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Behavior

What have We Learned on Getting Public Services to Poor People? What’s Next?

Duncan Green's picture

Ten years after the World Development Report 2004, the ODI’s Marta Foresti reflects on the past decade and implications for the futureMarta Foresti

Why do so many countries still fail to deliver adequate services to their citizens? And why does this problem persist even in countries with rapid economic growth and relatively robust institutions or policies?

This was the problem addressed by the World Bank’s ground-breaking 2004 World Development Report (WDR) Making Services Work for Poor People. At its core was the recognition that politics and accountability are vital to improve services and that aid donors ignore this at their peril. Ten years on, these issues are still at the heart of the development agenda, as discussed at the anniversary conference organised jointly by ODI and the World Bank in late February.

As much as this was a moment to celebrate the influence of the WDR 2004 on a decade of development thinking and practice, it also highlighted just how far we have to go before every citizen around the world has access to good quality basic services such as education, health, water and electricity.

How's Your Inner Autocrat Doing These Days?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about human beings is the gap between our avowed values and our behavior when we come under pressure. I have come to believe that your values are the ones that shape your conduct when you are dealing with a tough, high pressure situation or a life crisis, not the values you spout when you are showing off at the dinner table. Pieties are all too easy. What do you do when the going gets tough? What values truly underpin your conduct? I notice this most often when people claim to be profoundly devout, and they want you to know it. They claim an aura of sanctity. I have learned not to argue with them. I wait until they have to deal with complexity and then see what they do. You’d be amazed what some of these people get up to. More often than not, piety flies out of the window.

Look around you today. We are all supposed to be democrats these days. We love openness, inclusiveness, and transparency— everybody counts, every voice matters. But what do we do when the going gets tough? Let’s reflect on a few current situations around the world.

Delivering Results: The Collaboration Imperative

Camilo Azcarate's picture

There seems to be a growing consensus among experts in different fields that in today’s highly interdependent world, effective collaboration has become crucial for achieving results.
 
As part of the World Bank's Internal Justice System Week a few days ago, we attended a presentation by Dr. Peter Coleman, Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University and heir of an illustrious research tradition in social-psychology going back almost a hundred years. Dr. Coleman is part of an inter-disciplinary team of global experts that also includes mathematicians, astrophysicists, anthropologists and computer modeling experts in a quest to answer the following question: what are the conditions that support or hinder collaboration in social relations?
 
Using computer simulations they observed the results of competitive and cooperative behaviors, and detected how dynamic patterns develop over time. They realized that the dynamic social relations created behaved in ways similar to those that have been observed in other complex systems, from cancerous cellular mutations to global climate shifts. Like such systems, social dynamics are not only complex but also “non-linear”, which means that the different elements constantly influence each other, acting as both cause and effect of each other’s behaviors. The tool available to study such systems is known as “dynamical system theory”, and Dr. Coleman’s team has been applying its methods to social systems.

Quote of the Week: Theresa Marteau

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We are exquisitely sensitive to environment. We are just like rats – energy misers and cognitive misers. If there is a shortcut, we will take it.”

--Theresa Marteau, Head of the Behavior and Health Research Unit at Cambridge University

As quoted in the Financial Times, March 13, 2013. Drinking yourself to death is not a right, by John Gapper

Voices of Youth: Towards a Green South Asia from Pakistan

Kanza Azeemi's picture

At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.

South Asia, home to 1.3 billion people, houses some of the world's largest cities: Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi and Mumbai. As urbanization increases, the region will experience a hike in demand, consumption and production. Today, in Bhutan, 34% of the population still lives without electricity. With urbanization and development, carbon emissions from electricity generation and usage are bound to rise. Historically, it can be seen that the more developed a country, the greater its carbon emissions; USA's and Canada's drastic emission rates corroborate this. Although South Asia currently contributes much less to the carbon footprint than the more developed nations of the world, it is imperative to plan development so as to reduce its impact on environment.

Quote of the Week: Stephen Reicher

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Individuals don’t lose identity in the crowd and they don’t lose control over their behaviour or rationality. Rather they shift to a shared social identity and seek to act in terms of that shared identity.”

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, University of St. Andrews. As quoted in the Financial Times, December 28, 2011.

Watching People As They Walk

Sina Odugbemi's picture

If you have ever spent time on any major campus, you will be familiar with what I am about to describe. The architects of the campus will usually have laid out paved walkways for pedestrians to use as they move from one building to the other. These prescribed walkways are designed to protect the carefully maintained lawns that major campuses also tend to have, urging pedestrians to refrain from walking on the often gorgeously manicured lawns. If you are familiar with campuses, you also know that people tend to ignore the prescribed walkways. They move around the campus in ways that makes sense to them, even if that means carving ugly footpaths through carefully gardened lawns. The controllers of the environment try to forbid the use of footpaths, but they usually give up after a while. Hence, part of the story of a well-used campus is the network of footpaths, distinct from paved walkways, that sprouts over the years…and remains well-trodden with a stubborn, almost riotous, insistence.

Closing the Gap Between Climate Change Science and Public Opinion

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The global policy community seems unlikely to take drastic steps with regard to climate change any time soon. Politicians remain hesitant about taking action, although scientific consensus on climate change is overwhelming. It’s happening, it’s happening now, and it will cause massive damage. And it’s mostly caused by humans. Public opinion, on the other hand, is far behind the science. Are politicians unwilling to impose dramatic measures to slow down climate change because the public is unwilling to pay the cost – yet? Are they kicking the can down the road because the people are not yet willing to fully embrace the fact and the consequences of climate change?

Environmental action and the action of others

Robert Cialdini's picture

The results of a large survey I conducted with my fellow environmental researcher, Wes Schultz, produced a pair of actionable results. First, people who thought their neighbors were conserving energy were more likely to conserve themselves. Second, at the same time, almost all of the nearly 3,000 survey respondents underestimated the conservation efforts of their neighbors. This suggests a simple way to increase conservation activity—by trumpeting the true levels of conservation that are going unrecognized.

To investigate this idea, we examined resource conservation choices in an entirely different setting—upscale hotel rooms, where guests often encounter a card asking them to reuse their towels. As anyone who travels frequently knows, although the wording of this card may vary somewhat, it always requests compliance for the sake of the environment. What the card never says, however, is that the great majority of guests do, in fact, reuse their towels when given the opportunity. We suspected that this omission was costing the hotels—and the environment—plenty.