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November 2012

What are the Ingredients of Democratic Breakthroughs?

Duncan Green's picture

The United States Institute of Peace has a very interesting paper out on ‘Democratic Breakthroughs: the Ingredients of Successful Revolts.’ It's a bit reductionist, but identifies some potentially informative patterns. This from the summary:

The cases of successful breakthrough examined in this study are the Soviet Union in 1991 and Russia in 1993, Poland in 1989, Serbia in 2000, Ukraine in 2004, Indonesia by 1999, Chile in 1988, and South Africa by 1996. Cases of failed and then ultimately successful democratic transition are Ghana by 2000, Mexico by 2000, South Korea by 1987, and Turkey by 1983. Finally, the cases of failed transition examined are Algeria in 1991, Iran in 1979, China in 1989, and Azerbaijan in 2005.

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.

ICFJ
African News Innovation Winners Focus on Citizen Engagement, Investigative Tools and Whistleblower Security

“Twenty African media innovators will receive a total of $1 million to develop digital projects that improve the quality of news across the continent, as part of the first African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC).

Many recipients concentrated on enhancing citizen journalism, investigative reporting and source protection.

ANIC is the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa. It is designed to spur solutions to the business, distribution and workplace challenges facing the African news industry. The contest was organized by the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, and managed by Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein. The fellowships are administered by the International Center for Journalists.”  READ MORE

Governance 2.0: Can Social Media Fueled "2.0 Web" Really Improve Governance?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Web 2.0 is improving governance, with or without the help of the government in question, and irrespective of whether the country is developed or not.

Throwing traditional wisdom to the winds, the Web 2.0 story is continuing to unfold in a way that was not predicted by researchers and experts of the development community and outside. Recently there have been more than a few examples related to the citizen-fueled proliferation of news, occurring independently of the Government, (and in some countries, even inspite of the opposition of the Government).

From Egypt to Syria, with the very start of the situation, social networks played a role in disseminating news across the world. Twitter, Facebook and blogs providing fascinating live coverage of the various uprisings across the world. Citizens are managing to circumvent any attempts to block Twitter, and often flood the site with their versions of the breaking stories. All major social networking tools are in full use, with Twitter leading the attack. Facebook (status updates and groups), Flickr (photographs), YouTube (videos), Blogger.com, and others communicating the ongoing events. (Of course, this is if you accept that democracy and good governance are highly correlated)

Media (R)evolutions: Global ICT Developments 2001-2011

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.

Lant Pritchett v the Randomistas on the Nature of Evidence - Is a Wonkwar Brewing?

Duncan Green's picture

Recently I had a lot of conversations about evidence. First, one of the periodic retreats of Oxfam senior managers reviewed our work on livelihoods, humanitarian partnership and gender rights. The talk combined some quantitative work (for example the findings of our new ‘effectiveness reviews’), case studies, and the accumulated wisdom of our big cheeses. But the tacit hierarchy of these different kinds of knowledge worried me – anything with a number attached had a privileged position, however partial the number or questionable the process for arriving at it. In contrast, decades of experience were not even credited as ‘evidence’, but often written off as ‘opinion’. It felt like we were in danger of discounting our richest source of insight – gut feeling.

In this state of discomfort, I went off for lunch with Lant Pritchett (right – he seems to have forgiven me for my screw-up of a couple of years ago). He’s a brilliant and original thinker and speaker on any number of development issues, but I was most struck by the vehemence of his critique of the RCT randomistas and the quest for experimental certainty. Don’t get me (or him) wrong, he thinks the results agenda is crucial in ‘moving from an input orientation to a performance orientation’ and set out his views as long ago as 2002 in a paper called ‘It pays to be ignorant’, but he sees the current emphasis on RCTs as an example of the failings of ‘thin accountability’ compared to the thick version.

Quote of the Week: Zainab Salbi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Where has change ever been clean and nice? It has always been messy and painful.”

-- Zainab Salbi, Humanitarian, Activist, Writer, Media Voice, and Founder of Women for Women International. Ms. Salbi received the 2012 Barclays’ Women of the Year Award.

As quoted in the Financial Times on November 16, 2012, At home : Zainab Salbi, by Shannon Bond.

For Political Communication, the Age of Nerds and Big Data is Here

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sophisticated campaign communication (an important part of political communication) is a field both invented and dominated by American practitioners and scholars. When I ask my associates in the field why this is so, the reason they usually give me is the sheer quantity and frequency of democratic elections in the American political system. Therefore, they point out, human and material resources have been poured into the science and the art of winning election campaigns.  What is important for our purposes is that  the practices of American political communicators tend to spread worldwide... like much else in American culture. Politicians in newly democratizing polities have for decades now invited American political consultants to help them run and win elections. Local specialists have also mushroomed, many of them trained by the American universities who offer amazingly good degrees in communication, particularly political communication. If you are interested in campaign communication as a global phenomenon, a good place to start is Fritz Plasser's Global Political Campaigning: A Worldwide Analysis of Campaign Professionals and Their Practices (2002).

My bet is that at least two aspects of the recently concluded presidential election campaign in the United States -- a spectacular showcase of political communication at work -- will prove influential globally. President Obama was re-elected and it was a big win, but for campaign communication two methods won big victories of their own and they are likely to be flattered with imitation worldwide. They are as follows:

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.

CIMA
Mapping Digital Media

“The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project includes data on how these changes affect news about political, economic, and social affairs.  Visit the Open Society Foundations’ website to see the full version of each country’s report.

CIMA worked with the Open Society Foundations to identify the most important digital media indicators in the series of reports. The mapping tool allows for the visualization of these indicators from each report and enables the comparison of digital media penetration in various countries. Please note that some data from the reports has been recalculated to ensure that comparable data is presented in the map.”  READ MORE

Linda Raftree
ICT for WASH and public service delivery

“In June, two organisations focussed on using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in the water and sanitation sector joined forces in Cape Town. SeeSaw, a social enterprise that customises ICT to support sanitation and water providers and iComms, a University of Cape Town research unit (Information for Community Oriented Mu nicipal Services) co-hosted a two day event to look at how ICT tools are changing the way that public services function in developing countries.

There are growing expectations that harnessing ICT intelligently can bring about radical improvements in the way that health, education and other sectors function, particularly in developing countries. SeeSaw and iComms wanted to look at this in more detail – and to build on the open sharing of experience to provide general principles to those planning to harness ICT for public service delivery. Their overarching goal is to help practitioners cut through much of the complexity and hype surrounding ICT usage and give them a robust set of guidelines with which to plan and negotiate partnerships and projects on the ground.”  READ MORE

Doing Development Differently - A Chimera?

Maya Brahmam's picture

A lot has recently been written about “doing development differently” from crowdsourcing the next Millennium Development Goals (a la ONE’s Jamie Drummond) to the Copenhagen Consensus and their 16 investments with the biggest payoffs for development (listed here).

Enter Ha-Joon Chang, a noted Cambridge economist, who sees development as a different game altogether –the analogy he uses is that current development thinking is like “Hamlet without the prince.” According to Duncan Green’s recent blog post, Chang believes that with all the focus on health, education, poverty reduction, we are missing the elephant in the room (the prince): We are missing what poor countries really need, which is “productive capabilities” and an important focus on upgrading skills and industry, which has largely been set aside since the 1980s by donors and international organizations.

Leveraging New Tools to Report Fraud and Corruption: The World Bank Launches its Integrity App

Stephen Zimmermann's picture

The World Bank has been making increasing use of Apps to make its information and data more accessible via mobile devices. The launch of the Integrity App expands the World Bank’s open data universe, and - perhaps even more excitingly - enables users to engage as 'citizen corruption fighters' to help protect the integrity of its projects, and ensure that development funds are used for their intended purposes.

So what does the new World Bank Integrity App do? It enables users to report concerns of fraud or corruption in Bank-financed projects. As with all such reports received, these are handled by the World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency, a specialized unit responsible for investigating and pursuing sanctions in cases of fraud and corruption in World Bank-financed projects.

Users of the Integrity App can identify projects (by name, country, sector or key word) and submit a confidential report of their concerns. Other features include attaching an image or recording the location of the complaint through the optional use of GPS. Users can also view the World Bank’s integrity policies.

India's Fight for the Right to Education

Duncan Green's picture

Education is fine example of the strengths and weaknesses of judicial activism in India. The Right to Education (RTE) Act was passed in 2009, arising out of constitutional amendment in 1999 that redefined the right to life as including education (!). Private schools challenged the act, especially its requirement that they reserve 25% of places for lower castes, but the Supreme Court upheld it.

To see what all this means on the ground, I duck out of my boring conference and head for Madanpur,  a colony for slum dwellers ‘rehabilitated’ in 2000 – i.e. their previous homes were steamrollered and they were shunted to the margins of Delhi. Its current population of 145,000 earns income from construction, domestic work etc – almost entirely in the informal economy.

Oxfam India’s partner, the slightly ungrammatical EFRAH (Empowerment for Rehabilitation, Academic and Health) is an RTE activist NGO working with schools to implement the Act – part support, part watchdog (‘they like us, and they are afraid of us’). There is plenty to work on, as the gap between the Act and reality is great: it mandates school management committees with equal teacher/parent representation, but there are none to be seen in Madanpur.

It’s Not about the Technology, It’s about the People: Evaluating the Impact of ICT Programs

Shamiela Mir's picture

How can we better design ICT programs for development and evaluate their impact on improving peoples’ well-being? A new approach, the Alternative Evaluation Framework (AEF) takes into account multiple dimensions of peoples’ economic, social and political lives rather than simply focusing on access, expenditure and infrastructure of ICT tools. This new approach is presented in How-To Notes, Valuing Information: A Framework for Evaluating the Impact of ICT Programs, authored by Bjorn-Soren Gigler, a Senior Governance Specialist at the World Bank Institute’s Innovation Practice.

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 Atlantic
How Social Media Could Revolutionize Third-World Cities

“When a housewife in a working-class district of Mexico City gets fed up with the lack of working lights in her local park, she logs on to Twitter and complains directly to the city's mayor.

In an age of incessant digital chatter -- and in a city of 22 million -- this might seem futile. But the mayor, who has more than 600,000 Twitter followers, replies to her complaint within hours. He orders the city's public works department to take action. Several weeks later, he posts photos of new lights being installed in the park and thanks the woman for bringing the problem to his attention.

In fact, the mayor's Twitter feed reads like a gritty chronicle of life in a megacity. Potholes, of course, but also complaints and announcements about garbage collection, crime, traffic lights, construction delays, power outages, water supplies, bike lanes, flooded sewers, corruption, air quality, and the proverbial rude bureaucrat.”  READ MORE

India's Middle Class Debate Continued: Should NGOs be Looking in the Mirror? Guest post from Bipasha Majumder

Duncan Green's picture

On my recent trip to India, I discovered some talented bloggers – here’s Bipasha Majumder, Oxfam India’s Communications Officer in Mumbai, writing in a purely personal capacity on the Great Middle Class Debate. She also writes a personal blog.

I have had discussions and I have had heated discussions.  Sometimes I have just let the question float in the air, sat back and observed what others had to say.

Whichever way you look at it, one thing is very clear. The great Indian rising middle class is just not bothered. They are largely happy and keen to contribute to the ‘growing’ economy. But when it comes to any kind of contribution to a cause, especially those related to poverty, there is a big wall of apathy around them.

India's New Middle Classes - Friends of Progress or Apolitical Mall-Rats?

Duncan Green's picture

One of the topics that kept coming up during my recent trip with Oxfam India was the role of the rising middle classes. We had a great debate with Aseem Prakash from Jindal University, who is in the middle of a paper on this (I’ll link when it’s published). According to Aseem, different definitions yield numbers for India’s middle classes ranging from 5 million ($10-$20 per day) to 214 million ($2-$4 a day). What’s not disputed, however, is that the numbers are rising rapidly as India’s economy continues to boom.

Behind the numbers are some increasingly complex dynamics, as a new commercial middle class, including rising numbers of so-called ‘lower caste’ entrepreneurs, joins the post-independence middle class of mainly dominant-caste government technocrats who placed their faith in the power of the state to lead India’s rise.

Media (R)evolutions: Facebook's 955 Million Users

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.

How a "Painless" Amount Can Change the World

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Depending on which country you live in, if you bought an airline ticket lately you may have saved a life without even knowing it. A number of countries have implemented a small airfare tax (also referred to as the “solidarity tax”) to raise funds to fight three of the world’s deadliest diseases: HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. In France, for example, air travelers pay an additional €1 in tax on domestic tickets and if in business class, €10. With aid falling, innovative finance mechanisms, such as microdonations, will be crucial in solving serious global problems. As quoted in a recent article in the Financial Times, Philippe Douste-Blazy, the man behind the airfare tax (also the former French Minister of Foreign Affairs), says that “certain sectors have benefited enormously from globalization: financial transactions, tourism and mobile phones. We need to tax an economic activity that’s only done by the rich, and tax it so lightly that nobody will notice.” He says the additional tax travelers pay is “absolutely painless!”

How to Evaluate Bias and the Messages in Photos

Susan Moeller's picture

Can you tell if a news outlet, an NGO or a government is picturing a person, an event or an issue fairly?  It can be very hard to assess visual “balance” when photos are scattered across a website, and appear sporadically over a span of time.  There may be an anecdotal impression that there is bias, but visual bias has been very difficult to document.

The social media site Pinterest is now making documentation possible.

Have you heard of Pinterest?  According to the site itself, it’s “a Virtual Pinboard” that lets users “organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.”  Doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of site that would help journalists or academics, governments or NGOs, does it?  But Pinterest is turning out to be a stealth tool for researchers.

What Would a Global Campaign on Production and Industrial Policy Look Like?

Duncan Green's picture

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan (as well as friend) of Cambridge economist Ha-Joon Chang (right), whose most recentbook, 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism should be at the top of any policy wonk’s reading list. Last Saturday, he gave a brilliant keynote at the annual conference of the UK Development Studies Association. Its title, ‘Bringing Production Back into Development’, was a deliberate challenge to those in the room, as he argued that the discussion on development has become like Hamlet without the Prince.

The Prince, according to Ha-Joon is ‘productive capabilities’ – the steady upgrading in skills and industry that has characterized virtually every successful experience of national development, including of course his native Korea. From Adam Smith to the 1980s, the consensus was that such upgrading was the core business of development. No longer.

Accountability is Based on Relationships, but Data Helps Too

Fletcher Tembo's picture

"Imagine this: A health care worker or parent in a village, with a laptop or mobile device, can access development knowledge in real time through geocoding and geomapping. She can see which schools have feeding programs and which go without, and what is happening to local health... She can upload her own data, throw light on the likely effect of new interventions and mobilise the community to demand better or more targeted health programs." Robert Zoellick, Former President of the World Bank

I found this quote while attending a World Bank facilitated discussion on open data and development at the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meetings in Tokyo, Japan, a few weeks ago. There, and elsewhere, increased interest in the potential of open data is spreading from high level ‘open’ initiatives, such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), to tools for enabling local accountability and service provision. These projects aim to introduce greater availability of the most needed ingredient for citizen engagement with their governments: access to public information.

The common assumption in all these initiatives is that ordinary citizen, armed with copious information, can mobilise others and generate resolve to demand better public services. Implicit behind this assumed ‘demand’ is that information will be put to work in an ‘us versus them’ process of holding government to account (us being the mobilised, informed community, and ‘them’ being the holders or monopolisers of public information, often governments).

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.

UN
Over two billion people now connected to Internet but digital divide remains wide

“While citing the rapid development and growth of the Internet, a top United Nations official today urged greater efforts to bridge the ongoing digital divide and ensure that everyone around the world can harness its benefits.

There were 2.3 billion Internet users worldwide at the end of 2011, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, said in his address to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which opened in Baku, Azerbaijan. In addition, mobile broadband reached more than 1 billion subscriptions, while the use of fixed broadband was estimated at 590 million subscriptions.

“While this progress is surely significant, we have a long way to go in our collective efforts to bridge the digital divide,” he told participants, noting that only a quarter of inhabitants in the developing world were online by the end of 2011.”  READ MORE

TEDxSendai - Engaging Differently

Maya Brahmam's picture

TEDxSendai allowed us to engage differently with a broader public around a key development topic. We thought the TEDx approach was worth exploring for several reasons:

  • The TEDx platform – licensed by the TED Conference – has great presence and a great community of people who are interested in new ideas.
  • The World Bank’s own move to open data, knowledge and solutions aligned well with the “ideas worth spreading” philosophy of TED events.
  • TEDx’s multidisciplinary approach allowed us to engage with different voices and more creatively with a broader audience.

'Bricifying' International NGOs is Hard Work: The Challenges Facing Oxfam India

Duncan Green's picture

I spent last week trying to understand an intriguing experiment. About five years ago, Oxfam GB’s 'white men in shorts' left India, along with all the other Oxfam affiliates, and a new, completely Indian-run Oxfam India took over. All part of ‘Bricification’ within the Oxfam family (there’s an Oxfam Brazil in the pipeline too).

So what’s changed? After a period of reflection Oxfam India has opted for a strategy combining programming with increased levels of advocacy in areas such as smallholder agriculture & climate change, natural resource management, right to education and health, violence against women and women’s empowerment, along with a hefty dose of emergencies work and disaster risk reduction. Its two ‘emerging themes’ are urban poverty and ‘India and the World’ – for example the impact of Indian investment in Africa, or India’s role in the G20.

But it hasn’t been easy. The apparently unanswerable political logic of ‘Indianizing Oxfam’ has faced some pretty steep challenges, as I found out in a consultation with partners from Indian civil society. These come in two broad areas: political and financial.

Quotes of the Week: On India's Media Boom

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“For the Indian media, it is unquestionably the best of times and it is also, unfortunately, the worst of times.”

--TN Ninan, chairman and editorial director of BSL group

“Given its size, India presents the greatest challenge to the view that diverse and often critical media will hold power to account.”

-- John Lloyd , FT contributing editor and director of journalism at the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute


As quoted in the Financial Times, October 19, 2012. A week inside India's media boom, by John Lloyd

India's Slums: How Change Happens and the Challenge of Urban Programming

Duncan Green's picture

Got back from a fascinating week visiting Oxfam India last week, so the next few days’ post will be on India, sadly the world leader in poverty (by a long way). One of the areas that Oxfam is keen to develop there is its work on urban poverty, where it already works with migrant labourers, waste pickers, domestic workers, and on issues such as housing and access to identity papers. So I spent a couple of days visiting programmes and talking to partners in the slums of Delhi and Lucknow. (I prepped by reading Behind the Beautiful Forevers – wonderful book)

I know they’re grim to live in, but I have to confess to really enjoying visits to urban ‘informal settlements’, especially at dusk, with that particular sense of intimacy as cooking smells and firesmoke drift through the air and domestic workers, rickshaw pullers and street vendors return at the end of another hardscrabble day to grab an hour or two to socialize and relax.

But today, we’re encroaching on that precious leisure time, chatting to an animated group of slum leaders, mainly women, on the edge of Lucknow (see pic). Here, an Oxfam partner, the Vigyan Foundation, is promoting community organization to demand identity papers, water and sanitation, and access to health and education.

Twitter vs. Facebook: Bringing Transparency to the Middle East

Tanya Gupta's picture

Think about it:

  • Twitter limits all "conversations" to 140 words
  • Twitter allows privacy whereas Facebook is based on discovery of relationships
  • Twitter relationships can be one way, the way real relationships often are (we all “know” President Obama but he knows very few of us) whereas Facebook is always a two way street

 

Wherever democracy is absent or weak, for example in a dictatorship or a monarchy, there could be a high price to pay for any open expressed dissension.  Twitter allows anonymity for those who push for transparency and democracy.  Although one can exist without the other, studies show that the two are highly linked.

A 2011 study from the University of Washington entitled “Opening Closed Regimes: What Was the Role of Social Media During the Arab Spring?” showed that social media, via Twitter, played a vital role during the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt.  The authors said “for the first time we have evidence confirming social media’s critical role in the Arab Spring”.  The project created a database of information collected from Twitter, analyzing more than 3 million Tweets based on keywords used, and tracking which countries thousands of individuals tweeted from during the revolutions.

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.

Mashable
How to Use Mobile Devices to Solve Global Problems

"In 1999, half of the world had either never used a phone or had to travel more than two hours to reach the nearest one. Years later, mobile devices are being used in extremely innovative ways to connect and empower people around the world.

'It's not about being connected,' said Larry Irving, co-founder of the Mobile Alliance for Global Good, at the 2012 Social Good Summit on Sunday. 'It's about being connected with a purpose.'" READ MORE

Transparencia Mexicana
A New Role for Citizens in Public Procurement

"Globalisation has the potential to raise living standards for citizens around the world, as well as bearinthe risk of excluding people from those benefits. Ensuring that globalisation contributes to a more equitable and sustainable form of economic growth requires the participation of citizens in monitoring how the global economy is changing and how it impacts the life of people.

The Arab Spring has shown the power of people in their potential to change political systems. Transparency International, the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, aspires to support the emergence of a broad-based social movement standing up to corruption, especially where it violates human rights and threatens the most vulnerable. In Transparency International’s Strategy 2015, we underline that sustainable change requires broad public support. A widespread public engagement will reinforce the demand for solid institutions and provide a strong mandate for political leadership to succeed in their commitments.”  READ MORE