Time to listen: Hearing people on the receiving end of international aid

This guide reports on the ideas, insights, and analyses of almost 6,000 people who were beneficiaries of international aid projects.

It aims to better understand how effective development programs have been and answer some very broad, big-picture questions about the nature of international development. 


"Does the way that international assistance is now organized make sense? Is it reasonable for people in countries that have resources and know-how to provide these to people in countries that are deemed to need them? Is it reasonable to expect that doing so can contribute to overcoming poverty, alleviating suffering, supporting good governance, or mitigating conflict in the receiving societies? Is international assistance—as it is now delivered—working as we mean it to?

This book approaches these questions through the experiences of people on the receiving side of international assistance; it reports on the ideas, insights, and analyses of almost 6,000 people who live in countries where aid has been provided. These people, who have either directly received assistance or observed others in their societies doing so—sometimes in many forms and over many years—are the front-row observers of its processes and impacts. They see how the designs and intentions of the givers play out in people’s lives and in social and political structures, cumulatively and over time."


  • The Challenges of Listening: How Do We Hear and Understand  What People Really Mean? 7
  • The Cumulative Impacts of International Assistance  17
  • What’s Wrong with the Current Aid System? 33
  • Donor Policies, Donor Agendas 51
  • The Proceduralization of International Assistance: A Distorting Influence 65
  • International Assistance in Partnership with Governments and Civil Society 83
  • Corruption: A Surprisingly Broad Definition 99
  • Informing and Communicating: Necessary But Not Sufficient 113
  • Obstacles to Meaningful Engagement 125
  • Conclusion: Acting on What We Have Heard 135


Anderson, M.B., Brown, D. & Jean, I. (2012). Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid. CDA Collaborative Learning Projects. Retrieved from: http://www.cdacollaborative.org/media/60478/Time-to-Listen-Book.pdf