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norms

Strengthening Active Citizenship After a Traumatic Civil War: Dilemmas and Ideas in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Duncan Green's picture

I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) last week to help Oxfam Italia develop advocacy and campaign skills among local civil society organizations. They have their work cut out.

Firstly, there is a crisis of trust between the public and CSOs, which are poorly regulated, often seen as little more than ‘briefcase NGOs’, only interested in winning funding, and under constant attack from politicians. Many CSOs seem pretty disillusioned, faced with a shrinking donor pot and public hostility.

I think there’s a strong case for the CSOs to take the lead in putting their house in order, practicing what they preach on transparency and accountability, and working with government to sort out the legitimate organizations from ones that have registered (there are some 10,000 in the country) but do nothing, (or worse).

Meanwhile, Oxfam is working with some of the more dynamic ones to develop the advocacy and campaign skills of what is still a maturing civil society network (after decades of state socialism, followed by a devastating war, and then an influx of donor cash that had mixed results). Two days of conversation and debate with some great organizations working on everything from disability rights to enterprise development to youth leadership identified some big issues and dilemmas:
 

The Invisible Hand of Development Policy (and why a Development Bank Should Invest in Social Inclusion)

Arjan de Haan's picture

The word “social” tends to be associated with the softer side in the world of economics and development policy. The “social” is generally less well measured, and in the current world of effectiveness thus less actionable. However the “social” does frequently pop up on the dashboard of policy makers and development practitioners, often when things go wrong, when social unrest erupts, and when economic policies do not have the intended consequences. No wonder, hence, that after the Arab Spring and after the global financial crisis with the loss of legitimacy of previous arrangements, social inclusion or cohesion has come to the forefront of the debate.

The reason the “social” is less well defined and measured internationally (although the Indices of Social Development is starting to change this) is similar to the reason it’s difficult to measure what glue or cement does or is in isolation from the pieces it connects. Sociologist are primarily interested in how people relate to each other and to larger societal structures such as public institutions, clubs, elections, etc., and how norms, trust and values alongside interests are of critical importance in guiding individuals’ behaviour. For non-economists, it is heartening to see how Akerlof and Kranton’s Identity Economics is trying to insert identity, norms, and social categories into (economists’) ways of understanding people’s decisions – one hopes that this will lead to a blossoming of inter-disciplinary research that is critical to understand most of not all development challenges.

Accountability on the Internet: What’s the Role of the New Information Gatekeepers?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The internet has certainly changed the process of how information and news is filtered and by whom.  A process that was carried out by traditional media for decades is today largely managed by a few internet companies through algorithms.  In this new role, they are not only filtering information but also helping us navigate a widely scattered information landscape through their products and services.  In a new report by the Center of International Media Assistance, Bill Ristow discusses the role of these new information gatekeepers and the implications they face in protecting policies and practices across borders, such as openness of information and freedom of expression. Setting universally accepted norms on what is good behavior on the internet and what is not, is a major challenge. The question is who should be making these kinds of decisions? How are the new information gatekeepers held accountable?

Inspired by the Future of Open Contracting

Robert Hunja's picture

I just returned from an intense but inspiring week in London with my team, to meet with the open contracting steering group and other committed practitioners, to shape how we will take open contracting forward.

As someone who has worked on procurement and contracting his whole life, it has been heartening for me to see such strong interest and engagement around open contracting. Now that I am back from London, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the inspiring conversations that I had over the last few days and to share some important decisions that the open contracting steering group has made.

Let me begin with the heart of open contracting – the open contracting principles. At the first global meeting for open contracting in South Africa, October 2012, practitioners called for overarching principles to define how open contracting will work in practice.

Are Global Gender Norms Shifting?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights.

So in advance of International Women’s Day, I ploughed my way through a really important new World Bank study, On Norms and Agency: Conversations about Gender Equality with Women and Men in 20 Countries. Like the Bank’s path-breaking Voices of the Poor or the more recent Time to Listen, it’s an attempt to take the global temperature on a big topic through a process of rigorous and deep listening involving 4000 women and men around the developing world.

Such studies are lengthy, complex and expensive, but are incredibly revealing and useful, especially as they start to accumulate. We’re trying a mini version with the Life in a time of Food Price Volatility listening project – first year results out soon.

The report is 150 pages and pretty heavy going – subtle, nuanced and complex, and very hard to extract easy headlines. A close reading will yield much more than a skim, but for the time-poor blog reader, here are some of the findings that jumped out at me.

How Can a Post-2015 Agreement Drive Real Change? Please Read and Comment on this Draft Paper

Duncan Green's picture

The post-2015 discussion on what should succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is picking up steam, with barely a day going by without some new paper, consultation or high level meeting. So I, along with Stephen Hale and Matthew Lockwood, have decided to add to the growing slush-pile with a new discussion paper. We want you to read the draft (see right) and help us improve it. Contributions by 5 November please, either as comments on the blog, or emailed to research[at]oxfam.org.uk.

The paper argues that there’s an urgent need to bring power and politics into the centre of the post-2015 discussion. To have impact, any post-2015 arrangement has to take into account the lessons of over a decade of implementing the existing MDGs, and be shaped by the profound global change since the MDGs were debated over the course of the 1990s and early noughties.  We’re hoping that this will be at the centre of this week’s discussions in London linked to the High Level Panel and in Berlin at the Berlin Civil Society Center on Development post 2015.

Nothing Ordinary about these Extraordinary Women

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In thinking about global advocacy and the journey of norms in development, a recent article in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company by Ellen McGirt caught my attention. The feature story is about a new kind of women’s movement entitled “The League of Extraordinary Women”.  This loose network of 60 influential women, mostly Americans, includes artists, academics, business executives, government officials, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, who are committed to changing the lives of girls and women around the world.  The initiatives they have developed focus on specific issues, including education, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, microloans, women’s rights, and mentoring to develop future leaders and entrepreneurs. The list of 60 includes a few high-profile and famous women such as Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, and Oprah Winfrey

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Integrilicious
A Working Definition of "Open Government"

"I’ve been spending a non-trivial amount of time lately watching and pondering the explosive uptake of the term "open government." This probably isn't too surprising given Global Integrity’s involvement in the nascent Open Government Partnership (OGP). As excited as I've been to witness the growth of OGP, the continued progress of the open data movement, and the emerging norms around citizen participation in government internationally, I've also been worrying that the longer we allow "open government" to mean any and everything to anyone, the risk increases that the term melts into a hollow nothingness of rhetoric.

My most immediate concern, which I've been chronicling of late over on this Tumblr, has been the conflation of "open data" with "open government," an issue well-explored by Harlan Yu and David Robinson in this paper. I've also been publicly concerned about the apparent emphasis put on open data - seemingly at the expense of other open government-related priorities - by the current UK government, which is slated to take over the co-chairmanship of OGP shortly. (An excellent unpacking of those concerns can be found in this letter from leading UK NGOs to the government.)" READ MORE

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

USAID
Two Guides You Must Read Before Using Mobile Technology for Behavior Change

“As the desire to utilize mobile phones in international health projects has increased in the last few years, organizations continually ask a similar question, “We want to use mobile phones. Now what?” But the decision to introduce or start a mhealth project needs to come after answering many questions before “now what?” especially when dealing with behavior change communication projects. Enter Abt Associates, FrontlineSMS, and Text to Change. Two guides have recently been released to help organizations assess whether or not mobiles are the right tool, and if they are, the process moving forward. One is from Abt Associates and is entitled mBCC Field Guide: A Resource for Developing Mobile Behavior Change Communication Programs. The other one was created in collaboration between FrontlineSMS and Text to Change and is entitled Communications for change: How to use text messaging as an effective behavior change campaigning tool.”  READ MORE

Et Voilà - CommGAP Presents Three More Publications

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

We have mentioned it many times on this blog - CommGAP is no more. But our work lives on! Just before we closed shop at the end of October, we were able to publish three more publications directly aimed at governance practitioners that we hope you will find useful. Please check out the new facilitators guide People, Politics and Change: Building Communication Capacity for Governance Reform, the trainer's guide Generating Genuine Demand for Accountability Through Communication, and the case study compendium Changing Norms is Key to Fighting Everyday Corruption


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