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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.

Do international NGOs still have the right to exist?
The Guardian
It’s highly unlikely that corporate bosses regularly ask themselves if their businesses have a right to exist. Their goal is to sell stuff and make a profit. But if your goal is to alleviate poverty and human suffering – in the face of statistics showing mixed outcomes – is this, in fact, the most important question an International NGO can ask of themselves? At the BOND conference last week, in a session entitled How can INGOs survive the future, Penny Lawrence, the deputy CEO of Oxfam stated bluntly: “we need to earn the right to survive the future.” It is like the sector’s very own Damascene moment.

Changing views of how to change the world
Brookings, Future Development blog
World leaders concluded three large agreements last year. Each represents a vision of how to change the world. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development agreed to move from “billions to trillions” of cross-border flows to developing countries. The agreement on universal sustainable development goals (SDGs) sets out priorities (albeit a long list) for what needs to change. The Paris Agreement on climate change endorses a shift to low-carbon (and ultimately zero carbon) economic growth trajectories. There is a common thread to these agreements. They each reflect a new theory of how to change the world that is not made explicit but has evolved as a matter of practice. Understanding this new theory is crucial to successful implementation strategies of the three agreements.

What is a knowledge economy?
Sci.Dev Net
The growing access to digital technologies could fundamentally transform developing economies. The move from hunter-gathering to the age of farming and the dawn of the Industrial Revolution 12,000 years later mark seminal transitions in human history, lifestyle and wellbeing. Now in the digital age, our civilisation may be in the midst of another equally great transformation. The age of the knowledge economy.   In the past, an abundant labour force and exploitation of natural resources were the engines of growth. Now companies mine data, not gold seams, in search of riches. They harvest mobile apps rather than apples. Information is widely believed to be the future source of prosperity.

Leading organisational change in practice. Some ideas.
Medium/Pete Vowles
There were 5.6 billion returns to my recent Google Scholar search for ‘leading change’ with Kotter’s classic “Why Transformation Efforts Fail” at the top of the list. But, putting the theory on one side, how do you do this in practice? Over the past 3 years a group of us have led a change programme in Department for International Development reforming the way we design and deliver programmes to tackle global poverty and its root causes. Without any previous organisational change experience, learning by doing, we have had some real successes, a few failures and learnt masses about change. Here are some reflections on our experience and potential lessons for the future…

RCTs for global development: What’s all the fighting about?  
The Hewlett Foundation Blog
The positions are polarized. The debates are divisive. Arguments mischaracterize opponents’ views.  Am I talking about the U.S. presidential election?  Nope.  I’m talking about the repetitive, tendentious quarrels on the merits and disadvantages of random assignment methods to assess “what works” in social programs in developing countries.  Seriously. For the past 15 years or so, evaluation methods originally inspired by tests of new medicines have been applied to answer very different kinds of questions in the developing world.  Randomized controlled trials, or RCTs, have been conducted to measure the effectiveness of social programs, which provide resources—health care, schooling, job training or even cash—in particular ways to individuals or households with the expectation that those interventions will improve specific outcomes. Evaluations of program impact using random assignment methods try to find out whether a particular program really made a difference. Did the job training get young people jobs or would they have been hired anyway? Will community oversight improve the quality of local infrastructure projects so that roads and water systems last?

Getting Equitable Education on the Global Agenda: Lessons from Collective Advocacy at the United Nations 
Women Thrive
Collective advocacy presents a means to overcome some of the many challenges in participating in global decision-making, by providing a network of resources, support, and access to enhance advocacy efforts. Getting Equitable Education on the Global Agenda: Lessons from Collective Advocacy at the United Nations, Women Thrive’s new report, shares the strategies we used to gain access to and participate effectively in decision-making at the United Nations in order to secure a global sustainable development goal on equitable education. One of the biggest hurdles for civil society organizations – especially small organizations in developing countries – is access to the conferences, meetings, and tables at which global development decisions and policies are made. Developing country civil society is disproportionality excluded from global policy-setting activities (such as determining the Millennium Development Goals) for many reasons, including exclusionary decision-making structures and processes, lack of access to information on those processes, lack of access to decision-makers, and lack of funding to participate in meetings. 

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