Syndicate content

Quote of the Week: Mary Midgley

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"There is this increasing faith that physical science is the answer to all our terrible questions. I want to fight against the whole idea that it is where you go to for enlightenment.”

- Mary Midgley, an English moral philosopher, who strongly opposes reductionism and scientism and any attempts to make science a substitute for the humanities. She is well-known for her work on science, ethics and animal rights.

Bits and Atoms: ICTs in Areas of Limited Statehood

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

Imagine that you’re a citizen of a country that has just experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history. You, your neighbors, and fellow country-men are immediately thrown into danger, chaos, and destitution. As one of the fortunate survivors, you wait for authorities to provide medical care, shelter, food, and other immediate needs, but you receive little or no help. Yet, to your surprise, a large group of ordinary citizens begin organizing a massive disaster response by using blogs, twitter, Facebook, and other social media networks. Their efforts have provided you with life-saving resources. And all of a sudden, within days, digital technologies have facilitated an entire social movement around this earthquake. These are the types of stories that Steven Livingston and Gregor Walter-Drop examine in their new edited series, Bits and Atoms: Information and Communication Technology in Areas of Limited Statehood.
 
If you are interested in digital media and politics, there is a plethora of literature on the role of ICTs in powerful political systems in the industrialized world. However, there has been very little focus on the role of digital technology in weak states with inadequate governance systems. Bits and Atoms is a comprehensive volume that examines the extent to which ICTs can help fill governance voids in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, Sub-Sahara Africa, and the Middle East. A distinguished group of scholars attempt to answer some important questions like, “Can ICTs help fill the gap between pressing human needs and weak states’ ability to meet them? Can communities use ICTs to meet challenges such as indiscriminate violence, disease, drought, famine, crime, and other problems arising from deficient and non-responsive state institutions? How does ICT affect the legitimacy of the state?”

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.

Two-Thirds of Obese People Now Live in Developing Countries
The Atlantic
We tend to think of obesity as a rich-country problem, but for several years now evidence has been building that the public-health hazard is assailing low- and middle-income countries as well, even as these same countries struggle with high rates of malnutrition. In perhaps the most comprehensive snapshot yet of this phenomenon, a study published in The Lancet on Thursday found that one-third of the world's population is now overweight or obese, and 62 percent of these individuals live in developing countries.

Why Humanitarians Should Pay Attention to Cybersecurity
Brookings
Most international staff I know who are working in the humanitarian field aren’t paying any attention to cybersecurity. Why is that? For starters, it’s an issue rooted in the security community which humanitarians have traditionally tried to maintain at arm’s length. But also humanitarians see themselves as the good guys; "we’re delivering food and water to needy people," the argument goes, "who would want to launch a cyberattack against us?" While this argument has been undermined by the fact that even well-meaning humanitarians are targeted by armed actors using traditional weapons, there’s still a reluctance to pay attention to cybersecurity. And humanitarian actors are under pressure to keep their overheads low so that they can distribute most of their funds to people in need – not to beefing up their IT departments. Inspired by my colleague Peter Singer’s new book, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know,” I humbly suggest four reasons why humanitarians should pay attention to this field.

Assessments: The Art of Measurement of Performance: Lessons from the Medical Profession

Tanya Gupta's picture
In our last blog we talked about why measuring competency and performance is vital for development professionals.  In this blog, we talk about some take-aways from the medical profession on the measurement of competencies and performance.
 

The medical profession, by necessity, has hard requirements  (inflexible and critical requirements) for measuring competencies and performance. In fact, such measurement is mission critical. While the development profession does not have “hard” requirements, we can learn from their rigorous approach. Here are a few principles and rules that we could borrow:

Media (R)evolutions: Asia Pacific's Pay-TV Boom

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.

When people talk about innovation in media, digital devices and social media are most likely to come to mind.  Yet, at the end of the day, we all like to watch TV.  

Global pay TV revenues, calculated as a total of subscription fees and on-demand movies and TV episode, will reach $209 billion in 2020, an increase from $193 billion in 2013, according to a new report from Digital TV Research.   While revenues are expected to decrease in North America by 9.2% (around $9 billion) between 2013 and 2020 and in Western Europe by 1.6%, these declines will be more than offset by revenue growth of nearly $15 billion (up by 47%) in the Asia Pacific region. Revenues will also more than double in Sub-Saharan Africa to $5 billion.


The Things We Do: Will Money Make You Mean?

Roxanne Bauer's picture
In a TEDTalk published Dec 20, 2013, social psychologist Paul Piff shares the results of several research studies on how people behave when they feel wealthy. He concludes that while inequality is a complex and formidable challenge, there are bright spots, too. 
 
In the first study, two participants are asked to play Monopoly, but one player is given more money than the other.  Throughout the course of the game, the 'rich' player moved around the board louder, made sounds of dominance and non-verbal displays of power, and became ruder and less sympathetic to the 'poor' player.  After the game ended and the rich player won, the rich player talked about what he/she did and bought during the game to explain the outcome- they did not mention the unfair advantage they were given at the start of the game.

Piff believes that Monopoly can be used as a metaphor for many contemporary societies in which some people are born with more access to resources, money and power. 
 
TED Talks, Paul Piff

Breaking Down the Silos: Reflection on the “Invisible Wounds” Meeting

Mike Wessells's picture

Speaking as a psychosocial practitioner-researcher, the World Bank's recent “Invisible Wounds” conference, which enabled a rich dialogue between psychologists and the Bank's economically-oriented staff, was a breath of fresh air. In most war zones, humanitarian efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support and economic aid to vulnerable people have frequently been conducted in separate silos. Unfortunately, this division does not fit with the interacting psychosocial and economic needs seen in war zones, and it misses important opportunities for strengthening supports for vulnerable people.
 
A case in point comes from my work (together with Susan McKay, Angela Veale, and Miranda Worthen) on the reintegration of formerly recruited girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. These girls had been powerfully impacted by their war experiences, which included displacement, capture, sexual violence, exposure to killing and deaths, and mothering, among others. After the ceasefire, they were badly stigmatized as “rebel girls” and were distressed over their inability to meet basic needs and to be good mothers. The provision of economic aid alone would likely have had limited effects since the girls believed that they were not fit for economic activity (many saw themselves as spiritually contaminated and as having “unsteady minds”), and they were so stigmatized that people would not do business with them. Similarly, the provision of psychosocial assistance alone likely would have had limited effects because the girls desperately needed livelihoods in order to reduce their economic distress and be good mothers.

How 4 Million People Signed up to a Campaign to End Violence against Women: Case study for your comments

Duncan Green's picture

Next up in the draft case studies on ‘active citizenship’ is the story of an amazing campaign from South Asia and beyond. Please comment on the draft paper [We Can consultation draft May 2014].

We Can End All Violence Against Women (henceforward We Can) is an extraordinary, viral campaign on violence against women (VAW) in South Asia, reaching millions of men and women across six countries and subsequently spreading to other countries in Africa, Europe and the Americas. What’s different about We Can (apart from its scale) is:

  • It is not primarily concerned with changing policies, laws, constitutions or lobbying the authorities. Instead, it aims to go to scale, by changing attitudes and beliefs about gender roles at community level. A special feature is the ‘Change Maker’ approach, which comes with a ritual in the form of the “We Can” pledge to reflect on one’s own practice, end VAW in one’s own life and to talk to 10 others about it.
  • It seeks to involve men as well as women, with remarkable success
  • Its origins lie in a South-South exchange: We Can’s methodology was developed from VAW community programmes in Uganda.

Launched in 2004, by 2011 We Can had signed up approximately 3.9 million women and men to be ‘Change Makers’ – advocating for an end to VAW in their homes and communities. Unexpectedly, about half the Change Makers were men. An external evaluation in 2011 conservatively estimated that ‘some 7.4 million women and men who participated in “We Can” and related activities, have started transforming their perceptions of gender roles and VAW, as well as their behaviour.’

Which is a Threat to Your Mental Health, Nationalism or Patriotism?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Current tensions in different regions of the world have re-introduced old political concepts to dinner table, water cooler, or coffee break conversations, often with vaporous imprecision. I refer to nationalism and patriotism.  Which one is a good thing? Is nationalism dangerous while patriotism is good?

For instance, I was reading a column by Philip Stephens of the Financial Times only last week (See ‘The perils of Asia’s nationalist power game’) and he wrote this:

What’s wrong with nationalism, a friend in Tokyo asked me the other day? Well, there is much to be said for patriotism. As for nationalism, the answer is found in the bloody pages of European history.

That got me thinking: is it the case that nationalism is bad and patriotism is good?

Pages