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Hard and Soft Skills

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In development practice today, when you ask ‘How do you improve governance systems in developing countries in order to improve the lives of the poor?’ the so-called hard skills dominate the discourse.  But what are these so-called hard skills? At their most mind-numbing these are number-crunching skills derived from a variety of quantitative social science disciplines. Beyond that these are skills in technical analysis and solution-finding. So, if you want to curb corruption in Country XYZ you find the technical experts on building world class procurement and other systems send in accountants and the like and so on. You design systems, set up an Anti-Corruption Commission. You deploy your notion of ‘best practice’ in the relevant technical field. All this is well and good but will that blow a corrupt public political culture away and with it the broader tolerance of corruption by the population at large? The difficulties in getting results and making them stick being experienced around the world are becoming too big a pile of inconvenient facts to be ignored. Yet the fields of learning and the skills that can help to make governance reform initiatives work are often dismissed as ‘soft’. Those who study values, beliefs, norms, attitudes and public opinion, and what to do about them in specific situations – all significant influences on the outcomes of reform initiatives – are told they have nothing meaningful to contribute to the  great efforts needed to improve governance systems around the world. And all those inconvenient facts? They are going to keep piling up until so-called hard sciences find the humility to expand their paradigms.


Submitted by Margaret Pinard on
Right on! I am finding it persistently difficult to find positions I can aspire to fill because they are focused on "hard skills" which reduce sociocultural complexity to numbers. Not only do I dislike quantitative representations because of the skill set involved (not mine), I find it hard to motivate myself to learn those skill sets because of my lack of belief in the method. Great entry.

Submitted by masshooda on
The only solution to CORRUPTION is public education.It is vital to explore new avenues so that the public in general, the vulnerable groups, the youth , the working force and even the corrupt be given explicit information so that at the end there is a change of mindset. The real cause of corruption is our selfishness.... time to think of others and not be thinking only of personal gains.....

Submitted by Lida on
I am finding it difficult but not impossible. In some countries it is hard to change the culture of corruption. The main causes are poverty and insecurity. Hight officials are corrupted and not trying to improve the hard skills or provide hard skills to the right people. I agree it is important to have anti corruption strict law and advocate the public for the implication.

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