Does parenting work?

I was sent a copy of a submission to the House of Lords on Foreign Aid, did it work or not. In my head I immediately wondered, does parenting work? The submission answer was yes and no, it depends, which I suppose is understandable, there is unlikely to be a simple answer.

But parenting, surely that works, yes? Well, let’s see what is recommended for foreign aid and see if we can make any comparisons.

1. Make it multilateral – Get many others involved – Oh yes, parenting often only works if everyone else backs you up, friends, family, neighbours, teachers, growing up is a community thing.

2. Make it predictable – Be consistent – well, Supernanny would back that one, do this get that, do the other get the other, consistently.

3. Make aid transparent, accountable and traceable. Oh yes, parenting is like that. Underhand dealings with no comeback don’t work for parents, so don’t try those tricks.

4. Build in accountability to Governments – the interpretation with parenting would be to hand over power to your children, let them make decisions about how to do what you want them to do. Otherwise, when no-one is watching they are off on their own game.

5. Focus on results and simplify – oh yes, ‘Is your room clean? Have you tidied up? Is your homework done?’ None of this have you been a good boy. What does that mean?

6. Invest in global public goods – simply said, this means if the kids have the job of raking the grass then buy them a decent rake! Your kids do need you to invest in things for them which are not rubbish, which do not easily break, which have long term value.

7. Focus on women and girls and chronic poverty – OK, that one is specific to Aid! Though for teachers it might mean, don’t allow the most vociferous to run your class?

8. Leverage the private sector – I think this means get them a paper round! Yes, the basic message as they get older is that all the treats are not going to come from you alone.

9. Use innovative financing – yes, learning to save for bigger and better things is a good lesson, so supporting a savings policy has got to be a good thing, it teaches long term as well as medium and short term.

10. Learn more and fail safely – parenting works when you are in there learning with them. If you come across as making all the rules and having all the answers it does not work.

OK, so a good number of parallels there, but what has that to do with Transition?

10 rules of Transition:

1. Get many others involved – which is other groups not just other individuals

2. Be consistent – I guess this means don’t be pro-technology when it suits and anti-technology when it doesn’t – voluntary groups can often seem all over the place, trying to please everyone. It doesn’t work.

3. Make it transparent, accountable and traceable – whatever you are doing, make the review public, even when things do not go well. Build trust.

4. Hand over power  – don’t parent too much, if people have projects let them get on with it, subject to the 10 rules here.

5. Focus on results and simplify – don’t try to be Sustainability and Resilience Gurus, Have a vision, a mission and some objectives, and keep them simple.

6. Invest in global public goods – investing in things which bring long term goals must be good. For example, some groups are creating their own energy companies.

7. Don’t allow the most vociferous to run your Transition Group. Listen to the quiet ones at the back of the room.

8. Leverage the private sector – a little time on that may bring bigger gains than forever trying to raise the odd pound or two.

9. Use innovative financing – this could mean bingo and it could mean writing your own books and selling them on Amazon/Kindle. It could mean starting your own local green business, food, energy and consultancy even.

10. Learn more and fail safely – sustainability and resilience has got to be about learning safely.

So it looks like Parenting, Foreign Aid and Transition have a lot in common. Maybe that is because these 10 rules are like rules for life?

OK, so what do you think? – Authors are needed for this site so I am not the only one writing, so please get in touch if you want to contribute on a regular basis.

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