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Leadership for results

Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan's picture
In my experience, when development practitioners are called in to help address a complex challenge, they are not alone. Every development project requires an implementation team – people working together to achieve development objectives and outcomes. Depending on the nature of the challenge, practitioners may work with government officials, staff from NGOs and CSOs, community leaders, sector specialists, and others. It, thus, becomes vitally important for members of these teams to understand one another and the stake each has in the project, the perspective from which they approach it, and their assumptions about it, their history with, and their commitment to it.
 
In addition, development professionals must become knowledgeable about the reality of the communities in which they work to avoid designing implementation plans that don’t always work out as intended. For example, we have all heard the stories of cook stoves or toilets that are introduced into communities, but are used as storage objects. This attention to personal, political, and social factors affecting project design and implementation is precisely what the Collaborative Leadership for Development Program helps operational teams achieve and maintain, to get desired results.
 
In the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, the World Bank identifies three kinds of thinking we all do by reflex.
  • Thinking automatically, rather than carefully and deliberatively – we typically do not bring our full analytical prowess to bear on the issues and experiences of our daily lives;
  • Thinking socially, or in ways that are related to how others around us think – the influence of peer-pressure on our thought process is an example; and
  • Thinking with mental models generated by societal norms and the culture in which we live that tacitly influence how we perceive and think about our world.

These ways of thinking, research suggests, are implicit and fundamental and they shape human behavior, including interpersonal and collective interactions and decision making. This insight has enormous implications for our development work. If we do not account for and bring to the surface such social, cultural, and psychological realities in the design and implementation of projects, we can expect to be setting ourselves up for failure. Most challenges today are a complex mix of technical problems and behavioral or adaptive challenges.

Who is climate change? – Educating the decision makers of tomorrow

Saurabh Dani's picture
My daughter's Climate Change Super Hero
My daughter's Climate Change Super Hero


A couple of days ago, my five year old declared that she wanted to be a Super Hero. From wanting to be a little pony a few months ago, she was moving up the role model chain. She, however, was more interested in finding out which monster she would have to fight. Without giving it much thought, I told her that the biggest monster she would have to fight was Climate Change.
 
“Who is Climate Change?” she asked, suddenly very interested.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Technology for Transparency: Cases from Sub-Saharan Africa
Harvard Political Review
Over the last decade, Africa has experienced previously unseen levels of economic growth and market vibrancy. Developing countries can only achieve equitable growth and reduce poverty rates, however, if they are able to make the most of their available resources. To do this, they must maximize the impact of aid from donor governments and NGOs and ensure that domestic markets continue to diversify, add jobs, and generate tax revenues. Yet, in most developing countries, there is a dearth of information available about industry profits, government spending, and policy outcomes that prevents efficient action.

Popular Uprising against Democratically Elected Leaders. What Makes it Legitimate?
Huffington Post
In the last five years, democratically elected governments in countries as diverse as Guatemala, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Thailand, Macedonia, South Africa, Spain, Iceland, Hungary and presently governments in Moldova, Brazil and Poland were all challenged and some of them forced to step down by mass-based popular uprisings. If it had not been for the strategic weakness of the Occupy movement, the United States might have also seen toppling of its own democratically elected leaders closely tied to business elites. This might still happen. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election and attempts to implement some of his most outrageous campaign promises popular uprising may be in the making sooner than we think.  When is people rising against their own government legitimate? A number of Western philosophical treaties, historical practice and agreements, including declarations of people’s self-determination rights stressed the moral and legal permissibility, and even necessity, to rise up against abusive regimes.

New open online course: from climate science to action

James Close's picture
 From Climate Science to Action


Over the past two years, the World Bank’s flagship climate change report series Turn Down the Heat and its complementary free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) have helped bring important climate related issues to policy makers and concerned citizens, reaching nearly 39,000 people in more than 180 countries worldwide.

Now, with the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP 21, we are ready to launch a new and exciting MOOC: “From Climate Science to Action – Turn Down the Heat Series”. The MOOC is delivered in association with the World Bank’s Open Learning Campus – the one stop shop for development learning. This interactive course focuses on region-specific impacts and opportunities for climate action in the context of the Paris Agreement. With an overview of the submitted National Determined Contributions (NDCs), it lays out implementation challenges and opportunities of the Paris Agreement. 

Building capacity for public-private partnerships

Mathieu Verougstraete's picture

Public sector resources alone cannot fulfill the development objectives of many countries. Yet the capacity of private sector in the development dynamics of countries remains hugely untapped. This is felt most acutely in the delivery of infrastructure projects.

Across emerging markets, much needed economic growth is hampered by a shortage of roads, mass rapid transit systems, telecommunications, power plants, sanitation, medical facilities, and other basic infrastructure, all of which are much needed to achieve sustainable development. However, funding the multitude of projects required in emerging markets is a huge challenge for governments that face budgetary constraints and limited borrowing capacity.

These conditions are encouraging governments to consider private investment as a promising option to circumvent their resource constraints and improve the delivery of public services – in particular, through public-private partnerships (PPPs). At the same time, many governments are also discovering that forging such partnerships is fraught with a number of difficulties.

Implementing stronger and more credible student assessment systems

Alan Ruby's picture
Students in a READ-financed Mozambique program take their exams. Photo by Jem Heinzel Nelson

Ed: This guest post is by Alan Ruby, senior scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy who also serves as a consultant to the World Bank, an adviser to  the Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, the Head Foundation in Singapore, and the American Institutes of Research. 

Nearly 50 years ago, 40 classmates and I spent the last two weeks of November taking our higher school certificate examinations. In a cavernous, hot, and poorly ventilated hall, we sat in widely-spaced rows, writing essays, solving mathematics and science problems, and answering multiple-choice questions. 

Just-in (New Year’s resolution)-time learning

Abir Qasem's picture

Mediated Reality running on Apple iPhoneHello readers,
 
In this season of making resolutions (and hopefully sticking to a few of them) we invite you to join us for a year long skills transfer discussion/blog series on technology aided gut (TAG) checks.
 
TAG is a term we have coined to describe the use of simple web programming tools and techniques to do basic gut checks on data - big and small. TAG does not replace data science, rather it complements it. TAG empowers you - the development professionals - who rely on the story the data tells to accomplish your tasks. It does so by giving a you good enough idea about the data before you delve into the sophisticated data science methods (here is a good look at the last 50 years of data science from Stanford’s Dr. Donoho). In many cases it actually allows you to add your own insights to the story the data tells. As the series progresses we will talk a lot about TAGs.  For the eager-minded here’s an example of TAG usage in US politics.
 
In this series, we will use a just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.  Just in time learning, as the name implies, is all about providing only the right amount of information at the right time. It is the minimum, essential information needed to help a learner progress to the next step. If the learner has a specific learning objective, just-in-time learning can be extremely efficient and highly effective. A good example of just in time information is the voice command a GPS gives you right before a turn. Contrast this with the use of maps before the days of GPS. You were given way more information than you needed and in a format that is not conducive to processing when you are driving.

Avoiding perversions of evidence-informed decision-making

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Emanuel Migo giving a presentation in Garantung village, Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.How to avoid “We saw the evidence and made a decision…and that decision was: since the evidence didn’t confirm our priors, to try to downplay the evidence”

Before we dig into that statement (based-on-a-true-story-involving-people-like-us), we start with a simpler, obvious one: many people are involved in evaluations. We use the word ‘involved’ rather broadly. Our central focus for this post is people who may block the honest presentation of evaluation results.

In any given evaluation, there are several groups of organizations and people with stake in an evaluation of a program or policy. Most obviously, there are researchers and implementers. There are also participants. And, for much of the global development ecosystem, there are funders of the program, who may be separate from the funders of the evaluation. Both of these may work through sub-contractors and consultants, bringing yet others on board.

Our contention is that not all of these actors are currently, explicitly acknowledged in the current transparency movement in social science evaluation, with implications for the later acceptance and use of the results. The current focus is often on a contract between researchers and evidence consumers as a sign that, in Ben Olken’s terms, researchers are not nefarious and power (statistically speaking) -hungry (2015). To achieve its objectives, the transparency movement requires more than committing to a core set of analyses ex ante (through pre-analysis or commitment to analysis plans) and study registration.

To make sure that research is conducted openly at all phases, transparency must include engaging all stakeholders — perhaps particularly those that can block the honest sharing of results. This is in line with, for example, EGAP’s third research principle on rights to review and publish results. We return to some ideas of how to encourage this at the end of the blog.

Living with the ‘results agenda’, redux

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

What is the 'results agenda' and how does it relate to transformational change within development? The recent publication of a report from The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), which scrutinizes UK aid spending, has brought these questions to life once again.  Here are some takeaways on the report and the need for systems thinking, accountability, and flexibility from Suvojit Chattopadhyay.

ash transfer payments to women in Freetown, Sierra LeoneCraig Valters’ Devex post, based on yet another newsworthy ICAI report, seems to have somewhat revived the debate over the ‘results agenda'. The criticism is sharper, castigating DFID for the “unintended effect of focusing attention on quantity of results over their quality” – but also one that clearly implies that the ‘results agenda’ is not well-understood or widely shared within donors like DFID. Focusing on ‘results’ cannot mean a divorce from long-term outcomes. What ICAI describes sounds more like an outputs agenda that is transactional (what your money can buy) rather than transformative (the good change).

The consequence of this bean-counting is that complex problems risk being ignored: donors and the partners they fund will tend to focus on projects, rather than systems. Also, genuine accountability along the aid-chain takes a hit due to a general break-down of trust between the different actors. So what can we do about this?
 

Getting beyond the mirage of external validity

Markus Goldstein's picture
This post is coauthored with Eliana Carranza
 
No thoughtful technocrat would copy a program in every detail for a given context in her or his country.    That's because they know (among other things) that economics is not a science but a social (or dismal even) science, and so replication in the fashion of chemistry isn't an option.  For economics, external validity in the strict scientific sense is a mirage.
 

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