- Niccolo Machiavelli (1532), The Prince
- Niccolo Machiavelli (1532), The Prince
The importance of framing policy issues has made repeat performances on this blog. As Kathleen Hall Jamieson simply puts it, frames influence the ways in which we think about things, emphasizing some aspects of a phenomenon and deemphasizing others. Recently in The New York Times, John Broder wrote about the framing of environmental issues in an article entitled “Seeking to Save the Planet, With a Thesuarus.” Broder's piece reports on a document that was accidentally sent to media organizations by EcoAmerica, an organization that has been conducting public opinion research on framing and reframing of environmental issues to build public support for policy change. Here are some findings, as reported by Broder:
There are a lot of highly interesting talks and events on governance at the World Bank these days, often we discuss them here in our blog. The other week we had a guest from the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), Roland Rich, who is the Fund's Executive Head. He gave a remarkable presentation, full of memorable propositions that would all merit a blog post or two. From "We're all footnotes to Plato" to "An idea is not responsible for the people who support it" there was a lot of food for thought. For this post, I'll pick only one of his many inspiring ideas: the role of social capital in development.
Technocracies change very slowly, if at all. Why? I have come to believe that people are both enabled and imprisoned by the frameworks and paradigms of their technical disciplines, the subjects in which they have earned advanced degrees from top universities. It is how they tend to see the world. It is also how they approach problems in international development.
Let's take an example. Suppose you are thinking through how to improve the governance of the transport sector in Gugu Republic. Engineers will see an engineering challenge. Economists will see markets and incentive systems. Political scientists will look for the underlying 'rules of the game', the politics of why the sector does not function the way it should. Social development specialists will worry about affected 'communities'. And communication specialists? They want to think about the attitudes, opinions and behaviors of key stakeholders. So, you ask each of these specialists: How do we fix the problem? The tendency is for each one to apply the frameworks and paradigms of the academic discipline he or she has emerged from. This is where power comes in. If one of these professional groups is in power in a particular development institution or sector then the temptation is to impose the frameworks and paradigms of that discipline.
"A new situation has arisen throughout the world, created by the spread of literacy among the people and the miraculous improvement of the means of communication.
Our good friend Amartya Sen checks-in recently with an essay in the New York Review of Books (March 26, which I am just getting to). Our good friend, because as a leading economist he is also a serious and long standing student of development challenges given his work on poverty, income distribution, famine, and so on. The occasion of this particular NYRB essay is the ongoing financial crisis. In it, he addresses recent calls for a “new economics,” as exemplified in the "New World, New Capitalism" symposium held in Paris in January, hosted by Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair. The idea, as Blair proposed, is to call for a new financial order based on “values other than the maximum short-term profit.”
Regarding my recent post on 'The Collective Action Problem: The Case of America's Uninsured' here is a little nugget from William A. Galston:
While I have stressed the significance of changes in structures of power and interests in the United States, there is as well an enduring political reality stressed by analysts from Machiavelli to Dahl: the forces of the status quo enjoy a systemic advantage over the forces of change. Those who benefit from the status quo know who they are, can calculate what they have to lose, and have strong incentives to organize to protect themselves against losses. By contrast, the beneficiaries of broad change are a diffuse group. They can only project or imagine (not experience) the impact of the proposed change on their lives, and many will be disposed to doubt that the promised benefits will reach them at all. For these reasons, among others, they are harder to organize than are those who seek to protect what they already have. (The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, p. 554)
Recently our colleagues from the BBC World Service Trust forwarded us a report on "Governance and the Media," an opinion survey of policy makers in the realm of governance and media development. Late last year CommGAP also commissioned a "Governance Advisors Assessment Study" with virtually similar objectives. Both studies gauge the current thinking on the role of the media in governance, its perceived importance, and obstacles to integrating media work into governance reform. Amazingly, both reports present almost identical results.
“Think of a world where everybody is afraid to speak out, then think of a world where no one is afraid to speak up.”