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June 2012

A Murmuration of Starlings

Maya Brahmam's picture

Reporting from TEDGlobal on Radical Openness. I was struck by Don Tapscott’s presentation on Tuesday, which compared the opening up of our knowledge and data as the next step in the evolution of human societies and called it an "Age of Networked Intelligence."  Tapscott then went on to say that the societies of this age can be likened to a “murmuration of starlings,” a term that is used here for a flock. The murmuration moves in a complex interconnected way without a single leader and the flock works together and protects itself from predators (see picture).

What surprised me is that this flock of starlings was startlingly similar to the infographic displayed by the Vibrant Data Project during a presentation by Eric Berlow, a TED Fellow, which describes the network of connections in an “open” environment. Check it out here:

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.

International IDEA
Do Accountability Mechanisms in Safety Nets Improve Access to Social Services? The case of Brazil’s Bolsa Família

"This paper was part of International IDEA’s work on “Democracy and Development” in 2011. It was selected as a contribution to stimulate debate on and increase knowledge about the impact of democratic accountability on services. A summary of the papers selected and an analysis on some general trends are provided in “Democratic Accountability in Service Delivery: A Synthesis of Case Studies”

The study analyses a semi-governmental mechanism for accountability called social control councils. Through this mechanism beneficiaries are supposed to provide feedback on health and education services. However as beneficiaries have been heavily underrepresented in these councils and membership tends to be skewed towards the local government, they have not been able to function as intended." READ MORE

Mashable
How the Arab World Uses Facebook and Twitter

“Social media has been often touted for the role it played in the popular uprisings that have spread across the Arab world since December 2010. Despite the buzz, you may be surprised that only 0.26% of the Egyptian population, 0.1% of the Tunisian population and 0.04% of the Syrian population are active on Twitter.

Of all the countries in North Africa and the Middle East, Twitter is most popular in Kuwait, where 8.6% of the population is active users, defined as those who tweet at least once per month. Facebook’s more popular throughout the region. In its most popular country, the U.A.E., some 36.18% of the population is on Facebook.” READ MORE

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Cellular Subscriptions

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Source: Media Map Resource

'Political Writing: A Guide to the Essentials'

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Now and then we discuss specific communication techniques on People, Spaces, Deliberation that are essential to bringing about change, and in particular, governance reform.  CommGAP also produced a series of technical briefs that demonstrate the theoretical underpinnings of communication concepts and tools, including topics such as change management, negotiation, and persuasion. It was therefore a great pleasure when a newly published book entitled Political Writing by Adam Garfinkle was brought to our attention.  As Garfinkle points out, political writing is about persuasion. It’s about persuading ideas and policies.

Garfinkle is the founding editor of The American Interest and a former speech writer for two U.S. Secretaries of State, namely, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. His latest book, Political Writing, is based on a course he taught to interns working in politics in Washington, DC. It’s a short and practical how-to guide that introduces the essential skills and rules in how to become a better writer and it covers different forms of political writing, including: the essay; the review; the op-ed; speech-writing, letters, toasts and ceremonials; memoranda; commission reports; and blogs.  In addition to rules, each chapter also includes recommended reading and exercises. The book also covers the fundamentals of rhetoric and polemic, and gives us a history lesson of persuasion and language, dating back to the Greek agora. It ends with a philosophy of editing.

The Importance of Implementation Gaps

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been reading the set of papers Oxfam recently published on local governance and community action (see previous blog) and was struck by how central the issue of ‘implementation gaps’ is in our work.

An implementation gap is where a set of institutions (often created via decentralization), policies or budgets (or all three) exist on paper, but are absent on the ground. Such a situation provides a particularly good entry point for an INGO like Oxfam because it reduces political risk (you are supporting the implementation of what the state has already agreed) and the benefits are likely to be easier to achieve and can have a galvanizing effect – plucking low-hanging fruit is great for morale and motivation. In terms of power analysis, this is about making the most of ‘invited spaces’ rather than creating new ones.

Nailing in on Communication and Governance Reform: 2012 Summer Institute

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Nearly a week ago, we began the second World Bank-Annenberg Executive Course in Communication and Governance Reform, which is being hosted at the University of Southern California. The last few days have been filled with interactive courses and engaging discussions between top notch researchers, communication practitioners, and program participants from Uganda, Yemen, Serbia, Zambia, Morocco, and Pakistan, among other countries.  The participants of this year's program have all come together to pursue a similar goal: develop core competencies essential for the successful implementation of governance objectives, even in the most difficult reform environment.

This endeavor was launched a year ago with an inaugural course in July 2011 in Washington, DC through the partnership of the World Bank’s External Affairs Operational Communication division, the World Bank Institute’s Governance Practice, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California and the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. In the last year, these partners have focused on creating the 2012 Summer Institute, which continues to develop networks of specially trained communication practitioners that can provide effective implementation support to reform leaders and change agents. 

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.

All Africa
Rwanda: Civil Society Organizations Which Promote Good Governance Rewarded

"The Rwanda Governance Board (GBV) on Monday has rewarded local civil society organizations which promote good governance.

The first phase, which concerned projects dating from July 2011 until today saw 14 projects rewarded, the top three being respectively Transparency International Rwanda (TI-Rw), COPORWA (Rwanda Potters cooperative) and Isango Star Radio.

The three best performers were selected based on indicators of promoting good governance, the ability of the project to attract partners and the direct impact of projects on citizens' lives, while others were evaluated over one indicator of good governance." READ MORE

Foreign Policy
Postcards from Hell, 2012

"What does living in a failed state look like? A tour through the world’s 60 most fragile countries.

The "failed state" label may conjure up undifferentiated images of poverty and squalor, but a range of troubles plague the 60 countries atop this year’s Failed States Index -- an annual collaboration between Foreign Policy and the Fund For Peace that assesses 177 countries. (Scores are assigned out of a possible 120 points, with higher numbers indicating poorer performance.) Yes, inadequate health care, paltry infrastructure, and basic hunger are the most fundamental culprits, but sometimes it is a ruthless dictator, ethnic tension, or political corruption that is most to blame. In photos and words, here is a glimpse of what life is like in each of the world's most failed states -- and just how it came to be that way." READ MORE

Urban Tipping Points - Important New Research on Roots of Violence

Duncan Green's picture

Cities are often violent places – a social, ethnic and religious tinderbox of people piled up together with competing needs for space, housing or cash. Mostly the tension is contained, but not always - when and why does it spill over into bloody mayhem? That’s the question at the heart of a fascinating research project run by Caroline Moser, one of my development heroes, and Dennis Rodgers. The research team fed back on its findings in Geneva last week. They have a draft overview paper here and welcome any comments by the end of June (as comments on this post, or if you want to get really stuck in, emailed to urbantippingpoint@Manchester.ac.uk). Here’s a summary of the discussion in Geneva.

The Urban Tipping Point scanned the literature and identified four ‘conventional wisdoms’ on the causes, not always based on much evidence: they are poverty; ‘youth bulges’ (demographic, rather than waistlines); political exclusion and gender-based insecurity. It decided to test these with empirical research in four very dissimilar cities - Nairobi (Kenya), Dili (Timor-Leste), Santiago (Chile) and Patna (India).

Is Education for All Finally Possible?

Tanya Gupta's picture

The tragedy of our times is that access to quality education is limited.  Whether in the US, internationally, education remains a privilege that only select few are entitled to, whereas a majority of this without financial resources are forced to compromise on the quality of education or go without. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty and illiteracy which condemns the poor to stay poor. In the past few years technology has emerged as the single biggest game changer in the field of education.  As computing has become cheaper and more powerful, access to technology has increased proportionately. Another trend has been led by those who question traditional education methods and structure. For example many feel that teachers unions lead to a shift in focus away from the child to the pecuniary interests of the teachers. Others argue that the traditional classroom lecture where teachers talk and students listen is no longer effective. These trends have led to some interesting developments. Of these one is the focus of nonprofit organizations on supplying cheap tablets for free in the developing world. Another is the interesting possibility of eliminating school systems and teachers via innovative use of technology.

The Aucoin Objection: Is Public Scrutiny Bad for the Civil Service?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Just in case you were tempted to think that the revolution in public scrutiny that more and more governments have to face these days can only be a good thing, Peter Aucoin pops up to say maybe this is problematic in ways we have not been focusing on. In an article in the April 2012 edition of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, titled ‘New Political Governance in Westminster Systems: Impartial Public Administration and Management Performance at Risk’ Aucoin examines the impact on the tradition of the impartial civil service in Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, among others:

  • Masses of media
  • Transparency and openness
  • Competition in the political marketplace
     

What is striking is that in all these developments that people like me celebrate he sees danger. You ask: what’s there not to like about these things? Plenty, he seems to reply.

A Shout-Out for Ostrom

Maya Brahmam's picture

Elinor Ostrom, the only woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics died on June 12 in Indiana. According to various press reports, Ostrom shocked her peers when she was catapulted to fame, because, in a field mostly dominated by men, she reached well beyond the usual mathematical modeling of economists.

Ostrom’s best-known research was on the management of the commons. As noted in Slate, “Standard economic thinking about commons focuses on the idea of a ‘tragedy of the commons’…” According to many economists, individuals acting in their own self-interest, would ultimately deplete a resource like a common pasture, which is open to everyone. This idea was used to demonstrate the need for government regulation or control by private industry. 

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.

Tech Crunch
How The Future of Mobile Lies in the Developing World

“In less than three decades, the mobile phone has gone from being a status symbol to being a ubiquitous technology that facilitates almost every interaction in our daily lives. One month after the world’s population topped 7 billion in October 2011, the GSM Association announced that mobile SIM cards had reached 6 billion. A 2009 study in India illustrated that every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration leads to a 1.2 percent increase in GDP.

Yet patterns of mobile phone use in developing countries are vastly different from what you see on the streets of New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. This is a market underserved by technologists and startups. This is where the majority of future growth lies, and Silicon Valley has yet to realize the huge economic opportunities for network operators, handset developers, and mobile startups. Where are these opportunities?”  READ MORE

Using Geo Mapping to Alter the Bank – CSO Political Landscape

John Garrison's picture

Can the sharing of technical mapping tools and datasets help to change longstanding political relations?  This is exactly what’s happening between the World Bank and some of its longstanding advocacy CSO interlocutors.  Several recent training sessions and technical workshops co-organized with CSOs on the Bank’s open data tools, are leading to increased collaboration around a common transparency and accountability agenda.

One example is a hands-on training workshop co-organized by the World Bank and the Bank Information Center (BIC) on the Bank’s Open Development Programs on March 7, 2012. Some 20 representatives of well known policy advocacy CSOs from the Washington area (see photo) participated in the two-hour session which featured presentations on a number of Bank data platforms and search tools: Projects and Operations, Open Data, Mapping for Results, and Open Finances.  With individual computers stations and Internet access, participants were able to carry out individualized exercises and interactive tutorials. Building on the positive feedback received from this session, an extended 4-hour training session was held during the Spring Meetings on April 18.  Some 25 CSO and Youth leaders from developing countries participated in this second session. (see Summary)

Media (R)evolutions: Use of Mobile and Desktop Web

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
 

Democratizing Development -- Really?

Maya Brahmam's picture

This weekend I drove by a Popularise sign and wondered what it meant. I learned later that a local commercial real-estate investor, Dan Miller of WestMill Capital, has been using Popularise to encourage communities to share their ideas about possible development ideas. This is a great way for “grassroots” brainstorming on commercial development.

In an article in The Washington Post about this phenomenon, Dan Miller states, “Most people…don’t get a say in how their neighborhoods take shape. Popularise is one solution to … a "broken community engagement" process…In [Advisory Neighborhood Commission] meetings, you have a vocal minority that dominates…You can have a much broader discussion with thousands of people and have it be dynamic. Popularise is the 21st-century version of a community meeting.”

What Can Political Economists Tell Us about Africa, Aid and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

There’s a clutch of different research initiatives trying to understand Africa’s political economy and its impact on development and aid. Often, the tone of the political economists can be quite discouraging – Alex Duncan gives a tongue-in-cheek definition of a political economist as ‘someone coming to explain why your aid programme doesn’t work’. There are few practical ‘take aways’ either for large bilateral aid agencies, or NGOs other than ‘give up and become a researcher’.

And that’s pretty much the tone of a logotastic ‘joint statement’ from 5 research programmes based (loosely) in the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands (The Africa Power and Politics Programme, Developmental Leadership Programme, Elites, Production and Poverty: A Comparative Analysis, Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa, Tracking Development). Here’s some highlights:

Quote of the Week: Stephen Reicher

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Individuals don’t lose identity in the crowd and they don’t lose control over their behaviour or rationality. Rather they shift to a shared social identity and seek to act in terms of that shared identity.”

Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology, University of St. Andrews. As quoted in the Financial Times, December 28, 2011.

Framing Climate Change

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

It’s environment week, kind of. Tuesday was World Environment Day and tomorrow is World Oceans Day. Both days were institutionalized through United Nations resolutions to draw attention to the environment and the threats it is exposed to. For communicators in development, climate change is one of the most relevant issues. Communication scholars also have thought a lot about how to effectively communicate climate change. I am not quite sure, however, whether the two sides are working together. Let me therefore discuss how framing can influence our understanding and acceptance of climate change.

Matthew Nisbet from American University has written an interesting article on “Communicating Climate Change: Why Frames Matter for Public Engagement”. He argues that the enormous divide between the factual reality of climate change and citizens’ perception is partly due to the way interest groups have been framing the issue. He identifies a number of frames that are being used in the public discussion (p. 18):

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

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

Freedom House

Nations in Transit 2012

"Nations in Transit is Freedom House’s comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia.

Findings in Nations in Transit 2012 suggest that the countries that have achieved the greatest democratic success since the Cold War’s end are now displaying serious vulnerabilities in their young democratic systems. Over the past five years, stagnation and backsliding is evident in key governance indicators across the new EU member states and countries of the Balkans. Hungary, a powerful example of this trend, continued on a negative trajectory that was propelled by the current government’s drive to concentrate power. Ukraine’s scores similarly continued to worsen, with declines in five of the seven Nations in Transit categories, as authorities undertook a broad assault on institutional accountability and transparency. Difficult economic conditions and harsh austerity measures posed challenges to democratic development in the region. In the Balkans, critical reforms stalled in nearly all countries in 2011." READ MORE

The Fragile State of Media Freedom in Latin America

"The current state of media freedom in Latin America was driven home in early May, when three journalists were murdered in Mexico within a week of World Press Freedom Day. This dramatic example underscores a larger trend identified by Freedom House in the recently released Freedom of the Press 2012 report, which noted that a range of negative developments over the past decade have left media freedom on the defensive in much of Central and South America." READ MORE

An International Alliance against Corruption: Mindful of its Actions but Determined to Act

Dina Elnaggar's picture

When they first met in 2010, they hardly knew each other.  This week, members of the World Bank’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance convened their second meeting and for many of them, the fight against corruption is no longer solo. 
 
Once again, the World Bank welcomes more than 200 corruption fighters driving an agenda that is focused on international cooperation, technological tools and new approaches that can be incorporated in their anti-corruption mission.  Since their meeting in 2010, a lot has happened.  Corruption did not end but many of their collective actions had a profound impact in spreading a higher standard of accountability in public procurement and creating a broader range of enforcement powers.  Cooperation between the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency and a number of national prosecution and investigative bodies has resulted in action against corrupt companies and officials.  Examples are many.  The point is, working as an Alliance is about sharing information and conducting parallel investigations, that is turning transnational crimes from a challenge to a success story.

Whose Access to Information Is it Anyway?

Maya Brahmam's picture

The recent storm about the Facebook IPO and whether big investors got access to better analysis than individual investors made me think about the open agenda again: Whose access are we guaranteeing? If we say that data is open, do we have the moral obligation to help people navigate that information?

An article by Peter Whoriskey and David Hilzenrath in The Washington Post, Scrutiny Focused on Pre-IPO Hype, says of Facebook’s disclosure: "It was just the kind of information that could make you a million. But you couldn’t find it..." They went on to note, "A raft of complex regulations attempt to ensure that the information public companies give out to investors is not only true but is distributed in a way that does not favor big institutional investors over so-called retail investors…"

weDevelop: Can We Create an Empowering Web of Development with the Individual at the Center?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Development organizations operate at the global level, partnering both with countries to implement country strategies, and within sectors to tackle sectoral challenges.  NGOs on the other hand, operate at the grassroots level, working with individuals towards the betterment of communities.  Development organizations have the advantage of resources, many years of experience and knowledge but are generally several degrees removed from the individual.  NGOs are in touch with the needs of citizens and are able to respond quickly to challenges but unable to scale up.  The two have worked together, but so much more can be done.  Over the last several years the dynamic has undergone a fundamental change.  Cue to technology, which is fast emerging as a game changer in the world of development.  Technology enables linkages based on mutual agreement (e.g. development institutions-NGOs) as well as linkages that evolve organically (e.g. a grassroots human rights group in Kenya that builds a relationship with a Swedish development institution focused on social inclusion).