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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

What makes people happy and why it matters for development
The Guardian
Happiness economics is a new field that strives to find out what really makes people happy based on surveys asking citizens: "How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?" or "How happy are you?". Rather than letting experts define what makes for the good life from an armchair perspective, happiness economics allows us to identify the factors that matter for people's wellbeing as they themselves experience it.  When the original millenium development goals (MDGs) were formulated, happiness economics barely existed. Before 2000, less than five scientific articles a year dealt with "subjective wellbeing", academic speak for happiness and life satisfaction. Over the course of the past decade, though, their number has risen enormously. A World Happiness Report launched last year at the United Nations summarises the evidence to date.

The problem with data journalism
Quartz
The recent boom in “data-driven” journalism projects is exciting. It can elevate our knowledge, enliven statistics, and make us all more numerate.  But I worry that data give commentary a false sense of authority since data analysis is inherently prone to bias. The author’s priors, what he believes or wants to be true before looking at the data, often taint results that might appear pure and scientific. Even data-backed journalism is opinion journalism. So as we embark on this new wave of journalism, we should be aware of what we are getting and what we should trust.  Economics blogger James Schneider recently opined on how journalists highlight research, even if it’s not credible, that confirms their argument and ignores work that undermines it.

What Can a Community Do to Hold a School Accountable?

Deepa Rai's picture

The answer from a case study in western Nepal says the answer could be one of the social accountability tools - Community Score Card (CSC).

The case study, produced by the World Bank-funded Program for Accountability in Nepal (PRAN), gives an overview of how the tool was used to counter mismanagement, irregularity of staff as well as quality of 21 community schools in Nawalparasi district in Nepal.
 
Community Score Card
 
CSC is a mechanism through which citizens monitor the quality of community based public services. It provides the opportunity for citizens to analyse any particular service they have received based on their personal feelings, to express dissatisfaction or to provide encouragement for good work. It also further suggests measures to be taken if flaws still remain.
 
Ritu, who had to interrupt her post-school education because of her marriage, now hopes for a good education for her daughters. She voiced her heartfelt opinion during the scoring, commenting on the weak ability of the school administration to control and discipline the teachers. Consequently, she was elected into the School Monitoring Committee to supervise the improvements. She is confident that the community, having had a taste of the Score Card, will maintain it, especially now that it does not entail any community expense.

Migration and Development: Who Bears the Burden of Proof? Justin Sandefur replies to Paul Collier

Duncan Green's picture

Justin Sandefur responds to yesterday’s post by Paul Collier on the impact of migration on developing countries, and you get to vote.

The global diaspora of educated Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans living in the developed world stand accused of undermining the development of their countries of origin.

Paul Collier’s recent book, Exodus, makes the case for strict ceilings on the movement of people from poor countries to rich ones.  My colleague Michael Clemens and I already reviewed the book at length for Foreign Affairs (ungated here), but Duncan asked me to respond to the specific issue Paul raised in his recent post for this blog: that skilled migration from some low-income countries is so high that it undermines the development prospects of people “left behind”.

I suspect many people reading this blog in Europe or North America share Professor Collier’s skepticism about skilled migration. You are not racist or xenophobic.  You are concerned about the plight of the global poor, and you welcome diversity in your community. But you worry that maybe Paul’s right.  Maybe the fate of your university-educated Haitian neighbor down the street, earning a good salary and sending her kids to good schools since moving to the UK, is a distraction from, and maybe even a hindrance to, reducing poverty in Haiti.

Campaign Art: "Between Two Ferns" with Zach Galifianakis: President Barack Obama

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Last week, President Barack Obama appeared on comedian Zach Galifianakis’ Web-based show “Between Two Ferns.” The president’s purpose for doing the show was to promote HealthCare.gov. Julia R. Azari, a political scientist  of Marquette University, provides a interesting analysis on these types of appearances by political leaders; how they cultivate a less formal image and provide an opportunity to engage with the public through unconventional media channels. You can read her post here. But first, enjoy the show! Here's a link to the video.

How Does Emigration Affect Countries-of-Origin? Paul Collier Kicks Off a Debate on Migration

Duncan Green's picture

Take a seat people, you’re in for a treat. Paul Collier kicks off an exchange with Justin Sandefur on that hottest of hot topics, migration. I’ve asked them to focus on the impact on poor countries, as most of the press debate concentrates on the impact in the North. Justin replies tomorrow and (if I can work the new software) you will then get to vote. Enjoy.

How does emigration affect the people left behind in poor countries? That many countries still provide little hope of even basic prosperity to their citizens is the great global challenge of our century. It is a vital matter that the poorest countries catch up with the rich world, but it will require decades of sustained high growth. To see how emigration might affect this process of convergence we need some understanding of why poor countries have remained poor. Poverty persists in very poor countries because of weak political institutions, dysfunctional social attitudes, and a lack of skills. These all make it difficult to harness economic opportunities. Emigration can either help or hinder convergence depending upon who leaves, how many leave, and for how long they go.

Potentially the most important effect of emigration is on political institutions and social attitudes. There is now solid evidence that emigrants can be influential in their home societies. Students from poor countries who have studied abroad in democracies and then return home bring with them pro-democracy attitudes. They spread these attitudes and are sufficiently influential that they speed up democratization. An astonishingly high proportion of the political leaders of poor countries have studied and worked abroad, and this equips them with both new skills and new attitudes. Even migrants who do not return have some influence with their relatives back home. During elections they give advice and commentary, and they become role models for smaller family size.

Sustaining Accountability

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

During her primary contest with Barack Obama for the nomination of the Democratic Party, Hilary Clinton once remarked that one only needed to look at the two of them (a woman and an African American) to recognize that both represented change. One could say the same about India’s newest political party – the Aam Aadmi or Common Man Party, barely a year and half old, but being seen as a potentially transformational political force. Its members – unassuming middle class housewives, small time lawyers, IT professionals, college professors, journalists, and community organizers -- stand out in sharp contrast to the seasoned political operatives from established parties.
 
In fact, in an environment where opaque campaign financing, political lineage, and the politics of identity are accepted avenues to the corridors of governance, the Common Man Party has literally risen from the streets, taking on corruption at all levels, appealing to ethics and citizenship rather than caste or religious affiliation, and proving its independent credentials by making its funding (primarily small donations) transparent on its website.
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Digital technology means development is now happening outside the system
The Guardian
I recently spent an evening at the University of Sussex talking to students interested in a career in the international development and non-profit sectors. That might not sound particularly interesting at first, except that I've never had a job in either. There's a general assumption – and not an unreasonable one – that if you want a career helping solve some of the bigger challenges facing people and the planet that you reach out and volunteer, intern and work at some of the largest institutions taking on those problems. But there is another way. A few decades ago, if you wanted a career in development you'd have to be a teacher, doctor or build dams. The spread of the internet and the march of the mobile phone have changed all that. Now, anyone with a computer and internet connection can build an app in their bedroom that helps to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, or develop an idea which goes viral. And I speak from experience, developing text messaging platform FrontlineSMS a few years ago with little funding or resources, which now is driving thousands of social change projects in more than 170 countries.

Studies Show: People Want Democracy to Deliver the Goods
Foreign Policy
Does the average person consider governance when they think about the things that affect their everyday lives? In a new Overseas Development Institute (ODI) paper that assesses views on governance based on survey data from around the world, we find that they do. But governance has many aspects, and there are some that are more important to people than others. In general, people seem to be concerned first and foremost about state performance and the ability of governments to deliver on key needs and expectations in areas including economic management, growth stimulation, job creation, health, education, or a more equitable distribution of goods and services. Corruption is a central part of this story, since it has such a big impact on people's satisfaction with their governments and their perceptions of its performance overall.

Media (R)evolutions: Agricultural Productivity Gap- The Opportunity for Mobile

Roxanne Bauer'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.


 

Have Evidence, Will… Um, Erm (2 of 2)

Heather Lanthorn's picture

This is the second in a series of posts with suvojit, initially planned as a series of two but growing to six…

Reminder: The Scenario
In our last post, we set up a scenario that we* have both seen several times: a donor or large implementing agency (our focus, though we think our arguments apply to governmental ministries) commissions an evaluation, with explicit (or implicit) commitments to ‘use’ the evidence generated to drive their own decisions about continuing/scaling/modifying/scrapping a policy/program/project.

And yet. the role of evidence in decision-making of this kind is unclear.

In response, we argued for something akin to Patton’s utilisation-focused evaluation. Such an approach assesses the “quality” or “rigor” of evidence by considering how well it addresses the questions and purposes needed for decision-making with the most appropriate tools and timings to facilitate decision-making in particular political-economic moment, including the capacity of decision-makers to act on evidence.

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