The phrase “you learn from your mistakes” can be used as a well-meaning consolation in the face total flops. But what’s to stop us also learning from the mistakes of others? Mostly the fact that we view failure as a weakness rather than a strength, and so we prefer to keep our own failures to ourselves. What does that have to do with engineers? Well they’re practically minded and see errors as opportunities rather than screw-ups. Hence the organisation Engineers Without Borders was behind probably the first attempt to round up failures in the development sector.
Every user can enter his or her mistakes into Admitting Failures, reflect on them, and learn from the mistakes of others. Admitting Failures is founded on two good arguments. Firstly, publishing errors accelerates innovation and willingness amongst NGOs to take risks in their work. Secondly, investors and sponsors are becoming more receptive to failure. Donors can form an impression from the website about which organisations approach their mistakes openly and creatively, and whether they learn from them. The question remains whether donors and funders are prepared to put unshakable faith in the competence of NGOs, or whether the image of the organisation suffers as a result of a confession of failure.