We often confuse efficiency and efficacy.
Efficiency corresponds to an operation with a high result-versus-costs ratio, for example results vs. energy, time, and money.
Efficacy characterizes an action with the power to produce an effect.
Efficiency means doing as good a good a job as possible. Effectiveness means getting a result by doing the right job.
Reportedly neither efficiency nor efficacy rank very high in the Humanitarian Programs industry, one that lives, for the most part, on the good will of international donors with actors harshly competing just like commercial corporations to get the largest share of the donations.
For example, over recent years, the community working towards the aims of the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention (Geneva International Centre for Humanitarian Demining, 2005; The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, 1997) begun to struggle with fundamental questions related to the efficiency of clearance efforts and the need to release land in countries facing strong demographic and social pressures (Jordan Times, 2004). Indeed, much of the land being cleared, using expensive and resource-intensive assets, is generally not found to be contaminated by land mines, unexploded ordnance or by explosive remnants of war (L. Geddes, 2005). Similar examples could be set up for other fields in the Humanitarian Programs arena.
From a decision making point of view it has always been a challenge to distinguish between sometimes conflicting needs in poor countries, possibly devastated by wars and diseases.
Innovative methodologies allow enhancing the performances and deploying assets where they are most needed.
It has been recently and eloquently demonstrated that risk based decision models could significantly improve the situation on both the efficiency and the efficacy front.
As an example, interested parties can see the Gichd website (Manual Demining Study, Risk Section and Appendix), as well as a Presentation.
Proper decision making techniques in fields as diverse as Humanitarian Demining or Heavy Industry infrastructure allow to select the right job first and to do a better job in enhancing the sustainability of corporations, communities and even individuals.