While at the Carbon Expo in Cologne at the end of May, there was a great deal of interest in the climate change learning programs that we shared with attendees. The sense I got as I spoke with participants from a range of sectors (engineering, risk management, energy consulting) is that people are realizing that knowledge needs to be converted to learning to become practice, especially on a topic as complex as climate change. This was one of the drivers behind the development of our recent Massive Open Online Course on climate change.
"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”
- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.
How can the development sector be more innovative?
According to Professor Silvio Waisbord, an expert on global media, development, and social change, one of the critical roadblocks to overcome is the mismatch between "organizational demands" and "how change is possible."
Polite conversation, we can all agree, often involves not calling a spade a spade…the same way you are not supposed to break wind in company. There are modes of obliqueness that keep friendships and relationships going where blunt speaking can very often sunder ties suddenly and violently. People have fragile egos. You have to be careful how frankly you deliver feedback to them. And, in many cultures, an ability to decipher oblique communication is regarded as a mark of high mental rank, even of being well-born. For instance, in my own culture, Yoruba elders say: a well-brought up person only needs half a word; the word becomes whole within him and he acts accordingly.
Not surprisingly, obliqueness is the hallmark of diplomacy. Somebody says something less than intelligent during a meeting and you reply: ‘That’s interesting’ or ‘That’s fascinating’. You don’t commit yourself and, unless they are really paying attention to nuance, they might never know that you don’t think much of the proposal they have just put on the proverbial table. In this regard, I remember that in the course of my legal training, while in the school for barristers and solicitors, we were taught polite ways of disagreeing with a judge without running the risk of ruining your client’s case or ending up in jail because the judge has convicted you of contempt of court.
The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 2
My previous TechTank post described the expanding reach of technology and, consequentially, the growing availability of information in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere in less developed countries. Rather than speak of failed states I refer to “areas of limited statehood.” An area of limited statehood involves several possible dimensions of failed service delivery, or an inability to enforce binding rules with legitimate use of force. A slum, for example, even in the heart of a nation’s capital, if it is devoid of public goods like sanitation, security, or even basic infrastructure, is an area of limited statehood. So, too, would vast stretches of rural countryside beyond the reach of the administrative capacity of the national government. The Eastern DR Congo fits this pattern. In this post, I offer examples of the use of technology that at least partially address governance shortfalls in areas of limited statehood. Put another way, I describe how technologies are used to provide for public goods, such as security, sanitation, drinkable water, and economic opportunity.
The Data Mining Techniques That Reveal Our Planet's Cultural Links and Boundaries
MIT Technology Review
The habits and behaviors that define a culture are complex and fascinating. But measuring them is a difficult task. What’s more, understanding the way cultures change from one part of the world to another is a task laden with challenges. The gold standard in this area of science is known as the World Values Survey, a global network of social scientists studying values and their impact on social and political life. Between 1981 and 2008, this survey conducted over 250,000 interviews in 87 societies. That’s a significant amount of data and the work has continued since then. This work is hugely valuable but it is also challenging, time-consuming and expensive.
"Culture never came from the sky or came out from the earth. Humans created their own culture, and that’s why humans have the right to change it. And the culture should be of equality – it should not go against the rights of women, it should not go against the rights of anyone.”
- Malala Yousafzai, an education activist from Swat, Pakistan. She is known for her activism in support of universal education and in support of women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have, at times, banned girls from attending school.
If you were asked to describe culture, what would come to mind? —The magnificent Roman Catholic Church of Sagrada Família, the must-reads by Charles Dickens, or perhaps your grandma’s savory borsht? Well, these are all good thoughts. But think harder. At a societal level, culture is indeed reflected through art, literature, religion, and what’s on your dinner table. But at an individual level, it boils down to how we think—how individuals process information and form perceptions.
Whether or not you believe it, those tiny machines in our mind might operate differently in different cultures (e.g. read this New York Times story). Understanding these differences is valuable to campaigners, opinion researchers, and almost everyone who cares about engaging the public in the field of international development.
Over the past decades researchers found several differences in the way Westerners and East Asians process information and form views. Some of the differences might possibly influence public opinion. These differences include what I call in plain language “adopting a side or seeking a middle path,” “blaming me or blaming the situation,” and “logic versus experience.”
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast."
-- Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005) was a writer, professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist”.
One in every three women in the world will be physically or sexually abused at some point in her life. This could include the woman sitting next to you on the bus, your little niece playing in the garden, or even a friend you have known all your life.
For years, Rumana Manzur, assistant professor at Dhaka University, had been silent about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband. But on June 5, 2011, Manzur was brutally attacked at home. Her husband beat her mercilessly, tried to gouge out her eyes, and bit off part of her nose in a fit of rage. Their 5-year-old daughter was in the room and witnessed this inhuman act. Manzur is now blind, her daughter traumatized for life.
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A video about a “scientific accident that may change the world (or at least your battery life)” went “viral” in February. Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, found a way to make a “non-toxic, highly efficient energy storage medium out of pure carbon using absurdly simple technology,” says ReWire. The “graphene” battery is being touted as capable of “super-fast charging of everything from smartphones to electric cars,” according to ReWire. Responding to Climate Change (RTCC) asks whether the technology holds promise as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Replacing heavier materials in vehicle manufacture with graphene, particularly in aircraft can lead to substantial fuel savings,” says RTCC. Gizmodo anticipates how graphene could transform the gadgets of the future.