Beyond Intractability
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Brad Hayes

Research Professor at the Naval War College, Newport, RI

Topic: development projects Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2003


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Q: Brad Hayes, who are you and what do you do?

A: I am a research professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI.

Q: Tell me about spoilers in development projects, in peace settlements, negotiations, and so on, and if you could illustrate that with a couple of examples for context, that would be useful.

A: When people go into set up development projects they almost always look at what are the benefits. They seldom look at if these benefits actually accrue, for example if you set up a well, people have been getting water for a millennia, and how have they been doing it and is any body hurting that process?

For example in Somalia, they went in and built a well and the man who had been bringing water to the city with his fifty mules was put out of business, so if the well goes down one of the first places you might want to look at the man who still has fifty mules and is out of work, he could be a spoiler.

In Bosnia after the war the developers came in to try to rebuild the communities, houses needed to be rebuilt. Most of those houses were Muslim houses that had been destroyed so most of the money went to that community. The Slavs saw that and felt that it was unfair that all of this international money was coming in and none of it was coming to their community so therefore they made things very difficult for the people there, they were in that spoiler role. The international development community said, "Well what can we do?" They went into the Slavic community and found municipal projects that could be done so they were able to hire local people, buy local materials, and get projects done that actually helped the community. As a result they took them away as spoilers because the work in the Muslim community still needed to be done to get them their homes and to help them to go on. Those are examples of people who can be spoilers in situations where you think people are going to be benefited. There is always somebody who says this isn't going to work out for me.

Q: In a complex social system where there are so many people acting in so many different ways how can you predict who is going to be the spoiler. What questions do you ask to try and find those people?

A: The first question you ask is who is benefiting from this situation as it is right now? If you are going to go and change something, somebody has been making money in that community and even though you are going to benefit a great amount of people there is probably some group that has been making money because the system has been bad, those people are the ones who are going to be the spoilers, that is where you need to look.

Q: Thanks.

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