David Damberger of NGO Engineers without Borders, states that his mission in India failed.
But, as his recent TED Talk illustrates, this failure will potentially help millions of people. How?
In the talk, “What happens when an NGO admits failure,” Damberger lays out his NGO’s mission and activities to ensure fresh water to some 5 million people in what is called “The Warm Heart of Africa.” Corruption and politics are not the enemy, but rather there was a lack of forward thinking. New wells and water sources were built throughout the area, but they had not considered the “soft” side of the project. Replacement parts and experienced maintenance engineers were lacking, and the fresh water sources broke within a few years of being built. Worse yet, when they reviewed the failure, they realized the SAME water system had been installed by the U.S. Government 10 years before, and they had also stopped working. Damberger made a similar mistake in India, but realized that NGOs can learn from mistakes. As the TED Talks site states:
“International aid groups make the same mistakes over and over again. David Damberger uses his own engineering failure in India to call for the development sector to publicly admit, analyze, and learn from their missteps.”
Through building on the infrastructure, planning, and people that live in areas in need of help, Damberger believes that some of these failures can be alleviated. He has also helped found AdmittingFailure.com, in which organizations discuss their failures on different projects, from NGOs, to Engineering, to Technology and beyond. By sharing our failures, Damberger sincerely believes we can avoid future mistakes, and help others help themselves.
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See also: Five Steps to NGO Success >>