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Reaching Out From The Academic Grove

Tom Jacobson's picture

I am pleased to be able to return to blogging in this space after a rather extended stint in the land of higher education administration, and am welcoming a re-immersion in matters related to using communication to help facilitate development efforts.  One such matter on my mind following the administrative assignment is the relative lack of contact between academics that study development and practitioners who actually do development work. 

The gap is widely noted anecdotally, and a recent study confirms the anecdotes. The Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication recently reported a study, conducted for BBC Media Action, on the reach and impact of Media Action’s work globally. One of their findings is that the world of practitioners underutilizes help that is available from academia: “…practitioners are less likely than other development stakeholders to consult academic research on the media…,” and “the policy community involved in funding media programs makes only moderate use of available research and evidence.” Of course, it goes both ways. Promotion up the academic ladder tends to reward theoretical inquiry regardless of real world impact.  And, thus, much research tends to be more useful theoretically than practically. Furthermore, for reasons there isn’t time to review here, the considerable number of communication research graduate programs that include development studies has atrophied in recent decades.

Storytellers Redux: A Development Slam

Maya Brahmam's picture

We had an interesting experiment last month with our very first Development Slam – modeled on the idea of a Poetry Slam – that was held with Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellows and the World Bank Group’s storytellers.

The Slam allowed people to share their experiences in an interactive way with their peers and allowed the audience to participate as well via an open mic.

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.

Cambridge Votes Save Artist from Apocalypse

Caroline Jaine's picture

Last night I attended the launch of the 2013 Cambridge International Development Report at Cambridge University.  The report is the work of the Humanitarian Centre – a unique network that is truly cross-sector and collaborative in its approach.
 
So often I attend conferences and networks with homogenous attendees.  Artists network with artists, social entrepreneurs with social entrepreneurs and diplomats with diplomats.  Empathy and feel good scores high at these events, but rarely are people surprised, intrigued or challenged. The Humanitarian Centre puts poverty at its heart – and as a result attracts not just development professionals, but business leaders, academics, policy-makers, and, as it turns out – artists. 
 
To launch the report last night I was asked to take part in a “life raft” debate.   I had no idea what this was at first, but happily joined into the playful scenario.  I am an artist after all. Everyone at the event was a survivor of an apocalypse.   The year was 2015. The building we were in - Newnham College – was the last building standing on a tiny patch of land in the British Isles.  The life raft was heavily laden with food, stocks and blankets and people and was poised to sail away to a new land, where survivors would build a new society from the ground up.  Just as the raft was about to embark, six more survivors were found trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building.  You can guess what comes next.  I was one of the six and I had to argue my way onto the only remaining place on the boat.  I was not there as a communications strategist or international relations expert – instead they asked me to present my case as an artist.

Science of Meetings? Yes There Is One

Tanya Gupta's picture

We have all been in meetings where we felt nothing was getting done.  In the corporate world, the cost of inefficient meetings has been recognized. According to a recent CBS news report, professionals lose four work days each month in meetings and that out of 11 million meetings that occur in the U.S. every day, half the meeting time is actually wasted.   There have been a lot of efforts to make meetings more productive including efficient meeting templates, ground rules for meetings (pdf) etc. However, a scientific, data-driven approach to understanding “soft” phenomenon such as a meeting has until now been rare.
  
A paper “Learning about Meetings” (pdf) by Been Kim and Cynthia Rudin at MIT is one of the first such efforts to employ a data-driven approach on the science of meetings (in this case, meetings that are held to arrive at a decision and not to brainstorm) to learn more about how meetings are conducted. Meetings are difficult to assess as there are social signals and interpersonal dynamics that are difficult to capture.  Kim and Rudin, using AMI data show evidence that it is possible to automatically detect when during the meeting a key decision is taking place, that there are common patterns in the way social dialogue acts are interspersed throughout a meeting, that at the time key decisions are made, the amount of time left in the meeting can be predicted from the amount of time that has passed, and, finally, that it is often possible to predict whether a proposal during a meeting will be accepted or rejected based entirely on the language used by the speaker.
 
Some particularly interesting take-aways are:

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum III – Operational Collaboration

John Garrison's picture

Operational collaboration between the World Bank and CSOs has grown significantly over the past two decades in such areas of health, education, and environment. Yet, because it largely occurs at the country level and within Bank-finance projects, this expanding collaboration is often not fully visible in Washington. As the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 demonstrates, important operational collaboration not only continued to grow over the past three years, but expanded to areas such as food security, disaster recovery, and access to information.  
 
In response to the global food crisis which began in 2008, for instance, CSOs in Africa and Asia participated in the delivery of government programs in 16 countries (through seed distribution, school feeding, and agricultural production programs) financed by the Bank’s $2 billion Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP).  CSOs were also asked to participate in the governance structure of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) which has allocated more than $400 million to projects in 12 countries.

Humility and the Power of Working Together

Jim Yong Kim's picture

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On Tuesday I traveled to the United Nations to talk to UNICEF's Executive Board and also to meet with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on moving forward with the important work that we do together. These meetings are key to delivering results because our UN colleagues and we are committed to working closely together. Making that happen requires many things, including a big dose of humility. Please watch the video for more on this.

What a Difference Political Culture Makes

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

While democracy is developing and strengthening in more and more countries across the world, there may be some lessons to learn from older, established democracies. Democracy does not equal democracy – different forms and philosophical foundations shape different political cultures. Different political cultures favor different practices and outcomes. The political and civic leadership in evolving democracies may possibly have a chance to push things in one or another direction by looking at practices and outcomes in other countries.

2011 - The Democratization of the Social Entrepreneurship Movement?

Jill Richmond's picture

We begin 2012 with an overview of key developments in social entrepreneurship in 2011. As we scan the landscape we note four key findings of 2011 as the field continues to mature. The underlying trends continue to point to the idea that everyone can be responsible for advancing change and impact. This is manifested in the way we are seeing a continued democratization of the movement, a growing emergence of a new demographic of changemakers and discovery that collaboration and peer-to-peer networks continues to be on the rise.

1. An Uptick in Blended Funding Solutions for Social Entrepreneurs

Fact: Social enterprises (SEs) simply cannot be carried by a single source of funding. They need to look at different ways of blending capital to create the largest social impact. SEs are becoming more resourceful in the way they seek funding, and some of the most successful enterprises are using a range of capital sources: seed funding and impact investments, to government grants and CSR funds.


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