When I interviewed Chelsea Prough, she talked about her work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. When asked about the leader/follower dynamics in this industry, she had interesting things to say about the matter. She talked about the dynamics, not only in her organization but amongst the groups working in foreign aid as a whole.
First, she talked about the dynamic between the funders and the recipients. She said that there are some instances when the funders try to dictate what they want so it is important to not only keep the donors happy but, to also make the best use of the money received. This is an interesting dynamic that she gave me because, though the foreign aid organizations should be the leaders in aid, they sometimes have to listen to and follow the less knowledgeable funders.
The second dynamic that she discussed was the dynamic between the western, foreign aid organizations and the populations they serve. She cited it as interesting and how in recent years, there has been a move away from dictating how things should be done and a focus on demonstrating what needs to be done and allowing the populations to learn to do it themselves. As Prough puts it, “the goal is to put ourselves out of business” and part of this path is to allow local organizations and people to learn the ropes to give them the knowledge they need to lead themselves in the future.
Finally, she talked about the dynamics within her own organization. Though there is a definitive hierarchy, there is also a lot of instances of teamwork and room for each individual to have a say in decisions. There is a lot of delegation at these times. However, at times, it can be more important to have the hierarchy firmly in place where the leaders become more authoritarian and task-focused. Meanwhile, the followers fall back into a subordinate position and listen to the leader’s directions without much discussion.
Overall, there are a few interesting dynamics that can be studied in the sector of foreign aid, not only within the organizations but between the organizations and those that they serve, as well as between the organizations and the funders.