I did a bit of (not enough) proper engineering i.e. building services improving lives durably. I mostly supported water-related initiatives through research, policy development, training, group facilitation and partnership building. Discovering complex institutional and cultural contexts, analysing ways to improve access to water and sanitation in rural areas or booming slums was all very stimulating. Ground realities challenged my mental maps and I collaborated with people from diverse horizons.
Yet, working as a programme evaluator, I could witness the generally poor performance of these initiatives. Unpacking the reasons behind this systemic failure, I realized how most institutions are incentivized to align with the agenda of the self-proclaimed "Aid to Development" sector. An agenda often at odds with the priority needs of the "beneficiary populations". Just as many other decadent institutions, this sector is overly preoccupied by its own survival and growth, and arguably only very moderately concerned by the efficacy and second-order impacts of its action. With this perspective in mind, I increasingly saw myself as a foot soldier of donor organisations aggressively pushing ideologies and programmes of very debatable relevance.