Learning from experience in urban programming: the case of SHAHAR Project in Bangladesh

The article offers a reflective analysis of various problems encountered and lessons learned in implementing a programme to improve the livelihood security of the urban poor in Bangladesh. The study is based on the author’s involvement as an external action-research partner and a review of the literature. The key lessons for success are identified as (i) a clear understanding by all staff of the links between project activities and project objectives; (ii) building staff capacity that is tailored to their needs; (iii) clear targeting criteria and programme coverage; (iv) having all the necessary operational guidelines, workplans, and M&E design before implementation; (v) ensuring ‘partnership of organisations’ not ‘partnership of activities’; (vi) ensuring the real involvement of beneficiaries in all aspects of the project; (vii) staff ‘empowerment’ and a ‘flexible approach’ to operations is more rewarding; (viii) conducting routine reflections on project progress, and finally (ix) being sufficiently bold to make necessary strategic changes even if this means deviating from pre-set activities and hypothetical schedules laid down in the project proposals.