We have all witnessed or been party to the failure of development projects to achieve their assigned objectives. In my experience this is often the result of projects being designed around the set of development “tools” the donor or implementer has available and some end state they deem desirable. Their calculation too frequently does not include an accurate understanding of the starting point — the current condition that the project is intending to change. In this post, I present one way of getting a clear understanding of the starting point, at least with respect to rural-based economic development projects through conversation with the people most involved. My approach does not deny the need for hard data and statistical analysis but it does usefully complement them. I hope you will read through these examples, consider them in the light of your own work and add your own experience and ideas in the comments section at the end.
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