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What do aid agencies need to do to get serious on changing social norms?

Duncan Green's picture

Earlier this week I spent a day with Oxfam’s biggest cheeses, discussing how we should react to the rising tide of nationalism and populism (if you think that’s a Northern concern, take a look at what is going on in India or the Philippines). One of the themes that emerged in the discussions was how to engage with social norms – the deeply held beliefs of what is natural, normal and acceptable that underpin a lot of human behaviour, including how people treat each other and how they vote.

It’s pretty common to hear progressive types (in which category I include Oxfam) worry that while they have been busy having geeky conversations on the evidence on this or that intervention/project, or the case for this or that policy change, they have ignored the tide of disillusionment with politics-as-usual that underpins the rise of populism. We need to engage the public in a wider conversation aimed at encouraging progressive norms, or opposing exclusionary ones.

Fair enough, but what struck me is just how much would need to change for that to become reality. What would a ‘guide to shifting norms’ cover? Here are a few thoughts; please add your own.

Analysis

There doesn’t seem to be much evidence on how to change norms. Eg what lies behind the increasing acceptance of the rights of people with disabilities? Or the age at which we deem chlldhood to end? Or even why dog owners routinely pick up their pooches’ pooh in my local park, something that was unimaginable a generation ago? How do deliberate attempts at change interact with the forces of demographic, technological or cultural change that also help drive norm shifts? This is one area where we really do need more research, both historical and current.
 

What’s the recipe to cook up networks for resilience?

Megan Rowling's picture

Spreading the word about the need to get ahead of climate change and disasters, linking people and organisations so they can tackle problems better together, discovering new knowledge and resources to build resilience  - apart from that, 'what have networks ever done for us?' we might ask, to steal the famous Monty Python line.
 
It's a question we set out to answer at a panel discussion I moderated at the RES/CON gathering in New Orleans earlier this month. With Zilient.org, we are aiming to build an online "network of networks" - and so understanding the value of networks and the challenges of creating effective ones will be key to what we do.
 
At the conference, a diverse line-up of panelists - from the non-profit, private and public sectors – gave their insights. Here are some of the key ideas that emerged:
 
1. New forms of collaboration: The huge challenges posed to societies and economies by global problems like climate change require an "all hands on deck" approach. The Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN), set up in 2008 by The Rockefeller Foundation, now helps some 50 cities in the region devise and implement strategies to help urban communities address climate change. Shannon Alexander, a senior director at development agency Mercy Corps, which has also supported the network, said ACCCRN had enabled civil society to have a voice, and work with local governments and business to figure out what the problems are, and how best to solve them.

Quote of the week: Mohsin Hamid

Sina Odugbemi's picture
“Hope is an active state. To hope you have to do stuff. You have to put your finger on the scale. It’s important for people to imagine futures that do involve huge amounts of change and yet where our grandchildren can be all right.” 

Mohsin Hamid - novelist and writer. His novels include Moth Smoke, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, and Exit West.

Photo credit: By Mr.choppers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Motivating Haryana’s agri leaders towards peri-urban farming and direct marketing

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Surajkund in Faridabad, Haryana on the outskirts of New Delhi, is famous for the International Crafts Fair held annually that showcases the richness and diversity of India’s handicrafts and cultural fabric.  This year it was also the venue for the 2nd Agri Leaders Summit-2017 held from 18-20th March, 2017. Doubling farmers’ income is one of the top most priorities of the Government of Haryana. In this context, the Summit aimed at providing agri leaders a platform for recognition, facilitation and incubation. Within the objective of accelerated, inclusive and sustainable growth in the State, the Summit, more importantly, aimed at creating a direct linkage between farmers, agricultural workers and the agri market to enable learning about value creation chains. Further, with technological innovations revolutionizing agri- industry/business, the Summit was also a forum for farmer leaders and achievers to display their best practices and innovations.

The Summit’s stakeholders included the  political leadership in central/state Government;  farmer leaders (growers, producers, processors and entrepreneurs); Farmers Producers Organizations (FPOs)/Farmers Interest Groups (FIGs); agri and allied companies, departments and agencies of the Central and State Government; national and international Institutes/ Universities; eminent scientists; foreign governments/businesses and consumers. This vast amalgam of stakeholders was supplemented by mobilization of over one hundred thousand farmers from all parts of the State who too participated in the three day Summit in its exhibition, seminars and mass engagement sessions with the political leadership!   

Governance and accountability: What role for media?

BBC Media Action's picture
Politics is made of people. We need to be able to question our leaders so that we can hold them to account. How can media play a role in helping people improve governance and accountability? Follow the discussion below to find out!
 


Our panel
-
Angela Githitho-Muriithi, Country Director, Kenya, BBC Media Action
- Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor, Oxfam GB
- Luis-Felipe Lopez-Calva, Co-Director, World Development Report 2017, World Bank
- Stephen King, Partner, Omidyar Network
- Thomas Hughes, Executive Director, Article 19+

The discussion was chaired by the BBC's Ritula Shah+
 

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.

World Water Day 2017
Los Angeles Times
More than 5 million people in South Sudan do not have access to safe, clean water, compounding the country’s problems of famine and civil war, according to UNICEF. Even those South Sudanese who can find water spend much of their day hiking, fetching and carrying the containers of the precious fluid that is essential to life. As World Water Day approaches on March 22, nearly 27 million people do not have access to clean water in Somalia, South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria and Yemen. About 12% of the world population lacks clean drinking water, and water-related diseases account for 3.5 million deaths each year, more than car accidents and AIDS combined, according to the World Water Council.

World Happiness Report
Sustainable Development Solutions Network
The first World Happiness Report was published in April, 2012, in support of the UN High Level Meeting on happiness and well-being. Since then the world has come a long way. Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. In June 2016 the OECD committed itself “to redefine the growth narrative to put people’s well-being at the center of governments’ efforts”. In February 2017, the United Arab Emirates held a full-day World Happiness meeting, as part of the World Government Summit. Now on World Happiness Day, March 20th, we launch the World Happiness Report 2017, once again back at the United Nations, again published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, and now supported by a generous three-year grant from the Ernesto Illy Foundation.

The Lure of Data

Maya Brahmam's picture

There is a new tool TCdata360 that brings together multiple sources of data in a user-friendly way. It is designed around data for trade and competitiveness and the private sector. It includes data from a number of sources too, such as the World Bank, OECD, UN, and the World Economic Forum. Most interesting of all, it’s visual. Visual data can be used to build stories.

An interesting story draws an audience online, but you have to tell it quickly, as the time frames for stories are getting progressively shorter. On Vine, a six second story feels like a moment repeating itself endlessly. Dom Hoffman, the app’s creator told the New Yorker, “It feels like a moment that’s happening over and over again,” Hofmann said, “I think when people remember things in the past, they view those things on repeat.”

The Tribeca Film Festival started six-second films a few years ago. At the SXSW Film Festival this month, Google’s creative director, Ben Jones spoke about this topic in a panel called, "From Six Words to Six Seconds: How the New Age of Storytelling and Innovation Intersect."  (Urban legend has it that Ernest Hemingway published one of these six-word stories, “For Sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”)

Media (R)evolutions: Social media as a main source of news on the rise, new study finds

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
Also available in: Français


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.

Where do you get your news from? Is it TV, printed media, radio, social media? Are they established or new news sources? Your answer probably differs depending on your own media consumption behaviors, your age, where you live, and many other aspects. And your answer may change from year to year. You probably still read, watch, or listen to the similar familiar and trusted sources, but has the way you get to those sources changed overtime? How do you access news? Trying to understand the changing environment around news across countries, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism commissioned the “Digital News Report.”

The latest Digital News Report 2016 found that across their entire sample, 51% of those interviewed (over 50,000 people in 26 countries) used social media as a source of news each week. For one in ten of those used social media as their main source of news. The infographic below shows clear growth of social media as a main source of news (selected countries) just from last year. According to this report, in Brazil, the growth of social media as a main source of news increased from 10% to 18%, while in Denmark it doubled from 6% to 12%. Other selected countries also experienced significant increase. In Greece, 27% said social media was their main source of news. More than TV (21%) and Print (3%).

How can media inspire accountability and political participation? Findings from massive BBC programme

Duncan Green's picture

bbc media action logoA recurring pattern: I get invited to join a conversation with a bunch of specialists on a particular issue (eg market systems). Cue panic and some quick skim-reading of background papers, driven by the familiar fear of finally being exposed as a total fraud (some of us spend all our lives waiting for the tap on the shoulder). Then a really interesting conversation. Relief!

Last week it was the role of the media in governance, a conversation at the "Ministry of Truth" BBC, organized by the excellent BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. Recording here.

What emerged was a picture of increasing churn and fragmentation – a media and information ecosystem that is casting off vestiges of linearity (a few big newspapers and one or two big TV and radio stations) and becoming far more complex (social media, online, local radio, ever more channels of everything).
 

Social development and the global community: Why the legitimacy of the change process matters

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the first post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

Both globalization and international development bring a wide range of people into contact with one another, linking distant communities to transnational networks and opening up spaces to new ideas. Alongside the state, multilateral development banks (MDBs), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), private contractors, and development professionals converge on project sites, often interacting directly with local communities.

This influx of people brings global values concerning trade, democratic governance, human rights, and environmental sustainability— among many others— in contact with local conceptions of these values. This can create friction when international actors push for global liberal values that local communities are unfamiliar with or when they disregard traditional patterns of discourse. The tussle over values also occurs within states as district and national communities debate how development should progress. Urbanization, immigration, and the arts, for example, can all be experienced differently by various groups within a society.

Michael Woolcock asserts that, “putting a very strong premium on the legitimacy of the change process” is critical to a credible and accountable development intervention. Further, he states that if multi-level stakeholder engagement can be sustained over time, “then a lot of the process of dealing with contention can be acquired and incorporated into the way in which systems get managed.”
 
Michael Woolcock

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