International Perspective: What We Get for Development Dollars

By Ashley Clark

This week, the International Policy, Development and Practice Speaker Series welcomed George Scharffenberger, currently the Director of Programs for Masters in Development Practice.

In his talk entitled “Personal Perspectives on 40 Years of International Development Efforts: Speculation on why $3 trillion has brought us so little,” Mr. Scharffenberger took us through his personal experiences before launching into his assessment of development failures. Mr. Scharffenberger looked at the failures of development over the past 35 years at a macro and micro level. He blamed the failures at the macro level on the belief in a “secret sauce,” or easy to implement and replicate solution that has plagued the development community. Instead, approaches should be adaptable and sought for local contexts. On a micro-level, he encouraged resistance to fatalism while retaining skepticism. He argued that the approach to project-funding should favor experimentation. He warned that Randomized Control Trials (RCTs), which are the vogue in development currently, can be a mixed bag; although results-based funding should not be discouraged, it can be an easy leap from proving something can be done to trying to scale or implement the project incorrectly.

Mr. Scharffenberger has more than 35 years’ experience in the design, management and evaluation of international economic and social development activities including long-term assignments in Senegal, the Gambia, Morocco, and Madagascar. George was the founding executive director of the Blum Center for Developing Economies at UC Berkeley after having held executive positions in the international NGOS World Links, VITA, and Pact. Prior to his current role at the Master in Development Practice, he was the special Assistant for International Development Policy and Practice at the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at UC Berkeley.

The International Policy, Development and Practice Speaker Series meets every Thursday from 12:30-2:00 pm in GSPP 105 this Spring Semester.


Ashley Clark is a MPP/MA-IAS student at UC Berkeley.