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The things we do: What happened when the London Underground challenged social norms

Roxanne Bauer's picture

London  Underground stationGlobally, 157 cities around the world now have a metro system in operation.  These underground trains shuttle people back and forth from work, make weekend escapes possible, and allow tourists to get around without the hassle of human communication. 

The sheer number of people using metro systems has inspired quite a few rules of etiquette. In Japan it’s considered polite to switch your phone to “Manner Mode” (also known as “silent” mode) when using the metro so that other passengers aren’t subjected to ringtones as they travel. Eating durian, considered the world’s smelliest fruit, is not permitted on Singapore’s MRT, and “No durian” signs have been posted around the network. It’s also considered bad manners to sit in priority seats in Seoul subway cars at any time, regardless of whether there’s anyone around who needs them. 

But perhaps the stickiest, most sincerely held rule of etiquette is that when using an escalator to enter or exit a metro station, one should stand on the right and walk on the left. This way, those who want to climb the stairs can do so on the left, without having the say “excuse me” every 5 seconds.  This rule is especially important to follow at rush hour if you want to avoid grumpy remarks.  Those who have forgotten to follow it can probably speak to how sanctimonious some people feel about it.

On 4 December last year, the London Underground carried 4,821,000 passengers— setting a new record for a single day. However, something else was also afoot that day.

On that particular Friday, 11,000 passengers got off at Holborn Station between 8.30 and 9.30am and faced an unusually upsetting provocation. As they turned into the concourse and looked up to the station’s escalators, they saw something truly horrifying: dozens of people were standing on the left.

Quote of the week: Yanis Varoufakis

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Yanis Varoufakis"Let’s be honest about this: life ends with death. We know that. That’s not a reason not to live, right?"

- Yanis Varoufakis, a Greek economist who was a member of the Parliament of Greece between January and September 2015. He represented the ruling Syriza party and held the position of Minister of Finance for seven months. He voted against the terms of the third bailout package for Greece. In February 2016, Varoufakis launched the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25).

Blog post of the month: Six lessons I learnt while trying to reach 10 million women in India with life-saving health information

BBC Media Action's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In March 2016, the featured blog post is "Six lessons I learnt while trying to reach 10 million women in India with life-saving health information" by Priyanka Dutt.

Kilkari mobile messagingLast month, the Government of India launched a nationwide mobile health (mHealth) program designed by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. The aim - to train 1 million community health workers and help nearly 10 million new and expecting mothers in India make healthier choices and lead longer, healthier lives.
 
Mobile Academy is an anytime, anywhere audio training course, delivered via mobile phone, designed to refresh the knowledge and strengthen the communication skills of community health workers. The objective is to enable the nation’s nearly one million health workers to more effectively persuade families to lead healthier lives.
 
Kilkari  (a baby’s gurgle) service delivers free, weekly, time-appropriate audio messages about pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare directly to the mobile phones of mothers and other family members from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old.

These services were originally designed for use in Bihar in North India, where BBC Media Action, in partnership with the state government works to improve demand for health services, improve social norms and impact health outcomes for mothers and children. Read more.

Mobile Academy and Kilkari leverage the massive penetration of mobile phones to reach the most marginalized, hardest-to-reach communities in India. These are communities where getting pregnant and having babies can be 24 times more life-threatening than giving birth in the United Kingdom!
 
The statistics are pretty stark. Globally, every five minutes, three women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, while 60 others will be left with debilitating injuries. Of these deaths, India accounts for the greatest number of women dying – over 150 every day. But we know how many of these health risks that pregnant women and their newborns face are preventable.

Does transparency hobble effective governance?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A remarkable debate on transparency and open government took place on March 15, 2016 at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Truman School of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri, Missouri, USA.  The issue was: Is American Government too open? Professor Bruce E. Cain of Stanford University argued that “Yes, American Government Is Too Open”, and Professor Charles Lewis of American University, Washington DC, argued that “No, American Government is Not Too Open”. You can watch the debate here.

It is a rich and illuminating exchange, and one that the two professors somehow manage to keep civil. I watched the debate online but in what follows I draw from the written commentary submitted by both professors, and I try to focus on the universally applicable points that each one made.

Weekly wire: The global forum

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


So Software Has Eaten the World: What Does It Mean for Human Rights, Security & Governance?
Human Rights Watch
In 2011, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen famously wrote the startling essay, Why Software is Eating the World, in which he described how emerging companies built on software were swallowing up whole industries and disrupting previously dominant brand name corporations. Andreessen was prescient and almost giddy, in anticipating the dramatic, technological and economic shift through which software companies would take over large swaths of the global economy. What he did not anticipate was the extent to which software would also eat up the realms of governance, security and human rights. Digital technology has disrupted multiple dimensions of governance related to national security, including protection of human rights.

Digital Globalization and the Developing World
Project Syndicate
Globalization is entering a new era, defined not only by cross-border flows of goods and capital, but also, and increasingly, by flows of data and information. This shift would seem to favor the advanced economies, whose industries are at the frontier in employing digital technologies in their products and operations. Will developing countries be left behind? For decades, vying for the world’s low-cost manufacturing business seemed to be the most promising way for low-income countries to climb the development ladder. Global trade in goods rose from 13.8% of world GDP in 1985 ($2 trillion) to 26.6% of GDP ($16 trillion) in 2007. Propelled by demand and outsourcing from advanced economies, emerging markets won a growing share of the soaring trade in goods; by 2014, they accounted for more than half of global trade flows. Since the Great Recession, however, growth in global merchandise trade has stalled, mainly owing to anemic demand in the world’s major economies and plummeting commodity prices. But deeper structural changes are also playing a role.

Campaign Art: Raising the Volume to Fight Tuberculosis

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

Tuberculosis is the #1 infectious disease killer in the world.  It kills more people annually than HIV/AIDS. Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria that most often affect the lungs. TB is spread from person to person through the air (coughing, sneezing, etc). Each year, almost 10 million people develop TB, at least 1 million of which are children.

Tuberculosis is curable and preventable. However, since it’s most affected areas are in developing countries, international assistance and action is critical to help control, contain and eliminate this disease.  To raise awareness about TB, especially its effect on children, the campaign “Louder than TB” produced this short - yet hard to watch - video:
 
Louder than TB

Source: TB Alliance
 

Sue Unsworth’s ‘upside down’ view

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Sue UnsworthSue Unsworth’s work provides us a wealth of knowledge on governance and institutional change, stemming largely from her ‘upside down’ view of the conventional reality of the aid world. Here is a quick peek into some of her work – particularly, insights into how donor-approaches should evolve to engage successfully with politics.

Sue’s work with David Booth – captured in this paper, Politically smart, locally led development – presents seven case studies of problem-driven approaches that provide important lessons to donors, as well as a clear message that merely using new terminology without actually changing the ‘ways of working will not yield results. The authors suggest that chasing ‘international best practices’ often lead to imagined solutions that do not address the problem at hand.

"…for politically smart, locally led approaches to become the norm, a more radical shift is needed in the way donors conceive development challenges and their role in addressing them. They need to abandon oversimplified concepts of ‘ownership’ and ‘partnership’, and unrealistic assumptions about the scope for outsiders to lead transformational change"

Does “Rational Ignorance” make working on transparency and accountability a waste of time?

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Campaigns, Oxfam America (gosh, they do have august sounding job titles, don’t they?)

As the poorest half of the planet sees that just 62 people have more wealth than all of them, collective frustration at extreme inequality is increasing.  To rebalance power and wealth, many in our community are turning to transparency, accountability, participation and inclusion.  Interrogate that “development consensus,” however, and opinions are fractured over the benefits and costs of transferring power from the haves to the have-nots.

Social Media Information OverloadIn truth, our theories of change often diverge.  Most development organizations may agree on the need to advocate for more Investment, Innovation, Information, strong Institutions and Incentives, but some organizations are genuinely committed to only one of those “I’s”, and that can be problematic:  Oxfam often finds itself choosing and moving between the relentless positivity of politically benign theories of change (e.g. we just need more “investment” or “innovation”), the moderation of those who focus exclusively on transparent “information” with no clear pathway to ensure its political relevance, and the relentless negativity of activists that think the only way to transform “institutions” or realign the “incentives” of elites is to beat them up in public.

Oxfam’s challenge is to be both explicit in our theory of change and show sophistication and dexterity in working across that spectrum.  If Oxfam’s theory of change is based on a citizen-centered approach to tackling global systemic challenges like extreme inequality, then our opportunity may be engaging the “rational ignorance” of citizens and consumers.
 

Quote of the week: Alicia Garza

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Movements are destroyed by conflicts over money, power, and credit. We have to take seriously the impact of not being able to have principled disagreement, or we’re not going to be around very long.”

Alicia Garza, an African-American activist, a labor organizer, and writer who lives in Oakland, California. She is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, and also works as the Director of Special Projects at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She has organized around the issues of health, student services and rights, rights for domestic workers, ending police brutality, anti-racism, and violence against and gender non-conforming people of color.
 

Just give them the money: Why are cash transfers only 6% of humanitarian aid?

Duncan Green's picture

Paul Harvey, ODIGuest post from ODI’s Paul Harvey

Giving people cash in emergencies makes sense and more of it is starting to happen.  A recent high level panel report found that cash should radically disrupt the humanitarian system and that it’s use should grow dramatically from the current guesstimate of 6% of humanitarian spend.  And the Secretary General’s report for the World Humanitarian Summit calls for using ‘cash-based programming as the preferred and default method of support’.

European Commission’s Humanitarian aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) finances basic services for 100,000 Eritrean refugees in EthiopiaBut 6% is much less than it should be. Given the strong case for cash transfers, what’s the hold-up in getting to 30%, 50% or even 70%? The hold-up isn’t the strength of the evidence, which is increasingly clear and compelling. Cash transfers are among the most rigorously evaluated and researched humanitarian tools of the last decade. In most contexts, humanitarian cash transfers can be provided to people safely, efficiently and accountably. People spend cash sensibly: they are not likely to spend it anti-socially (for example, on alcohol) and cash is no more prone to diversion than in-kind assistance. Local markets from Somalia to the Philippines have responded to cash injections without causing inflation (a concern often raised by cash transfer sceptics). Cash supports livelihoods by enabling investment and builds markets through increasing demand for goods and services. And with the growth of digital payments systems, cash can be delivered in increasingly affordable, secure and transparent ways.

People usually prefer receiving cash because it gives them greater choice and control over how best to meet their own needs, and a greater sense of dignity. And if people receive in-kind aid that doesn’t reflect their priorities they often have to sell it to buy what they really need as, for example, 70% of Syrian refugees in Iraq have done. The difference in what they can sell food or other goods for and what it costs to provide is a pure waste of limited resources. Unsurprisingly people are better than aid agencies at deciding what they most need.

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