Learning from Past Failures

In his TED talk, 'When an NGO Failure Leads to Success' David Damberger of Engineers Without Borders discusses the lack of published failures for organizations to learn from.

On his first project David went into an area of Malawi and drilled a well and installed a water system for the people. Everyone was happy that there was clean water flowing and then he flew back home.

One year later he went back to check on his water system and found it was broken. When he started digging into it he found that over 80% of the systems were broken and the American government had actually installed a similar system with the exact same technology a decade before and that had broken.

Why This is Important

Seeing what has been done and the reasons it has failed is important to delivering a successful and sustainable end product or solution. In this case the water systems failed due to 'software' solutions instead of the hardware. The people were not involved in the creation of the water system of educated on how to maintain the system. The other factor is people weren't given a reason to care about maintaining the system because there was no personal involvement or ownership.


Damberger, D. (n.d.). What happens when an NGO admits failure. David Damberger:. Retrieved October 9, 2014, from http://www.ted.com/talks/david_damberger_what_happens_when_an_ngo_admits_failure

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