, 22 projects were investigated further through in-depth follow-up reporting. 8 of those stories were then published in a six part series with Devex; photographed by project co-founder Peter DiCampo, written by Nairobi-based journalist Anthony Langat.

You can read more about our process and findings in the multi-media introduction article (written and visualizated by me). Follow @failedaid on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest updates.

What Went Wrong? was co-founded by photographer, Peter DiCampo, and has received support from the Magnum FoundationBrown Institute for Media InnovationCode for Africa, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.