New website wants your failures (and for you to admit you've had them)

Jan 18, 2011

It's uncommon to hear dialog about failure in our society, including among the leaders and agencies who work in the field of global health and development. Those organizations rely on funders who are banking on success to further international missions, according to Humanosphere's Tom Paulson

Look, I know it’s hard to raise funds, and public awareness, for many of these projects aimed at assisting people in poor countries. Publicizing things going wrong, many do-gooders think, will only hurt the cause.

Clearly, the idea is that much more can be gained by bringing failure into the light. Paulson reports today about a group that's trying to get the conversation about failure revved up.

A new website launched Friday by Engineers Without Borders, Canada (EWB), is intended to be a discussion place about hard lessons learned in the field of international development. EWB launched late last week. Why? The backers say chronicling failure is fundamental to achievement:

By hiding our failures, we are condemning ourselves to repeat them and we are stifling innovation. In doing so, we are condemning ourselves to continue under-performance in the development sector. Conversely, by admitting our failures – publicly sharing them not as shameful acts, but as important lessons – we contribute to a culture in development where failure is recognized as essential to success.

The site even features a local celeb, Bill Gates, Sr., in an accompanying "Failure Report," who wrote the introduction. 

On the Humanosphere blog, Paulson wonders:   

Which of the many global health and development organizations in Seattle will be the first to submit their failure report?