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April 2010

The Logic - and the Illogic - of Discipline

Sina Odugbemi's picture

An important new book tells the story of a  tradition of governance reform. The book is The Logic of Discipline: Global Capitalism and the Structure of Government. The author is Alasdair Roberts, the Jerome L. Rappaport Professor of Law and Public Policy at Suffolk University Law School.

According to Roberts:


 
"The logic of discipline is a reform philosophy built on the criticism that standard democratic processes for producing policies are myopic, unstable, and skewed towards  special interests and not the public good. It attempts to make improvements in governance through changes in law that impose constraints on elected officials and citizens, often by shifting power to technocrat-guardians who are shielded from political influence." (p. 135).

Complaints Handling: Small is Beautiful

Sabina Panth's picture

I wish to share some thoughts on the design of a new governance tool that I recently came across – Grievance Redress and Complaint Handling System, which entails a genuinely focused bottom-up methodology that instills permanent strength to demand-driven accountability.

An effective system of complaint handling is characterized by multiple complaint uptake locations and channels for receiving complaints with a standard set of procedures. While this is promising, formalizing and improving already existing informal and traditional structures of grievance redress, such as panchayat village councils in South Asia and chieftaincy systems in Africa, can be easy to manage, cost effective and sustainable.  Moreover, many donor projects now mandate formation of local user groups, such as village-road-user-committees, district-road-user committees that comprise of labor employees and beneficiaries of the project and function as watch dogs during project implementation. These groups can be mobilized to institute local grievance redress committees, which would work to address and resolve their concerns and queries pertaining to a project.

Shining a Spotlight on Public Private Partnership

Caroline Jaine's picture

I couldn’t have been further away from Sudan last week - sipping fine green tea in a London private members’ club - but Sudan was one topic of conversation.  I stumbled upon an organisation about to set up a development bank in the South of the country and, with a keen understanding of the operational environment, the focus will be on microfinance.  Our discussion was just one of many I have had lately about the crucial role business plays in development and as I dip my toe (or ear) into the world of development communications, I meet more and more people who (like me) have Ashraf Ghani and Clare Lockhart’s cherished book “Fixing Failed States” tucked into their coats.  Paddy Doherty of the above-mentioned development bank sums it up simply - “profitability ensures sustainability”. 

Not the New York Times: Where College Students Get Their News

Susan Moeller's picture

This is a "Wordle" data visualization of the 111,109 words the students in the study wrote about their experiences of going 24 hours without media. This Wordle cloud makes larger those words that appeared most frequently in the students' comments.

American college students today show no significant loyalty to a news program, news personality or even news platform.  Students have only a casual relationship to the originators of news, and in fact don’t make fine distinctions between news and more personal information.  Yet student after student, in a new ICMPA study, demonstrated knowledge of specific news stories. 

How did they get the information?  In a disaggregated way, and not typically from the news outlet that broke or committed resources to a story. 

Quote of the Week

Antonio Lambino's picture

"The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

-- Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787

 

 

Photo credit: Flickr user David Paul Ohmer

Attitudes, Opinions, and Why Dinner Matters

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

In the general slander of public opinion and public opinion polls ("leaders who pander to public opinion lose respect", see John Kay in the Financial Times), people often mistake attitudes for opinion. It's a technical detail, but from a governance reform view it makes all the difference. Attitudes are predispositions. Opinions are expressions, speech acts. Opinions precede and determine behavior. And that, after all, is where we aim in working toward governance reform.

Procurement Monitoring by Citizens: Is it Effective?

Sabina Panth's picture

According to the International Budget Partnership, developing countries spend $820 billion a year on procurement-related transactions.  These expenditures are critical for the delivery of goods and services but they are also extremely vulnerable to corruption. Transparency International estimates that $400 Billion is lost to bribery and corruption in public procurement internationally (2006).  Procurement monitoring is an emerging area, where citizens’ involvement has been experimented to address the impending waste and corruption in public procurement. 

Expanding the Bounds

Naniette Coleman's picture

"THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

A Practical Guide in the Fight against Corruption

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In partnership with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), CommGAP is launching a new publication entitled “Building Public Support for Anti-Corruption Efforts: Why Anti-Corruption Agencies Need to Communicate and How.”  The need for this guide became apparent at a learning event organized by CommGAP and UNODC in November 2008.  The workshop participants – anti-corruption agencies, government officials, senior practitioners and academics – agreed that the media plays a crucial part in their work by influencing public perception of corruption and building public support for their efforts. However, the question of how to establish good working relationships with the media was of deep concern.
 

Exploiting the Poor Through the Images We Use? (PART 2)

Antonio Lambino's picture

Visual representations of the poor have the power to evoke visceral reactions which can be harnessed toward positive development outcomes.  At the same time, those who use these images run the risk of exploiting the very same people whom they seek to help. 

comment to a previous post on this topic captures the trade-off rather well:

"… human strife is whittled down to a spectacle that often furthers cultural and economic divides when they should be bridging them.  However, as visual representations can be an extremely effective way of communicating, we really cannot do away with them… one can only approximate the ideal of a just and compelling representation."

 

FOI: Through the Looking Glass

Paul Mitchell's picture

I was passing through Accra recently and while walking through the lobby of the hotel was stopped by a poster for a regional conference on Freedom of Information and at the same time ran into several colleagues and old friends. It was an interesting exercise to be very aware of an issue and personalities but be on the outside looking. The conference was well attended, drawn by the start power of former US president Jimmy Carter, his center and high level activist and political figures from Africa. The Carter Center which has been at the forefront of this work is able to draw attention to and raise the profile of the issue in West Africa.
 

But what did it all mean to local people? When I asked Ghanaians working or staying at the hotel about the conference, there was very high recognition but mostly it was linked to former President Carter. But the issue drew little recognition or excitement. Ghana did announce that after years of languishing on the books an FOI bill would be introduced into Parliament. But to the people outside of the conference this would have little impact on their daily lives. Their worries were much more about food, shelter, safety, schooling and the actions of the government in power on their lives. 
 

When There is Nothing to be Done, Perhaps It’s Time to Bring Out the Clowns

Naniette Coleman's picture

Imagine you are crossing the street in any major city.  The light turns red and you're instructed by a flashing light, perhaps a police officer, to halt and allow for the flow of car traffic.  Perhaps you look both ways, see nothing coming, and decide to walk anyway.  Your actions are acceptable in most areas of the world but the public response to your seemingly acceptable behavior is unique.  After landing on the other side of the road you are chased down by mimes, mocked mercilessly, people around you join in the mocking and hold up thumbs down signs while pointing out stars on the ground where pedestrians, like you, have died.  No this is not a nightmare or a flash mob, this is just one technique in your communication tool kit that can be used to engage the larger public in community behavior adjustments.  This particular public mocking/service campaign was the brainchild of the former Mayor of Bogotá, Colombia.

Can Community Groups Influence Public Policy?

Sabina Panth's picture

There is a common perception held by some that the dominating framework of social development practice is a community and that framework does not often extend beyond a certain group or a locality to include districts, provinces and other tiers of government.  There is evidence, however, that social development can instigate structural changes and devolution of power by mobilizing a community to build associations and exercise their agency to influence broader national goals and policies.  To illustrate this point, I want to begin with the evolution of self-help groups that are prevalent in India and Nepal.  

   

Give It Up!

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Access is the big topic when people discuss ICT on this blog. The digital divide is still the biggest obstacle for using ICT in development effectively. The access issue has more than one side: It's not only about access to the technology, it's also about access to content that feeds into the technology.

Why is the Transparency Revolution not Taking off in Africa?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

When President Jimmy Carter opened the Africa Regional Conference on the Right of Access to Information in Accra on February 7, 2010, he explained why the Carter Center had organized the conference. The main reason, he pointed out, was that with regard to access to information 'Africa has lagged far behind'. South Africa was the only good example he cited. Yet this is at a time when the transparency revolution is sweeping through the rest of the world. For instance, since 2000 an average of six countries per year have passed Freedom of Information Acts, and 80 had done so by 2008.

African Union Consultation Can Lead to a More Strategic Approach to Media Development

Bettina Peters's picture

An informal expert meeting on media and development hosted by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the European Commission (EC) in Addis Ababa, March 23-25 agreed a range of practical proposals in support of African media.  Participants representing journalists, media owners, media development practitioners, journalism schools and self-regulatory structures in Africa highlighted the important role the AUC can play in promoting media freedom and independent journalism in Africa. 

The consultation attended by some 35 participants was the first time the African Union discussed media development with practitioners and marks an important step towards creating a strategic approach of the African Union Commission to media development.

Exploiting the Poor Through the Images We Use?

Antonio Lambino's picture

Stereotypical images of the developing world include overpopulated and underserved urban slums, backward agricultural and fishing communities, environmental abuse and degradation, and political and social instability.  Although many of these portrayals are most certainly products of serious photojournalism or efforts to render explicit social ills around the world, numerous warnings have been issued against perpetuating these pictures in our heads and using them in development work, more generally.

News broadcasts, documentaries, and more recently, social media, often reduce developing countries into images of shanty towns, garbage dumps, denuded forests, dead coral reefs, and of course, people who have been beaten or killed through military and police brutality.  Charitable fundraising efforts also use evocative images, from children suffering from cleft lip to those with distended bellies.  Many have argued that these images take advantage of the poor and downtrodden, reify exclusion of subaltern groups, and raise awareness (and funds!) at the high cost of damaging the development process

Innovation for the Development Sector (Hint: The iPad Probably Isn’t It)

Susan Moeller's picture

This past weekend’s launch of the iPad has had me thinking more and more about the future of information because I’m not entirely convinced that we should go in the direction that Steve Jobs is taking us. 

Or what I really mean (since I have every intention of getting an iPad) is that I’m not convinced that that’s the ONLY direction we should go.

Let me step back for a moment and briefly explain what the media gurus believe is in our future. 

We live now in the age of Web 2.0 and the next BIG thing on the horizon is being called Web 3.0 or the “Semantic” Web.  In other words, we are heading, we are told, for a web that has “meaning.”i

Smart Media Aid

Silvio Waisbord's picture

A few weeks I had a chance to return to Nicaragua for a brief visit. The Fundacion Chamorro invited me to talk about the role of the state in processes of media reform. As usual, I learned a great deal by talking to old colleagues and new friends about ongoing efforts to strengthen media democracy in the country.

What’s going on in contemporary Nicaragua shows the potential of smart media aid to be effective, if it dovetails with local needs and promotes wide-ranging efforts. It’s not just what donors think is important. It is what local activists with vast experience believe is necessary (and Nicaragua, to put it mildly, does have substantive experience with reform). It’s not simply about targeting one set of challenges. It is taking a broad, multilevel perspective on the challenges of media systems.

RIP Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

ddpLast week, the field of communication lost one of its most eminent figures, Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, who died on March 25 at the age of 93. A German public opinion scholar, Noelle-Neumann has had a powerful influence on the study of public opinion and political communication worldwide. Her most notable contribution, the theory of the Spiral of Silence, has made a lasting impression on the field.

The Wisdom of Jacques Necker: A Note on "The Road from Ruin"

Sina Odugbemi's picture

If there is one historical personage that all finance ministers – or treasury secretaries – need to know, he is Jacques Necker (1732-1804). He was the finance minister of France in the 1780s. He was credited with popularizing the phrase ‘public opinion’ (opinion publique). What was his central insight? He noticed that the attitude of the French public to the king of France determined whether or not they purchased the treasury bills issued from time to time by the king. It they had a favorable opinion of the king they bought his bills; if not, they did not buy his bills. In other words, the financial health of the kingdom and the power of the king depended on opinion publique.

Necker pointed out that the same was true of the finance minister. He was clear that the finance minister ‘stands in most need of the good opinion of the people.’ He pointed out that fiscal policies needed to be pursued with ‘frankness and publicity,’ and that the finance minister must ‘associate the nation’ with his plans, including the obstacles he had to surmount.  Necker practiced what he preached, launching a systematic management of public opinion.  In 1792, he declared: