By Michel Leroy
More and more integrated into result-oriented approaches, the media development assistance (MDA) sector has invested a huge effort in figuring out how funds could be more performant, more impactful and how the lessons learnt could help updating the strategy.
Both the Paris Declaration (2005) and Accra Agenda for Action (2008) offer practical action-oriented roadmaps. Previously, the OECD Development assistance committee’s principles for evaluation (1991) have addressed key areas of aid programming and management for use by assistance agencies in evaluating aid-financed activities.
Among them, sustainability – defined as both “the continuation of benefits from a development intervention after major development assistance has been completed” and “the resilience to risk of the net benefit flows over time” – is one of the most crucial as, together with feasibility, it is a criteria prior to a decision of funding.
Sustainability has thus been a recurrent and prominent concern. External evaluations and donors often deplore the inconsistency of indicators, and MDA is thus often seen as programmes with poor exit strategies or even with various forces working against the phase out, including the recipients and the technical implementing organizations.
The debates are likely to come to a point where effectiveness itself is contested: how can media development assistance be sustainable if it cannot lead to improved professionalization, governance and development outcomes? And isn't it even linked to a Western-centric frame of reference unfitted for the local people’s need?
As DAC Network on Development Evaluation is currently exploring how the DAC Evaluation Criteria can be adapted to the new development landscape and the 2030 Agenda, this study will focus on this current trade-off between sustainability and development goals, through the example of not-for profit radios in developing countries.
The research will outline how the concept of "sustainability" has emerged in the media development field and to what extent it has been appropriated by stakeholders – both by the media-makers, their media development partner organizations, and donors. It will seek to determine what is the impact of sustainability on professionalization and vice versa: under what conditions is a more viable radio also a more professional radio and is professionalization a conducive condition for sustainability?
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