Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting. You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.
Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.
Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances.
What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.
Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting. You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.
Saturday, May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. In honor of this day, we are sharing a selection of print ads on the theme of "Silence kills democracy, but a free press talks" from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.
Women’s empowerment is one of the greatest areas of progress in the last century, so what better theme for a post on ‘voice’ than gender rights?
Globally, the gradual empowerment of women is one of the standout features of the past century. The transformation in terms of access to justice and education, to literacy, sexual and reproductive rights and political representation is striking.
That progress has been driven by a combination of factors: the spread of effective states that are able to turn ‘rights thinking’ into actual practice, and broader normative shifts; new technologies that have freed up women’s time and enabled them to control their own fertility; the vast expansion of primary education – particularly for girls – and improved health facilities.
Politics and power have been central to many, if not all, of these advances. At a global political level, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) appears to be one of those pieces of international law that exerts genuine traction at a national level, as it is ratified and codified in domestic legislation.
Throughout this series of posts (1, 2, 3, 4), we have considered two main issues. First, how can evidence and evaluation be shaped to be made more useful - that is, directly useable - in guiding decision-makers to initiate, modify, scale-up or drop a program? Or, as recently pointed out by Jeff Hammer, how can we better evaluate opportunity costs between programs, to aid in making decisions. Second, given that evidence will always be only part of policy/programmatic decision, how can we ensure that decisions are made (and perceived to be made) fairly?
For such assurance, we primarily rely on Daniels’ framework for promoting “accountability for reasonableness” (A4R) among decision-makers. If the four included criteria are met, Daniels argues, it brings legitimacy to deliberative processes and, he further argues, consequent fairness to the decision and coherence to decisions over time.
The first two criteria set us up for the third: first, decision-makers agree ex ante to constrain themselves to relevant reasons (determined by stakeholders) in deliberation and, second, make public the grounds for a decision after the deliberation. These first two, we argue, can aid organizational learning and coherence in decision-making over time by setting and using precedent over time - an issue that has been bopping around the blogosphere this week.
During the recent 7th World Urban Forum (WUF) in Medellin, the talk was not just about the hundreds of millions of people coming to cities—but also the tens of thousands of city managers and local governments who will need to manage cities more effectively to unleash the promise of urbanization. The WBI urban team, together with the Institute of Housing and Urban Studies and UN-Habitat’s Capacity Development unit, convened over 40 partners for a day of reflection on this challenge.
Such a gathering had happened twice before— in preparation of Habitat II in Istanbul (1996), again in the run-up to the third WUF in Vancouver (2006)—and now on the cusp of the next milestone (Habitat III in 2016). It is helpful to consider where we have been and where are we now on this critical (and somewhat slippery) subject, given the 20 years’ worth of perspective in this area.
Whatever your views of migration, a consensus ought to be possible on one thing: if migrants do send money home, as much as possible of the hard-earned dollars that they send should actually get there, to be spent on putting feeding the kids, putting them through school or even having a bit of fun (that’s allowed too).
But according to some excellent new research by the ODI, one in eight dollars remitted to Africa is creamed off by intermediaries – a much higher level than for other regions. They launched the report at a meeting in London last week, and the high preponderance of Africans at the launch bore witness to the anger this level of rent-seeking arouses.
Twice a year, CAMECO, a consultancy specializing in media and communications, publishes a list of selected publications on media and communications in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This rich resource includes 210 titles, covering 160 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.
At the basis of communication and public policy are assumptions about human beings- their rationality or irrationality, their foibles, wants and preferences. A lot depends on whether these assumptions are correct. In this feature, we bring you fascinating examples of human behavior from across the globe.
In our first edition of "The Things We Do," we explore one reason why we procrastinate. In a blog post from Nautilus, entitled, "Why We Procrastinate," we learn that:
"It turns out that we see our future selves as strangers. Though we will inevitably share their fates, the people we will become in a decade, quarter century, or more, are unknown to us. This impedes our ability to make good choices on their—which of course is our own—behalf. That bright, shiny New Year’s resolution? If you feel perfectly justified in breaking it, it may be because it feels like it was a promise someone else made."
So, if a poor connection to your future self leads to procrastination, can strengthening this connection be an effective remedy as well?
Imagine you are a development practitioner in a country just coming out of conflict and you have just been put in charge of designing a community driven development (CDD) operation there.
After decades of war, you are faced with a country that has crumbling infrastructure, extremely high unemployment rates, weak local governance systems, perhaps even a vast population internally displaced or worse still, exposed to violence. Where do you begin fixing the problem? What would you prioritize? Do you begin by rebuilding and providing public goods, and hope that it would eventually re-establish the broken trust between the state and its people? Or do you directly tackle trust building first? Or perhaps you could do them simultaneously, but how would you go about doing that?
"Management is not an intellectually satisfying occupation. It consists of telling people things that you’re not sure about and they don’t want to hear.”
- Andrew Smithers, Chairman and Founder of Smithers & Co., a leading advisor to investment managers on international asset allocation. He has contributed regularly to London Evening Standard, Sentaku Magazine and Nikkei Veritas, and he is the author of several books concerning investment, including his most recent, The Road to Recovery: How and Why Economic Policy Must Change (2013).
Polite conversation, we can all agree, often involves not calling a spade a spade…the same way you are not supposed to break wind in company. There are modes of obliqueness that keep friendships and relationships going where blunt speaking can very often sunder ties suddenly and violently. People have fragile egos. You have to be careful how frankly you deliver feedback to them. And, in many cultures, an ability to decipher oblique communication is regarded as a mark of high mental rank, even of being well-born. For instance, in my own culture, Yoruba elders say: a well-brought up person only needs half a word; the word becomes whole within him and he acts accordingly.
Not surprisingly, obliqueness is the hallmark of diplomacy. Somebody says something less than intelligent during a meeting and you reply: ‘That’s interesting’ or ‘That’s fascinating’. You don’t commit yourself and, unless they are really paying attention to nuance, they might never know that you don’t think much of the proposal they have just put on the proverbial table. In this regard, I remember that in the course of my legal training, while in the school for barristers and solicitors, we were taught polite ways of disagreeing with a judge without running the risk of ruining your client’s case or ending up in jail because the judge has convicted you of contempt of court.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 3
How do digital technologies affect governance in areas of limited statehood – places and circumstances characterized by the absence of state provisioning of public goods and the enforcement of binding rules with a monopoly of legitimate force? In the first post in this series I introduced the limited statehood concept and then described the tremendous growth in mobile telephony, GIS, and other technologies in the developing world. In the second post I offered examples of the use of ICT in initiatives intended to fill at least some of the governance vacuum created by limited statehood. With mobile phones, for example, farmers are informed of market conditions, have access to liquidity through M-Pesa and similar mobile money platforms.
Cashing in: why mobile banking is good for people and profit
Using digital finance to tackle development problems can improves lives, and offer innovative companies handsome rewards. Whether it is lack of access to water, energy or education, development professionals are well versed in the plethora of challenges facing billions of people. The traditional approach to solving these problems has been to think big – in terms of the millennium development goals, government aid programmes, or huge fundraising campaigns. But there are dozens of startups and larger companies with innovative ideas who are approaching these challenges in new ways using digital finance.
The fight against poverty has experienced incredible gains over the last two decades as the share of people living in extreme poverty was cut in half worldwide, from 43% in 1990 to under 20% today. However, this still leaves more than one billion people living on less than $1.25 per day!
The following video by Global Citizen was shared at a World Bank event, #EndPoverty 2030: Millennials Take on the Challenge, in which “Millennial” leaders called on young people to help make this generation the first in history to end extreme poverty. The event featured inspiring voices and stories of young leaders taking on critical issues – from entrepreneurship to education to gender equality. It built excitement and support, as well as catalyzed action, around the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
It’s a sign of the times that we had the first digital media academy at the World Urban Forum this year. Digital media has come a long way and is here to stay. Its effects have been transformational in many areas of communications – print journalism, book publishing, and marketing & advertising. Now, learning is seeing itself transformed by the same technologies that offer reach, scale, and interactivity at a price tag that’s hard to beat.
I was invited to share my experience in promoting the WBG’s first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on climate change, as I had created the communications strategy and overseen its launch, which was heavy on social media and reach to the developing world. I was inspired by earlier campaigns and also by the TED organization’s single-minded approach to branding. See attached presentation for details.
“In spite of the huge differences between cultures, all that we know about human behavior shows that it can be understood only by reference to people’s own thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears and other feelings. This is not something invented by a particular culture. It’s universal.”
- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.
This week the World Bank hosted its annual Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C. The following video was shared with an audience attending a call to action for the millenium generation: End Poverty by the Year 2030.
At the event at the World Bank's headquarters in Washington DC, President Jim Yong Kim and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met with young global leaders (Ashish J. Thakkar, Mara Group and Foundation; Chernor Bah, Chair Global Education First Initiative; Hugh Evans, Founder & CEO Global Poverty Project; Nargis Shirazi, Co-founder WO-MAN foundation) to share stories of inspiration and hope.
Postcards from the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia
From April 5th to 11th, in Medellin, the World Urban Forum (WUF) brought together a diverse group of urban thinkers and doers to discuss the world’s most urgent urban challenges. With participants meeting under the theme of “Urban Equity in Development – Cities for Life,” the overall atmosphere was one of cautious optimism. On the one hand, participants were highly aware of the vast challenges facing cities and their inhabitants. Cities remain home to shocking levels of inequality and highly pernicious forms of social and economic exclusion. In that respect, hosting the Forum in Medellin helped drive the point home—as UN-Habitat Executive Director Jon Clos observed before the event, “We want a realistic world urban forum, we want a forum in a real city that has real issues.” On the other, attendees were buoyed by the conviction that today’s rapid urbanization represents an unprecedented demographic and economic opportunity. Medellin itself has made astounding progress in recent years, focusing on improving transport and mobility, inclusive governance, and education.
Providing public services must deliver reliable results because it's in the public interest. However, development practitioners may wonder whose interest is really at stake- the public's or the private sector's. "And there you find contestation of the public good and what you need to do differently," says Cyprian Fisiy, former Director of the Social Development Department in the World Bank's Sustainable Development Network.
Watch the full video for Cyprian's review of what it takes to be successful in development.
The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance: Part 2
My previous TechTank post described the expanding reach of technology and, consequentially, the growing availability of information in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere in less developed countries. Rather than speak of failed states I refer to “areas of limited statehood.” An area of limited statehood involves several possible dimensions of failed service delivery, or an inability to enforce binding rules with legitimate use of force. A slum, for example, even in the heart of a nation’s capital, if it is devoid of public goods like sanitation, security, or even basic infrastructure, is an area of limited statehood. So, too, would vast stretches of rural countryside beyond the reach of the administrative capacity of the national government. The Eastern DR Congo fits this pattern. In this post, I offer examples of the use of technology that at least partially address governance shortfalls in areas of limited statehood. Put another way, I describe how technologies are used to provide for public goods, such as security, sanitation, drinkable water, and economic opportunity.
The Data Mining Techniques That Reveal Our Planet's Cultural Links and Boundaries
MIT Technology Review
The habits and behaviors that define a culture are complex and fascinating. But measuring them is a difficult task. What’s more, understanding the way cultures change from one part of the world to another is a task laden with challenges. The gold standard in this area of science is known as the World Values Survey, a global network of social scientists studying values and their impact on social and political life. Between 1981 and 2008, this survey conducted over 250,000 interviews in 87 societies. That’s a significant amount of data and the work has continued since then. This work is hugely valuable but it is also challenging, time-consuming and expensive.
Oxfam has been banging on to good effect recently about extreme global inequality in income and wealth. Over many years, we have also been making the case for universal health and education. It turns out the link between the two is stronger than I’d realized, according to ‘Working for the Many: Public Services fight Inequality’, a new paper published today.
We normally discuss inequality before and after tax (eg it’s progressive taxation that really brings Europe’s inequality down). But recent work published by the OECD and World Bank has put a monetary value on the ‘virtual income’ provided by public services. This produces some startling findings on inequality.
Public services mitigate the impact of skewed income distribution, and redistribute by putting ‘virtual income’ into everyone’s pockets. For the poorest, those on meagre salaries, though, this ‘virtual income’ can be as much as – or even more than – their actual income. On average, in OECD countries, public services are worth the equivalent of a huge 76 per cent of the post-tax income of the poorest group, and just 14 per cent of the richest. It is in the context of huge disparities of income that we see the true equalizing power of public services.
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.
The world’s “digital natives,” young people born around the time the personal computer was introduced who have spent much of their lives connected with technology, are rapidly increasing in numbers. Internet usage has increased significantly in the developing world in the past five years, and the digital native population in these countries is expected to increase by more than double by 2017.
NGOs must strive for scale if they want to fulfil their roles as enablers and incubators in striving for development
After a slightly disappointing ‘wonkwar’ on migration, let’s try a less adversarial format for another big development issue: Transparency and Accountability. I have an instinctive suspicion of anything that sounds like a magic bullet, a cost-free solution, or motherhood and apple pie in general. So the current surge in interest on open data and transparency has me grumbling and sniffing the air. Are politicians just grabbing it as a cheap announcement in austere times? Does it contain some kind of implicit right wing assumptions (an individualist homo economicus maximising market efficiency through open data)? And is there any evidence that transparency actually has much impact on the lives of poor people (after all, the proponents of transparency and results-based agendas are often the same organizations, so I hope they are practicing what they preach….)
I put these fears to three transparency gurus, and here are their fascinating responses, striking in their quality and level of, well, openness. It’s a long read, but I hope you’ll agree, a worthwhile one. Think we’ll just stick with comments on this one – doesn’t feel like a vote would be useful (but let me know if you think otherwise)
“A sound banker is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional way along with his fellows, so that no one can really blame him.”
- John Maynard Keynes, a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, and informed the economic policies of governments. He built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles, and is widely considered to be one of the founders of modern macroeconomics and the most influential economist of the 20th century. His ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.
Political liberals – and there is a growing band of them around the world – very often get on your nerves. And it makes them so very easy to mock.
For instance, liberals find it very difficult to handle the problem or the reality of evil. When they see evil in action they have to find some sociological explanation for it. For instance, if you are watching a movie or a television story put together by liberals, you will notice that every evil character has either been abused as a child or has endured poverty. And you wonder, what about all those who went through those unfortunate experiences and still turned out to be upstanding members of society?
Liberals also have difficulties coming to terms with the reality of violence and propensities to violence. Confronted with violence they are often perplexed. They wonder aloud: Why can’t we all simply get along? Someone punches a liberal in the nose and he asks: ‘You seem upset about something; do you want to talk about it?’
I exaggerate for effect but you can see why you have the popular caricature of the arugula eating, latte drinking, hybrid-car-driving liberal…a somewhat effete and ludicrous character.
The Transformative Impact of Data and Communication on Governance
How do improvements in information and communication technology (ICT) effect governance? Many have studied the role of the Internet in governance by state institutions. Others have researched how technology changes the way citizens make demands on governments and corporations. A third area concerns the use of technology in countries where the government is weak or altogether missing. In this case technology can fill, if only partially, the governance vacuum created by a fragile state.
Can Facebook’s Massive Courses Improve Education For Developing Nations?
Facebook is on a mission to prove that social media-empowered education can help some of the poorest nations on Earth. It recently announced a big industry and Ivy League alliance to bring experimental educational software to Rwanda, providing Internet access and world-class instructional resources to their country’s eager students. However, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) aren’t yet proven to work at scale even in the most well-resourced nations, let alone in a country with uneven access to technology and arguably limited educational opportunities. We took a look at what experts and evidence had to say about the prospects of Facebook’s education project.
Seeking accountability from public service providers remains one of the most prominent governance challenges in developing countries. In recent years, there has been a burst of social accountability tools, and NGOs and governments have promoted their use widely. Broadly, social accountability refers to approaches that seek to foster accountability through enhanced civil society engagement.
The advocates of social accountability approaches believe that the regular cycle of elections—in spite of the near continuous cycle of elections for the village councils, state and centre—are not enough to bring about a substantive change in service delivery. In this context, there is the opportunity to experiment with alternative mechanisms of fostering social accountability. Researchers at the Centre for Future State of the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK, conclude from their field studies in Delhi and Sao Paulo, Brazil, that social accountability tools can be used to set the minimum required standard of public services by “highlighting deficiencies in existing provision or entitlements”. This also works when citizens’ demands are “framed in terms of legal or moral rights”.
As a set of approaches for “good governance”, social accountability tools represent an interesting collection of hypotheses. One, that involving citizens in local planning, budgeting and spending decisions will ensure that the design and implementation of public services is pro-poor. Local governments and decentralized systems for local planning and service delivery are the usual form in which this approach manifests itself.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
This week, the United Nations and countries around the world will observe International Mine Awareness Day on April 4, 2012, as they have every April 4 since 2006.
The following video captures the "Mine Kafon" (Mine Detonator), a wind-powered device designed and built by hand by Massoud Hassani. It is heavy enough to trip land mines as it rolls across the ground but 120 times cheaper than traditional techniques. Hassani drew his inspiration from his childhood on the outskirts of Kabul, where he and his younger brother would play with their homemade, wind-powered toys. These toys would sometimes be blown astray, rolling out into the desert amongst landmines, too dangerous to retrieve.
In our last post, we discussed how establishing “relevant reasons” for decision-making ex ante may enhance the legitimacy and fairness of deliberations on resource allocation. We also highlight that setting relevant decision-making criteria can inform evaluation design by highlighting what evidence needs to be collected.
We specifically focus on the scenario of an agency deciding whether to sustain, scale or shut down a given programme after piloting it with an accompanying evaluation — commissioned explicitly to inform that decision. Our key foci are both how to make evidence useful to informing decisions and how, recognizing that evidence plays a minor role in decision-making, to ensure decision-making is done fairly.
For such assurance, we primarily rely on Daniels’ framework for promoting “accountability for reasonableness” (A4R) among decision-makers. If the four included criteria are met, Daniels argues, it will bring legitimacy to deliberations and, he further argues, consequent fairness to the decision.
In this post, we continue with the second criterion to ensure A4R: the publicity of decisions taken drawing on the first criterion, relevant reasons. We consider why transparency – that is, making decision criteria public – enhances the fairness and coherence of those decisions. We also consider what ‘going public’ means for learning.