These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The data revolution: finding the missing millions
For governments wanting to end poverty, steward sustainable environments and foster healthy, thriving populations with the opportunity to earn a decent living, many of the necessary pieces are now in place. They start from a good base. Millions of families have escaped poverty and many million more children are in schools than was the case 15 years ago. Much more is known about successful developmental pathways. And many of the world’s poorest countries are experiencing strong economic growth. But, finance aside, there is still one key element the absence of which is impeding progress: data. Governments do not adequately know their own people.
Economic Coalition of the Willing
or the past decade, a quiet experiment has been underway at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Paris-based body composed of the United States and other advanced market democracies. Although it is often dismissed as sleepy and technocratic, the OECD has found a way to remain relevant in a quickly shifting global landscape, and other multilateral organizations would be wise to pay attention. The OECD, like numerous other international bodies, must adapt to changing geopolitical dynamics that have left new major global players outside its ranks. Its response is a so-called “key partner” initiative that allows it to engage—and seek to influence—pivotal nonmember states. This method strikes the right balance between maintaining the OECD’s symbolic role as the enforcer of Western norms and meeting its practical need to maintain a foothold on the global stage.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22, seeks to raise awareness and support for environmental protection.
2015 is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day and the theme this year is "It's our turn to lead," raising hopes that people can lead by example in protecting the environment so that world leaders might follow. The Earth Day Network is hoping that 2015 will be the year "in which economic growth and sustainability join hands."
Greenpeace, a non-governmental environmental organization working to "ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity", campaigns on global issues like climate change, deforestation, the health of the oceans, and ecological farming. The following video, like this year's call to action, encourages us all to lend a helping hand.
Theories of change (ToCs) – will the idea stick around and shape future thinking on development, or slide back into the bubbling morass of aid jargon, forgotten and unlamented? Last week some leading ToC-istas at ODI, LSE and The Asia Foundation and a bunch of other organisations spent a whole day taking stock, and the discussion highlighted strengths, weaknesses and some looming decisions.
(Summary, agenda + presentations here)
According to an excellent 2011 overview by Comic Relief, ToCs are an "on-going process of reflection to explore change and how it happens – and what that means for the part we play". They locate a programme or project within a wider analysis of how change comes about, draw on external learning about development, articulate our understanding of change and acknowledge wider systems and actors that influence change.
But the concept remains very fuzzy, partly because (according to a useful survey by Isobel Vogel) ToCs originated from two very different kinds of thought: evaluation (trying to clarify the links between inputs and outcomes) and social action, especially participatory and consciously reflexive approaches.
At the risk of gross generalization, the first group tends to treat ToCs as ‘logframes on steroids’, a useful tool to develop more complete and accurate chains of cause and effect. The second group tend to see the world in terms of complex adaptive systems, and believe the more linear approaches (if we do X then we will achieve Y) are a wild goose chase. These groups (well, actually they’re more of a spectrum) co-exist within organisations, and even between different individuals in country offices.
Mobile phones are increasingly prevalent throughout the world, and researchers have found that sending text message reminders can help people follow-through with their intentions, significantly increasing the success of development interventions.
“People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”
These are the wise words of Samuel Johnson, an English author, critic, and lexicographer. Even though he lived more than 200 years ago, international development interventions are proving him correct today.
Reminders for Malaria
It’s widely known that failure to adhere to a full course of antibiotic treatment results in treatment failure can also encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics, threatening the sustainability of current medications. This is extremely important for malaria, which, according to the World Health Organization, results in 198 million cases each year and around 584,000 deaths. The burden is particularly heavy in Africa, where around 90% of call malaria deaths occur and in children under 5 years of age who account for 78% of all deaths. Low rates of adherence to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) treatments has led to prevalence of antibiotic-resistant Malaria in many parts of the world, particularly Africa. One of the biggest and simplest reasons why people fail to complete the full treatment for Malaria is that they forget.
More and more of us these days consume news in a multiplatform manner, and every week, every day even, we learn about a fresh outrage that has occurred somewhere in the world.
The news media stay on each outrage for a while. A plane crashes. Why? How? The pilot flew the plane into the mountain? Goodness! Why? How did the airline miss his descent into madness? And on and on they go. For a while, it is a frenzy of analysis, fresh angles, scandal-hunting, scapegoats-sniffing and so on.
Eventually, the media move on to the next outrage. What is interesting is that we tend to move on before the media do. There is a lag before the media realize that we are bored with the story, that we are mentally blocking it, and that the readership or audience numbers are no longer sky-high.
That moving on from the intense coverage of the latest outrage that we do is what I find fascinating. For we don’t just move on, without conscious effort we try to forget about the outrage because we have to get on with our lives. We are naturally good at forgetting. The question is: why do we practice forgetting so skillfully?
Watchdogs Under Watch: Media in the Age of Cyber Surveillance
Center for International Media Assistance
The report looks at the implications that electronic surveillance–of e-mail communications, telephone calls, visits to websites, online shopping, and even the physical whereabouts of individuals–presents for privacy and for freedom of expression and association on the one hand and for national security and law enforcement on the other. Striking the right balance between these fundamental human rights and the need for governments to protect their citizens poses a daunting challenge for policy makers, civil society, news media, and, in the end, just about everybody.
Measuring what policymakers want from academics
An increasing number of unsupported, but plausible, claims assert a widening gap between the policy and academic communities in international relations. Certainly both IR scholars and IR practitioners perceive a growing gap between the academic and policy communities. But how would we know if there were an actual gap and whether it was growing or shrinking? Scholars have addressed this question by drawing upon personal experience and anecdotal evidence. Joe Nye and Steve Walt have argued that academic research is increasingly irrelevant and inaccessible to policy practitioners. Others, such as Peter Feaver and Mike Horowitz, offer a more qualified take but provide no systematic evidence. So we still need to do what Kate Weaver has suggested: “mind — and measure — the gap” between what scholars are researching and what policymakers are demanding.
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.
Social mobile messaging apps are one of the most popular and fastest growing applications for mobile devices. Around 90 percent of Brazilians who own smartphones or feature phones use messaging apps, 160 billion instant messages were sent in 2013 in the U.K., and an estimated 50 billion instant messages were sent each day in 2014.
Forrester has even predicted messaging apps to be the “new social media”. Many messaging apps are bypassing social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter as top-performing social platforms, and this is especially true in Asia where WeChat is popular in China, Line in Japan and Kakao Talk in South Korea. These messaging apps are more socially-centric and offer services beyond traditional communication including media sharing, timelines, public accounts, news and information services, gaming, payment, location services, and other functions. Outside of Asia, WhatsApp remains the most widely known in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Germany, India, and Indonesia; and Viber is a strong competitor worldwide. Collectively, these apps possess a massive global audience-base, although no single platform has achieved true global scale.
In response to feedback he received on a recent post on the myths of governance in development, David Booth of ODI offers some ways to reorient governance work for more effective change.
My Five myths blog questioned several assumptions about governance and development that continue to influence the international agenda despite having little basis in research or historical experience. The animated debate that followed has confirmed that it is a good time to be raising these issues. It also challenged me to spell out some of the practical recommendations flowing from this necessary ground-clearing.
I believe five steps would take us a long way towards a governance-for-development practice with solid grounding in evidence and experience.
"We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better."
-J.K. Rowling, a British novelist best known for writing the Harry Potter series. The books have gained worldwide attention, selling more than 400 million copies. 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.