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Policy Making

Brussels: Diving into the Heart of Development Policies

Liviane Urquiza's picture

Available in Español, Français

I just returned from Brussels where I met five very determined individuals. Whether an entrepreneur, a doctoral student, a ministerial chief of staff, or the head of a community organization in the slums of Nairobi, these five young people have one common goal: to fight for a more just future. And to achieve this goal, they have chosen to use both their talent and their determination to intensify the pace of social progress in their country.

Benedetta Mwongeli Kyengo (Kenya), Bruce Dube (South Africa), Crystal Fiallo (Dominican Republic), and María de los Ángeles Lasa and Alexis Estevez (Argentina) were guests of the World Bank at the Brussels Forum.

Click on the slideshow below for their portraits

The schedule for the trip was packed. No sooner had they been introduced than they had to set off for their first major meeting...  

Policy Makers and Network Science: Time to Bridge the Divide

Milica Begovic's picture

Last week I attended Masters of Networks, an event that analyzed how a greater understanding of networks can be used to make better policies, especially in the digital era. Many questions built in policy making both from the procedural and substantive perspective involve networks dynamics:

  • How does information spread?
  • Who participates in decision making?
  • How do we collect evidence?
  • Who influences behavior change?

Alberto Cottica, the mastermind behind the event, had a vision of putting two groups of people who traditionally don’t mingle much in the same room – policy makers and network scientists – to see what emerges as a result. Policy makers presented a variety of policy problems, and network scientists helped better frame the problems and address them through applying principles from network theory.

I had the privilege of presenting my perspective of what policy making in the digital era looks like (slides will be put on Slideshare soon). I will summarize below the main points from my intervention, but, more interestingly, reflect on feedback from the group.

My presentation consisted of three elements:

Getting Evaluation Right: A Five Point Plan

Duncan Green's picture

Final (for now) evaluationtastic installment on Oxfam’s attempts to do public warts-and-all evaluations of randomly selected projects. This commentary comes from Dr Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Oxfam’s emphasis on quality evaluations is a step in the right direction. Implementing agencies rarely make an impassioned plea for evidence and rigor in their evidence collection, and worse, they hardly ever publish negative evaluations.  The internal wrangling and pressure to not publish these must have been so high:

  • ‘What will our donors say? How will we justify poor results to our funders and contributors?’
  • ‘It’s suicidal. Our competitors will flaunt these results and donors will flee.’
  • ‘Why must we put these online and why ‘traffic light’ them? Why not just publish the reports, let people wade through them and take away their own messages?’
  • ‘Our field managers will get upset, angry and discouraged when they read these.’
  • ‘These field managers on the ground are our colleagues. We can’t criticize them publicly… where’s the team spirit?’
  • ‘There are so many nuances on the ground. Detractors will mis-use these scores and ignore these ground realities.’

The zeitgeist may indeed be transparency, but few organizations are actually doing it.

What Can Aid Agencies Learn from McDonalds?

Duncan Green's picture

This is a guest post by Kate Wareing (right), Strategy Development Director for Oxfam and a partner at the ICSF.

Too many of the people reading this blog will have experienced the familiar trajectory of a development project: prove the need, find the funding, define your outputs, deliver against your targets and either find more funding to carry on, or regretfully exit.

There is a fundamental mismatch between what I take to be the objective of development projects (sustainable, transformational change at scale) and a funding environment and model of project design based on a time bound, linear, output driven delivery model. So what lessons are there from elsewhere to help us move beyond this hamster wheel?

Bill Clinton observed that “there is no shortage of good ideas …the real problem is how to scale them”. There also far more people in the world interested in improving the lives of their communities than there are budding social entrepreneurs. Social franchising – taking a successful idea working in one place, distilling its essence and helping someone else in another place to create their own version of it – is one way of trying to break this cycle.

Deliberation - What?

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The practice of deliberation has had its place in participatory governance, in development and other areas, for some time. What do you think of when you hear "deliberation"? Porto Alegre's participatory budgeting? India's Gram Sabhas? Parliament? America Speaks? It's all that - and so much more.

In the most common understanding, deliberation is some form of interpersonal discussion about an issue of public concern. This can range from everyday talk about political issues at, say, the kitchen table, to formalized group discussions that aim at solving a common problem. One definition comes from Delli Carpini, Cook, and Jacobs*, who state that deliberation is "the process through which deliberative democracy occurs," a "specific, important, and idealized category within the broader notion of what we call 'discursive participation'." The category is ideal because, à la Habermas, it requires a range of ideal characteristics to be truly deliberative, first and foremost openness and equality of discourse.

Beware the Context - Deliberation for Development II

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Earlier this month, CommGAP hosted a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions." The meeting was headed by the World Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University and provided a vast and rich overview over the issue of deliberation as it concerns our work on the ground. Here's a little summary of the day, which by no means captures even a fraction of the wealth of information and knowledge that was presented, but may be an appetizer for our forthcoming book gathering all those contributions.

The first speaker, Arjun Appadurai of New York University, spoke about the importance of context: success of deliberation depends on factors outside the deliberative frame, mostly social and political power structures. Individual deliberation events may fail more often than not, especially if it's about allocating resources for the poor. However, while isolated deliberative occasions may be a failure in their own narrow context, in aggregation over time even those failures can alter those very contexts that made them fail at the outset.

Deliberation for Development

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

CommGAP and the World Bank Development Research Group Poverty & Inequality are hosting a conference on "Deliberation for Development: New Directions" on Friday this week. We have a number of high profile speakers and commentators lined up, who have done cutting-edge research on deliberation and how it can increase development effectiveness. The conference will be convened by the Wold Bank's Vijayendra Rao and Patrick Heller from Brown University. Arjun Appadurai (New York University) will talk about "Success and Failure in the Deliberative Democracy," Ann Swidler (Berkeley) and Susan Watkins (University if California) will discuss "Practices of Deliberation in Rural Malawi." JP Singh of Georgetown University will compare the participatory character of the WTO and UNESCO, while the World Bank's Michael Woolcock will examine the link between deliberation and the rule of law. Gianpaolo Baiocchi (Brown University) will talk about "The Global Translations of Participatory Budgeting” and Gerry Mackie (University of California) will address the educational effects of public deliberation.

Quote of the Week: Jonathan Bernstein

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"If pressed, I’d probably say: get the politics right, and you’ll get the policy right. But I’m sure of one thing: get the politics wrong, and it doesn’t matter what policy you want, because it ain’t gonna happen anyway. Probably not now, and certainly not in the long run."


-- Jonathan Bernstein, Get the Politics Right, October 21, 2010

Launch of Online Database of Research Accountability Tools

Brendan Whitty's picture

The One World Trust, with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), has created an interactive, online database of tools to help organisations conducting policy relevant research become more accountable.

Processes of innovation and research are fundamental to improvements in quality of life and to creating a better society. But to realise these benefits, the quality of research alone is not enough. Organisations engaged in policy-relevant research and innovation must continually take into account and balance the needs of a diverse set of stakeholders: from the intended research users, to their clients and donors, to the research community and the research participants. Responsiveness to all of these is crucial if they are to be legitimate and effective. In this, accountable processes are as important as high quality research products.

“Open Government”: Open to Whom?

Hannah Bowen's picture

The push for open government is not of course limited to Barack Obama’s White House  or to  the World Bank.

As part of the AudienceScapes project, InterMedia has been conducting quantitative and qualitative research in Africa, to better understand how people gather, share and shape news and public interest information. In Kenya, InterMedia conducted in-depth interviews with 15 senior members of the policy-making community.


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