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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.
 

Keys to Successful Collaboration and Solving Wicked Internet Problems
Internet Society

The incredible pace of change of the Internet – from research laboratory inception to global telecommunication necessity – is due to the continuing pursuit, development and deployment of technology and practices adopted to make the Internet better.   This has required continuous attention to a wide variety of problems ranging from “simple” to so-called “wicked problems”.    Problems in the latter category have been addressed through collaboration.   This paper outlines key characteristics of successful collaboration activities.

Dear Warren, Our 2017 Annual Letter
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Our 2017 annual letter is addressed to our dear friend Warren Buffett, who in 2006 donated the bulk of his fortune to our foundation to fight disease and reduce inequity. A few months ago, Warren asked us to reflect on what impact his gift has had on the world.

Media (R)evolutions: the changing face of radio

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
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.

The significance of radio cannot be underestimated. Radio is an important, or sometimes the only, source of information to many around the world who are still unconnected to the Internet. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that number is about 3.9 billion. “While 40% of the population in developing world is online, at least 75% of households in developing countries have access to a radio.”  In that sense, radio is fundamentally more inclusive communication tool.

But as the world moves forward with new technologies and modern communication platforms, the face of radio remains mostly unchanged. Can radio afford to stay this way? How can radio adapt to the 21st century changes? How can it reach and interact with its listeners in the time of snapchat, twitter and other social media channels? Can it leverage these technological changes and turn them into opportunities? If the radio stations want to remain relevant and continue to reach populations worldwide, they need to pay attention to the changing media consumer behaviors, produce the right content, and get it to the consumers in an easy, simple way across all the devices.

Tune in to an ITU special report for the World Radio Day to learn more about the future of radio.
 
Tune in to the Future of Radio - An ITU Special Report

What determines whether/how an organization can learn? Interesting discussion at DFID

Duncan Green's picture

I was invited along to DFID last week for a discussion on how organizations learn. There was an impressive turnout of senior civil servents – the issue has clearly got their attention. Which is great because I came away with the impression that they (and Oxfam for that matter) have a long way to go to really become a ‘learning organization’.

So please make allowances in what follows for all the warm, cuddly areas of mutual agreement – I’m going to focus on the areas of disagreement, which are inevitably the most thought-provoking.

To mean anything, learning requires a change both in ideas and behaviours. So what were the theories of change that underpinned the approaches to learning in the room? I found it hard to pin down exactly – they seemed mostly tacit – but a lot of what I heard reminded me of the discussion at Twaweza a couple of years ago. For many present, the tacit theory of change seems to be ‘knowledge → learning → changed behaviours → changed outcomes’. Yeah right.

What we realized at Twaweza was that ‘it’s all in the arrows’. You need to unpack the assumptions and think about what needs to be in place for that theory of change to have any chance of resembling what happens in practice.

Quote of the week: Simon Schama

Sina Odugbemi's picture
“The world is separating into two irreconcilable halves: those who want to live only alongside those who look, pray and speak like them, and those millions in the great ethnically jumbled cities who want to share the neighborhood.”

- Simon Schama - University Professor of Art History and History at Columbia University.
Quoted in Financial Times print edition February 4, 2017 "The American dream collides with nativist nightmares" by Simon Schama. 

Photo credit: By Financial Times (Flickr  Uploaded by January) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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When rival fundamentalisms contend within the community

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“A true believer is someone who will kill you for your own good.”
– Anonymous

One of the reasons the world feels so out of joint at the moment is that millions of people appear to have forgotten the lessons from the unspeakable horrors of human history…the wars, the pogroms, the paroxysms of rage. As a result, they have forgotten one of the major achievements of liberal constitutionalism. The idea is a simple one but infinitely difficult to make habitual. When we the people choose to live together in a liberal constitutional democracy anywhere in the world what we have is a thin agreement not a thick one.  The liberal constitution embodies a framework consensus…nothing more. We agree on the basic rules for living together in the same political community and how governments will be both constituted and replaced, their powers are enumerated and so on.

In other words, to live together in a liberal constitutional democracy we don’t have to worship the same Deity. We don’t have to agree on how life ought to be lived in detail. We don’t have to belong to the same ethnic group or tribe or nation. Again, our agreement is a basic one, not deluxe, not super-sized. We agree to let each individual human being of full age and competent understanding to make her own way in the world, work out how best to live her life, what Deity to worship or not, whether to circumcise her son or not…and so on.  This simple idea is a powerful one. It is: live and let live. And it has produced decades of peace in many political communities, and it has provided room for a superabundance of human flourishing and development.

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.

Recurring Storms: Food Insecurity, Political Instability, and Conflict
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Renewed and expanded international collaboration to anticipate and prepare for recurring storms of food insecurity is essential. Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Syria are examples that vividly underscore the explosiveness of situations in which people find themselves unable to get the food they want and need. The experiences of post-conflict countries highlight some critical issues that need to be prioritized in order to regain sustainable food security. Averting future storms will require the recognition that food security challenges will extend long beyond 2030, political leadership must be visibly committed to these issues, and actions to reduce fragmentation of effort will be critical.

World Radio Day
Dawn
RADIO remains the most dynamic and engaging mediums in the 21st century, offering new ways to interact and participate. This powerful communication tool and low-cost medium can reach the widest audience, including remote communities and vulnerable people such as the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor. Radio offers these communities a platform to intervene in public debate, irrespective of their educational level. It provides an opportunity to participate in policy and decision-making processes, and to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression. The impact of radio is at different levels: it is an essential tool in times of disaster management as an effective medium to reach affected people when other means of communication are disrupted; it is a way of promoting gender equality by providing rural women access to knowledge and support; finally, it is inclusive, engaging youth in the media as catalysts of change.

Campaign Art: #GirlsNotBrides

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

Child marriage is a violation of human rights and needs to be addressed worldwide by citizens, community organizations, local, and federal government agencies, as well as international organizations and civil society groups. Child marriage cuts across borders, religions, cultures, and ethnicities and can be found all over the world. Although sometimes boys are subjected to early marriage, girls are far more likely to be married at a young age.

This is where we stand today: in developing countries, 1 in every 3 girls is married before the age of 18. And 1 in nine girls is married before turning 15. Try looking at it this way: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that if current trends continue, worldwide, 142 million girls will be married by 2020. Another prediction from a global partnership called Girls Not Brides suggests, that if there is no reduction in child marriages, the global number of child brides will reach 1.2 billion by 2050.

Why is this such a critical issue? Child marriage undermines global effort to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity, as it traps vulnerable individuals in a cycle of poverty. Child marriage deprives girls of educational opportunities. Often times, when girls are married at a young age, they are more likely to drop out of school and are at a higher risk of death due to early childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death for 15-19 year-old girls globally.  

In order to raise awareness about child marriage in the Middle East, a Lebanon-based organization, KAFA, produced this video as a social experiment.
Social epxeriment by KAFA

Source: KAFA Lebanon

Engaged excellence in research…another buzz phrase or an opportunity

Institute of Development Studies's picture

Katy Oswald, Research Officer in the Power and Popular Politics cluster, and an affiliate of the Governance and Gender and Sexuality clusters, discusses the meaning of "engaged excellence" in research.

Over the last year, amidst the rising tide of populist politics around the world, we have increasingly seen research and evidence dismissed as irrelevant, disconnected, or an unnecessary luxury. 'Truth', 'experts' and their advice are rejected in favour of media spin, emotional appeals or so-called self-evident 'facts' (or indeed lies, masquerading as 'alternative facts'). This post-truth move requires a response that doesn't just reassert the value of academic ivory towers. For the specific context of international development at least, we at IDS argue it requires 'engaged excellence'.

What do we mean when we say engaged excellence? Isn't it just another buzz phrase within development, and do we really need another buzz phrase? No it's not, it is a call to transform the way in which we work. It is, an attempt to capture a way of doing research that is different and could be transformative. It is a phrase that describes research that is directly involved in the real word, not separate or abstract from it. Importantly, it implies that the high quality of our research (excellence) is dependent upon it linking to and involving those who are at the heart of the change we wish to see (engaged).

We have identified four pillars that underpin the concept of engaged excellence: high quality research; evidence that makes an impact; knowledge that is co-constructed with others; and enduring and mutually dependent partnerships. An important point is that these pillars are mutually dependent, they cannot exist in isolation from each other.

Handy NGO Guide to Social Network Analysis

Duncan Green's picture

Social Network Analysis has been cropping up a bit in my mental in-tray. First there was my Christmas reading – Social Physics, by Alex Pentland. Then came yesterday’s post from some networkers within Oxfam. So here are some additional thoughts, based on a great guide to SNA by the International Rescue Committee.

Complexity and Systems Thinking seems to push people into two divergent sets of conclusions. One camp says ‘planning and toolkits suck, stick to close observation and response to any given context, and work from instinct, judgement and fast feedback’.

Another group cries ‘whoopee, a whole new set of toolkits!’ The problem with the first is how to ensure rigour and accountability, when everyone is just taking decisions according to their ‘instinct’ (what if someone’s instinct is disastrously wrong?) The problem with the second is that it can create exactly the kind of alluring but false certainty that complexity and systems approaches criticise elsewhere (logframes etc).

I lean towards the first group, with qualms, but like to keep an eye on the second, both to see if it is being oversold, and in the hope that it really does contain the seeds of a more rigorous approach to complexity. Social Network Analysis (SNA) looks like one of the most promising type 2 approaches. I’ve been worried that it is primarily being conceived as a tool for big guys with a lot of resources (see this post on Ben Ramalingam’s work, which prompted an impressive set of comments), so I was happy to come across the IRC’s excellent ‘SNA Handbook’, which provides a practical guide that seems well suited to NGO capacities.

Quote of the week: Satya Nadella

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“I think it is the coming together of liberal arts and sciences that are going to keep the human creativity and ingenuity [alive] in an age where machines are intelligent.”

- Satya Nadella - Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Microsoft.

Quoted in Financial Times print edition January 30, 2017 "The Monday Interview"" by Madhumita Murgia. 

Photo credit:
By OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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