Syndicate content

August 2012

What a Difference Political Culture Makes

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

While democracy is developing and strengthening in more and more countries across the world, there may be some lessons to learn from older, established democracies. Democracy does not equal democracy – different forms and philosophical foundations shape different political cultures. Different political cultures favor different practices and outcomes. The political and civic leadership in evolving democracies may possibly have a chance to push things in one or another direction by looking at practices and outcomes in other countries.

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.

Trust Law
Corruption in water sector increases hunger risk – experts

“Stamping out corruption in the water sector is crucial to boosting global food production as world population growth increases pressure on water supplies, according to experts meeting at World Water Week in Stockholm.

Corruption in the water sector is already a major problem for farmers and it’s likely to get worse as competition for water increases, a joint statement released by the Water Integrity Network (WIN), Transparency Internationaland the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) Water Governance Facility at the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) said.

Governments, businesses and civil society must work together to improve transparency in the water sector, and introduce better checks and balances to counter corruption and nepotism, the statement said.”  READ MORE 

Quote of the Week: Samuel Brittan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The biggest obstacle to reform is that insiders can devote time and energy to maintaining their position.  For ordinary citizens, political reform is a sideshow that hardly repays such efforts.”

-- Samuel Brittan, Financial Times, July 5, 2012, Nil desperandum in the fight against crony capitalism

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.

NPR
Saving Lives In Africa With The Humble Sweet Potato

“A regular old orange-colored sweet potato might not seem too exciting to many of us.

But in parts of Africa, that sweet potato is very exciting to public health experts who see it as a living vitamin A supplement. A campaign to promote orange varieties of sweet potatoes in Mozambique and Uganda (instead of the white or yellow ones that are more commonly grown there) now seems to be succeeding. (Check out this cool infographic on the campaign.) It's a sign that a new approach to improving nutrition among the world's poor might actually work.

That approach is called biofortification: adding crucial nutrients to food biologically, by breeding better varieties of crops that poor people already eat.”  READ MORE

Wayward Bankers: An Epic Accountability Challenge

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The global community faces an epic governance and accountability challenge: the big banks that we all use either directly or indirectly are out of control and nobody seems to know what to do about them. As we mark the fifth anniversary of the global financial crisis this month, it appears as if every new week brings news of a fresh banking scandal. The recent list:

Quote of the Week: Malcolm Gladwell

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Social and economic mobility, in any system, is essentially slack arbitrage: hard work is a successful strategy for those at the bottom because those at the top no longer work so hard. By custom, we disparage the idleness of the idle rich. We should encourage it. It is our best chance of taking their place. “

 

-Malcolm Gladwell, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

-As quoted in The New Yorker article, Slackers, July 30, 2012.

What Can We Learn From a Really Annoying Paper on NGOs and Development?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve got a paper I want you to read, particularly if you work for an NGO or other lobbying outfit. Not because it’s good – far from it – but because reading it and (if you work for an NGO) observing your rising tide of irritation will really help you understand how those working in the private sector, government or the multilateral system feel when they read a generalized and ill-informed NGO attack on their work.
 
The paper in question is from a reputable institution (Manchester University’s Brooks World Poverty Institute) and authors (Nicola Banks and David Hulme), and is about ‘the role of NGOs and civil society in development and poverty reduction’.  Here’s the abstract:
 

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.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Building a Toilet Fair - Day 1

“Usually, Sunday would see the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Seattle campus empty save for a duck or two, and maybe a few zealous weekend workers. However, this last week was another story entirely. The campus was buzzing as exhibitors from around the world started to set up toilet prototypes for the upcoming Reinvent the Toilet Fair.

The Reinvent the Toilet Fair held August 14-15, 2012 at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Wash. showcases innovations from around the world that are creating a new vision for the next generation of sanitation. The fair aims to inspire collaboration around a shared mission of delivering a reinvented toilet for the 2.5 billion people worldwide who don’t have access to safe and affordable sanitation.

Here's a look behind the scenes during day 1 of transforming our campus into a toilet fair.”  READ MORE

Blame It on Rio

John Garrison's picture

Unlike the 1984 movie “Blame it on Rio”, which attributed a bawdy affair between a middle-aged man (played by Michael Cain) and a teenager on the tropical vibes of the stunningly beautiful city, the recent hosting of the Rio +20 Conference served to showcase a different face of the Rio ambience -- its global environmental leadership role.  The city not only maintains the world’s two largest urban forests, Pedra Branca and Tijuca (see photo), but has just completed a state of the art waste treatment center which will allow for a 8% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and are installing 300 kilometers of bicycle lanes.  For the World Bank, the city has been the setting for the improbable significant improvement in relations between the Bank and environmental CSOs over the past 20 years.

When Rio hosted the original UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, the Bank participated with a small staff delegation and its modest publications booth at the parallel NGO “Global Forum” held on Flamengo Beach was set on fire by environmental activists.  They were protesting the Bank’s financing of the Narmada Dam project in India, which threatened to displace hundreds of thousands of small farmers without a fair and sustainable resettlement plan in place.  Some were expressing disapproval of the Polonoroeste project funded by the Bank in Brazil where the paving of a highway linking two Amazonian state capitals led to widespread deforestation in the 1980s.  

Why Training Day Matters: An Investigative Journalism Program in Zambia

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

With the growing number of journalism training programs being conducted in the developing world, it would be interesting to know how these programs are designed and assessed. For instance, are they focusing on the right success factors? Are they comprehensive or strategic enough? As stated by Shanthi Kalathil in her how-to-guide on media development, “a program that plunks down a sum of money for ‘training journalists’ then measures success by the number of journalists trained is unlikely to have a substantive impact.” Instead, she recommends piecing together a series of programmatic activities shaped by strategic insight into the country’s media sector. This is precisely what the World Bank’s Governance Team in Zambia did with an investigative journalist training program in Zambia.

Education Wonkwar: The Final Salvo. Kevin Watkins responds to Justin Sandefur on Public v Private

Duncan Green's picture

The posts are getting longer, so it’s probably a good time to call a halt, but at least you had the weekend to read Kevin Watkins‘ response to Justin Sandefur on private v public education provision. If you have even more time, it’s worth reading (and relishing) the whole exchange: Justin post 1; Kevin post 1; Justin post 2 and now this.

Dear Justin,

Thank you for the response. I’d also like to thank Duncan for setting up the discussion, along with the many people, on both sides of the debate, who have contributed their ideas and experiences. Whatever our differences, I think all of us share a conviction that decent quality education has the power to transform lives, expand opportunities, and break the cycle of poverty. There is no greater cause, or more important international development challenge, than delivering on the promise of decent quality education for all children.

Quote of the Week: Nandan Nilekani

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Well, I think the way I see it simply is in the private sector the number of people you're to come into is much less. You convince your management team, your board, your investors, your analysts and you go and do something, go in new direction, buy a company, whatever.

In the public space, you are answerable to a lot more stakeholders, the government, parliament, bureaucracy, activists, journalists, the judicial system, the investigators. So I think what I learned is the amount of time you are to invest in evangelizing and consensus building is hugely more in the public space. And crafting a strategy which is sort of acceptable to everybody really takes a great deal of time. And that's where the big difference to me between the two worlds."

 

-Nandan Nilekani, Author of Imagining India and Co-founder of Infosys

-As quoted in an interview on Fareed Zakaria GPS, July 1, 2012

Private Schools or Public? Justin Sandefur responds to Kevin Watkins

Duncan Green's picture

Everyone enjoyed last week’s arm-wrestle on public v private education, so in a titanic struggle for the last word, Justin Sandefur (right, in the private corner) and Kevin Watkins (in the public one) are back for another go. Seconds out, round two…..

Dear Kevin,

Thanks for your reply. You are of course quite right that I wear a Pearson corporation logo on a chain around my neck to ward off evil spirits, I can’t stand (or understand) solutions with multiple steps and regularly visit my local medium to have a chat with the sadly departed Milton Friedman.  But despite all that, I want to contend that we agree on almost all the necessary ingredients for a constructive policy discussion.  I’ll end with where I think our core disagreements are.

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.

The Guardian
70 journalists killed in six months

“At least 70 journalists and support staff were killed while on assignment in the first half of this year, making it one of the bloodiest periods of recent times.

Fifteen were confirmed dead in Syria alone between January and June, according to the biannual Killing The Messenger survey of news media casualties produced for the International News Safety Institute (INSI) by the Cardiff school of journalism.

The next worst countries were Nigeria, where seven unidentified newspaper staff were killed by a bomb, Brazil, Somalia, Indonesia, where five journalists died in a plane crash, and Mexico.”  READ MORE

What Can We Learn from Eight Successful Campaigns on Budget Transparency and Accountability?

Duncan Green's picture

Over the last couple of years, the International Budget Partnership has published a set of fascinating case studies of campaigns on issues of government accountability, budget transparency and access to information. I finally sat down and read them all recently (the summer lull is a wonderful thing). What conclusions do they draw (see end of post for links to the case studies)?

As always, good case studies endorse some of your thinking, but also add some new ideas and insights (at least for me). The common ground is that multi-pronged approaches and alliances have more impact. Successful campaigns often work across multiple layers of government (village, district, state, federal), using multiple strategies (research and insider advocacy, street protest, media). The most effective alliances often bring together unusual suspects (eg radical grassroots CSOs and nerdy thinktanks in the Mexico subsidies campaign).

“Crowd-Sourcing” the Millennium Development Goals

Maya Brahmam's picture

The open agenda took a new twist a few weeks ago when Jamie Drummond, the Executive Director of ONE, talked about the open agenda at TEDGlobal  by suggesting that post-MDG goals be “crowd-sourced,” i.e., people around the world should have a say in what they think the new MDGs should be. In a recent op-ed in the Globe and Mail, Drummond refers to this as the “bottom-up” poverty plan and notes, “A new plan can avoid the pitfalls of past top-down approaches – if it supports a more bottom-up citizen-led strategy for sustainable development.”

Can Theories of Change Help Researchers (or their funders) Have More Impact?

Duncan Green's picture

Got dragged into DFID this week for yet another session on theories of change. This one was organized by the DFID-funded Research for Development (R4D) project (sorry, ‘portal’). A lot of my previous comments on such sessions apply – in DFID the theories of change agenda seems rather dominated by evaluation and planning (‘logframes on steroids’), whereas in Oxfam, it is mainly used to sharpen our work in programmes and campaigns. But the conversation that jumped out at me was around ‘how do we influence the researchers that we fund to use theories of change (ToCs) to improve the impact of their research?’

It’s risky to generalize about ‘academics’, but I'm going to do it anyway. Let’s apply some ToCs thinking to academia as a target. Applying ToCs to try and understand why academics don't use ToCs may feel a bit weird (like the bit in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich enters his own brain), but bear with me.

Quote of the Week: James Surowiecki

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“But, if recent history has taught us anything, it’s that self-regulation doesn’t work in finance, and that worries about reputation are a weak deterrent to corporate malfeasance.”

-James Surowiecki, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

-As quoted in The New Yorker, July 30, 2012. Bankers Gone Wild

 

 

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.

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.

Nieman Journalism Lab
Deutsche Welle’s trying to use Africa’s mobile-phone boom to spread news by new means

“As the fastest-growing mobile market on the planet, Africa is facing huge opportunities — and distinct challenges — in news dissemination.

By the end of the year, it’s estimated that more than three-quarters of the population will be cell phone subscribers, including in places where literacy rates are low and electricity is unavailable. To better serve that demographic, German media giant Deutsche Welle is using over-the-phone voice technology to deliver news.

No Internet access necessary: Just dial a number to access the program Learning by Ear, an educational show for teenagers that mixes news and explainers having to do with health, politics, the economy, the environment, and social issues.”  READ MORE

Nothing Ordinary about these Extraordinary Women

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In thinking about global advocacy and the journey of norms in development, a recent article in the July/August 2012 issue of Fast Company by Ellen McGirt caught my attention. The feature story is about a new kind of women’s movement entitled “The League of Extraordinary Women”.  This loose network of 60 influential women, mostly Americans, includes artists, academics, business executives, government officials, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists, who are committed to changing the lives of girls and women around the world.  The initiatives they have developed focus on specific issues, including education, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, microloans, women’s rights, and mentoring to develop future leaders and entrepreneurs. The list of 60 includes a few high-profile and famous women such as Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, and Oprah Winfrey