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December 2012

#7 from 2012: Knowledge Management is Not Mere Dissemination

Paolo Mefalopulos's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on April 3, 2012
 

Knowledge, or the lack of, is often associated with the success or failure of development initiatives. For decades, communication’s main role was to fill the knowledge gap between what audiences knew and what they needed to know, with the assumption that this would induce change. We now know that this is seldom the case. In the modernization paradigm, media were expected to provide needed knowledge through messages that could fill knowledge gaps, build modern attitudes, and eventually shape behaviours. After years of under-delivering on their promises, development managers and decision-makers are increasingly realizing that it is not enough to have sound technical solutions and disseminate information in order to have audiences adopt the innovations.

#8 from 2012: How Does Your City Make You Feel?

Darshana Patel's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on April 4, 2012

Cities are often associated with mixed emotions. They can sometimes make us feel insecure, disconnected and lonely, even in a crowd; while, in other moments, they provide the setting for the happiest events in our lives. 

Whether we are conscious of it or not, urban spaces have a huge impact on how people participate in public life. Regular readers of this blog know that the original concept of the public sphere originates from the agora in ancient Greek city-states. The agora was a physical place where people gathered to deliberate and exchange their opinions – a true marketplace of ideas. The modern public sphere has now shifted more into the virtual realm, through various technologies and social media.

#9 from 2012: 'Why Nations Fail': The Constitutionalists Were Right All Along

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on May 1, 2012

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson have produced a magisterial book: ‘Why Nations Fail’. If you are interested in governance, nay, if you are interested in development, you should read it. I picked it up the week it was published and I could not put it down until it was done. That is how powerful and well-written it is. Yet it is over 500 pages long. In what follows, I am going to focus on what I liked about it and the thoughts it provoked in me as I read it.

First, I admire the simplicity and power of the thesis: what the historical evidence suggests is that nations with inclusive political and economic institutions are capable of sustained growth. Nations with extractive political and economic institutions are not. End of story. Even when an authoritarian state/regime appears to engineer economic growth for a while, it will hit a limit soon enough. Why? Human creativity, human inventiveness and necessary creative destruction of old ways of doing things cannot happen in authoritarian environments. Vested interests are able all too easily to block threatening entrants to the economy; property rights are not secure and so on. Those who control political institutions use their power to extract surpluses in often brutal ways. Key quote:

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.

Pew Research Center
Arab Publics Most Likely to Express Political Views Online Social Networking Popular Across Globe

“Social networking has spread around the world with remarkable speed. In countries such as Britain, the United States, Russia, the Czech Republic and Spain, about half of all adults now use Facebook and similar websites. These sites are also popular in many lower-income nations, where, once people have access to the internet, they tend to use it for social networking.

Meanwhile, cell phones have become nearly ubiquitous throughout much of the world, and people are using them in a variety of ways, including texting and taking pictures. Smart phones are also increasingly common – roughly half in Britain, the U.S., and Japan have one. Globally, most smart phone users say they visit social networking sites on their phone, while many get job, consumer, and political information.”  READ MORE

#10 from 2012: Technology Drives Citizen Participation and Feedback in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil

Tiago Carneiro Peixoto's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on May 29, 2012

A common theme in the field of open government refers to the use of technologies as a means to foster citizen engagement. A closer examination, however, shows that most initiatives facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICT) have been characterized by low levels of citizen engagement.

In Brazil, the state of Rio Grande do Sul stands out as an exception. For instance, in a recent web-based policy crowdsourcing initiative supported by the ICT4Gov Program of the World Bank Institute (WBI) and the Open Development Technology Alliance (ODTA), “Governador Pergunta” (“The Governor Asks”), citizens were invited to co-design solutions to address health challenges in the state. The process has generated over 1,300 proposals, with more than 120,000 votes cast on the prioritization of the different proposals.

Time to Put Institutions at the Center of Community Driven Development (CDD)?

Janmejay Singh's picture

Community driven development (CDD) has been a key operational strategy supported by the World Bank for more than a decade – averaging about $2 billion in lending every year and now covering more than 80 countries. By emphasizing empowerment and putting resources in the direct control of community groups, CDD’s rapid spread stems from its promise of achieving inclusive and sustainable poverty reduction. Yet despite its popularity, evidence on whether these programs work still remains limited and scattered. Recently, two significant efforts have been made by the Bank to pull together the different strands of evidence there is on CDD and provide a summary picture of what we know and what we don’t (please see What Have Been the Impacts of World Bank Community-Driven Program? and Localizing Development – Does Participation Work?). The reviews find on the positive end that CDD-type programs, when implemented properly, do well on delivering service delivery outcomes in sectors like health and education, improve resource sustainability, and help in constructing lower cost and better quality infrastructure.

Will CSOs Follow Bono’s Lead?

John Garrison's picture

International rock star Bono recently visited the World Bank where he was hosted by Bank President Jim Kim (see photo).  In a packed and electrifying session, moderated by CNN news anchor Isha Sesay, Bono and Kim talked about corruption, transparency, food security, and gender inclusion.  Bono called on the Bank to join civil society efforts to fight for the end of poverty.  While praising the Bank’s recent open development reforms, he noted that open data and transparency would “turbo-charge” the fight against extreme poverty as it will shine a light on this urgent problem.  He jokingly referred to Bank economists as “jedis for development” and said that he never thought he would say publicly “I want to go work for the Bank.”  As the head of One, Bono has been an effective advocate for greater aid to Africa over the years.  One reason for his success has been his willingness to work with both donor and recipient country governments to push for greater aid.  In the US, he has reached out to both Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress to lobby for foreign aid, and is credited for having convinced the Bush Administration to sharply expand funding for Africa and HIV/AIDS in the mid-2000s. 

Milanovic on Inequality (Continued): Implications for Politics, Alliances and Migration

Duncan Green's picture

In which, following on yesterday’s post,  Ricardo Fuentes and I decide to carry on chatting about the new Milanovic paper on inequality.

Duncan: Great intro to the Milanovic paper, Ricardo, but there’s plenty more juice to be had, I think. First let’s take a closer look at the graph you put up of change in global real income 1988-2008 (below). As well as the spike of the top 1% (and do we know whether the financial crisis has moderated or amplified the spike?), the bit that jumps out at me is the stagnation of incomes above the 75th percentile. For that portion of the world’s population in the top quarter of the income bracket, but below the super-rich 1%, the last 20 years have been pretty terrible.

Inequality and the Rise of the Global 1%: Great New Paper by Branko Milanovic

Duncan Green's picture

Ricardo Fuentes on an important new paper. Tomorrow, Ricardo and I continue the conversation.

The rich in the West are getting richer. Many countries have experienced a sharp concentration of incomes over the last three decades. The top 1% of Americans have doubled their share of national income (from 8 to 17%) since Ronald Reagan was inaugurated 32 years ago – see graph, source here. The elite in other advanced economies, including, Australia, the UK, Japan and Sweden, have also gotten a larger share of the pie. We have been able to understand the concentration of incomes at the national level thanks to the study of tax records by enterprising scholars such as Emmanuel Saez, Thomas Picketty and Sir Anthony Atkinson. But until recently, we didn’t know much about the global concentration of incomes (there’s no global tax collector with a similar database).

Quote of the Week: Paul Krugman

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Politics isn’t about policy details, it’s about broad thrusts and whether people think you’re on their side.”

-- Paul Krugman, Professor of Economics and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and op-ed columnist for The New York Times. In 2008, Krugman received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

How We Saved Agriculture, Fed the World and Ended Rural Poverty: Looking Back from 2050

Duncan Green's picture

As Oxfam’s two week online debate on the future of agriculture gets under way, John Ambler of Oxfam America imagines how it could all turn out right in the end.

It is now 2050.  Globally, we are 9 billion strong.  Only 20% of us are directly involved in agriculture, and poor country economies have diversified.  Yet we all have enough food.  Technological innovation has played its part, but increased production has been largely driven by institutional reform.  For example, industrialized countries have eliminated the subsidies that once undercut poor country agricultural production and exports.  Land reform has spread in Latin America.  Water reform has proceeded in Asia.  Irrigation, which once constituted 70% of freshwater use, now consumes less than 50%.  New agronomic practices are taking hold worldwide. The world is eating more healthily and locally.  The sustainability of our agricultural systems is taken as non-negotiable by the world’s politicians.

The key?  Institutional reform.  And the key to institutional reform has been placing citizens and primary producers in more central oversight and ownership positions, with governments stepping back and taking more responsibility for managing at watershed and ecosystem levels.

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.

Al Jazeera
Africa's digital election trackers

“Harry Kargbo barely slept the night before Sierra Leone's recent election for president. "I was so excited," he said. “I was up until 1 AM the night before. I was thinking, 'What will happen tomorrow? What will tomorrow look like?'"

Four hours later, Kargbo was up and out the door. Armed with nothing more than a mobile phone, he spent the next 10 hours navigating his way through a vehicle ban and police checkpoints, observing voting at polling stations around this West African country's capital, Freetown, and reporting on what he saw using the basic text messaging function on his phone."  READ MORE

Why ‘Why Nations Fail’ Fails (Mostly): Review of Acemoglu and Robinson - 2012's Big Development Book

Duncan Green's picture

Every now and then, a ‘Big Book on Development’ comes along that triggers a storm of arguments in my head (it’s a rather disturbing experience). One such is Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and James Robinson (Harvard). Judging by the proliferation of reviews and debates the book has provoked, my experience is widely shared.

First, what does the book say?

‘The focus of our book is on explaining world inequality’, which is essentially a phenomenon of the last 200 years (certainly at its current extreme levels) – the average income of a conquistador was only about twice that of a citizen of the Inca empire.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Maya Brahmam's picture

This week, the Financial Times reported that Jacob Rothschild bought into a peer-to-peer lending (P2P) company, Zopa, which allows people to lend to each other directly over the Internet. The Lending Club, a US-based P2P company, has processed more than $1 billion in loans and is preparing for an initial public offering.

Why has this sort of lending taken off? According to Rothschild, “Savers are looking for a way to get enhanced yield and at the same time, borrowers are looking for options where banks aren’t lending.” A recent post on Bloomberg noted that “Lending online became popular in China after a tightening of bank credit in 2010 following two years of stimulus spending to fight the global financial crisis.” Furthermore, the total amount that circulates as loans among friends, families and companies is $1.3 trillion – an amount equal to last year’s US budget deficit.

What Does a 'Rights-Based Approach' Look Like in Practice? A New Oxfam Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Sometimes it seems like the devil has all the best tunes, while the angels struggle to get their message across. In development, some of the most interesting and important concepts are rendered impenetrable to non-specialists by a morass of jargon.

Take human rights for example. Yesterday was the International Human Rights Day, but I for one, find that the dry, legalistic and jargon-filled language of the ‘human rights community’ often seems depressingly, well, inhuman. One example is, alas, Oxfam’s new ‘Learning Companion to the Right to be Heard Framework’, published yesterday to coincide with this year’s International Human Rights Day’s focus on ‘voice’.

But please read it, because under all the jargon-laden sentences about ‘governance components as mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in delivery of quality essential services’ there is some real and useful substance. Trust me.

Youth at the Forefront of Anti-Corruption Movement

Joseph Mansilla's picture

Jiwo Damar Anarkie from Indonesia is a young co-founder of the Future Leaders for Anti-Corruption (FLAC) a local NGO, and he uses storytelling and hand puppets to teach integrity to elementary school students.
 
"They're very young, at the stage where character building is still possible. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to do so," said Anarkie.
 
The organization did an initial road show in four schools in Jakarta, and later built partnerships with Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK, Corruption Eradication Commission), allowing the team to reach more schools in more cities as well as to train more storytellers and purchase more hand puppets.

The Spiral of Extremism

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Recent events made me think about a particular chicken and egg problem: What comes first, political polarization or media polarization? And how much damage can media polarization do in a political system? The answer to the first question is probably: they’re mutually reinforcing, but the media wouldn’t be polarized if there wasn’t a polarized audience to begin with. The answer to the second question is less obvious, but relevant to all political systems where the media can tip the scales toward one side or the other, or possibly one extreme or the other.

It is a commonplace by now that the fragmented media landscape in many countries, much amplified by online media, allows members of the audience to get exposed only to political content that they actually agree with. There is so much out there, you never really need to listen to the other side. In the recent Presidential elections in the United States, this led to a curious phenomenon. The media on the right, and also voters on the right that mainly focused on those media, were convinced that their candidate would win and were genuinely surprised when he didn’t. The media on the left played the same trick on its audience. The media in the middle covered the election as if it was a close race, which it wasn’t, in order not to scare part of their audience away. Overall, one had to turn to foreign media to lose some of the bias.

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.

Transparency International
2012 Corruption Perceptions Index

“The 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index Measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 176 countries and territories around the world.”  READ MORE

Mobile for Development
The Life Stories of base of pyramid mobile users in Africa and Asia

“If you use a mobile phone, and live on Earth, you probably have a prepaid SIM and live in the developing world [1]. But what do we know of you, your needs and habits of usage? The answer is ‘not a great deal’. And it’s been ‘not a great deal’ for a great deal of time.  It was with the hope of shining a modest light into this fug of ignorance that Mobile for Development visited South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Sri Lanka in June 2012 to find and speak to some of the world’s poorest to uncover firsthand testimony about how they used mobile and the impact it had on their lives.”  READ MORE

Keeping the Peace: A Tech-Savvy Approach to Nonviolence

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

What do stock trading and conflict early warning systems have in common? Interestingly, both rely heavily on mathematical patterns of recognition. According to Joseph Bock, Director of Graduate Studies at the Eck Institute of Global Health at the University of Notre Dame, scholars such as Phil Schrodt have been applying the mathematics of stock trading to detect and identify conflict before it happens.  This pattern recognition is part of a process that enables local citizens, NGOs, and humanitarian workers to use cell phones, radio, and online forums to help detect and prevent religious, ethnic, and politically motivated violence.  A few weeks ago, Prof. Bock came to the World Bank to talk about his new book, The Technology of Nonviolence, where he discussed the use of social media and other forms of technology to both detect and respond to outbreaks of deadly conflict.

How to Get a Job in Development - An FP2P Guide

Duncan Green's picture

There’s nothing like a lecture tour to bring home just how many bright young people are desperate to work in development, and how hard we make it for them (is this a deliberate form of institutional Darwinism, in which only the most determined survive?)  So I’ve gone back over a few previous bits of advice from me and others, to produce this revamped FP2P guide to throwing your life away getting a job in development.

I won’t give advice on what to study – if you’re reading this, it’s probably too late anyway. But in any case, qualifications are not enough – you need to get involved in organising relevant activities at your university, depending on your interests (e.g. Engineers Without Borders, Amnesty International, assorted International Development committees). You’ll learn a lot, make great contacts and friends, and develop skills that NGOs prize (organisational abilities, putting on events, writing, debating etc).

Then, decide what kind of work you are interested in. Research? Programme work on the ground? Emergencies (conflict refugees, disaster reconstruction etc)? Advocacy and lobbying? Public campaigning?

Quote of the Week: Donald Rumsfeld

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know."

Donald Rumsfeld, Former United States Secretary of Defense, Founder of Rumsfeld Foundation.