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October 2013

Complicated vs. Complex Part I: Why Is Scaling Up So Elusive in Development: What Can Be Done?

Aleem Walji's picture

I recently had an opportunity to listen to retired army Colonel, Casey Haskins talk about what he learned about winning hearts and minds. Our conversation crossed strategy, history and eventually physics as he explained how states of matter relate to systems change. Understanding whether matter is solid, liquid, gas, or plasma greatly affects how you interact with it and ultimately how you can change it.
 
So what does this have to do with scale, global development and solving the world’s hardest problems? Quite a lot, I think. The four states of matter correspond to complex social systems.
 
Dave Snowden’s research describes problems or systems as either (i) simple - in which the relationship between cause and effect is obvious and we can generate best practice; (ii) complicated – in which the relationship between cause and effect requires expert knowledge and good practice; (iii) complex – in which the relationship between cause and effect can only be perceived in retrospect and we use emergent practice; and (iv) chaotic – in which there is no relationship between cause and effect. 

Gabon and the Republic of the Congo Launch Countdown to Interconnection of Fiber Optic Backbone Networks

Michel Rogy's picture
Also available in: Français

Physical interconnection of the Central African countries’ fiber optic networks is a key objective of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) Regional Economic Program. By facilitating high-speed communications, these regional networks will make a critical contribution to growth, job creation, and improvement of the sub region’s standard of living.

Jim Yong Kim: Turkey's Decade of Progress

Jim Yong Kim's picture

ISTANBUL — On my first trip to Turkey, I met the country's political leaders, business executives, and civil society organizers — and some of the World Bank Group staff. We have 250 staff in Turkey, of which 200 are in the regional hub of IFC, our private sector arm.

While Turkey faces many challenges, I came away very impressed with many of the nation's accomplishments during the last decade. To learn more, watch this video blog.

World Bank Group President Kim and Pope Francis Discuss Mutual Efforts to End Poverty

Jim Yong Kim's picture
Also available in: Español

VATICAN CITY — Like many people around the world, I've been closely following Pope Francis' comments on the importance of serving the poor. When I had a chance to meet the His Holiness at the Vatican, I had the privilege to talk to about it — and about helping lead a social movement to end extreme poverty. Watch the video blog to learn more.

¿De qué color le gustaría la letrina? Marketing sanitario en Bangladesh

Sabrina Haque's picture

Las organizaciones no gubernamentales (ONG), los organismos de crédito y el sector público están trabajando duro para cumplir la meta mundial de saneamiento. ¿Pero qué ocurre con el sector privado?, ¿y qué ocurre con las familias que no quieren esperar a la próxima ONG que golpee a su puerta con un mejor retrete? Durante los últimos años, la estrategia de Marketing Sanitario del Programa de Agua y Saneamiento (i) (WSP, por sus siglas en inglés) en Bangladesh (i) ha intentado abordar estas preocupaciones estimulando la oferta y la demanda de instalaciones sanitarias higiénicas a través de la movilización de empresarios locales. El objetivo del Marketing Sanitario es que las familias tengan el deseo y la facultad de autogestión para ascender en la escalera de saneamiento por su propia cuenta.
 
El programa piloto comenzó en 2009 en cinco aldeas del distrito de Jamalpur y se lo ha ampliado ahora hasta alrededor de 230 aldeas en todo Bangladesh con el apoyo de la Alianza Holandesa WASH, Empresas para el Desarrollo Internacional y la Fundación MAX. El WSP también crea estrategias e implementa el proyecto con Esperanza para los más pobres (HFP, por sus siglas en inglés), una ONG local de Bangladesh, y de la Asociación para el Progreso Social (ASA, por sus siglas en inglés), una institución de microfinanciamiento.
 

Pulling the Tablecloth Out From Under Development Efforts - Without Breaking a Glass

Benedikt Lukas Signer's picture

Residents return from storm shelters to Ganjam district in Odisha after Cyclone Phailan made landfall. ADRA India / European CommissionWhen Cyclone Phailin struck the Indian states of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh last week, the predictions were dire. In 1999, a cyclone of comparable strength took 10,000 lives.
 
While Phailin affected up to 8 million people, leaving approximately 600,00 homeless, death tolls are currently estimated to be in the low double digits. What made all the difference between 1999 and today? A much improved early warning system, effective evacuations, and the construction of shelters probably played a crucial role. Credible forecasts and early warnings were available for several days before landfall, and close to one million people were evacuated.
 
Everyone who still thinks disasters are ‘natural’ should stop and consider this for a minute. This difference in impact is a real world example of an analogy discussed at the 5th Resilience Dialogue on Oct. 11, 2013.  Here’s my interpretation:
 
Remember that old magic trick where a tablecloth is pulled off a fully set table but (almost) nothing falls over?

We Need a Youth Jobs Revolution

William S. Reese's picture
Also available in: العربية

A young Thai worker at a creative agency that focuses on social innovation productions. © Gerhard Jörén/World BankLet’s face it. If we are ever going to successfully address the worldwide youth unemployment crisis, we need to act together — as a global community. That’s why last year, with the publication of Opportunity for Action, Microsoft and the International Youth Foundation called on leaders in the public, private, youth, and civil society sectors to join a “collective, massive and global” effort to expand job and livelihood opportunities for today’s youth.  
 
Since then, there’s been a real sense of momentum on the issue, particularly among high-level policymakers. Just last week, the World Bank sponsored a lively roundtable discussion the day before its Annual Meetings in Washington, D.C. that echoed the urgent call for collective action around youth unemployment. Speaking to a packed hall filled with finance ministers, private sector executives, and development experts from around the world, the panelists at the “Boosting Shared Prosperity by Getting to Youth Employment Solutions” event offered concrete examples of practical and sustainable solutions to the current crisis. Yet the conversation kept returning to the need to act together to have real impact. 

The Possibility of Social Inclusion: Yemen's National Dialogue

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Yemen. World Bank photo.“You are a Bangladeshi. Did your country benefit from seceding from Pakistan?” I was recently invited to meet with members of the Yemeni National Dialogue who are debating the future of the state.  The wounds of the past are deep in Yemen’s history – war between the South and the North and conflict within Regions – and not surprisingly the talk of regional secession is present in the discussions. The question drew a murmur in a room full of policy makers and activists from different parts of Yemen.  It had clearly touched a raw nerve.

The National Dialogue is an important moment in Yemen’s rich history.  It has brought together political parties, social groups, women, youth, and regional representation around a dialogue to craft the future of Yemen. Some argue that the process is incomplete and imperfect – not all stakeholders are present; there is a fear of elite capture; and in some parts of the country there is armed conflict. But, despite these challenges it is to Yemen’s credit that it is hoping to forge a state through dialogue – not the typical image of Yemen portrayed in the international press.

The World Food Day Challenge: Feeding More People with Fewer Resources

Juergen Voegele's picture
Also available in: Français | Español | 中文 | العربية
Climate-Smart Agriculture


Here’s something to ponder as we mark World Food Day: In the global fight against hunger, the world’s poorest continue to suffer the biggest losses.

The statistics are staggering. One in eight people are suffering from chronic hunger. More than 1 billion people are undernourished, and under-nutrition is to blame for one-third of all child deaths.  

As the population booms, we can expect that the food insecurity challenge will only intensify.

Good Practices for Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact

Vinay Bhargava's picture

Last week I was a panelist at a civil society organization seminar during the World Bank Annual Meetings on the topic of “Engaging with Citizens for Greater Development Impact.” The task for the panel was to discuss good practices in citizen engagement to make governments and service providers (including the private sector) more accountable so that policies and project interventions have greater impact for all citizens. The other panelists included representatives from Civicus, Plan International, and the Bank and International Finance Corporation.

The invitation to this event made me reflect on a fundamental question: Is it realistic to expect citizens to hold service providers accountable given the huge asymmetry of power between the two, or are we setting unrealistic expectations that citizen engagement interventions can improve development outcomes?

As I searched for answers, I was reminded of the story of the mighty warrior, Goliath, and the shepherd boy, David, who stepped up to fight him when no one else dared. No one in his or her right mind would have given David a chance against Goliath. However, we all know how the story ends — David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead, causing the mighty to fall. Can we have similar happy endings in citizens vs. almighty service providers?

Annual Meetings: World Bank Group Strategy Approved; Gender Equality Agenda

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde confer. © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank

The World Bank Group got the go-ahead on a new strategy aimed at repositioning itself to better tackle its two goals: ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity. The strategy aims to more efficiently and effectively leverage finances, technology, and talent to provide customized development solutions for client countries. In a communiqué at the close of the Annual Meetings, the Development Committee said it “strongly endorsed” the plan. The committee said the Bank Group has an important role to play “in delivering global development results, supporting countries with their specific development challenges, and helping them eradicate poverty and build resilience to future financial, economic, social, and environmental challenges.”  Read the communiqué and article.

A new paper updated the Development Committee on the gender equality agenda at the World Bank Group. In the past year, all of the Bank’s country assistance strategies were “gender-informed,” and the total share of gender-informed lending rose from 83% to 98% between FY12 and FY13. This translates into a dollar figure of almost $31 billion, notes the paper.

Annual Meetings: World Bank’s Future Path, Malala, Gender-Based Violence, Help for Children

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the plenary session of the Annual Meetings. © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

President Jim Yong Kim outlined his plan for a leaner, more efficient and tightly knit World Bank Group in his opening address at the Annual Meetings — and listed several ways changes would be visible to countries working with the institution. Among them: reducing by a third the amount of time a project takes to get off the ground; gathering feedback from all beneficiaries on development projects; and openly sharing knowledge and experience, including making it easy to see exactly where the Bank is working and what it is doing.  “Together, we must urgently lift a billion people from extreme poverty, help them to regain dignity, help them find hope, and help them change their own lives — and the whole world’s future — for the better,” said Kim. The Development Committee discusses the Bank Group’s new strategy on Saturday.

An excited crowd greeted Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old whose fight for girls’ education earned her the European Union’s Sakharov prize for freedom of thought and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination this year. In an often humorous, sometimes touching conversation with President Kim and young people in the audience on International Day of the Girl, Malala talked about her life before and after an assassination attempt by the Taliban. Her cause, education, is the best way to fight poverty and should be the top priority of development institutions, she said. “I believe that when we work together, that it’s really easy for us to achieve our goals,” she said. Kim pledged $200,000 to the Malala Fund on behalf of the World Bank. Replay the webcast and read our Youthink blog.

Annual Meetings: Making Earth's Riches Work for Poor and Fragile Countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

At least 80% of countries considered fragile or affected by conflict are home to valuable extractive resources that the global economy hungers for. Earth’s riches like oil, gas, and minerals often fuel conflict, trapping all but the elites in poverty amid vast wealth.
 
A high-level panel of industry experts and representatives from CSOs and resource-rich nations weighed in today on the challenges that define poverty or prosperity in a fragile country.
 
Fragile states endowed with natural resources have the chance to benefit from their transformational impact, said Sri Mulyani Indrawati, managing director and chief operating officer of the World Bank Group. "Success can mean stability and development, and failure can mean aid dependency,” she said. 
 
Indrawati underscored the need to get things right — alluding to the recurrent discussion regarding the “resource curse.” “Our focus is on transparency, governance, and strengthening country capacity,” she said.
 
On transparency, panelist Clare Short, chair of the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative, an international standard that ensures transparency around countries’ oil, gas and mineral resources, acknowledged that extractive resources “are very difficult to manage.”

Annual Meetings: 400 Million Children Living in Extreme Poverty

Donna Barne's picture

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim addresses the media. © Ryan Rayburn/World Bank

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim delivered two startling facts at his Annual Meetings press briefing today: 400 million of the world’s extreme poor are children; and in 35 low-income countries, 100 million more people are living in extreme poverty — defined as less than $1.25 a day — than 30 years ago. 

Both statistics are from a new report, the State of the World’s Poor, and they reveal that critical challenges remain despite historic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries in recent decades. “How can we in good conscience not do all we can to lift these children and their families out of extreme poverty?” asked Kim. “They can’t wait for progress to emerge slowly. They need our help today.”

Unpaved Roads Lead to a Better Future for Moldova’s Children

Victor Neagu's picture
Also available in: Русский

Nearly three years ago, a large delegation was pulling in front of a newly-renovated kindergarten building in the village of Cucuruzeni, Moldova to unveil a long-awaited addition for its 2,000 inhabitants. Newly planted flowers and the fresh smell of paint constantly reminded me that this was more than just a World Bank-financed project -- it marked the beginning of better education for children of the community.
Two weeks ago, as I was driving north of Moldova’s capital Chisinau, our driver veered off on an unpaved eight kilometer stretch of road. The dusty, bumpy ride would take me back to Cucuruzeni, after three years.
My anticipation did not go unrewarded. The building was spotless.  I stopped in front of a dozen smiling, and curious three- and four-year-olds, excited to see visitors. Three years ago, this would have been out of the ordinary for me. Now, as the father of a 2.5-year-old son, I am in a kindergarten five times a week. This visit, however, was special.  

In Jocular Interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, Kim Announces Serious Poverty Target

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: 中文 | Español | Français | العربية

Richard Quest at End Poverty - Really? Event
The mood was light-hearted and lively as World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim traded jokes with CNN’s Richard Quest in an early morning, no-holds-barred interview before a live and online audience from around the world.  But Kim soon turned serious about a new target the world must meet on the road to effectively ending extreme poverty by 2030 — cutting it from 18% percent today to half that by 2020.

Annual Meetings: Halving Poverty, Spreading Innovation, Reducing Risk

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: 中文

World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu discusses strategic policy questions related to shared prosperity. © Brangelina Clawson/World Bank

Can the world cut poverty in half by 2020? In a webcast interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called for reducing extreme poverty to single digits in just seven years. The Bank Group will work with countries and the international community to reduce the number of people living under $1.25 a day to 9% of the global population, down from 18% today. The 2020 target would be an interim step on the way to cutting extreme poverty to 3% by 2030 — a goal approved last spring by the Bank Group’s 188 shareholders. Read more: Blog, Release.

Social Media at the World Bank: What Can You Get for #1dollar?

Liana Pistell's picture

Imagine you only had $1 in your pocket. What would you spend it on? Food? Electricity? Fuel? Shelter? More than 1 billion people live in extreme poverty —  less than $1.25 a day. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has called this a “moral stain on our collective conscience” and has challenged world leaders to commit to ending extreme poverty by 2030. 

If you agree that we can end poverty by 2030, add your voice by telling world leaders that ending extreme poverty is a goal shared by everyone, everywhere. 

How can you join the fight to end poverty:

Shared Prosperity: Just Another Catchphrase?

Jaime Saavedra-Chanduvi's picture

Rural migrants in a job skills training course in China. © Li Wenyong/World Bank

Can’t we just grow out of our poverty problems? Truth be told, a large part of the reduction in poverty observed in the last decade is attributed to growth. And the correlation between growth and income growth of poor is very high: According to a recent paper by David Dollar and co-authors, incomes of the poor increase on average at a similar rate as incomes of the whole population. For many years the mantra has been that economies should grow, and with that poverty will fall. Look at China, fast growth and voila – dramatic and sustained poverty reduction. Look at Chile – many years of sustained growth have led to an extreme poverty rate in the single digits.

Annual Meetings: Kim, Lagarde Talk Climate Change and Growth

Donna Barne's picture

Economic Case for Climate Change Event
Can countries tackle climate change and still grow? Yes, say the leaders of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund – and the need to do so is urgent.

Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde weighed in on development and climate change in their first public discourse together on the topic, ahead of Annual Meetings with finance and development leaders this week.

Roma Inclusion: An Agenda for Action

Maria Davalos's picture
Also available in: Македонски
A Roma family in Macedonia prepares coffee during a black out
The Roma make up Europe’s largest and poorest ethnic group, with three-quarters of their estimated 10 to 12 million people living in poverty, and fewer than one in three having a job. The Roma are also much younger than the general population, with 30 percent under age 15-which can be a real boon, considering the latest demographic trends. But a Roma child’s chance at a good life starts to decrease very early.  

A recent regional study that focused on Roma and non-Roma in nearby communities from five Eastern European countries finds between 28 and 45 percent of Roma children attend preschool in four of the five study countries. However, the Roma preschool rate jumps to 76 percent in Hungary, where targeted policies have been in place; and this is about the average for non-Roma preschool rates across the five countries. Hungary’s experience offers promise because surveys show that preschool matters greatly to completing secondary school and staying off social assistance.

Opening the Bank to Civil Society

Donna Barne's picture

End Poverty banners on World Bank building.

The message draped across the World Bank’s Washington headquarters proclaims a noble goal – End Poverty. But how can the world achieve it?  Later this week, finance and development ministers from 188 countries will weigh in on the World Bank Group’s plan to reorganize and modernize in pursuit of the goal. A new strategy paper describes how data, knowledge, financing, and talent will be leveraged to help end extreme poverty by 2030 and to ensure prosperity is more widely shared throughout society. World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, Chief Economist Kaushik Basu, and many other speakers will have more to say on these topics at events this week. See a schedule.

Agile Global Development: Using Technology to Fight Extreme Poverty

Chris Vein's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية | Français

What tools and tactics should development partners use in the global effort to end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity? President Jim Yong Kim has noted that for the World Bank Group, the next frontier will likely include a strong focus on consistent delivery, ensuring that goods and services reach their intended beneficiaries even in the most challenging settings. How might we fix the delivery bottlenecks that contribute to high and rising global inequality?

Like in other industries, consistent delivery in development requires equipping leaders on the front lines with the best available knowledge about what works, while also holding them accountable for generating performance data, and then using these data to adapt their approach to local complexities.

We have a deep understanding of how to generate evidence about what works from field experiments and randomized control trials, tools inspired by clinical trials in medicine. However, there is far less consensus about how to achieve what Dr. Kim calls a readiness to make "constant adjustments, a willingness to take smart risks, and a relentless focus on the details of implementation."

A Village Far, Far Away: Do We Really Understand the Underlying Causes of Exclusion?

Susan Wong's picture


 Definitions cloudA while back, I visited a village in a country whose economy has been grown rapidly over the past decade. The country has been moving quickly from its lower income status to become classified as a lower-middle income economy. The village I visited was only some 50 kilometers from a bustling provincial capital on the border, but it might as well have been 500 kilometers away. The village took four hours to reach because we had to traverse three rivers or streams, and the roads were riddled with potholes the size of lunar craters. The shoulders of the road sometimes reached up to the top of the car windows. 
 
There was no internet, no phone, and most definitely no technology superhighway and ‘push-one-button solution’ to development. As we went from house to house, it seemed as though everyone in the village was sick. Children were running a high fever. In one household we visited, I asked the mother who was cradling her ill son whether she had been to see a doctor. She said yes. She had managed to borrow money from her neighbor and taken three van rides to the closest health clinic with her son. One month later, however, the child had not recovered and was still running a high fever.  He could no longer go to school, and the mother was having difficulty tending her fields because she had to care for her son. I asked her if she was considering taking her son back to the clinic, and she said that even if she had the money, she would not go back. The health staff had treated her and her son badly, talking down to them and belittling them because they were poor ethnic minorities.  She and her son only felt worse after the visit, and vowed not to return, no matter how sick the child became.
 
Variants of this story of marginalization and social exclusion abound. In other countries, it may be the single female head of household who is stigmatized because of her lowly status, or the internally displaced person who falls through the cracks of national safety nets and household surveys, or the ethnic minority villager who cannot speak the official language and consequently is unable or ashamed to speak up at community meetings.

2013 Annual Meetings Guide to Webcast Events – What’s On?

Donna Barne's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español | 中文


The global economy, climate change, and a new World Bank Group strategy to tackle extreme poverty will be hot topics next week. That’s when nearly 10,000 delegates, journalists and civil society representatives gather at the World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings. But you don’t have to be in Washington to take in 38 World Bank Group events that will be webcast Oct. 8-12.  Several will be live-blogged or live-tweeted in multiple languages. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter with #wblive and other hashtags connected to events. We’ve compiled a sampling of events and hashtags below.  Check out the full schedule or download the first-ever Annual Meetings app for Apple devices and Android smartphones.

We’re Getting Old: Let’s Celebrate with a Paradigm Change!

Margaret Arnold's picture

Happy International Day of Older Persons! The United Nations established this day of observance in 1990 as a way to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly and to appreciate the contributions that older people make to society. If we are not there already, we will all eventually be joining the growing global population of elders.  According to the World Health Organization, the proportion of the global population aged 60 and up will double from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent by 2050. 

The World Bank Social Develpment department’s upcoming report. Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, details the impacts of social exclusion on people’s well-being and on society overall. Unfortunately, aging is typically viewed as decline, and our elders are often marginalized both socially and physically (in nursing homes or other institutions). 

My own eyes were opened to this about a year ago, when I met Emi Kiyota, founder and president of Ibasho, an NGO that develops simple and low-cost solutions to integrate elders into their communities. Having worked on disasters and resilience for some time, I have always advocated for empowering women and marginalized groups to drive their recovery process. But I had to admit that I still listed older people as a “vulnerable group” to be cared for. After learning about Ibasho’s work, I invited Emi to share her experience with World Bank staff. She provided a beautiful example of the benefits of providing opportunities for older people to actively take part in disaster recovery and community development.