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Does the Gates’ Letter 2017 answer Warren Buffett’s questions?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Melinda and Bill Gates have made an annual tradition of publishing their thoughts on their work in global development, the challenges they face, and their goals for the future. These letters are a manifesto for their philanthropic work, most of which is channelled through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates structured their 2017 Annual Letter as a response to Warren Buffet’s (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) letter to Melinda and Bill Gates, where he asked them to reflect on their work so far – on what had gone well, and what hadn’t; and to describe their goals for the future. He further said:

There are many who want to know where you’ve come from, where you’re heading and why. I also believe it’s important that people better understand why success in philanthropy is measured differently from success in business or government. Your letter might explain how the two of you measure yourselves and how you would like the final scorecard to read.

Buffet’s questions assume great significance given that in 2006, he pledged to donate 85% of his wealth to charity, and allotted a sum of about $31 billion to the Gates Foundation. These questions, from one of the most successful investor of our times, are essentially about how well his philanthropic investment in the Gates Foundation was doing. What had he helped them achieve?

Quote of the week: Fareed Zakaria

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The world has been transformed by the globalization of goods, services, and information, all of which have produced their share of pain and rejection. But we are now witnessing the globalization of people, and public reaction to that is stronger, more visceral, and more emotional."  

- Fareed Zakaria - host of CNN's international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Quoted in Foreign Affairs print edition November/December 2016 "Populism on the March."

Four crises of liberal democracy by Alasdair Roberts

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Angst produced by the current bout of ‘democratic malaise” – that feeling that things are falling apart for the modern world – is often both confused and intense. The new book that I am going to discuss furnishes us with a way of thinking about what might be wrong with liberal democracy in any specific national context that is as elegant and as thought-provoking as anything that I have encountered recently. The formulation is the very opposite of the often bewildered and bewildering musings of perturbed pundits.

The author, Alasdair Roberts, is Professor of Public Affairs at the Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri. He is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Public Administration and co-editor of the journal of Governance (the journal is my favorite on governance matters looked at from a global perspective). In February 2015, Roberts delivered the S.T. Lee Lecture in Political Science and Government at All Souls College, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The book I will be discussing is based on the lecture.

The book is actually titled Four Crises of American Democracy. I have chosen my focus …liberal democracy simpliciter… for two reasons. First, the short book is, in parts, self-consciously global, containing as it does examples from around the world. In fact, the first of the six chapters is almost entirely global in focus. Second, I am not interested in discussing the minutiae of American politics. I always try to find generalizable lessons from the books that I decide, from time to time, to review. As you read what follows I urge you to think about your own context. Does the analysis ring true to you? All of it? Some of it? None?

So, what are the four crises of liberal democracy?

Engaging citizens for better development outcomes

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Also available in: Español, Français, Chinese  

The World Bank Group’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) is launching a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from March 15-April 26—Citizen Engagement: A Game Changer for Development?—through the edX platform. Experts from across the globe critically analyze how citizen engagement can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results.
 
Partnering with leading institutions—the London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS—to develop each week’s content, the MOOC aims to provide the best knowledge and cutting edge research on the subject. With over 25,000 global learners having joined previous offerings, this third offering of the popular course will continue to build a genuine community of practice.
 
Why citizen engagement? In an increasingly interconnected world, citizen engagement is critical for improving development outcomes. Around the world we have seen that when citizens are engaged, when they participate, they can improve policymaking and service delivery.
 
Simply put, if we want to solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges, we need to take into account the knowledge, experiences, views, and values of the people most directly affected by them.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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

Turning the Tide Against Cholera
New York Times

Two hundred years ago, the first cholera pandemic emerged from these tiger-infested mangrove swamps. It began in 1817, after the British East India Company sent thousands of workers deep into the remote Sundarbans, part of the Ganges River Delta, to log the jungles and plant rice. These brackish waters are the cradle of Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium that clings to human intestines and emits a toxin so virulent that the body will pour all of its fluids into the gut to flush it out. Water loss turns victims ashen; their eyes sink into their sockets, and their blood turns black and congeals in their capillaries. Robbed of electrolytes, their hearts lose their beat. Victims die of shock and organ failure, sometimes in as little as six hours after the first abdominal rumblings. Cholera probably had festered here for eons. Since that first escape, it has circled the world in seven pandemic cycles that have killed tens of millions.

The Link Between Internet Access and Economic Growth Is Not as Strong as You Think
CFR-Net Politics
Mark Zuckerberg recently published a manifesto about the future of Facebook and our increasingly technology-saturated world. In it, he argued “Connecting everyone to the internet is…necessary for building an informed community.” For those familiar with Zuckerberg’s statements, this is a familiar claim. He argues that not only should we connect everyone in the world to the internet, but that doing so is a necessary step in solving some of the planet’s most pernicious problems. Zuckerberg is not alone in this thinking. Huge sums of money have been invested in projects that connect the billions of people who lack an internet connection. These schemes tend to present digital connectivity as a mechanism to achieve key social and economic developmental goals. This is especially true in Africa–the part of the world with both the lowest incomes and rates of connectivity. Because of the vigor with which such claims are made, and the vast resources that tech companies are able to deploy, we decided to examine the actually existing evidence base that might support them. In a new paper, we set out to test those claims.

Campaign Art: Raise your voice against cyberbullying

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

“When we curb abuse we will expand freedom” – Ashley Judd.

Cyberbullying has become pervasive, impacting the lives of millions of children worldwide. 9 out of 10 children experiencing cyberbullying never tell an adult. But the consequences of silence can be detrimental. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Clinical Report, being the victim of school bullying or cyberbullying is associated with substantial distress, resulting in lower school performance and school attachment.

In order to raise awareness of the damages of cyberbullying, Norton, an anti-malware software company, published a documentary-style film on their website. Produced by Grey San Francisco Agency, the video features six real life families, and their children telling their stories of being cyberbullied. The kids read some of the messages they have received on their phones, while their parents listen on the other side of the room.

 

Raise Your Voice Against Cyberbullying

Source: Norton 

Blog post of the month: Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In February 2017, the featured blog post is "Doing good against all odds – remembering the forgotten" by Leszek J. Sibilski.

The opportunity for doing mischief is found a hundred times a day, and of doing good once in a year. - Voltaire
 
Every November 1st, Poland observes All Saints Day or as some call it, the Day of the Deceased. In the middle of the Polish Golden Autumn there is a day when all Poles meet each other at the cemetery. Flowers and candles are lit to honor loved ones who are no longer with us. Most Polish cemeteries are very pristine and well cared for. For me this is a day of national truce and solidarity intertwined with the Roman-Catholic tradition. All Saints Day is celebrated in other countries, but the poignancy and mobility in Poland has no match. The day before and the day after, millions of Poles patiently travel for hours in never-ending traffic jams.
 
I am not always able to attend All Saints Day in my native Poland, but there are always flowers, wreaths, and candles, exceeding the number of my living distant relatives at the grave of my parents. And then there are the invisible friendly hands that clean my family's tomb a few weeks later, before the beginning of winter. The culmination of this holiday is an outdoor mass before dusk, which basically occurs at every cemetery. I must admit that for as long as I can remember; I have always tried to skip the mass service saturated with the presence of thousands of worshipers for the sake of long walks in the marvelous fall festival of lights a few hours later where the cemeteries are almost deserted. Imagine, walking in darkness on the fallen and golden dry leaves amongst the orange glow of thousands of lit candles that blend with a scent of burning wax and the array of thousands of flowers. Surrounded by people who act most courteously towards each other, and then there is the humbling moment of realizing again that death is a destiny for each of us. All of this is accompanied by solemn tranquility and feelings of nostalgia.
 

What is a systems approach, anyway?

David Evans's picture
“It makes me a little crazy when you keep saying systems.” – Jowhor Ile, in And After Many Days

At home, we have a porchlight at the entrance to our house. If I flip the switch for that light, there is about a 50-50 chance it will turn on. The reason? There is another switch in the basement that controls the electricity flow to the porch, and the porchlight will only come on if both switches are on.

This – slightly adapted – analogy came from Justin Sandefur at the Center for Global Development, in an effort to explain what a systems approach is and how it can improve development programming.

If you’re like us, there is so much talk about systems that it can be easy to get lost. At a recent event, we asked a mixed group of operational teams and researchers, “How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?” Nearly 40 percent had little to no idea.

How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?

To take education as an example, a systems approach to education recognizes the following:

1. An education system is made up of different actors (students, teachers, administrators, political leaders), accountability relationships (management, politics), and design elements (financing, information) (see Pritchett or Scur).

2. Changes to one part of the system are moderated by other parts of the system. For example, the effectiveness of investments to get children to school will be limited (or enhanced) by the quality of the schooling.

Quote of the week: Julia Buxton

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"In any society that enjoys free speech, the tenor of political rhetoric and exchange is a key indicator of the health of its underlying norms. Increasingly throughout the liberal world, the language of misogyny, racism, homophobia, antisemitism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia has become unexceptional, if not mainstream. The significance of this turn in public discourse is not merely that high-profile individuals can deploy such speech from public offices, but that it can so readily be shrugged off, with outrage dismissed as outmoded “political correctness.” What we are witnessing, however, is not a push-back of the bounds of civility but norm regress: an unraveling of the slow, incremental shift in public attitudes that has over many decades made human rights a lived expectation and made bigotry and hatred in all its forms an anathema."

- Julia Buxton - Acting Dean and Professor of Comparative Politics in the School of Public Policy, at the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary.

Buxton, J. (2017), What scholars must do in a time of norm regress. Governance. doi:10.1111/gove.12270

Photo credit: Central European University.

 

Film for development

BBC Media Action's picture

This blog was originally posted on the BBC Media Action Insight blog by Melanie Archer, Digital Editor.

Films in the international development sector are often associated with fundraising but they can also serve as a form of aid in themselves. Films can help mothers manage a pregnancy, assist refugees as they navigate life in an unfamiliar country and influence perceptions of what politicians can achieve.

The annual Golden Radiator Awards is a prime opportunity to learn about some of the more creative films the international development sector has produced over the previous 12 months. From the creators of the seasonal (and satirical) Radi-Aid app, these Awards laud charity fundraising films that go beyond stereotypes in their storytelling.  

But what about films for people in development settings?  In parts of the world where radio is still king (though this is rapidly changing), it’s perhaps not surprising that there aren’t as many development films. But while not as plentiful in supply as those geared towards western audiences, examples of such films do exist and can be a powerful tool for meeting the needs of aid beneficiaries. Here are five examples. 

From Kakuma to Rio

FilmAid Broadcasts Olympics in Kakuma Refugee Camp

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