Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
In October 2014, the most popular blog post was "Realization of the Dream" by Leszek Sibilski.
In this post, Leszek describes the "changing faces" of his students in university courses and ponders whether terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” will one day be obsolete as his students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds.
While acknowledging that there is still plenty of space to improve, Leszek reminds us that focusing on differences can limit our ability to connect with each other. He writes, "Instead of building societal firewalls, we should expose the negative vocabulary for classroom and public discussions in order to raise public awareness supported by mutual understanding."
Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
I hope you have been fortunate enough to meet a few of these. They live amongst us, but they are really an archetypal category: The Outsider. Our settled views on the great issues of the day, our rules and norms, our codes of conduct, all these things annoy them. They mock us. They dispense rudeness with great liberality. They are stubborn, self-willed and ferociously argumentative. They dress as they please. They behave as they please. They dance to the rhythms of drums that the rest of us cannot hear. They annoy, even madden us; yet, every healthy community needs them; every truly diverse and vigorous public sphere needs them, as well.
Cranks are eccentrics. They are capricious in behavior or appearance. And they are almost always contrarians: whatever the majority opinion is, they are against it. Loudly. Vehemently. Yet there is one fundamental reason why we should not only tolerate but celebrate the cranks and contrarians in our midst: every major shift in public opinion started as a view propagated by a few bloody minded contrarians, boldly, even recklessly, taking on the received or conventional wisdom of the day. We often credit huge social movements for a lot of the progress we have made as human beings, but before the social movements formed crucial path-clearing work was done by tough, rock-ribbed eccentrics and contrarians.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof. We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham. But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI provides an absolute gold mine of a crib sheet on this in the shape of Drivers of Change in Gender norms: An annotated bibliography, by Rachel Marcus and Ella Page with Rebecca Calder and Catriona Foley.
Here’s one of the excerpts that caught my eye:
Jensen, R. and Oster, E. (2007) ‘The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India’. Working Paper 13305. Cambridge, MA: NBER
The 85 richest individuals in the world own as much as 3.5 billion of the poorest people, according to Oxfam. It's a staggering statistic, but it has friends.
The 2014 Global Wealth Databook by Credit Suisse reports the bottom 50% of the world's population own less than 1% of its wealth, the richest 10% hold 87%, and the top 1% alone possess 48.2%.
The International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group also stated in the Global Monitoring Report that while the number of people living in extreme poverty is decreasing, the gap between the haves and the have nots is increasing. Today, the world's richest 10% earn 9.5 times more than the poorest 10% of the world. Twenty-five years ago, they earned 7 times more than their less fortunate peers.
Taking a closer look at East Africa, Ben Taylor (mtega), an Open Development Consultant with Twaweza, finds that the richest 1% in East Africa own as much wealth as the poorest 91%. The six wealthiest individuals in the region own as much as 50% of the region’s population or 66 million people.
Damian Radcliffe outlines a new report from Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on internet behaviors in the Middle East. To read the full report, click here.
Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) published a new full length study on the attitudes and behaviors of internet users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The 20,000 word study benchmarks the experience of the online population in the region against global users in five key areas: access to technology, attitudes towards the internet, levels of concern, trust in online actors, and user behaviors—demonstrating in the process that, despite clear cultural considerations, MENA is not an outlier.
In fact, compared to their global counterparts, online users in the Middle East are among the most enthusiastic commentators about the positive impact that the internet has on their lives.
Restrictions include requiring CSOs to obtain governmental approval to receive funding, banning or restricting foreign-funded CSOs from human rights or advocacy activities, stigmatizing or delegitimizing foreign-funded CSOs and labeling them as “foreign agents” or other negative terms, criminalizing some peaceful activities, and restricting their ability to build solidarity with other CSOs.
These obstacles hinder the right of CSOs to peaceful assembly and association. In the following video, Ryota Jonen of the Civic Space Initiative affirms this right, saying, “To exercise fully the rights to freedom of association, we need to have resources, we need materials to carry out what we are said to do.'
"It is an amazing fact of human nature that one year we can be chopping each other up [and] the next we can be sharing a pint. We continually devolve into conflict, no matter how much we evolve."
- Brad Pitt, an American actor and film producer, speaking at the European premiere of the film Fury in which he stars.
BBC Media Action’s governance research: emerging evidence and learning
BBC Media Action
Supported by a five-year grant from the UK Department for International Development to achieve governance outcomes in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, this working paper shares the learning and insights our research generates as it progresses. The paper is designed to share some of the most interesting qualitative and quantitative data we have gathered at this relatively early stage in the research. It also explores the conclusions we are beginning to reach about the contexts in which we work and the impact of BBC Media Action’s programmes. Finally, it highlights what our research is, and is not, telling us.
The Bad News About the News
1998, Ralph Terkowitz, a vice president of The Washington Post Co., got to know Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who were looking for backers. Terkowitz remembers paying a visit to the garage where they were working and keeping his car and driver waiting outside while he had a meeting with them about the idea that eventually became Google. An early investment in Google might have transformed the Post's financial condition, which became dire a dozen years later, by which time Google was a multi-billion dollar company. But nothing happened. “We kicked it around,” Terkowitz recalled, but the then-fat Post Co. had other irons in other fires.
For the last 15 years, I have been a Sociology Professor in private and public institutions of higher education in the Metropolitan area of Washington, DC. Every year, every semester, I was able to observe the constantly changing faces of my students. At one point I asked my class: “so who is the minority in this classroom?” and, in return, I heard a choir of young voices: “You, Dr. Sibilski!” During all those years, I taught students from all the inhabited continents of all religions and orientations. Although I am still patiently waiting for a student of Eskimo heritage, I think it is only a matter of time. Most students take introductory sociology classes to fulfill their academic requirements so I am very fortunate to be exposed to the entire palette of the student body. As I teach on a daily basis about social justice and equality, I am seeing that our daily work is starting to mold a student who is well acquainted with the religious and cultural differences of his/her classmates, and race or ethnicity is not an issue anymore, especially when group projects are assigned. I am starting to believe that terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” very soon will be obsolete and will not remain in vogue. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I have a dream speech” of August 28, 1963, was yearning: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I feel very privileged to witness the realization of King’s dream.