Syndicate content

August 2016

Blog post of the month: Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In August 2016, the featured blog post is "Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people" by Roxanne Bauer.

Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds.

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad. He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers. The goal is not to change people but to make life easier. However, that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

Campaign Art: Flying for a cause

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
In April 2015, a massive7.8 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks devastated a large area in Nepal. Thousands of people perished under the rubble, and many buildings and infrastructure were destroyed. Numerous organizations went to help.

The World Bank offered up to half-a-billion dollars to finance the reconstruction of Nepal through different financing mechanisms, such as the Nepal Rural Housing Reconstruction Program.

Here is a particular example of the work done in Nepal by a small organization and their innovative outreach effort. On April 19, 2016, the Cloudbase Foundation (which works with hang glider and paraglider pilots to be effective agents of change within communities where they fly) published a video under the “GoPro for a cause” campaign to raise funds and awareness of the work that they are doing to help Nepalese communities recover from the effects of the earthquake.
 

The Bookmark podcast: Uncovering the literary talent of World Bank staff

Peter Kapuscinski's picture

Podcasts are more popular than ever, thanks in large part to the wildly successful This American Life produced, Serial, and the rise of smartphones and Bluetooth enabled cars, that allow listeners to stream podcasts practically anywhere.
 
At the World Bank Group, Senior Communications Officer, Richard Miron has produced a new podcast series, called Bookmark that explores the creative literary works of staff members.
 
Each week, Richard interviews a variety of staff members, past and present, who have put pen to paper and written books of their own. It’s not about World Bank books, but rather the expansive literary talent that work at the Bank.
 
Richard explains the thinking behind the series:
 
“The people of the World Bank are what makes the institution tick. They come with different experiences and from differing backgrounds. The aim of Bookmark is to show– ‘the literary side’ of those at the Bank, and to illustrate how their work has contributed to their writing and how their experience in writing has added to their work.”

The first episode features Agi Kiss, who currently works as a Regional Environmental and Safeguards Advisor. During her career at the World Bank Group, Agi worked in Nairobi, Kenya, managing a wildlife and protected areas project. She went on a number of safaris to explore the country.

The Paralympic Games in Rio: Where the (dis)abilities matter

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“I savor life. When you have anything that threatens life... it prods you into stepping back and really appreciating the value of life and taking from it what you can.”
- Sonia Sotomayor
 
On the evening after the closing ceremony of the XXXI Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, my mind was still immersed in the scene of several thousand perfectly chiseled bodies. I couldn’t emotionally adjust to the “normal pace of life” knowing that I would have to patiently wait for almost three weeks for the next thrilling global sporting festival, when the 15th Summer Paralympic Games will begin once again in Rio. To compensate for my anxious state of mind, I decided to watch ESPN to obtain a mini-dose of sport emotions. I got more than I bargained for. As soon as I turned on the TV, I became engrossed by a short but very captivating documentary entitled: Owen and Haatchi. From the get-go the story made a huge impression on me and served as a humbling precursor and transition to my next sporting festival where Paralympians will be competing in 22 sports and 528 events. 
 
Between September 7th and the 18th, 4,350 athletes with disabilities from 161 countries will share 4,350 compelling and inspiring stories of triumph. As they put the Paralympic spirit into motion to achieve sporting excellence, it will be our blessing to reflect not on their disabilities, but on their abilities and on the joy they have to represent their nations in the best possible way. Sport is a fair equalizer for all athletes; it doesn’t matter if you come from an affluent or developing country, every athlete still has to show up, participate, and finish the competition. The medal classification for the last Paralympics in London was not a mirror reflection of the Olympics. Instead, the para-athletes representing the nations of the emerging economies and developing countries could hold their own quite well. 

Quote of the Week: Yahia Lababidi

Roxanne Bauer's picture

"The thoughts we choose to act upon define us to others, the ones we do not define us to ourselves."

- Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian-American aphorist, poet and author of 6 books. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, and his writing has been translated into several languages, including: Arabic, Hebrew, Slovak, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Swedish. His latest book, Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993-2015) is a celebration of more than twenty years of his poetry. Lababidi has been featured on NPR, Best American Poetry, AGNI, World Literature Today, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera and has participated in international poetry festivals throughout the USA, Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East.

Holding the state to account

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

women at a community meeting, Mumbai IndiaIn a democracy, a critical element in the engagement between citizens and state is “accountability”. There are several definitions—one among them from the World Bank reads: “Accountability exists when there is a relationship where an individual or body, and the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or body, are subject to another’s oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions”.

Citizens and civil society organizations seek accountability from the state. Where this builds on broad-based civil society engagement, we hear of “social accountability” whose advocates believe that a regular cycle of elections alone are not enough to hold the state to account. For instance, a decline in the quality of public services or cases of denial of (social) justice call for mobilization outside of the electoral cycle. But how does the state respond?

When the state is under sustained pressure to reform, it could take one of these positions: (1) respond to civil society using physical force and/or its legal prowess; (2) stoically “do nothing”; (3) formulate a response that emphasizes form over function; and (4) undertake genuine reform. These options represent a sliding scale of state response, and on any given issue, the state might change its position over time, depending on how the context evolves.

The reality is that more often than not, status quo rules: the space for citizens seeking accountability relies primarily on the willingness of the state. It is not in the nature of states to do this of their own volition, and often, a sustained campaign by a strong coalition of interests is required to influence them.

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 Internet
Global Governance Monitor

The Internet has revolutionized communication and radically altered the conduct of business, politics, and personal lives. Information is now widely available and shared through instant message, email, and social media. Businesses can operate internationally with virtually no delay, enabling previously unimaginable opportunities such as providing medical advice across oceans. Moreover, the embedding of sensors, processors, and monitors in everyday products links the physical and virtual worlds, expanding vast streams of data and creating new markets. The Internet has also altered the relationship between governments and societies. Low-cost, nearly ubiquitous communication platforms allow citizens to mobilize and build transnational networks. The speed of communication can make governments more accountable, and open-data initiatives enable the participation of nongovernmental organizations and increased transparency. Though the technology has facilitated unprecedented economic growth, increased access to information, and delivered innovative solutions to historic challenges, the expansion of the Internet has also brought challenges and vulnerabilities.
 

The 2016 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report, Advancing equitable financial ecosystems
Brookings Institution

The 2016 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services by underserved people across 26 geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries. The 2016 report assesses these countries’ financial inclusion ecosystems based on four dimensions of financial inclusion: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of selected traditional and digital financial services. The 2016 report builds upon the first annual FDIP report, published in August 2015. The 2016 report analyzes key changes in the global financial inclusion landscape over the previous year, broadens its scope by adding five new countries to the study, and provides recommendations aimed at advancing financial inclusion among marginalized groups, such as women, migrants, refugees, and youth.

Media (R)evolutions: New Publications on Media Development around the World

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.

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 250 titles, covering recent media developments and project experiences in about 150 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.
 
The following topics are covered in the January – June 2016 edition:
 

> Audience Research & Media Use
> Children & Media, Youth & Media, Media Literacy
> Christian & Religious Communication
> Cinema & Media Entertainment
> Community Media & Citizen Journalism
> Conflicts, Media & Peacebuilding
> Democracy, Governance & Media, Political Communication
> Development Communication, Environmental Communication, Health Communication
> Disaster & Humanitarian Crisis Communication
> Economics & Management of Media
> Freedom of the Press, Media Policies, Media Legislation
> Gender & Media
> International Communication, Foreign News, Public Diplomacy
> Journalism & Journalism Training
> Media Assistance
> Media Landscapes, Media & Communication General, Media & Society

How do you make aid programmes truly adaptive? New lessons from Bangladesh and Cambodia

Duncan Green's picture
Lisa DenneyDaniel HarrisLeni Wild

Following on from yesterday’s post on adaptive aid, a guest piece from Lisa Denney (far left), Daniel Harris (middle) and Leni Wild (near left), all of ODI.

A swelling chorus of the development community has been advocating for more flexible and adaptive programming that can respond to the twists and turns of political reform processes. They argue that in order to achieve better aid outcomes, we need to do development differently. As part of this agenda, ODI and The Asia Foundation, with the assistance of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tracked and analysed three programmes in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Mongolia. These programmes explicitly sought to work politically in practice, using a relatively small amount of money, a relatively short timeframe, and a focus on tangible changes. We followed attempts to achieve environmental compliance and increase exports in the leather sector in Bangladesh, and to improve solid waste management in Cambodia and Mongolia; issues identified for their potential to make important contributions (economic, health, environmental, etc.) to the wellbeing of citizens. Two of our case studies were released this month, telling the story of how the reforms unfolded and shifted strategy to better leverage the incentives of influential stakeholders, as well as the mechanics of how the Foundation supported adaptive ways of working.
 

How adaptation worked in practice

In each case, the programme teams (led by staff in the Foundation’s local office, and supported by a variety of contracted partners and a wider uncontracted reform network reaching both inside and outside of government) made significant changes to strategy during the implementation phase that helped to address difficult, multidimensional problems. In Cambodia, the team faced a complex and often opaque challenge in which waste collection is characterized by a single company with a long-term confidential contract that is difficult to monitor, a fee structure that does not encourage improved household waste collection, garbage collectors whose conditions do not incentivize performance, and communities that are difficult to access and do not always understand the importance of sanitary waste disposal. With a small Foundation team and limited funding, the approach relied on working with individuals selected as much for personal connections, disposition, and political know-how in working politically and flexibly, as for technical knowledge. The team began by cultivating relations between City Hall and the single contractor providing solid waste management services, then moved to work with the sole provider to improve their delivery, and finally, resolved to end the single contractor model in favour of competition.

Quote of the Week: Svetlana Alexievich

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Svetlana Alexievich“I am drawn to that small space called a human being … a single individual. In reality, that is where everything happens.”

Svetlana Alexievich, an investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.
 

Transnational Companies as Actors in Global Health Outcomes: The Case of Maggi in Africa

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture
Selling fortified Maggi cubes, NigeriaFor decades, health research, policy and outcomes for development work have been the turf of international organizations, local governments and the academia. However, times are changing. Transnational corporations with consumers in many developing countries are in position to affect health outcomes.

Increasing competition in local markets, growing access of low to middle income consumers to pre-made foods, and the advantage of selling popular products by the millions puts companies like Nestlé in a unique situation where they merge brand reputation management with development goals. The are several reasons behind merging a ‘cause’ with business outcomes, including the following:
  • The rise of the social media: When catering to global markets, a company like Nestlé sells of millions products every day. However, any crisis— either in terms of food quality or even an undesirable story— can set off a series of consequences via social media that may be detrimental to a product or brand’s image. This makes it difficult for companies to ignore complaints and inquiries, which could have been the case a decade ago. It also makes having a buffer of good reputation important so that when crises do hit, people give the company the benefit of the doubt.
  • There are more consumers – especially women: The increasing rate of female participation in the workforce increases access of low to middle income households to a greater variety of goods at the market. Further, when women are in control of family budgets, they tend to make more pro-family, future-oriented, and healthier choices. This may ultimately reflect the buying decisions that these consumers make amongst a range of products available – with possibly increased preferences for something which appears to be healthier yet cheaper.

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.

Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways: Is the End of Three-Quarters of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?
Center for Global Development

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?  The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources.

People-Powered Media Innovation in West Africa
Omidyar

As media ecosystems in West Africa are increasingly diversifying and opening up after decades of state control, innovative and independent journalism is advancing government transparency and accountability. New opportunities for funders are opening in tandem, with potential for both social and economic impact. This report explores several of these opportunities, surfaced through in-depth research on Nigeria and Ghana. While both countries lead the region in terms of both economic and media development, they operate under many of the same dynamics and constraints that exist across West Africa, and show how other markets may evolve, politically and commercially.
 

Campaign Art: Respecting food’s life cycle

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

Food waste is a big problem in the world. According to the key facts on food loss and food waste by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 1/3 of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year.

Food waste happens throughout the food life cycle: from the field to your table. That also includes the scrubs from the food that actually makes it to the final stage and is consumed.
The city of San Francisco in California (United States) has commissioned these creative signs to encourage residents to compost their food waste. That way, the organic matter can go back to the earth as nutrients for the soil and for the next crop.
 






















 

Nudge for good: How insights from behavioral economics can improve the world— and manipulate people

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Richard H. Thaler is a world-renowned behavioral economist and professor of finance and psychology. Recently, he was interviewed by The Economist. The discussion covers some of the fundamental studies in the field, like “save more tomorrow” which encourages people to save more by signing up to increase their savings rate every year and auto-enrollment for pensions that have drastically increased employee participation in pension funds.

Thaler also suggests, in the interview, that behavioral economics has the ability to influence human behavior for both good and bad. He argues that much of what behavioral economics does is remove barriers. The goal is not to change people but to make life easier, but that idea can be skewed by organizations or individuals looking to capitalize on the biases of people. Whenever he is asked to sign a copy of his book Nudge, he writes “nudge for good” which is a plea, he says, to improve the lives of people and avoid insidious behavior.

The list of ways companies nudge behavior is endless, and I would love to hear more examples from you all in the comments section. In the meantime here are a few- I’ll let you judge which ones “nudge for good”:

Sport free of doping or glory at all costs: That is not the question anymore

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“Sport is a very important subject at school, that's why I gave Quidditch such an important place at Hogwarts. I was very bad in sports, so I gave Harry a talent I would really loved to have. Who wouldn't want to fly?”  - J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels
 
Even Greek mythology embraces the human desire to fly, as many of us might recall in the escape story of Daedalus and his son, Icarus, from Crete. He used wax and string to fasten feathers to reeds of varying lengths to imitate the curves of a bird's wings. Daedalus advised his son to fly at a medium altitude and follow his path of flight. If he flew too high, the sun could melt the wax, and if he flew too low, the sea could dampen the feathers. Unfortunately, Icarus became euphoric, and against the wisdom of his father, he glided higher and higher. The sun melted the wax holding his wings together, and the boy dropped into the sea and drowned. 
 
This myth has its own interpretation in sport psychology; moreover, it serves perfectly as a foreword for this reflection on the prevalence of performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) in contemporary sports in which athletes are tempted to fly above human body limits or cruise too low under the radar of clean sport. At both altitudes, they gamble with their well-being. 
 
In 1997, Bamberger and Yaeger surveyed 198 mostly US Olympians and Olympic hopefuls. They asked if the athletes would take PEDs under the hypothetical premise of not being caught and knowing they would be guaranteed a victory; 195 of 198 responded “yes”. Additionally, if the caveat was added that they would die from the side effects within 5 years, 61% of the athletes still said they would use PEDs.

Quote of the week: J.K. Rowling

Sina Odugbemi's picture

J.K. Rowling "Many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are."

-J.K. Rowling, a British novelist, screenwriter, and film producer best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, becoming the best-selling book series in history and the basis for a series of films. Rowling has led a "rags to riches" life story, in which she progressed from living on state benefits to multi-millionaire status within five years.

Animal husbandry and dairy development: State of Haryana’s initiatives in India

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

In India, animal husbandry and dairying are important economic activities accounting for approximately 33 percent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). India is the largest producer of milk having achieved an annual production of 146.3 million tons in 2014-15. As the economy grows and income increases, a World Bank study points out, per capita consumption for milk and milk products in the country is projected to rise to more than 350 grams per day by 2020.

Dairying is also a major source of livelihood for approximately 80 percent of small and marginal farmers in India (typically owning one to three milk producing animals) who contribute approximately 70 percent to the total milk production. In addition, women play an extremely critical role in multifarious dairying activities at the household level in both rural and urban areas. The country’s livestock sector is one of the largest in the world with 56.7% and 12.5% of world’s buffaloes and cattle respectively.  

An important milestone in the significant growth of the dairy sector in the past decades has been a series of ‘Operation Flood Programs’ spearheaded by the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) through promotion of dairy cooperatives across the country. In addition, the World Bank funded National Dairy Plan 1 (NDP) run by the NDDB for the period 2011-12 to 2017-18, is a scientifically planned multi-state initiative. It aims at increasing the productivity of milch animals and providing rural milk producers greater access to the organized milk-processing sector. It is estimated that only 30 percent of the marketable surplus is sold to the organized sector. Small producers in rural areas, who account for 70 percent of milk production, are particularly affected.

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.

Unlocking access to utility services: The transformational value of mobile
GSMA
The Mobile for Development Utilities Annual Report highlights the transformational role of mobile in improving the delivery of essential services to the underserved, and the increasing viability of the business models currently being implemented. The report covers three areas: emerging trends, MNO collaboration and funding in the mobile-enabled utility sector.

Compulsory voting results in more evenly distributed political knowledge
LSE Blog

Given interminably low rates of voter turnout across most Western democracies, looking to compulsory voting as a panacea for democracy’s ills seems sensible. Comparatively low – or declining – voter turnout is viewed generally as a symptom of civic disengagement from politics. Compulsory voting can also mitigate inequality in participation and representation. Citizens with the most resources and influence are typically the most likely to vote, and by voting for candidates and parties who reflect their interests, their participation can perpetuate systemic social biases.

Refugee team carries bittersweet message to the world

Farhad Peikar's picture
Also available in: Español

Thousands of spectators rippled to their feet while millions of others around the world joyfully watched live images on TV as the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team (ROT) marched in Brazil’s Maracanã Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. Comprised of five South Sudanese runners, two Congolese judokas, two swimmers from Syria and a marathoner from Ethiopia, the six male and four female athletes were selected from a pool of 43 possible candidates.  Their inclusion was one of the top feel-good moments of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio because the 10-athlete-team not only carried the Olympic flag, but also a message of hope for millions of young people that have been driven from their homes.
 
However, while there is much to celebrate and many to praise for this unprecedented and historical initiative in the world of sports, in an ideal world such a team should not exist at all. The few joyful moments - compounded with our cheers - should not obscure the realities of unmatched human suffering in refugee camps worldwide. The very existence of such a team reminds us that the world has collectively failed over 65 million displaced people in helping them return home or find a new place to call their permanent home. These athletes represent a community that is running away from regional conflicts, civil wars, aggressions, genocides, famines, poverty, and diseases— some of which are so deep-rooted that finding viable solutions seems elusive.

Media (R)evolutions: Film industry will grow in coming years- mostly in Asia Pacific

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.

The film industry will see a great deal of movement and huge shifts in audiences over the next five years, but will be strong overall. Much of the growth will be attributable to a 12% growth rate in the Asia Pacific region.  Predominant areas of growth will include box office revenue, electronic home entertainment, event cinema, and local-language production throughout the world.  Video game adaptations are also growing rapidly. For example, Universal Pictures released “Warcraft” in the U.S. on June 10, garnering dismal reviews and only $45.9 million at the box office since then, while in China the film made $65.1 million in its opening weekend and a total of $ $219.7 million by the end of June, where it was supported by an elaborate marketing campaign. Thanks to these robust Chinese earnings and another $412.6 million world-wide it became the highest grossing film adaptation of a videogame ever.

This graph shows strong growth across the film industry, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers' annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook and reported in The Hollywood Reporter.


Grievance Redress Mechanism: A case of Nepal’s Hello Sarkar

Deepa Rai's picture

A section of a footpath is swept away by landslide near the international airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. The roads are slippery and difficult to walk on or even drive due to potholes and delayed maintenance in the valley. These are just few difficulties that I endure during my everyday commute, but what do I actually do about it? I complain about it with my friends, we all nod in agreement and we get on with our everyday chores.

Pranish Thapa, on the other hand, is an exception. A 17 year old student, he has complained on issues ranging from public infrastructures, abuse of power, the quality of education, good governance or the lack of it, etc... His complaints have gone beyond 3000 over the last five years. He lodges his grievances through Hello Sarkar, which literally means Hello Government in Nepali.

Pulled by the abstract of the event organized by Martin Chautari, I decided to see how the case of Grievance Redress Mechansim (GRM) is working in Nepal. The event information stated: Hello Sarkar aims at making the government more accountable to the people by addressing citizens’ grievances on public service delivery directly. It is located at the heart of the state machinery, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. Concerned citizens can approach the system via phone (toll-free number- 1111), mobile texts, email, social media or website.

Quote of the Week: John Hurt

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“You’ve got to be careful with style, how you describe it. So much comes from things you observe, that lodge in your mind – what you see in somebody else and want to reproduce in yourself. Style is longing… longing to be something or someone else.”

- Sir John Vincent Hurt, CBE, an English actor whose career has spanned six decades. He initially came to prominence for his supporting role as Richard Rich in the film A Man for All Seasons (1966). Since then he has played leading roles in the film The Naked Civil Servant (1975), David Lynch's biopic The Elephant Man (1980), the dystopian drama Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), The Hit (1984), and in the drama depicting the Profumo affair, Scandal (1989). He is also known for his television roles such as Caligula in I, Claudius (1976), and the War Doctor in Doctor Who.

He received Academy Award nominations for his roles in Midnight Express, and The Elephant Man. In 2012, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts honored Hurt with a lifetime achievement award.

Joseph de Maistre’s prophecy: Is violence unavoidably human?

Sina Odugbemi's picture
These days, every day brings news of a fresh outrage somewhere in the world. As the body count grows, empathy fatigue has set in. And the perpetrators of violence must have come to the same conclusion because they are finding ever more imaginative ways to kill innocents and stupefy the rest of us. The question is: is the ubiquity of violence a passing phase in a world that is allegedly getting more civilized? Or is violence simply a part of fundamental human nature? Each day, as the news alerts on my iPhone bring fresh news of horrific killings somewhere in the world, as I get really, really fed up with it all, someone has been coming to my mind. His name is Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821), a conservative political philosopher that I studied in graduate school several seasons ago now, and one whose ideas have stayed with me. Last weekend, I went to re-read one of his classic texts: Considerations on France (1796).

The work was a reaction, a fierce and uncompromising one at that, to the French Revolution, much like Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. But, as often happens with the leading figures in the history of political thought, a particular historical event prompted reflections on the nature of man and the judicious organization of political communities. My copy of the work is part of the series that I consider the best in the field: The Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. This particular one contains a magisterial introduction by the great Isaiah Berlin. Here is how Berlin sums him up:
 

What made Maistre so fascinating to his own generation was that he forced them to look at the seamy side of things. He forced them out of bland optimism…Maistre’s contribution is a violent antidote to the over-blown, over-optimistic and altogether too superficial social doctrines of the eighteenth century. Maistre earns our gratitude as a prophet of the most violent, the most destructive forces which have threatened and still threaten the liberty and the ideals of normal human beings. (p. xxxiii)

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.

 

Large-Scale Social Protest: A Business Risk and a Bureaucratic Opportunity
Governance Journal

The public versus private nature of organizations influences their goals, processes, and employee values. However, existing studies have not analyzed whether and how the public nature of organizations shapes their responses to concrete social pressures. This article takes a first step toward addressing this gap by comparing the communication strategies of public organizations and businesses in response to large-scale social protests. Specifically, we conceptualize, theorize, and empirically analyze the communication strategies of 100 organizations in response to large-scale social protests that took place in Israel during 2011.

Harnessing the Internet of Things for Global Development
ITU/CISCO/UNESCO Broadband Commission for Sustainable Development
This report explores the current use and potential of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies in tackling global development challenges, highlighting a number of specific instances where IoT interventions are helping to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. It presents summary conclusions on what is required for the IoT to reach billions of people living in the developing world, and also to accelerate income growth and social development as a result.
 

Parts of the aid system just don’t work – the dismal cycle of humanitarian response

Duncan Green's picture

Every now and then an email stops me in my tracks, reminding me that Oxfam is stuffed full of bright, motivated, altruistic people. Here’s one I got a few weeks ago from Debbie Hillier, one of our Humanitarian Policy Advisers, in response to my request for thoughts on the state of the aid business. Her views are fleshed out in ‘A Preventable Crisis’, a new report published this week:
 

"Hi Duncan,

Here is a current example of how the aid system doesn’t work.

El Niño events and other droughts are forecast months in advance.  There is of course some uncertainty in the forecasts, but nonetheless, there is often a high probability of a natural hazard.  And with major droughts/El Niño/La Niña, these can affect many millions of people.

So there are situations of high probability and high impact – like the current El Niño.  And these are situations where we know what the solutions are. There are far fewer complicating political factors than in conflict – we know what to do.

If this was the private sector, there would be a significant response at this point. However the aid system does not work like this.

Campaign Art: The Alphabet of Illiteracy

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

According to new data from UNESCO, there are 758 million adults 15 years and older who still cannot read or write a simple sentence. Roughly two-thirds of them are female. That means that approximately 1 in 10 adults in the world cannot read or write. For young women in sub-Saharan Africa, the rate remains very low: 4.5 of every 10 are illiterate (the literacy rate is 65% for that group).

Illiterate people are more likely than literate people to be poor, have children at an earlier age and lack opportunities to participate fully in society and have meaningful employment. The social costs of illiteracy are very big.

Project Literacy is a global movement that brings together a diverse cross-section of people and organizations from all over the world to build partnerships to improve literacy. They created the Alphabet of Illiteracy to demonstrate some of the possible effects of illiteracy in an impactful way.
 
The Alphabet Of Illiteracy - #ProjectLiteracy

Nudging students past the 'completion crisis' at universities

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Education is crucial to ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.  Education provides individuals with knowledge, skills and competences that enable them to participate effectively in society and in the economy. Studies show that educated individuals are more likely to be employed, live longer, participate more actively the community where they live, commit fewer crimes and rely less on social assistance. These trends also improve their health, political interest and happiness.  Moreover, highly-educated individuals— those completing a tertiary degree— are less affected by unemployment trends, typically because educational attainment makes them more attractive in the workforce.
 
Across the OECD countries, individuals attain, on average, 17.5 years of education, according to an analysis of the number of people between the ages of 5 and 39 currently in school. Results range from 14.4 years of education in Mexico, to nearly 20 years in Finland. For tertiary education, the numbers drop, and few countries have workforces in which more than 50% of individuals have a university degree or other specialized training. Women are, however, more likely to complete a tertiary or university degree than men in most OECD countries, a reversal of the historical pattern that favored men. On average across OECD countries, 35% of women aged 25-64 attain a tertiary education compared with 32% of men.
 
In addition to committing to achieving universal primary education and now several years of secondary school in their national targets, many countries have also recognized the need to boost graduation rates at university, college, and technical schools.
 
In the United States, college dropout rates are high. Most U.S. high school graduates enroll in college, but only 59% of students at four-year schools complete their degree within six years, and only 29% at two-year institutions finish within three years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (pg. 30).
 
Students who begin but don’t finish tertiary degrees are in a poor economic position, bearing the costs of tuition and time without reaping any of the rewards a degree offers, including the potential for nearly double lifetime earnings and halve the rate of unemployment.
 
The reasons for this so-called "completion crisis" vary, but practical barriers like choosing loan amounts, registering for the right classes, or seeking academic support when needed interact with and aggravate larger structural issues, like high tuition rates, poor academic preparation, and the stress of balancing work and family obligations. Recognizing these barriers and designing targeted, cost-effective solutions can yield huge gains in the outcomes that matter most— attendance rates, course completion, GPA, and ultimately graduation.
 

Blog post of the month: Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In July 2016, the featured blog post is "Abdul Sattar Edhi – One man can change the world" by Sonia Jawaid Shaikh.

It is almost impossible to think of a welfare system without state resources and intervention. But one man, Abdul Sattar Edhi, is single-handedly responsible for creating an unparalleled mini-welfare state system within the state of Pakistan.

In the early 1950s, a young Edhi started begging on the streets of Karachi to buy a battered old van to be used as an ambulance. In 2016, the non-profit Edhi Foundation had over 1800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan – all via public donation. Most Pakistanis will call an Edhi ambulance, rather than a private or state run service in case of an emergency. Edhi’s air ambulances were the first responders when an earthquake struck northern Pakistan in 2008. The reach of Edhi services during emergencies also extends to other parts of South Asia such as Nepal after the recent earthquake.

Over the years, Edhi expanded his work across many areas. His foundation runs homes for women, rehabilitation centers, workshops for skills based learning, dispensaries, soup kitchens, orphanages, welfare centers, missing persons services, refugees assistance, animal center, morgues and burial services including graveyards, child adoption services, and homes for mentally challenged across the country. Thousands of Pakistani children have Edhi and his wife Bilquis Edhi as parents on their official documentation. Edhi services are accessible and open to all but devoid of religious and governmental support in any monetary form.

Quote of the Week: Julius Malema

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We must smell so we show commitment to the revolution? We must go and stay in a shack and then get into a bus to show that we are revolutionary? That’s incorrect. That’s actually vulgarising the revolution, because both the socialist struggle and what the Economic Freedom Fighters represent is not sameness — like we must dress alike, we must walk alike, we must sing alike, we must dance alike.  I dress properly. I dress anyhow I wish and no one can tell me how to dress.”

-Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political party, which he founded in July 2013.He previously was a member of the ANC, helped propel Jacob Zuma forward to be President of South Africa, and served as President of the African National Congress Youth League from 2008 to 2012. 

Malema was convicted of hate speech in March 2010 and again in September 2011. In November 2011, he was found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC and was suspended from the party for five years. On February 4, 2012, the appeal committee of the ANC announced that it found no reason to "vary" the disciplinary committee's decidion to suspend Malema from the party, but did find additional evidence in aggravation of the circumstances, leading them to impose the harsher sentence of expulsion from the ANC. On April 25, 2012, Malema lost an appeal to have his expulsion from the ANC overturned, and his expulsion took immediate effect.