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September 2013

Investments to End Poverty Launched: A Goldmine of Killer Facts and Infographics

Duncan Green's picture

Last week saw the launch of the killer fact-tastic inaugural Investments to End Poverty report by Development Initiatives. The report makes the case for aid as an essential part of ‘getting to zero’ on absolute poverty by 2030, but as is increasingly the norm, the report locates aid among the much wider issue of development-related resource flows, both domestic and international. In speed reading mode, I have not yet read the full 330 page monster, but an advance peak at the 10 page ‘highlights’ document provides a goldmine of stats and infographics for many other purposes into the bargain. Some of the ones that jumped out at me:

Depth of African Poverty (see map)
 

Is Inequality All About the Tails? The Palma, the Gini and Post-2015

Duncan Green's picture

Alex Cobham and Andy Sumner bring us up to date on the techie-but-important debate over how to measure inequality

It’s about six months since we triggered a good wonk-tastic discussion here on Duncan’s blog on how to measure inequality. We proposed a new indicator and called it ‘the Palma’ after Chilean economist Gabriel Palma, on whose work it was based. We suggested the Palma would complement, or perhaps even replace the (in our view) less useful Gini index. Here we bring things up to date with a look at inequality in the post-2015 debate, and present some further findings on the relative merits of Gini and Palma, based on our new paper.

First, post-2015 and all that.

Last week the Center for Global Development held an event in Washington DC to discuss the best income inequality measures for post-2015, with both a technical panel (video) comparing alternative measures, including the median, the Palma, the Commitment to Equity indicator and a multidimensional approach.

There was also a ‘user’ panel (video) with wonks from the IADB, IMF, Oxfam, UNICEF and the World Bank, discussing the policy need and the scope for implementation. While panelists and other participants did not agree on the idea of a post-2015 inequality goal or target (surprise, surprise), there was near unanimity on the importance of measuring income inequality, and doing so better than we do now.

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.

Malala Wows Us...Again
HuffPost

“She was shot point blank by the Taliban simply for wanting to go to school, but Malala Yousufzai still believes that she is the “luckiest,” the ardent activist told a crowd at the Mashable Social Good Summit on Monday.

Joined by her father, Shiza Shahid, CEO of the Malala Fund, and Elizabeth Gore, resident entrepreneur at the UN Foundation, Malala shared how she’s grown since she was attacked by the terrorist organization in Pakistan 10 months ago and how her supporters have motivated her to continuing fighting for the rights of girls.”  READ MORE
 

Science of Meetings? Yes There Is One

Tanya Gupta's picture

We have all been in meetings where we felt nothing was getting done.  In the corporate world, the cost of inefficient meetings has been recognized. According to a recent CBS news report, professionals lose four work days each month in meetings and that out of 11 million meetings that occur in the U.S. every day, half the meeting time is actually wasted.   There have been a lot of efforts to make meetings more productive including efficient meeting templates, ground rules for meetings (pdf) etc. However, a scientific, data-driven approach to understanding “soft” phenomenon such as a meeting has until now been rare.
  
A paper “Learning about Meetings” (pdf) by Been Kim and Cynthia Rudin at MIT is one of the first such efforts to employ a data-driven approach on the science of meetings (in this case, meetings that are held to arrive at a decision and not to brainstorm) to learn more about how meetings are conducted. Meetings are difficult to assess as there are social signals and interpersonal dynamics that are difficult to capture.  Kim and Rudin, using AMI data show evidence that it is possible to automatically detect when during the meeting a key decision is taking place, that there are common patterns in the way social dialogue acts are interspersed throughout a meeting, that at the time key decisions are made, the amount of time left in the meeting can be predicted from the amount of time that has passed, and, finally, that it is often possible to predict whether a proposal during a meeting will be accepted or rejected based entirely on the language used by the speaker.
 
Some particularly interesting take-aways are:

You Need Beautiful Art to Understand Data. Really, You Do.

Susan Moeller's picture

It’s tempting for those who work with numbers and spreadsheets, for those who live by the bottom line and whose minds run along quantitative paths to think that art exists for its own sake. It’s tempting to think of art as something nice for the wall, pleasant to look at, maybe even restorative or inspiring in its impact, but ultimately not essential to the running of the world.

Yet consider the work of University of Maryland Computer Science Prof. Ben Shneiderman. Shneiderman is the inventor of treemaps — those graphics that chart often vast quantities of hierarchical data, such as electronic health records.  He’s also famous for the eponymous “Shneiderman’s Mantra” of visual data analysis: look at an overview of the data first, then zoom and filter it, then, on demand, consider the details. 

Quote of the Week: Jenna Wortham

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"But the iPhone 5C, which is only marginally better than its predecessors, is designed to make people feel good about buying what is essentially an old phone, repackaged in colorful plastic. The psychology of the new, in other words. Because for better or worse, Apple isn’t just about ownership — it’s about shownership, and inspiring desire and jealousy in those around you that you’ve got the latest device."

- Jenna Wortham , Technology Reporter for The New York Times

For Open Governments, Does Virtue Merely Attract Punishment?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A while back, a friend and colleague here at the World Bank told me of an experience that bothered him. He had been talking to a minister in an African country where the government had been making strenuous efforts to become more open and transparent. It had passed a Freedom of Information law, made quantities of government information available, liberalized the media sector, thus creating a vibrant, even raucous public sphere…all the things people like me urge developing country governments to do. In a couple of neighboring countries, said the minister, the governments had gone in the opposite direction. They had restricted access to official information, clamped down on the press, and were generally thuggish towards the media, civil society activists and so on.

 What the minister asked my colleague is roughly this:
 

‘Can you guess which government is being painted as corrupt and incompetent by local and international NGOs and the local and international media? Ours!’

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.

Trading Privilege for Privation, Family Hits a Nerve in South Africa
The New York Times

“Regina Matshega was gossiping with a neighbor over a fence between their shacks in the Phomolong squatter camp last month when a very unexpected sight suddenly popped into view: two ruddy-cheeked white South Africans, a man and a woman, with two towheaded toddlers running at their heels.

‘I couldn’t believe my eyes,’ Ms. Matshega said. ‘What are white people doing here? They live in the rich places. They never come this side.’”  READ MORE
 

Speed Reading Rocks, So Why Don’t We All Learn It?

Duncan Green's picture

The best day’s training I ever did was a speed reading course, offered by DFID (I had a short stint there about ten years ago). It helps me every day – when was the last time you could say that about a training course?

The first part of the course covered what you normally think of as speed reading – reading faster. When you read unaided, your eye jumps backwards and forwards, as well as up and down between the lines. By simply using a guide (a pencil, or one of those plastic coffee stirrers) and moving it under the line as you read, you can double your speed without missing content (we tested ourselves at the beginning and end of the day, and it was true).

But you have to concentrate really hard and take regular breaks, and you have to avoid saying the words aloud in your head (which slows you down). Since then, I have occasionally tried it, but it hasn’t stuck.

The second part of the training seemed less significant at the time, but has had a much bigger impact: how to approach a document. Unless you’re reading for pleasure, you should not just assume that you start at the beginning and read through to the end. The document has to earn your time.

That means:

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Growth Rates by Region

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.

This week's Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Growth Rates by Region


















 

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): Challenges for Poverty Reduction and Service Delivery in the Rural-Urban Continuum

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

The progress in achieving the target set for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) continues to be diverse across goals and regions. The goals aim at actualizing a universal standard of being free from grinding poverty, being educated and healthy and having ready access to clean water and sanitation. While progress has lagged for education and health related MDGs, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has indeed fallen. To accelerate further progress in the latter, development strategies have to attempt to increase not only the rate of growth but also the share of income going to the poorest section of the population along the rural-urban continuum.

Economic projections for developing countries prepared by the World Bank state that approximately 970 million people will continue in 2015 to live below $1.25 a day. This would be equivalent to 15.5% of the population in the developing world. Herein, the pertinent challenge of reducing extreme poverty through creation of new income opportunities and better delivery of basic services largely remains in rural areas. In addition, such poverty is concentrated more in Asia (East and South) and Sub Saharan Africa with 38% and 46% of their poor residing in rural areas respectively. Thus, the task of effective rural development remains daunting. But the latter has to be operationalized and implemented holistically, and more importantly, in context of the complexities posed by the rural -urban continuum.

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum IV – Institutional Partnerships

John Garrison's picture

As can be expected, this last step on the civil society engagement continuum has been the most difficult for the World Bank to achieve over the years.  This is because institutional partnerships necessarily involve common goals, shared decision making, and even long term relations.  While there are a number of examples of Bank – CSO partnerships in the areas of education, health, and environment, many of these are still ad hoc and pilot in nature.  Nonetheless, as the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 shows, this period represented a watershed in terms of promoting institutional partnerships by providing CSOs with a seat at the decision making table in several funding mechanisms.

During the past three years, the Bank did enter into new partnerships with CSOs on number of fronts.   In the area of access to information and open data, for instance, the Bank held joint training workshops on geo-mapping and collaborated on data collection on several programs such as Open Aid Partnership (see photo). In the environmental area, the Bank launched the Global Partnership for Oceans (GPO) in 2012 which includes more than 100 governments, CSOs, and business partners. To date, some 27 CSOs are supporting the initiative, including Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, and World Wildlife Fund.  The Bank also established partnerships with Foundations in a number of areas such as health and education, support to fragile states, and gender mainstreaming.

Quote of the Week: Julia Gillard

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Losing power is felt physically, emotionally, in waves of sensation, in moments of acute distress. I know now that there are the odd moments of relief as the stress ekes away and the hard weight that felt like it was sitting uncomfortably between your shoulder blades slips off. It actually takes you some time to work out what your neck and shoulders are supposed to feel like.
 
I know too that you can feel you are fine but then suddenly someone’s words of comfort, or finding a memento at the back of the cupboard as you pack up, or even cracking jokes about old times, can bring forth a pain that hits you like a fist, pain so strong you feel it in your guts, your nerve endings.”
 

Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia who served from 2010-2013
As quoted in The Guardian, September 13, 2013, Julia Gillard: Losing power 'hits you like a fist' - exclusive

When do Transparency and Accountability Initiatives have impact?

Duncan Green's picture

So having berated ODI about opening up access to its recent issue of the Development Policy Review on Transparency and Accountability Initiatives (TAIs), I really ought to review the overview piece by John Gaventa and Rosemary McGee, which they’ve made freely available until December.

The essay is well worth reading. It unpicks the fuzzy concept of TAIs and then looks at the evidence for what works and when. First a useful typology of TAIs:

‘Service delivery is perhaps the field in which TAIs have been longest applied, including Expenditure Tracking Surveys, citizen report cards, score cards, community monitoring and social audits.

By the late 1990s, moves to improve public finance management the world over led to the development of budget accountability and transparency as a sector in its own right…. An array of citizen-led budget TAIs has developed, including participatory budgeting; sector-specific budget monitoring (for example, gender budgeting, children’s budgets); public-expenditure monitoring through social audits, participatory audits and tracking surveys; and advocacy for budget transparency (for example, the International Budget Partnership (IBP)’s Open Budget Index). Many of these initiatives focus ‘downstream’ on how public funds are spent; less work focuses on T and A in revenue-generation, although this is growing with recent work on tax justice.

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.

Smartphones could provide weather data in poor nations
African Brains

“Smartphones can now be used to collect weather data such as air temperatures through WeatherSignal, a crowdsourcing app developed by UK start-up OpenSignal.

This helps crowd source real-time weather forecasts and could one day help collect climate data in areas without weather stations, its developers say.

Once installed, the app automatically collects data and periodically uploads them to a server.

The app’s ability to record air temperature is based upon the discovery that the temperature of a smartphone battery correlates closely to the surrounding air temperature, published in Geophysical Research Letters this month (13 August).” READ MORE
 

Ups and Downs in the Struggle for Accountability – Four New Real Time Studies

Duncan Green's picture

OK, we’ve had real time evaluations, we’ve done transparency and accountability initiatives, so why not combine the two? The thoroughly brilliant International Budget Partnership is doing just that, teaming up with academic researchers to follow in real time the ups and downs of four TAIs in Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Tanzania. Read the case study summaries (only four pages each, with full versions if you want to go deeper), if you can, but below I’ll copy most of the overview blog by IBP research manager Albert van Zyl.

By following the work rather than tidying it all up with a neat but deceitful retrospective evaluation, they record the true messiness of building social contracts between citizens and states: the ups and downs, the almost-giving-up-and-then-winning, the crucial roles of individuals, the importance of scandals and serendipity.

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum III – Operational Collaboration

John Garrison's picture

Operational collaboration between the World Bank and CSOs has grown significantly over the past two decades in such areas of health, education, and environment. Yet, because it largely occurs at the country level and within Bank-finance projects, this expanding collaboration is often not fully visible in Washington. As the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 demonstrates, important operational collaboration not only continued to grow over the past three years, but expanded to areas such as food security, disaster recovery, and access to information.  
 
In response to the global food crisis which began in 2008, for instance, CSOs in Africa and Asia participated in the delivery of government programs in 16 countries (through seed distribution, school feeding, and agricultural production programs) financed by the Bank’s $2 billion Global Food Crisis Response Program (GFRP).  CSOs were also asked to participate in the governance structure of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) which has allocated more than $400 million to projects in 12 countries.

Provocative Voices: Profiles in Blogging

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Inspired. That's how I felt after reading Profiles in Blogging, a new report published by the Center for International Media Assistance that examines how bloggers around the world practice their craft. Christopher Connell, an independent writer, editor, and photographer who was also former bureau chief for the Associated Press in Washington, provides a window into the experience of eight bloggers from Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Cambodia, Ghana, Yemen, Philippines, China, and Cuba. He provides an interesting narrative about each blogger, noting their important role in filling information gaps and their evolution into influential bloggers. He also examines how these bloggers find their audiences, the obstacles they face in practicing their craft, and, most inspiring (as least in my view), what motivates them.

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.

A Bottle of Water in Brazzaville
Opinionator
 
“Lately, I have been thinking of how best to talk about something that happened last year in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, where I was traveling, with support from the State Department, as part of a delegation of writers from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program.
 
It involved a young man and a bottle of water. I had the bottle of water and the young man didn’t. I had spent the afternoon in the company of this young man, who was a participant in a writing workshop I had co-taught for a few hours in a hot, stuffy room. I had spoken directly to the young man and he had spoken directly to me.”  READ MORE

Now That’s What I Call Social Protection: The Chile Solidario Programme

Duncan Green's picture

Another one of the fascinating case studies dug up by Sophie King for my recent UN paper on ‘The Role of the State in Empowering Poor and Excluded Groups and Individuals’. This one looks at how Chile manages its integrated social protection programme and is based on a paper by the excellent Stephanie Barrientos. Reading it really brings home the rapid erosion of any real distinction between North and South. Not at all sure UK provision is as good as this.
 
The Chile Solidario integrated anti-poverty programme was introduced by Government in 2002 as part of a wider drive to eradicate extreme poverty. It was designed according to a multi-dimensional understanding of poverty and capabilities to target 225,000 indigenous households using national socio-economic survey data.

Media (R)evolutions: The Internet's Impact on Growth

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.
 
This week's Media (R)evolutions: The Internet's Impact on Growth













 

 

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum II – Consultations

John Garrison's picture

The Bank has learned a good deal about how to consult civil society over the years. The absence of consultation policies led to some of the most visible CSO advocacy campaigns opposing Bank-financed projects, such as the Narmada Dam in India and the Polonoreste Project in the Brazilian Amazon in the 1980s. Thus, while this third step on the civil society engagement continuum has been one of the most difficult to ascend, it has also shown the clearest progress in terms of more effective consultation practices.  As the latest edition of the World Bank–Civil Society Engagement Review of Fiscal Years 2010–12 demonstrates, today the Bank consults CSOs widely on its strategies, policies, programs, and projects worldwide.   

 

Quote of the Week: Sean Parker

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Economically speaking, I profited handsomely from the destruction of the media as we knew it. The rest of the world did not make out so well, and society certainly got the worse end of the bargain.”

Sean Parker, an American entrepreneur who cofounded Napster and served as the first president of Facebook

As quoted in the Financial Times, June 28, 2013, Napster Co-founder Attacks Online Media Jackals