Despite the large and growing literatures on migration in economics, sociology, and other social sciences, there is surprisingly little work which actually evaluates the impact of particular migration policies (most of the literature concerns the determinants of migrating, and the consequences of doing so for the migrants, their families, and for native workers). I am therefore always interested to see new work in this area, particularly work which manages to obtain experimental variation in policy implementation.
The Japanese phrase “Shikata ga nai (仕方がない) -loosely translated as "it can't be helped" -captures the essence of the resilience and sense of duty towards one’s community that the Japanese people displayed in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
Plaza Sésamo. Zhima Jie. Takalani Sesame. Galli Galli Sim Sim. Behind the various incarnations of 'Sesame Street' around the world stands the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit group committed to help children (and especially young children) develop literacy and numeracy skills, build the resilience they need to cope with tough times, establish an early foundation for healthy habits, and help fostering respect and understanding.
Sesame claims that it produces the "most studied TV progam in history". While I don't have hard data to support this assertion, I can't even imagine a potential competitor to this claim. Long a touchstone for many of us who work in the educational technology field, I would add that it is probably the most studied educational technology initiative in history as well.
Recently a group from Sesame spoke to a packed conference room at the World Bank about what it does around the world, and how it does it. It was an entertaining presentation -- videos of small children cavorting with the likes of Elmo and Kami do tend to engage people in ways that, say, arguments about multivariate regression analysis do not. The event was organized by the World Bank's early childhood development (ECD) group, but attracted many people from our more diffuse 'EduTech' thematic community as well. This led me to wonder: What can those of us of work on educational technology initiatives within large institutions like the World Bank learn from how Sesame Workshop operates?
While attempting to answer this question for myself, I came away from the entertaining and thought-provoking presentation with quick notes on five core 'lessons' to consider:
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Henry Ford once famously said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted they would have asked him for a faster horse. If he had listened to his customers, the Ford Motor Company may never have existed, or would be called the Ford Faster Horse Company. The automobile became what is called a “disruptive innovation” meaning that it radically displaced the incumbent technology (the horse and carriage) by not listening to the demands of mainstream consumers, but trying to uncover their real needs.
This is the approach the World Bank is now prototyping in Indonesia: Trying to uncover the real clean energy needs of rural communities by understanding their underlying energy-related problems rather than simply asking them what technologies they want. The Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program is prototyping a new approach to fostering green disruptive innovation. The first stage of the program is being launched this week, and consists of identifying possible challenges – or problems – linked to energy in rural communities. In keeping with the logic of disruptive innovation, the program does not start with a market demand study, or a survey of clean energy solutions in the market, but with uncovering stated and unstated needs that affect the population of a rural community in their everyday lives. This is being done in three ways: One is through field research by a team of designers from Inotek and Catapult Design, a second way is through consultative workshops in Jakarta and in the rural communities, and a third is through a “call for challenge” where the program is using a crowdsourcing approach to collect problems linked to energy in rural Indonesian communities. If you are in any way familiar with rural Indonesia and its energy challenges, the program invites you to submit a challenge through this website.
These few words from the ‘The Face of Female Farming’ aptly capture some of the roles and responsibilities of women in our society. Yesterday, the world celebrated the 101th year of International Women’s Day. Today, we continue to celebrate and honor women and girls worldwide by highlighting some interesting work and articles produced by the World Bank in the field of gender over the past year.
Read this post in Bahasa.
Last week the World Bank launched a new approach to fostering green innovation called the Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program. Its aim is to learn how open innovation principles can foster the generation of market-based solutions to clean energy. A core team of designers (Catapult and Inotek) will work with rural communities, the public and private sectors to design clean energy solutions that can be adopted by the market. Keeping in line with open innovation, its first activity is to identify challenges or “problems” that will be addressed by the program through a crowdsourcing approach. So if you are in any way familiar with rural communities and energy issues in Indonesia, the program invites you to submit a challenge here until March 17.
But, if you think coming up with the kind of technology required to tackle climate change will require something akin to a Manhattan Project, rest assured, you're not alone. Googling "climate change" and "manhattan project" returns a whopping 1,540,000 results. But what does creating a "Manhattan Project" really mean? Besides uncomfortable thoughts of human-inflicted destruction, sheer scale is the first thing that comes to my mind. At its peak, during World War II, the US government employed 130,000 people in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The project's size together with several other features made it a classic case of what I would call "brute-force innovation": it was centrally-planned, closed, and science-driven. Even though the project included research teams across different universities, public research labs and companies across the United States, nothing was leaked in or out and each team had a very specific assigned task and plan. Through the Manhattan Project the government spearheaded the research, developed, testing and deployment of a revolutionary technology from start to finish over a span of four years. And there were no startups, spin-offs, royalty incentives, public-private-partnerships, venture capitalists, crowdsourcing, first-mover advantage, standard-setting or IPOs. Basically none of the buzzwords we associate with disruptive innovation in the 21st Century.
At an event at the New America Foundation in DC and in a recent article in Slate, Sascha Meinrath and Jamie Zimmerman argue that mobile technology in general and mobile money in particular have been overhyped as game-changing tools for the poor.
They claim that mobile technology “creates a greater economic divide” and that Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money system is “leaving a substantial portion of the nation’s poor in even more dire straits.”
· The IDB Development that Works blog covers a randomized trial of the one laptop per child program in Peru – no impact on learning, but some increase in cognitive skills.