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What are the Ingredients of Democratic Breakthroughs?

Duncan Green's picture

The United States Institute of Peace has a very interesting paper out on ‘Democratic Breakthroughs: the Ingredients of Successful Revolts.’ It's a bit reductionist, but identifies some potentially informative patterns. This from the summary:

The cases of successful breakthrough examined in this study are the Soviet Union in 1991 and Russia in 1993, Poland in 1989, Serbia in 2000, Ukraine in 2004, Indonesia by 1999, Chile in 1988, and South Africa by 1996. Cases of failed and then ultimately successful democratic transition are Ghana by 2000, Mexico by 2000, South Korea by 1987, and Turkey by 1983. Finally, the cases of failed transition examined are Algeria in 1991, Iran in 1979, China in 1989, and Azerbaijan in 2005.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

ICFJ
African News Innovation Winners Focus on Citizen Engagement, Investigative Tools and Whistleblower Security

“Twenty African media innovators will receive a total of $1 million to develop digital projects that improve the quality of news across the continent, as part of the first African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC).

Many recipients concentrated on enhancing citizen journalism, investigative reporting and source protection.

ANIC is the largest fund for digital journalism experimentation in Africa. It is designed to spur solutions to the business, distribution and workplace challenges facing the African news industry. The contest was organized by the African Media Initiative (AMI), the continent’s largest association of media owners and operators, and managed by Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein. The fellowships are administered by the International Center for Journalists.”  READ MORE

Governance 2.0: Can Social Media Fueled "2.0 Web" Really Improve Governance?

Tanya Gupta's picture

Web 2.0 is improving governance, with or without the help of the government in question, and irrespective of whether the country is developed or not.

Throwing traditional wisdom to the winds, the Web 2.0 story is continuing to unfold in a way that was not predicted by researchers and experts of the development community and outside. Recently there have been more than a few examples related to the citizen-fueled proliferation of news, occurring independently of the Government, (and in some countries, even inspite of the opposition of the Government).

From Egypt to Syria, with the very start of the situation, social networks played a role in disseminating news across the world. Twitter, Facebook and blogs providing fascinating live coverage of the various uprisings across the world. Citizens are managing to circumvent any attempts to block Twitter, and often flood the site with their versions of the breaking stories. All major social networking tools are in full use, with Twitter leading the attack. Facebook (status updates and groups), Flickr (photographs), YouTube (videos), Blogger.com, and others communicating the ongoing events. (Of course, this is if you accept that democracy and good governance are highly correlated)

Lant Pritchett v the Randomistas on the Nature of Evidence - Is a Wonkwar Brewing?

Duncan Green's picture

Recently I had a lot of conversations about evidence. First, one of the periodic retreats of Oxfam senior managers reviewed our work on livelihoods, humanitarian partnership and gender rights. The talk combined some quantitative work (for example the findings of our new ‘effectiveness reviews’), case studies, and the accumulated wisdom of our big cheeses. But the tacit hierarchy of these different kinds of knowledge worried me – anything with a number attached had a privileged position, however partial the number or questionable the process for arriving at it. In contrast, decades of experience were not even credited as ‘evidence’, but often written off as ‘opinion’. It felt like we were in danger of discounting our richest source of insight – gut feeling.

In this state of discomfort, I went off for lunch with Lant Pritchett (right – he seems to have forgiven me for my screw-up of a couple of years ago). He’s a brilliant and original thinker and speaker on any number of development issues, but I was most struck by the vehemence of his critique of the RCT randomistas and the quest for experimental certainty. Don’t get me (or him) wrong, he thinks the results agenda is crucial in ‘moving from an input orientation to a performance orientation’ and set out his views as long ago as 2002 in a paper called ‘It pays to be ignorant’, but he sees the current emphasis on RCTs as an example of the failings of ‘thin accountability’ compared to the thick version.

Quote of the Week: Zainab Salbi

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Where has change ever been clean and nice? It has always been messy and painful.”

-- Zainab Salbi, Humanitarian, Activist, Writer, Media Voice, and Founder of Women for Women International. Ms. Salbi received the 2012 Barclays’ Women of the Year Award.

As quoted in the Financial Times on November 16, 2012, At home : Zainab Salbi, by Shannon Bond.

For Political Communication, the Age of Nerds and Big Data is Here

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Sophisticated campaign communication (an important part of political communication) is a field both invented and dominated by American practitioners and scholars. When I ask my associates in the field why this is so, the reason they usually give me is the sheer quantity and frequency of democratic elections in the American political system. Therefore, they point out, human and material resources have been poured into the science and the art of winning election campaigns.  What is important for our purposes is that  the practices of American political communicators tend to spread worldwide... like much else in American culture. Politicians in newly democratizing polities have for decades now invited American political consultants to help them run and win elections. Local specialists have also mushroomed, many of them trained by the American universities who offer amazingly good degrees in communication, particularly political communication. If you are interested in campaign communication as a global phenomenon, a good place to start is Fritz Plasser's Global Political Campaigning: A Worldwide Analysis of Campaign Professionals and Their Practices (2002).

My bet is that at least two aspects of the recently concluded presidential election campaign in the United States -- a spectacular showcase of political communication at work -- will prove influential globally. President Obama was re-elected and it was a big win, but for campaign communication two methods won big victories of their own and they are likely to be flattered with imitation worldwide. They are as follows:

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

CIMA
Mapping Digital Media

“The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project includes data on how these changes affect news about political, economic, and social affairs.  Visit the Open Society Foundations’ website to see the full version of each country’s report.

CIMA worked with the Open Society Foundations to identify the most important digital media indicators in the series of reports. The mapping tool allows for the visualization of these indicators from each report and enables the comparison of digital media penetration in various countries. Please note that some data from the reports has been recalculated to ensure that comparable data is presented in the map.”  READ MORE

Linda Raftree
ICT for WASH and public service delivery

“In June, two organisations focussed on using ICT (Information and Communications Technology) in the water and sanitation sector joined forces in Cape Town. SeeSaw, a social enterprise that customises ICT to support sanitation and water providers and iComms, a University of Cape Town research unit (Information for Community Oriented Mu nicipal Services) co-hosted a two day event to look at how ICT tools are changing the way that public services function in developing countries.

There are growing expectations that harnessing ICT intelligently can bring about radical improvements in the way that health, education and other sectors function, particularly in developing countries. SeeSaw and iComms wanted to look at this in more detail – and to build on the open sharing of experience to provide general principles to those planning to harness ICT for public service delivery. Their overarching goal is to help practitioners cut through much of the complexity and hype surrounding ICT usage and give them a robust set of guidelines with which to plan and negotiate partnerships and projects on the ground.”  READ MORE

Doing Development Differently - A Chimera?

Maya Brahmam's picture

A lot has recently been written about “doing development differently” from crowdsourcing the next Millennium Development Goals (a la ONE’s Jamie Drummond) to the Copenhagen Consensus and their 16 investments with the biggest payoffs for development (listed here).

Enter Ha-Joon Chang, a noted Cambridge economist, who sees development as a different game altogether –the analogy he uses is that current development thinking is like “Hamlet without the prince.” According to Duncan Green’s recent blog post, Chang believes that with all the focus on health, education, poverty reduction, we are missing the elephant in the room (the prince): We are missing what poor countries really need, which is “productive capabilities” and an important focus on upgrading skills and industry, which has largely been set aside since the 1980s by donors and international organizations.

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