Decision Making in Developmental Projects
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The most critical issue with development is getting the right resources to where they are needed most and ensuring that those resources are being used in a sustainable manner. The greatest failure of community development to this day is the wasting of resources due to a lack of knowledge of the realities on the ground. It is this lack of meaningful investment - “the tragedy of aid” - which is the reason why even though a lot of money has been allocated to development projects, there is shockingly little growth to show for it. This occurs when governments, organisations, etc. impose “top-down” solutions that fail to take into account both the needs and wishes of the concerned community.
In the “top down” approach, the top level management takes a decision and passes it on to the bottom level for it to be carried out. "Top down" approaches usually create resistance, regardless of how well the decisions are made. Nobody likes people telling them what to do. They would prefer that they are asked what they would like to do. Decision making in the "top down" approach is restricted to the top brass; and excludes lower levels, even though they're the ones affected by the decisions. Such decisions generally lack information and ideas from those who will be affected by them.
A "bottom up" approach, however, is one that works from the
grassroots - the community concerned is involved in the process
of decision making right since the project inception. As the
decisions are usually is taken by a large number of people, it is
beneficial to the concerned community as a whole. The "bottom up"
approach acts as an empowering process for people to handle
challenges, giving them the right to make decisions that
influence the direction of their own lives. It also emphasises
the fact that the ones affected know best what problems they
face, and incorporating their feedback into projects helps to
increase its overall efficiency. This is possible when the
communities are capable and willing to initiate the process and
take part in the analysis. It leads to joint decision making
about what should be achieved and how. While outsiders are equal
partners in the developmental effort, the affected people are
equal partners with a significant say in decisions concerning
their lives. This interaction with the concerned people
identifies and analyses critical issues, and an exchange of
knowledge and experiences leads to solutions. Studies have shown
that of the two approaches, the latter is better accepted by the
public, and, needless to say, more effective. When community
issues are rectified by community-developed solutions - ones that
better understand the intricacies of local issues - success and
sustainability are much more likely.