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collaboration

What’s the recipe to cook up networks for resilience?

Megan Rowling's picture

Spreading the word about the need to get ahead of climate change and disasters, linking people and organisations so they can tackle problems better together, discovering new knowledge and resources to build resilience  - apart from that, 'what have networks ever done for us?' we might ask, to steal the famous Monty Python line.
 
It's a question we set out to answer at a panel discussion I moderated at the RES/CON gathering in New Orleans earlier this month. With Zilient.org, we are aiming to build an online "network of networks" - and so understanding the value of networks and the challenges of creating effective ones will be key to what we do.
 
At the conference, a diverse line-up of panelists - from the non-profit, private and public sectors – gave their insights. Here are some of the key ideas that emerged:
 
1. New forms of collaboration: The huge challenges posed to societies and economies by global problems like climate change require an "all hands on deck" approach. The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), set up in 2008 by The Rockefeller Foundation, now helps some 50 cities in the region devise and implement strategies to help urban communities address climate change. Shannon Alexander, a senior director at development agency Mercy Corps, which has also supported the network, said ACCCRN had enabled civil society to have a voice, and work with local governments and business to figure out what the problems are, and how best to solve them.

Leadership for results

Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan's picture
In my experience, when development practitioners are called in to help address a complex challenge, they are not alone. Every development project requires an implementation team – people working together to achieve development objectives and outcomes. Depending on the nature of the challenge, practitioners may work with government officials, staff from NGOs and CSOs, community leaders, sector specialists, and others. It, thus, becomes vitally important for members of these teams to understand one another and the stake each has in the project, the perspective from which they approach it, and their assumptions about it, their history with, and their commitment to it.
 
In addition, development professionals must become knowledgeable about the reality of the communities in which they work to avoid designing implementation plans that don’t always work out as intended. For example, we have all heard the stories of cook stoves or toilets that are introduced into communities, but are used as storage objects. This attention to personal, political, and social factors affecting project design and implementation is precisely what the Collaborative Leadership for Development Program helps operational teams achieve and maintain, to get desired results.
 
In the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, the World Bank identifies three kinds of thinking we all do by reflex.
  • Thinking automatically, rather than carefully and deliberatively – we typically do not bring our full analytical prowess to bear on the issues and experiences of our daily lives;
  • Thinking socially, or in ways that are related to how others around us think – the influence of peer-pressure on our thought process is an example; and
  • Thinking with mental models generated by societal norms and the culture in which we live that tacitly influence how we perceive and think about our world.

These ways of thinking, research suggests, are implicit and fundamental and they shape human behavior, including interpersonal and collective interactions and decision making. This insight has enormous implications for our development work. If we do not account for and bring to the surface such social, cultural, and psychological realities in the design and implementation of projects, we can expect to be setting ourselves up for failure. Most challenges today are a complex mix of technical problems and behavioral or adaptive challenges.

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.

Transparency, Accountability, and Technology
Plan International
The recently launched Sustainable Development Goals have kicked off a renewed development agenda that features, among other things, a dedicated emphasis on peace, justice, and strong institutions. This emphasis, encapsulated in Goal #16, contains several sub-priorities, including reducing corruption; developing effective, accountable, and transparent institutions; ensuring inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making; and ensuring access to information.  Indeed, the governance-related Goals merely stamp an official imprimatur on what have now become key buzzwords in development. Naturally, where there are buzzwords, there are “tools.” In many cases, those “tools” turn out to be information and communications technologies, and the data flows they facilitate. It’s no wonder, then, that technology has been embraced by the development community as a crucial component of the global accountability and transparency “toolkit.”

Freedom in the World 2016
Freedom House
The world was battered in 2015 by overlapping crises that fueled xenophobic sentiment in democratic countries, undermined the economies of states dependent on the sale of natural resources, and led authoritarian regimes to crack down harder on dissent. These unsettling developments contributed to the 10th consecutive year of decline in global freedom.

Good Research, Great Video: What’s the Best Way to Motivate Community Health Workers?

Duncan Green's picture

Some more innovative work from the London School of Economics. This genuinely thought-provoking 8 minute video describes a collaboration between the LSE-hosted International Growth Centre and Zambia’s Ministry of Health. The background academic paper is here.

Researchers and officials worked together to answer an important question: to motivate people in rural villages to become rural community health workers (CHWs), is it best to appeal to their community spirit, or to their hopes for individual career development? If you do the latter, will people lose their link to the community, and replicate the problem with more standard professional health workers, many of whom hate working in rural areas, and head for the city?

To do that, they divided up 160 villages targeted for recruitment. In half they put up posters that stressed ‘come and serve your community’, in the rest they put the emphasis on careers (see above: figures 1a and 1b of the paper). Sure enough, the posters attracted different kinds of people to apply for CHW training.

Reaching Out From The Academic Grove

Tom Jacobson's picture

I am pleased to be able to return to blogging in this space after a rather extended stint in the land of higher education administration, and am welcoming a re-immersion in matters related to using communication to help facilitate development efforts.  One such matter on my mind following the administrative assignment is the relative lack of contact between academics that study development and practitioners who actually do development work. 

The gap is widely noted anecdotally, and a recent study confirms the anecdotes. The Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication recently reported a study, conducted for BBC Media Action, on the reach and impact of Media Action’s work globally. One of their findings is that the world of practitioners underutilizes help that is available from academia: “…practitioners are less likely than other development stakeholders to consult academic research on the media…,” and “the policy community involved in funding media programs makes only moderate use of available research and evidence.” Of course, it goes both ways. Promotion up the academic ladder tends to reward theoretical inquiry regardless of real world impact.  And, thus, much research tends to be more useful theoretically than practically. Furthermore, for reasons there isn’t time to review here, the considerable number of communication research graduate programs that include development studies has atrophied in recent decades.

Storytellers Redux: A Development Slam

Maya Brahmam's picture

We had an interesting experiment last month with our very first Development Slam – modeled on the idea of a Poetry Slam – that was held with Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellows and the World Bank Group’s storytellers.

The Slam allowed people to share their experiences in an interactive way with their peers and allowed the audience to participate as well via an open mic.

Delivering Results: The Collaboration Imperative

Camilo Azcarate's picture

There seems to be a growing consensus among experts in different fields that in today’s highly interdependent world, effective collaboration has become crucial for achieving results.
 
As part of the World Bank's Internal Justice System Week a few days ago, we attended a presentation by Dr. Peter Coleman, Director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University and heir of an illustrious research tradition in social-psychology going back almost a hundred years. Dr. Coleman is part of an inter-disciplinary team of global experts that also includes mathematicians, astrophysicists, anthropologists and computer modeling experts in a quest to answer the following question: what are the conditions that support or hinder collaboration in social relations?
 
Using computer simulations they observed the results of competitive and cooperative behaviors, and detected how dynamic patterns develop over time. They realized that the dynamic social relations created behaved in ways similar to those that have been observed in other complex systems, from cancerous cellular mutations to global climate shifts. Like such systems, social dynamics are not only complex but also “non-linear”, which means that the different elements constantly influence each other, acting as both cause and effect of each other’s behaviors. The tool available to study such systems is known as “dynamical system theory”, and Dr. Coleman’s team has been applying its methods to social systems.

Cambridge Votes Save Artist from Apocalypse

Caroline Jaine's picture

Last night I attended the launch of the 2013 Cambridge International Development Report at Cambridge University.  The report is the work of the Humanitarian Centre – a unique network that is truly cross-sector and collaborative in its approach.
 
So often I attend conferences and networks with homogenous attendees.  Artists network with artists, social entrepreneurs with social entrepreneurs and diplomats with diplomats.  Empathy and feel good scores high at these events, but rarely are people surprised, intrigued or challenged. The Humanitarian Centre puts poverty at its heart – and as a result attracts not just development professionals, but business leaders, academics, policy-makers, and, as it turns out – artists. 
 
To launch the report last night I was asked to take part in a “life raft” debate.   I had no idea what this was at first, but happily joined into the playful scenario.  I am an artist after all. Everyone at the event was a survivor of an apocalypse.   The year was 2015. The building we were in - Newnham College – was the last building standing on a tiny patch of land in the British Isles.  The life raft was heavily laden with food, stocks and blankets and people and was poised to sail away to a new land, where survivors would build a new society from the ground up.  Just as the raft was about to embark, six more survivors were found trapped under the rubble of a collapsed building.  You can guess what comes next.  I was one of the six and I had to argue my way onto the only remaining place on the boat.  I was not there as a communications strategist or international relations expert – instead they asked me to present my case as an artist.

Science of Meetings? Yes There Is One

Tanya Gupta's picture

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

Ascending the CSO Engagement Continuum III – Operational Collaboration

John Garrison's picture

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

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