5 min. read.
Superheroes of Development is much more than a contest. It’s recognition for the work of teams that have faced complex challenges, fought to make a positive impact on the development of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and aimed to improve the lives of the most vulnerable people. It’s about seeking the lessons that emerge from executing projects supported by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It’s the passion conveyed by team spokespeople when sharing the stories of their projects.
Imagine living in a country that suffered an earthquake that devastated most of the capital city over a decade ago. Imagine that same population enduring a cholera epidemic followed by a global pandemic. You don’t have to imagine too much, as that country is Haiti.
Now, envision yourself working on the implementation of a social development program that caters to the most vulnerable inhabitants within this context. That’s the situation for the team at the Economic and Social Assistance Fund (FAES), who, through the program ‘Social Safety Net for Vulnerable Individuals’, have provided assistance to over three million people. This aid is delivered in collaboration with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies. The program supports the most vulnerable groups, including youth, pregnant women, and nursing mothers through cash and in-kind transfers. FAES was recognized as one of the Superheroes of Development in the 2023 edition.
Haiti, the country with the highest levels of poverty in the Western Hemisphere, is arguably the most challenging case, although each of the countries in the region faces significant and diverse developmental hurdles, such as the issue of crime. Peru grapples with this problem, and as a response, devised the program “Improvement of Crime Prevention and Response Services in Crime-Prone and Violence-Stricken Neighborhoods,” which also emerged as the winner of the competition this year. Other highlighted challenges include unemployment, labor inclusion, and informal work, all of which were addressed by the finalist projects from Barbados, Chile, and Ecuador.
Teams engaged in these types of projects understand that they are confronting at least two categories of challenges. The first is the developmental challenge they aim to solve, the project’s intended purpose, and the second is the implementation challenge, how to fulfill that purpose within the scheduled time, scope, and cost.
Learning from execution
We’ve all seen the celebrations that come with securing funding for a project, for instance, the laying of the cornerstone for promising endeavors like a road, a school, or a hospital. However, we don’t always witness the culmination and use of these undertaken projects, such as people driving on the new road, children attending the school, or patients being cared for in the hospital. Superheroes of Development aims to contribute to documenting and understanding how we move from project approval to the phase of execution and operation. In essence, it’s about learning how we transition from an initial idea to real impact through project execution. It’s about fully comprehending the path that connects these two points.
With Superheroes of Development, the goal isn’t just to reward project teams that have effectively faced development challenges, but also to learn about the implementation hurdles. This includes understanding the issues that caused delays in schedules, changes in the scope of products and expected outcomes, and factors that influenced increased operational costs.
Since the inaugural edition of Superheroes in 2018, hundreds of teams have participated up to the present day. In the 2023 edition alone, 141 proposals from 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean were submitted. As of now, the IDB Group has published the stories of finalists from 2018-19, 2020, 2021, and 2022, with the 2023 finalist story set to be released soon. These narratives serve as a wellspring of inspiration and learning for those involved in developmental projects, providing a valuable contribution to systematize the lessons learned through their execution.
The Secret of Superheroes
Upon listening to the spokespeople of each of the finalist teams of Superheroes of Development 2023, one finds a common denominator: the passion they convey. It’s easy to appreciate the love they have for their work, their commitment to the most vulnerable, as well as the mission-driven sense behind each of their projects. These teams demonstrate through their words and actions that they can indeed make a significant difference in every place they work, even in the most challenging conditions.
The excitement felt by the participants, finalist teams, and the accompanying audience is akin to the atmosphere at the Oscars, an analogy drawn by two Presidents of the Inter-American Development Bank, Luis Alberto Moreno and Ilan Goldfajn. That excitement embodies the passion for development.
By Duval Llaguno from the IDB.