Syndicate content

Governance and the Supernovas of Politics

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Every now and again, somewhere in the world, a politician comes along who is a supernova: a special astronomical event.  Reacting to him or her, citizens feel a tingle in the spine, they become emotionally flooded, and they fill up with galloping hopes and effervescent dreams. In my adult life, I have yielded to the power of supernovas twice. Between the Special One and the followers, and amongst the followers themselves, you have a case of interpenetrating intensities.

Each of these cases is an instance of what Max Weber calls charismatic authority. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, charisma is: “a capacity to inspire devotion and enthusiasm.”  And according to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy: “Charismatic authority exists where exceptional abilities cause a person to be followed or obeyed, and the ability is perceived as conferring the right to lead” [page 70]. Add formal power to charismatic authority and you have power and influence of a tremendous variety.

How do these situations arise? Nobody knows for sure. Clearly, it is a potent mix of a gifted person, some inner magnetism, and the specificities of the particular cultural and political context. What is clear is that for the leaders so blessed being a supernova is great for winning elections. It produces enormously enthusiastic, self-sacrificing efforts by millions of followers. It tends to produce big wins and powerful mandates. What fascinates me about the phenomenon though is what happens to governing when the leader is a supernova.

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.
 

How mobile phones can save, not waste, energy
World Economic Forum
The mobile industry is experiencing explosive growth worldwide, fuelled by almost 7 billion subscribers and an ever-growing demand for data traffic. However, the energy efficiency of mobile networks remains extremely low. Both base stations and smartphones regularly waste 70% of the energy consumed as heat. The underlying power architecture used in mobile communications still relies on outdated technology developed during the 1930s. The impact of relying on such outdated technology is huge.

U.N. Predicts New Global Population Boom
MIT Technology Review
A new analysis suggests that the world’s population will keep rising through 2100, and not flatten around 2050 as has been widely assumed. Such an increase would have huge implications, but the prediction’s reliability is debatable, given that it does not take into account future hardships a large population would likely face.  According to the new analysis by researchers at the United Nations and several academic institutions, there is an 80 percent chance that the world’s population, now 7.2 billion, won’t stop at nine billion in 2050, but will instead be between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100.

How Change Happens: Great New Case Studies + Analysis on ‘Politically Smart, Locally Led Development’

Duncan Green's picture

The research star of the show at last week’s Thinking and Working Politically event was a great new ODI paper from David Booth and Sue Unsworth. Bioversity International/Ronnie Vernooy

Politically smart, locally led development seeks to identify the secret sauce behind 7 large and successful aid programmes: a rural livelihoods programme in India; land titling and tax reform in the Philippines; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the Eastern Congo; the EU’s global plan of action to reduce illegal logging; civil society advocacy on rice, education and HIV in Burma and inclusive governance in Nepal.

The paper identifies a number of common elements:

Campaign Art: Food For All

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
Imagine a world in which we had to eat with long spoons and chopsticks or could not bend our arms to bring food to our mouths... What would we do? How would we eat?  The parable of the long spoons teaches us a valuable lesson: focusing solely on ourselves leads to struggle and hardship, but focusing on others gives us the freedom to find new solutions. 

The following video from Caritas International's One Human Family, Food For All campaign uses this parable to encourage viewers to consider their own food choices and proactively reduce the hunger of their neighbors. FAO estimates that about 805 million people were/are chronically undernourished in 2012–14, the vast majority of which live in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population is undernourished.  However, by working together, investments in agriculture can be made, food wastage can be reduced, and hungry people can be fed.  
 
One Human Family, Food For All

In Multistakeholderism We Trust: On the Limits of the Multistakeholder Debate

CGCS's picture

Has ‘multistakeholderism… become a mantra, void of its progressive potential and outcomes’? Stefania Milan and Arne Hintz analyze internet governance’s hyper-focus on multistakeholderism and how civil society should adapt a clear IG agenda.
 

“All I’m saying is, if #multistakeholder were a drinking game, I’d be in the hospital with alcohol poisoning right about now,” tweeted civil society delegate @pondswimmer during the opening ceremony of the recent Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul, where references to the multistakeholder principle were as omnipresent (and, seemingly, mandatory) as thanking the local organizers. Since the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003 and 2005, the idea of bringing together governments, the business sector, and civil society for debate and policy development has been celebrated and promoted. Probably nowhere has multistakeholder governance been implemented as thoroughly as in internet governance, where civil society actors and experts occupy key positions in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and where all stakeholders discuss relevant policy issues at the IGF on (supposedly) equal footing. It is now unimaginable to discuss the governance of the internet without some form of multistakeholder participation. References to multistakeholder processes have been pervasive in speeches and documents, from the official 2003 WSIS press release titled “Summit Breaks New Ground with Multi-Stakeholder Approach” which praised the method rather than highlighting the substantial issues of the summit, to the NETmundial outcome document calling for “democratic, multistakeholder processes, ensuring the meaningful and accountable participation of all stakeholders, including governments, the private sector, civil society, the technical community, the academic community and users.”

Quote of the Week: John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Dani Rodrik argues that modern nation-states confront a trilemma: They cannot simultaneously pursue democracy, national self-determination, and economic globalization.” 

 - John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in their latest book, The Fourth Revolution, The Global Race to Reinvent the State.  John Micklethwait is the Editor-in-Chief of The Economist magazine while Adrian Wooldridge is the Management Editor and also writes the Schumpeter column.
 

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.

The State of  Broadband 2014:  Broadband  for all
Broadband Commission for Digital Development (I​TU and UNESCO)
The Broadband Commission for Digital Development aims to promote the adoption of effective broadband policies and practices for achieving development goals, so everyone can benefit from the advantages offered by broadband. Through this Report, the Broadband Commission seeks to raise awareness and enhance understanding of the importance of broadband networks, services, and applications to guide international broadband policy discussions and support the expansion of broadband where it is most needed. This year, the Report includes a special focus on the importance of integrating ICT skills into education to ensure that the next generation is able to compete in the digital economy.

Facebook Lays Out Its Roadmap for Creating Internet-Connected Drones
Wired
If companies like Facebook and Google have their way, everyone in the world will have access to the internet within the next few decades. But while these tech giants seem to have all the money, expertise, and resolve they need to accomplish that goal—vowing to offer internet connections via things like high-altitude balloons and flying drones—Yael Maguire makes one thing clear: it’s going to be a bumpy ride. “We’re going to have to push the edge of solar technology, battery technology, composite technology,” Maguire, the engineering director of Facebook’s new Connectivity Lab, said on Monday during a talk at the Social Good Summit in New York City, referring to the lab’s work on drones. “There are a whole bunch of challenges.”

How to Write About Development Without Being Simplistic, Patronising, Obscure or Stereotyping

Duncan Green's picture

It’s all very well writing for wonks, but what about the poor comms people who have to make all those clever ideas about nuance, context, complexity etc etc accessible to people who don’t spend all day thinking about this stuff? Oxfam America’s Jennifer Lentfer has a good piece on this on her ‘How Matters’ blog, discussing her work with a class of international development communications students.

Her central question – ‘How can a new generation of communications professionals embrace nuance without turning the public off? (After all, nonprofits are competing against cat videos)’

Media (R)evolutions: Unique Mobile Subscribers

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.

Globally, the number of mobile connections surpassed 7 billion in April of this year, and by the end of 2014 it is predicted that global connections will reach the world's population of 7.2 billion! This might lead you to beleive that almost everyone around the world has a mobile phone... but let's take a second look.

The telecommunications industry measures the market size and growth of mobile phones by tracking the number of subscribers, which are counted by SIM connections. This is a little misleading because one individual can hold multiple SIM connections (SIM cards). If one individual uses two SIM connections, he/she will be counted as two mobile connections even though only one mobile subscriber is present. In India, for instance, the number of phones per person is lower than the number of SIM cards per person. In contrast, there is almost a 1:1 relationship between phone ownership and SIM ownership in developed markets. 



This graph compares the number of unique subscribers to the number of mobile connections, visually demonstrating the discrepancy between the two measurements.
 

The Things We Do: Design with the User in Mind

Roxanne Bauer's picture

City planners and design professionals have long known that the way in which physical space is constructed affects human behavior. Walkways, doorways, and lighting direct people for strategic reasons, colors and textures impact our sensory experiences, and the size and flow of space affects our social interaction.

Physical space is also important in designing transportation infrastructure where entry and exit points direct the flow of traffic, ticketing affects efficiency, and roadways shape the speed and orientation of traffic.

As one architect puts it, “Designers often aspire to do more than simply create buildings that are new, functional and attractive—they promise that a new environment will change behaviours and attitudes.”

Consumers consider these aspects when they decide how to travel in a process known as translation in which they consider personal benefits and costs of a product. In this case, people make ask themselves, ‘I know a new bus line is available, but will it save me money or time?’ or 'I can ride my bike, but will it be safe?'  The process is complex, and occurs over time and through repeated interactions.

In order to put design to good use in changing attitudes and behaviors, the city of Bogotá immersed itself in the lives of its residents and created solutions to tackle the heavy congestion and lack of safety that were common on the city’s streets. They used the economics of nudge, paired with design principles, to increase public use of bicycles and buses.

Pages