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The Things We Do: Bandwidth Poverty- When our Minds Betray Us

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Struggling to ‘get by’ is stressful.  We worry whether we can make it to our next paycheck, whether a trip to the market will be successful, whether we can pay the rent on-time… the list goes on.

All of this stress leads to an attention shortage, known as bandwidth poverty.  Bandwidth poverty creates a negative, reinforcing cycle.  When we experience financial poverty, we focus on the immediate need to make money or to pay a bill, and we don’t have sufficient cognitive resources or bandwidth to spend on other tasks or later deadlines. This leads to less-than-optimal decisions that leave us worse-off because we’ve lost the capacity or mental space to consider future needs.

In a series of experiments, researchers from Harvard, Princeton and Britain's University of Warwick found that urgent financial worries had an immediate impact on poor people's ability to perform well in tests of cognition and logic.

The researchers conducted two sets of experiments— in two very different settings— one in a mall in suburban New Jersey and one involving sugar cane farmers in rural India.
 

From ‘baby-making machines’ to Active Citizens: How Women are Getting Organized in Nepal (case study for comments)

Duncan Green's picture

Next up in this series of case studies in Active Citizenship is some inspiring work on women’s empowerment in Nepal. I would welcome comments on the full study: Raising Her Voice Nepal final draft 4 July

‘I was just a baby making machine’; ‘Before the project, I only ever spoke to animals and children’

‘This is the first time I have been called by my own name.’
[Quotes from women interviewed by study tour, March 2011]

While gender inequality remains extreme in Nepal, Oxfam’s Raising Her Voice (RHV) programme on women’s empowerment is contributing to and reinforcing an ongoing long-term shift in gender norms, driven by a combination of urbanization, migration, rising literacy and access to media, all of which have combined to erode women’s traditional isolation.

During the past 20 years, Nepal has also undergone major political changes. It has moved from being an absolute monarchy to a republic, from having an authoritarian regime to a more participatory governance system, from a religious state to a secular one, and from a centralized system to a more decentralized one.
 

Quote of the Week: Lee Hsien Loong

Sina Odugbemi's picture
 "When people say they don't want a nanny state they are, in fact, in a conflicted state of mind.  On the one hand, they want to do whatever they want and not be stopped. On the other hand, if something goes wrong, they want to be rescued."

- Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore. He became the third Prime Minister of Singapore in 2004, succeeding Goh Chok Tong and before that, his father- Singapore's first Prime Minister- Lee Kuan Yew.
 

The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Can liberal constitutional democracy run the state in a manner that is both responsive and accountable to citizens without succumbing to incurable elephantiasis precisely because it is democratic? Does democratic governance inevitably lead to government as an ‘all-you-can eat- buffet’ (allegedly per Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore), and, therefore, bloat, fiscal crises and collapse? These crucial questions are taken on in an important new book by two of the leading minds around the Economist Magazine: John Micklethwait is the Editor of the Magazine, and Adrian Wooldridge is the management editor, who also writes the Schumpeter column. The book is: The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State.

The authors argue that there have been three and half revolutions in governance in the West, and each one is linked to an emblematic political thinker/economist. The first revolution was the rise of the nation-state, and the paradigmatic thinker is Thomas Hobbes, author of Leviathan. The second revolution was the rise of the ‘liberal state’, and the focus thinker here is John Stuart Mill. (Objection from a Bentham scholar: the authors do not do justice to the role of Jeremy Bentham).  The third revolution was the rise of the welfare state, and the authors discuss the ideas and efforts of Beatrice Webb.  According to the authors, these first three revolutions in governance were completely successful. The fourth revolution, the effort to roll back the bloated welfare state – the focus here is the economic thought of Milton Friedman – was only partially successful. The authors argue, I believe, that this revolution needs to be completed.
 

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 Promise of a New Internet
The Atlantic
People tend to talk about the Internet the way they talk about democracy—optimistically, and in terms that describe how it ought to be rather than how it actually is. This idealism is what buoys much of the network neutrality debate, and yet many of what are considered to be the core issues at stake—like payment for tiered access, for instance—have already been decided. For years, Internet advocates have been asking what regulatory measures might help save the open, innovation- friendly Internet. But increasingly, another question comes up: What if there were a technical solution instead of a regulatory one? What if the core architecture of how people connect could make an end run on the centralization of services that has come to define the modern net?

Are the Oceans Failed States?
Foreign Policy
In the early hours of March 8, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost contact with air traffic control just one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur. Since then, a multinational effort has scoured the Indian Ocean floor, deploying aircraft, ships, and even a robotic submarine in search of the wreckage. Yet four months on, the jet remains lost in the least accessible and most ill- understood ecosystem on the planet. Only about 5 percent of the ocean floor has been mapped in detail. We know more about the contours of the moon and nearby planets than we do about the basins of the high seas. But however remote these depths might seem, no corner of the ocean is untouched by human activities. As a result of these impacts, much of it is now in peril. That is the conclusion of the Global Ocean Commission, which reported in late June that the planet's largest and least- protected bioregion is close to collapse.

Campaign Art: How Do You Talk about Sex When it is Taboo?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

How do you inform young people of the importance of safe sex in Ethiopia, where sex is a taboo subject?

Turns out, the answer lies in the dance group, Addis Beza. 

Addis Beza means "to live for others" in Amharic, and members of the group, aged 15-20, use their vibrant moves to open-up discussions about safe sex. The group regularly performs in front of mobile HIV testing vans and public spaces, encouraging the crowds they draw to practice safe sex with condoms and to get tested free of charge.

Addis Beza

Strengthening Active Citizenship After a Traumatic Civil War: Dilemmas and Ideas in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Duncan Green's picture

I went to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) last week to help Oxfam Italia develop advocacy and campaign skills among local civil society organizations. They have their work cut out.

Firstly, there is a crisis of trust between the public and CSOs, which are poorly regulated, often seen as little more than ‘briefcase NGOs’, only interested in winning funding, and under constant attack from politicians. Many CSOs seem pretty disillusioned, faced with a shrinking donor pot and public hostility.

I think there’s a strong case for the CSOs to take the lead in putting their house in order, practicing what they preach on transparency and accountability, and working with government to sort out the legitimate organizations from ones that have registered (there are some 10,000 in the country) but do nothing, (or worse).

Meanwhile, Oxfam is working with some of the more dynamic ones to develop the advocacy and campaign skills of what is still a maturing civil society network (after decades of state socialism, followed by a devastating war, and then an influx of donor cash that had mixed results). Two days of conversation and debate with some great organizations working on everything from disability rights to enterprise development to youth leadership identified some big issues and dilemmas:
 

World Bank’s Four Year Access to Information Policy Update

Thomas Browne's picture

Solutions Oriented Knowledge-Sharing

Making information and data freely available and usable enables citizens to engage with service providers to participate in development decisions.  But is this enough? 

Proactive disclosure of better data and information are prerequisites to enabling citizens, governments and institutions to make informed decisions.  In order to help countries utilize the open initiatives and build client demand for increased openness, the World Bank organized local workshops and public forums in South Asia and East Asia since 2012, using the twinning approach of access to information and open data.  This was an opportunity to connect local citizens and stakeholders to national and global data and knowledge, further providing the public with information needed to influence development at the local level. The World Bank interacted with civil society organizations, research and academic institutions, media, and government, among other stakeholders, providing a forum for discussion, debate and the exchange of information.  Access to Information broadens the conversation among multiple informed stakeholders and creates opportunities to find and deliver innovative local solutions to long-standing development problems.
 

Quote of the Week: Prince Charles

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“What I have been trying to remind people of for the past 40 years is that you can’t operate an entire conventional system, whether it’s economics, business or the way we live and surround ourselves, what we eat, without recognizing that there are severe negative externalities that are not being accounted for.”

 - Prince Charles, the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II, the constitutional monarch of the Commonwealth of Nations. Prince Charles is a proponent of organic farming and has sought to raise awareness of environment degradation and its consequences. His 2010 book, Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World, which focuses on climate change, architecture, and agriculture, won the Nautilus Book Award.
 

Enforcing Accountability in Decision-Making

Heather Lanthorn's picture

A recent episode reminded us of why we began this series of posts, of which is this is the last. We recently saw our guiding scenario for this series play out: a donor was funding a pilot project accompanied by a rigorous evaluation, which was intended to inform further funding decisions.

In this specific episode, a group of donors discussed an on-going pilot programme in Country X, part of which was evaluated using a randomized-control trial. The full results and analyses were not yet in; the preliminary results, marginally significant, suggested that there ought to be a larger pilot taking into account lessons learnt.

Along with X’s government, the donors decided to scale-up. The donors secured a significant funding contribution from the Government of X — before the evaluation yielded results. Indeed, securing government funding for the scale-up and a few innovations in the operational model had already given this project a sort-of superstar status, in the eyes of both the donor as well as the government. It appeared the donors in question had committed to the government that the pilot would be scaled-up before the results were in. Moreover, a little inquiry revealed that the donors did not have clear benchmarks or decision-criteria going into the pilot about key impacts and magnitudes — that is, the types of evidence and results — that would inform whether to take the project forward.

There was evidence (at least it was on the way) and there was a decision but it is not clear how they were linked or how one informed the other.

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