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April 2016

Blog post of the month: How an award winning elementary school teacher is solving environmental equations using the bicycle

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In April 2016, the featured blog post is "How an award winning elementary school teacher is solving environmental equations using the bicycle" by Leszek Sibilski.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Einstein
 
When I wrote, “How the bicycle can drive green development on planet Earth” last year in March 2015, my hope was to raise awareness and encourage a few bicycle enthusiasts to further promote the use of the most efficient tool ever designed by the human mind and hand. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that this blog would inspire an environmental education teacher who teaches grades K-5, Jenna Shea Mobley, from Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta to use the material presented in the blog as the impetus for her project that went on to receive the 2015 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators!
 
In her interdisciplinary curriculum design she combined lessons from science and math to help students focus on the effects of pollution and the human footprint on the environment. Math allowed her students to use multiplication and division to solve word problems and create models to form equations that represented the problem. I must admit, as a teacher, I like to dream big from time to time, but I would have never dreamt of integrating math, science and a pinch of social science into lessons that used the bicycle for children in third grade.
 
Ms. Mobley’s curriculum also included a component that encouraged social action.  Her students were encouraged to write letters to Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, asking him to reduce air pollution around Atlanta.

Information is power: Silvio Waisbord on how digital technology changes the public sphere and notions of privacy

Roxanne Bauer's picture
How do digital media affect traditional theories of the “public sphere” and power? Are we living in a modern-day panopticon?

The notion of the “public sphere” is useful worldwide to consider how citizens can and do articulate demands to the market or to states. The public sphere is generally conceived as a place (figurative or literal) in which citizens can share information, debate issues and opinions, and restrain the interests of the powerful elite. This space is critical to the formation of public will and the transmission of it to official authorities.

In contrast, the Panopticon is a design for a prison or jail which allows watchmen to observe all inmates at all times without the inmates knowing whether they are being observed or not.  The idea has been used to discuss online privacy, as individuals are often unaware of how governments and companies collect and use the information they gather about them online.  Moreover, the revelation that governments and companies work together to “spy” on citizens, as revealed by Edward Snowden revived the concern that a modern-day panopticon might be possible.   

But these concepts raise another important question: How can the public sphere, which aims to limit excess power, continue to function if the state is monitoring citizen activity?  Much of the information that is collected and tracked online is willingly shared by individuals as they search the internet, use mobile apps, and contact friends and family. This activity is vital to the future of a public sphere around the world, but it also allows governments and companies to intrude in our private lives.

Silvio Waisbord explores these two evergreen, yet very immediate concerns. He argues that while digital technologies have improved the capacities of states and companies to track human activity, digital media can also be used for democratic purposes. 
 
The modern public sphere vs. The online panopticon

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The World Press Freedom Index
Reporters Without Borders
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank. The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.

Non-Western Ideas for Democratic Renewal
Carnegie’s Rising Democracies Network
It is commonly asserted that Western liberal democracy is losing credibility and that the international community must be more open to tolerating, and even encouraging, non-Western political models in developing and rising powers. Calls for non-Western forms of democracy have been around for many years but are now becoming louder and more ubiquitous. This trend can be expected to deepen as an integral element of the emerging post-Western world order.  The desire of people outside the West to contribute new ideas to democratic regeneration and to feel stronger local ownership over democracy is healthy. More needs to be done to nurture a wider variation of democratic processes and practices. 

Tackling cholera through radio in Kenya

BBC Media Action's picture

David Njuguna, a mentor for BBC Media Action Kenya, looks at how a volunteer-run local radio station is helping prevent cholera in Kenya.

Kamadi, presenter at Mtaani Radio in Nairobi, Kenya
Kamadi, presenter at Mtaani Radio in
Nairobi, Kenya

Last year Kenya was facing a devastating cholera outbreak. It started in the capital, Nairobi and by June 2015, a total of 4,937 cases and 97 deaths had been reported nationally.

According to public health officials, the spread of cholera in Nairobi particularly affected people living in slums. Frequent bursting of sewer lines, poor sanitation facilities and heavy rains played a major role in the outbreak. Poor hygiene practices – such as not washing hands before eating or preparing food – also contributed to the spread of disease. The outbreak eventually petered out, but the environment and practices that contributed to the spread of cholera continue to pose a threat.

In a quiet courtyard, away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi’s Kawangware slum, a community radio station was planning a response.

Local radio

Mtaani Radio, run by a team of volunteers, was a hive of activity when I walked into their studio last week. They were recording content for ‘WASH Wednesdays’, a show looking at ways listeners can improve their health and hygiene. The show, reaching over 100,000 people in the Kawangware community, was just about to start.

Campaign Art: Press Freedom

Davinia Levy's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Tuesday, May 3 is World Press Freedom Day. This day, which marks the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek, was established by the UN General Assembly in 1993. Since then, 3 May is celebrated worldwide as World Press Freedom Day.

This international day gives us an opportunity to assess the state of press freedom throughout the world. Since 2002, the organization Reporters without Borders (or RSF for its acronym in French), keeps and updates the World Press Freedom Index, which ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. In the 2016 index, northern-European countries take the top 3 spots for highest freedom. You can see each country’s detailed score and full report by clicking on the country’s name. In aggregate terms, according to RSF, there has been a “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom globally and regionally.

To highlight the connection between increased global attacks to journalists, while at the same time represent the power of information and free press, the association of Canadian Journalist for Free Expression created in 2014 the following posters.

          

How civil society and others achieved the Paris Climate Agreement

Duncan Green's picture

Michael JacobsA brilliant analysis by Michael Jacobs of the success factors behind last year’s Paris Climate Agreement appeared in Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal  recently. Jacobs unpacks the role of civil society (broadly defined) and political leadership. Alas, it’s over 4,000 words long, so as a service to my attention deficit colleagues in aid and development, here’s an abbreviated version (about a third the length, but if you have time, do please read the original).

The international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement. It was also a remarkable display of the political power of civil society.

Following the failed Copenhagen conference in 2009, an informal global coalition of NGOs, businesses, academics and others came together to define an acceptable outcome to the Paris conference and then applied huge pressure on governments to agree to it. Civil society effectively identified the landing ground for the agreement, then encircled and squeezed the world’s governments until, by the end of the Paris conference, they were standing on it. Four key forces made up this effective alliance.

The scientific community: Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was in trouble. Relentless attacks from climate sceptics and a number of apparent scandals – the ‘climategate’ emails, dodgy data on melting Himalayan glaciers, allegations surrounding its chairman – had undermined its credibility. But the scientists fought back, subjecting their work to even more rigorous peer-review and hiring professional communications expertise for the first time. The result was the IPCC’s landmark Fifth Assessment Report, which contained two powerful central insights.

First, the IPCC report introduced the concept of a ‘carbon budget’: the total amount of carbon dioxide the earth’s atmosphere can absorb before the 2°C temperature goal is breached. At present emission rates, that would be used up in less than 30 years. So cutting emissions cannot wait.

The other insight was that these emissions have to be reduced until they reach zero. The IPCC’s models are clear: the physics of global warming means that to halt the world’s temperature rise, the world will have to stop producing greenhouse gas emissions altogether.

The economic community: But it was a second set of forces that really changed the argument. Since the financial crash in 2008–2009, cutting emissions had fallen down the priority lists of the world’s finance ministries. The old orthodoxy that environmental policy was an unaffordable cost to the economy reasserted itself. A new argument was required.

The things we do: Why those who see the world differently are always wrong

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Have you ever been in an argument that ended badly, after which you expected to receive an apology? Did the apology come or was the other side also expecting one?  Have you ever done an audit or technical assessment and wondered how a team of professionals could have come to such seemingly erroneous conclusions?  How can that be?  How is that people can have such different views of the same thing?  

One reason misunderstandings occur is that people tend to be naïve realists. That is, we believe that we see social interactions as they truly are. Anyone else who has read what we have read or seen what we have seen will naturally perceive them the say way as we do… that is, assuming they’ve pondered the issue as thoughtfully as we have. In short, our own reality is true, so those who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.
 
However, one of the most enduring contributions of social psychology is the understanding that two people can interpret the same social interaction in very different ways, based on their own personal knowledge and experiences.
 
Tim Harford, the Undercover economist at the Financial Times, recently wrote about naïve realism, calling it the, “seductive sense that we’re seeing the world as it truly is, free of bias.”  He goes on to say that this is such an attractive illusion that whenever we meet someone that contradicts our own view, we instinctively believe we’ve met someone who is deluded rather than question our own rationale.

How an award winning elementary school teacher is solving environmental equations using the bicycle

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture
 Gina McCarthy, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” - Albert Einstein
 
When I wrote, “How the bicycle can drive green development on planet Earth” last year in March 2015, my hope was to raise awareness and encourage a few bicycle enthusiasts to further promote the use of the most efficient tool ever designed by the human mind and hand. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that this blog would inspire an environmental education teacher who teaches grades K-5, Jenna Shea Mobley, from Springdale Park Elementary School in Atlanta to use the material presented in the blog as the impetus for her project that went on to receive the 2015 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators!
 
In her interdisciplinary curriculum design she combined lessons from science and math to help students focus on the effects of pollution and the human footprint on the environment. Math allowed her students to use multiplication and division to solve word problems and create models to form equations that represented the problem. I must admit, as a teacher, I like to dream big from time to time, but I would have never dreamt of integrating math, science and a pinch of social science into lessons that used the bicycle for children in third grade.
 
Ms. Mobley’s curriculum also included a component that encouraged social action.  Her students were encouraged to write letters to Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed, asking him to reduce air pollution around Atlanta.

Quote of the week: Lawrence Summers

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The core of the revolt against global integration, though, is not ignorance. It is a sense, not wholly unwarranted, that it is a project carried out by elites for elites with little consideration for the interests of ordinary people — who see the globalisation agenda as being set by big companies playing off one country against another."

-Lawrence Summers, an American economist who currently serves as President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University.  He worked as Chief Economist at the World Bank from 1991 to 1993 before being appointed as Undersecretary for International Affairs of the United States Department of the Treasury. In 1999, he became Secretary of the Treasury, a position he held until 2001. Summers later joined the Obama administration, serving as Director of the White House United States National Economic Council for President Barack Obama from January 2009 until November 2010. In mid-2013, his name was floated as a potential successor to Ben Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve, though after receiving pushback, Obama nominated Federal Reserve Vice-Chairwoman Janet Yellen for the position.

Thinking through funnels of attrition

Heather Lanthorn's picture

When first introduced to the idea of a funnel of attrition (my early attempt at a slightly more nuanced and symmetric — but still generic — version is here), I largely thought of it as a useful heuristic for thinking about sample size calculations, by being forced to think about issues of awareness and take-up as well as a few steps along a causal chain between initial participation or use and longer terms outcomes of interest.

More recently (including here), I  have tried to use it as a tool for thinking about articulating assumptions in a theory of change about where people might ‘fall out of’ (or never join) an intervention, thus leaving the funnelMore specifically, I tried (along with colleagues) using it as a goal for a conversation with implementing partners (that is, “let’s map out the funnel of attrition”), tackling the question from multiple perspectives. Various perspectives were brought in using personae, which I created beforehand relying partially on average results from the baseline as well as some stylizing to try to bring certain features into the conversation. At first I feared being overstylized but, in the end, I think I had too little detail. I reviewed my notes from The Inmates are Running the Asylum and was reminded of the importance of specificity, even at the expense of accuracy.

I liked this idea for guiding a conversation because the funnel of attrition is a little more straightforward than a full theory of change but, in constructing it, you still end up articulating some central assumptions, which can be added to thinking about change may/not happen. It seems like a handy building block in a well-considered theory of change.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 

Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action
OECD
With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the question of how to finance, implement and monitor these goals moves to the centre of the debate. Today, international development co-operation takes place in an increasingly complex environment, with an ever growing number of actors, policies and instruments involved. This complexity raises the stakes for achieving the goals, but also opens up new opportunities. Although governments will remain the key actors in the implementation of the new post-2015 goals, the role of non-state actors such as civil society, foundations and business is growing. Their association through effective partnerships will be key to the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. The Development Co-operation Report 2015 explores the potential of networks and partnerships to create incentives for responsible action, as well as innovative, fit-for-purpose ways of co-ordinating the activities of diverse stakeholders.

Women and power: overcoming barriers to leadership and influence
ODI
Around the world, women now have more power than ever before. Men still dominate decision-making -- but the number of women is on the rise in parliaments and cabinets, judiciary and police forces, formal employment and education. Increasing the number of women in political and public positions is important, but does not mean that they real power. Women in public life are often subject to sexism and prejudice. Women are less represented in the sectors and positions with the most power. This two-year research project on women's voice and leadership in decision-making, funded by DFID, set out to understand the factors that help and hinder women's access to and substantive influence in decision-making processes in politics and society in developing countries. The project also considered whether, as is often assumed, women's leadership advances gender equality and the wellbeing of women more broadly.
 

Some fascinating new research on how food prices affect people’s lives and politics

Duncan Green's picture

One of the projects I was proudest of getting off the ground while in (nominal) charge of Oxfam’s research team was ‘Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility’, a four year study of the impact of the chaotic food prices of recent years on the lives of poor people and communities in rural and urban communities in ten countries. DFID funded it (thanks!), and IDS were our main research partners. Ace Oxfam researcher Richard King worked his socks off managing the project, before going off to a well-earned rest at Chatham House. Now the project has published its findings in a special issue of the IDS Bulletin. And it’s free online, because unlike lots of other journals, IDS has taken the Academic Spring seriously and has gone full open access (but that’s a topic for another rant).

The research is fairly unique because we went back to the same communities year after year to see how the food price story unfolded, and combined this micro level research with macro number crunching to try and put together a more complete story than usual about how a global phenomenon like the food price spike of 2008 (and subsequent price volatility) fed through into poor people’s lives and then affected the wider society. In her article on the research methodology, Naomi Hossain (the brains behind a lot of it) captures this analytical framework in a diagram.

Media (R)evolutions: Ad blockers popular worldwide because they improve web browsing experience

Roxanne Bauer'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.

There’s a lot of discussion right now about ad blocking. As a consumer, you may think ad blocking is a protector that improves your web browsing experience, but if you run an online business you may think it’s a growing problem that reduces your revenue. What appears to be clear, however, is that the use of ad blockers is expected to grow. 

Ad blocking software blocks online advertisements before they are loaded by a user’s web browser. Once installed, the content of the page is stripped of ads before they even get the chance to load.

Ad blocking vastly improves the Web-browsing experience. The average web page is a mess of third-party analytics, plug-ins, and advertising tags, which make pages bulky and distracting.  Since ad blocking prevents those elements from loading, it speeds up page load times, reduces the amount of data consumed, and cuts back on the number of things competing for attention. There are also privacy benefits to running ad blockers. Most ad networks and tracking tools collect information about page visits and user behavior, but the ad blockers prevent third-party tracking tags from loading and following people across sites. Moreover, the display ecosystem is still the largest part of online ads and includes a mixture of video, audio and other media that seek to create more “interactive” and “engaging” ads. To enable these features, ad networks have allowed third-party JavaScript and Flash files to run in ad slots, which also allows for malicious code to be run and provides a way for viruses and malware to spread on a massive scale

GlobalWebIndex found, as part of their regular reporting, that regardless of  gender, age, income or the region in which they live, people are most likely to be blocking ads because they feel that too many of them are annoying or irrelevant and because they believe there are simply too many ads on the internet.

   
    

Found a positive impact, published in a peer-reviewed journal. What more do we need?

Urmy Shukla's picture

Family utilizes protective malaria bed nets in their home, Nigeria In this blog, we advocate the importance of in-depth reporting on implementation processes, evaluation processes, and relevant contextual details of interventions and linked evaluations. This will facilitate research transparency, as well as assessments of both learning and the potential for generalizability beyond the original study setting (learning lessons from ‘there’ for ‘here,’ but not necessarily promoting the strict and exact duplication of a program from one setting to another, in line with an understanding of external validity that is appropriate for the social sciences in development).
 
We start with a hypothetical scenario of an intervention and associated evaluation, based on too-frequent experiences in the impact evaluation space. We hope that it doesn’t sound familiar to those of you who have been involved in evaluation or have tried to make sense of evaluation results -- but suspect that it will.
 
A research team, connected to a larger research and evaluation organization, ran a study on an intervention. For reasons of statistical and political significance, they have deemed it sufficiently successful and worthy of scaling up, at least in a very specific new setting. 
 
The intervention sought to overcome the following problem, for which there are supply-side and demand-side issues. People in malarious areas may procure a bednet (whether for free or for a positive price), but they do not always follow-through with maintenance (re-treatment or replacement).
 
For supply, the private sector only sporadically offers retreatment and replacement, and it is expensive, while the public sector does not always have supplies available. The intervention, therefore, concentrates provision of this service at a specific time and place through temporary service centers.
 
For demand, people with nets often don’t understand the need for retreatment and, even if they do, continuously put off doing so. The intervention, therefore, included a non-monetary incentive for which there is local demand (in this case, soap) to be picked up at the time of net retreatment.

Tackling inequality is a game changer for business and private sector development (which is why most of them are ignoring it)

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam’s private sector adviser Erinch Sahan is thinking through the implications of inequality for the businesses he interacts with.

Mention inequality to a business audience and one of two things happens. They recoil in discomfort, or reinterpret the term – as social sustainability or doing more business with people living in poverty. Same goes for the private sector development professionals in the aid community (e.g. the inclusive business crowd).

A good example is the UN Global Compact, which steers companies on how to implement the SDGs. They completely side-step the difficult implications of inequality on business and redefine the inequality SDG as boiling down to social sustainability or human rights / women’s empowerment goal. All good things that we at Oxfam also fight for, but these can all happen simultaneously with increasing concentration of income and wealth amongst the richest – i.e. rising inequalityWe know that rising inequality is one of the great threats to our society and economy. So why is business and the aid world so uncomfortable with tackling it head on?

Man picks tea leaves at Kitabi Tea Processing FacilityInequality is a relative rather than an absolute measure. This often makes it a zero-sum game – to spread wealth and income more equally, someone probably has to lose. But the intersection of business, sustainability and development has become locked into an exclusive focus on win-win approaches where there are no trade-offs and everyone gets their cake and eats it too. Addressing inequality often hits the bottom line – meaning changes to the prices paid to farmers, wages paid to workers, taxes paid to government and prices charged to consumers. But there is hope. Through a new lens (or metric) that should drive how business addresses inequality: share of value.

Don’t confuse this with Creating Shared Value, which is focused on the win-win (without commenting on how the created value is shared). What I’m proposing is a measure that compares businesses on how they share value with workers, farmers and low-income consumers. In fact the concept dates back to the original principles underpinning the fair trade movement some decades ago.

Quote of the week: Nora Ephron

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“When you slip on the banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on the banana peel, it’s your laugh. So you become the hero, rather than the victim, of the joke.”

- Nora Ephron, an American journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, director, and blogger. She is best known for her romantic comedies and was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally..., and Sleepless in Seattle. She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for When Harry Met Sally.... On June 26, 2012, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Technology for Transparency: Cases from Sub-Saharan Africa
Harvard Political Review
Over the last decade, Africa has experienced previously unseen levels of economic growth and market vibrancy. Developing countries can only achieve equitable growth and reduce poverty rates, however, if they are able to make the most of their available resources. To do this, they must maximize the impact of aid from donor governments and NGOs and ensure that domestic markets continue to diversify, add jobs, and generate tax revenues. Yet, in most developing countries, there is a dearth of information available about industry profits, government spending, and policy outcomes that prevents efficient action.

Popular Uprising against Democratically Elected Leaders. What Makes it Legitimate?
Huffington Post
In the last five years, democratically elected governments in countries as diverse as Guatemala, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Thailand, Macedonia, South Africa, Spain, Iceland, Hungary and presently governments in Moldova, Brazil and Poland were all challenged and some of them forced to step down by mass-based popular uprisings. If it had not been for the strategic weakness of the Occupy movement, the United States might have also seen toppling of its own democratically elected leaders closely tied to business elites. This might still happen. If Donald Trump wins the presidential election and attempts to implement some of his most outrageous campaign promises popular uprising may be in the making sooner than we think.  When is people rising against their own government legitimate? A number of Western philosophical treaties, historical practice and agreements, including declarations of people’s self-determination rights stressed the moral and legal permissibility, and even necessity, to rise up against abusive regimes.

Inspection Panel Launches “Emerging Lessons Series”

Gonzalo Castro de la Mata's picture

This blog post is co-authored by Gonzalo Castro de la Mata, Chairman of the Inspection Panel, and Dilek Barlas, Executive Secretary of the Inspection Panel.

The World Bank Inspection Panel this week released the first in a series of reports that draw on the main lessons from its caseload over 22 years. The lessons identified in the “Emerging Lessons Series” are intended to help build the Bank’s institutional knowledge base, enhance accountability, foster better results in project outcomes and, ultimately, contribute to more effective development.

The Panel was created in 1993 by the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank as an independent mechanism to receive complaints submitted by people suffering harm allegedly caused by World Bank projects. Since then, the Panel has received 105 requests for inspection, of which it has registered 85 and investigated 32. Two additional investigations are underway.

The “Emerging Lessons Series” will include reports on the most recurrent issues in the Panel’s caseload: involuntary resettlement, environmental assessment, projects involving indigenous peoples, and requirements for consultation, participation and disclosure of information.
 
It seemed logical to start with involuntary resettlement as the topic of the first report because it has been an issue in 21 of the Panel’s 32 cases. The report identifies seven lessons from those cases:

Campaign Art: How Do You See Me?

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

The first ever World report on disability, produced jointly by World Health Organization and the World Bank in 2011, estimates that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. In his foreword to the report, Professor Stephen Hawking wrote: “Disability need not be an obstacle to success.”

Despite Professor Hawking’s powerful words and individual example of success with a very debilitating disability, the report acknowledges that people with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives, including prejudice and stigma from society.

When it comes to intellectual disabilities, persons afflicted with these conditions are more disadvantaged in many settings than those who experience physical or sensory impairments, according to the report. Particularly, people with Down syndrome suffer great discrimination and misunderstanding from the general public. And it is not a small group. According to the World Health Organization, the estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide. 

In order to break stigma and barriers regarding this mental disability, an annual awareness day was established. March 21, 2016, was World Down Syndrome Day. In honor of this day, the advertisement agency Saatchi & Saatchi produced this powerful campaign on social perception of Down syndrome.
 
How Do You See Me?

Source: Saatchi & Saatchi
 

Why Storytelling is Fundamental for Success

Enrique Rubio's picture

Susan McPherson is one of those inspiring women working at the wonderful intersection of business and social impact. Susan explains why storytelling is fundamental for success, in the business and nonprofit worlds.

Susan believes in the power of information and knowledge to drive more positive change in the world. Susan and I talk extensively about the power of storytelling for successful communication campaigns. And she gives important tools to effectively implement communication strategies for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Susan develops the fundamental communications advice: make it simple, shareable, and fill with empathy. And, most importantly, set up goals and measures of success from the very beginning.

Susan also talks about the great things going on in diversity and inclusion, and also the challenges ahead. She thinks that we know what to do to make more young women embrace math and sciences, and that now is time to move to action. Susan says that you “can’t be what you can’t see” and that more funding is needed for women-led tech companies and ventures. 

Podcast: Why Storytelling is Fundamental for Success with Susan McPherson

Cleaning up the “dirty little secrets” of research ethics: Reflections from the International Studies Association 2016

Deval Desai's picture

For policymakers, fragility and conflict are one of the 21st century’s key development challenges. Fragility is by definition heterogeneous and contextual—which is why qualitative research is such a good tool to help us understand exactly why “there” is so messed up, and what we could or should do to fix it. And so, perhaps logically, we—primarily young, western, tertiary-educated men and women—are doing more and more research. The more research we do, the more professional we become, as we build a core set of skills (i.e. methodologies) to explain the complexity of “there”—its war, crisis, and corruption—to the policymakers who want to fix (i.e. govern) it.

But what if the simple act of doing such research is also an act of governance? What if, when we go there to ask people to tell us their stories, they understand that our questions about security, or health, or livelihoods are just a step in a chain that ends with recommendations for—or against—blue helmets, food aid, or regime change? What if our power to ask questions of research subjects is predicated upon the inflexible idea that “there” is deviant and must be fixed?

These are not new issues. But their context has changed, and thus so have the ways we must think about them. As research has intensified, the practice of doing research has professionalized. At the same time, its ethical norms have not. When it comes to ethics, we continue to vest power in the individual researcher and her sense of what is right: she decides how much to focus on researcher positionality; how much of her research she should bring back to her research subjects; how and when to use her research to speak truth to power. If she is stymied, she can rail against the individual policymakers who haven’t listened to her work, or she can critique them with a theoretical lament about global structures of knowledge and power. These trade-offs allow the researcher to remain simultaneously noble and unaccountable. They are sometimes described as “dirty little secrets”, a phrase which reflects their individual and back-stage nature.

Quote of the week: Ramón Fonseca

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We are not afraid — we haven’t done anything bad. I always sleep well at night. My conscience is clear.”

- Ramón Fonseca, a Panamanian novelist and lawyer. He is a co-founder of Mossack Fonseca, a law firm based in Panama with more than 40 offices worldwide that specialises in setting up offshore companies in tax havens. He was president of the Panameñista Party until he was dismissed in March 2016, due to the Brazilian Operation Car Wash (Operação Lava Jato). In early 2015, more than 11.5 million documents, including emails, bank records and client information dating back several decades, were leaked from Mossack Fonseca. On April 3, 2016, the first news reports based on the papers, and 149 of the documents themselves, were published. These documents have come to be known as the "Panama Papers", and have provided an unprecedented insight into the use of offshore financial centres by the rich and powerful. They show how wealthy individuals, including public officials, hide their money from public scrutiny.

How do media tell us whom to blame for social problems?

Jing Guo's picture

Let’s consider these questions…
Should the poor be blamed for their poverty?
Should the government or citizens be responsible for the cost of health care?
Shall we expect only developed countries to deal with climate change?
 
Before you start searching for your own answers, the media, believe it or not, have already planted theirs in your mind.
 
News media set the public agenda every day by telling us what is important to know and how to think about it. When it comes to global challenges such as poverty, climate change, and the refugee crisis, the media often play a decisive role in defining both the problem and responsibility. Attribution of responsibility in media reporting should not be underestimated, as it suggests the source of problems and who should fix them, shapes the public discourse and opinions about issues, and subsequently influences local and global policy approaches to public concerns.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

Public Service News and Digital Media
Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
How are public service media services delivering news in an increasingly digital environment? And what action do they need to take to remain competitive in a fast-evolving global digital landscape? A new Reuters Institute report looks at how public service news organisations in six European countries (Italy, Poland, the UK, France, Germany and Finland) are navigating an increasingly digital landscape. What are the idea conditions that allow a public service news organisation to flourish? And who is remaining competitive in a shifting media environment? The report explores differing approaches, and warns that without strategic action that prioritises digital media, mobile platforms, and social distribution, some public service news organisations risk losing touch with their audience – the public they exist to serve and which funds them.

The ‘decentralisation agenda’ must succeed

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MoroccoDuncan Green’s blog hosted a post by LSE’s Jean-Paul Faguet titled: Is Decentralisation good for Development? Faguet has edited a book by the same name that you can find here. This is a subject very close to my heart, and I believe in decentralisation as a value, just as I believe in democracy. It is often a work in progress, but it is a project worth persisting with, an ideal worth pursuing. Faguet’s research (at least, my interpretation of his work) therefore, really speaks to me. In this post, he makes several interesting and compelling points. For instance:

On the advantage of competitive politics generated by decentralised systems:

Imagine you live in a centralized country, a hurricane is coming, and the government is inept. To whom can you turn? No one – you’re sunk. In a decentralized country, ineptitude in regional government implies nothing about the ability of local government. And even if both regional and local governments are inept, central government is independently constituted, probably run by a different party, and may be able to help. Indeed, the very fact of multiple government levels in a democracy generates a competitive dynamic in which candidates and parties use the far greater number of platforms to outdo each other by showing competence, and project themselves hierarchically upwards.  In a centralized system, by contrast, there is only really one – very big – prize, and not much of a training ground on which to prepare.

Media (R)evolutions: TV is still the king of news worldwide

Roxanne Bauer'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.

For years, researchers and social critics have speculated that social media and niche interest sites were capturing more and more attention of people, thereby supplanting traditional sources of news like radio, television, and print. Much of the concern has come from data that mobile phones are proliferating around the world and that adults aged 21-34 — so-called Millennials — do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, or watch television news. Instead, this generation (and Generation Z, which follows it) spends more time on social networks, often on mobile devices. This trend can be seen worldwide, as newspapers have become a dying breed in many countries.

Nevertheless, if the current media preferences of young adults are an indication of the future, the data may offer bad news for print media, but good news for TV.  According to a Nielsen global survey of more than 30,000 online consumers across 60 countries, television is still the most popular source of news for people around the world. When asked where they get the news, 53% of the respondents named television as one of their preferred sources. Click on the image below to see how each generation differs in their media use.
 
preferred sources of news globally

 

What can historical success teach us about tackling sanitation and hygiene?

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Ooh good, another ‘lessons of history’ research piece. Check out the excellent new WaterAid report: Achieving total sanitation and hygiene coverage within a generation – lessons from East Asia.

The paper summarizes the findings of four country case studies: Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand, all of which produced ‘rapid and remarkable results in delivering total sanitation coverage in their formative stages as nation states’. I can certainly vouch for Singapore – I spent 3 years there as a child in the late 60s. Whenever the rains came, the main roads flooded, turning the city into an insanitary swamp. Not any longer.

The paper concludes: ‘Although their initial conditions were very different from those currently found in ‘fragile’ and ‘least-developed’ countries in Africa and South Asia, some useful conclusions can be used to inform discussions on development of strategic approaches to delivering sanitation for all:

The things we do: What happened when the London Underground challenged social norms

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London  Underground stationGlobally, 157 cities around the world now have a metro system in operation.  These underground trains shuttle people back and forth from work, make weekend escapes possible, and allow tourists to get around without the hassle of human communication. 

The sheer number of people using metro systems has inspired quite a few rules of etiquette. In Japan it’s considered polite to switch your phone to “Manner Mode” (also known as “silent” mode) when using the metro so that other passengers aren’t subjected to ringtones as they travel. Eating durian, considered the world’s smelliest fruit, is not permitted on Singapore’s MRT, and “No durian” signs have been posted around the network. It’s also considered bad manners to sit in priority seats in Seoul subway cars at any time, regardless of whether there’s anyone around who needs them. 

But perhaps the stickiest, most sincerely held rule of etiquette is that when using an escalator to enter or exit a metro station, one should stand on the right and walk on the left. This way, those who want to climb the stairs can do so on the left, without having the say “excuse me” every 5 seconds.  This rule is especially important to follow at rush hour if you want to avoid grumpy remarks.  Those who have forgotten to follow it can probably speak to how sanctimonious some people feel about it.

On 4 December last year, the London Underground carried 4,821,000 passengers— setting a new record for a single day. However, something else was also afoot that day.

On that particular Friday, 11,000 passengers got off at Holborn Station between 8.30 and 9.30am and faced an unusually upsetting provocation. As they turned into the concourse and looked up to the station’s escalators, they saw something truly horrifying: dozens of people were standing on the left.

Quote of the week: Yanis Varoufakis

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Yanis Varoufakis"Let’s be honest about this: life ends with death. We know that. That’s not a reason not to live, right?"

- Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist who was a member of the Parliament of Greece between January and September 2015. He represented the ruling Syriza party and held the position of Minister of Finance for seven months. He voted against the terms of the third bailout package for Greece. In February 2016, Varoufakis launched the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25).

Blog post of the month: Six lessons I learnt while trying to reach 10 million women in India with life-saving health information

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Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In March 2016, the featured blog post is "Six lessons I learnt while trying to reach 10 million women in India with life-saving health information" by Priyanka Dutt.

Kilkari mobile messagingLast month, the Government of India launched a nationwide mobile health (mHealth) program designed by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. The aim - to train 1 million community health workers and help nearly 10 million new and expecting mothers in India make healthier choices and lead longer, healthier lives.
 
Mobile Academy is an anytime, anywhere audio training course, delivered via mobile phone, designed to refresh the knowledge and strengthen the communication skills of community health workers. The objective is to enable the nation’s nearly one million health workers to more effectively persuade families to lead healthier lives.
 
Kilkari  (a baby’s gurgle) service delivers free, weekly, time-appropriate audio messages about pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare directly to the mobile phones of mothers and other family members from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old.

These services were originally designed for use in Bihar in North India, where BBC Media Action, in partnership with the state government works to improve demand for health services, improve social norms and impact health outcomes for mothers and children. Read more.

Mobile Academy and Kilkari leverage the massive penetration of mobile phones to reach the most marginalized, hardest-to-reach communities in India. These are communities where getting pregnant and having babies can be 24 times more life-threatening than giving birth in the United Kingdom!
 
The statistics are pretty stark. Globally, every five minutes, three women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, while 60 others will be left with debilitating injuries. Of these deaths, India accounts for the greatest number of women dying – over 150 every day. But we know how many of these health risks that pregnant women and their newborns face are preventable.