Development takes time. Especially when it involves institutional change, as is the case with government reform and other initiatives.
We know that.
But time is always under pressure in political contexts. And in modern bureaucracies where results agendas push for measurable outputs and outcomes 'as soon as possible'.
We know that too.
So: we need time but don't have time.
How do we do development in such situations?
I have been thinking about this for a while now, and think that the work we are doing at the Center for International Development (CID) is helping me develop an answer.
My first observation is that time needs to be treated in days and weeks rather than months and years. It is the minutes and hours, days and weeks that matter.
You lose the time battle with conventional practices in development where interventions happen in larger time arrangements, as bursts, with attention from key insider and visits by key outsiders every three or four months. In such situations the time spent actively and intensely on a project every year by key agents is about 15-20 days each. Let's say the project actually demands 100 days each: that means you are in a 5-7 year project.
You can use time better by having key agents (internal and external) working more intensively on the change process. If 100 days is needed, then have the key agents work aggressively for 100 days and see some results. Or ten days a month for ten months. Or 5 days a month for 20 months (1 year and 8 months).
Development demands time. If we provide the time in days and weeks we can give development the time it needs in fewer months and years than we currently use... and we can accomplish more.
I hope this makes sense.