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March 2012

Scaling Social Impact in the North East with Ashoka Fellows

Parvathi Menon's picture

In Calcutta a few days before Christmas, December 2011, Ashoka India brought together Fellows from the North and North East around a thematic workshop with Innovation Alchemy. The theme was ‘Scale’. The issue of increasing the IMPACT of the work that the Fellows are implementing through their diverse initiatives.

The two days of engagement was a quick immersion into the complex Development world of the North East. The region is perceptibly isolated from the rest of the country, politically, geographically, economically... A brief research of the core challenges in this part of the country points to porous borders, leading to migration, infiltration and huge demand on a weak economy. High degree of ecological instability and recurring natural disasters repeatedly impacting livelihoods, increasing displacement and further reducing opportunities. Adding to the complexity is a feeling that ‘the Central Government does not care about the North East‘.

Combine all this – human rights struggles, cross-border violations, weak economy, limited opportunity and lack of any strong progressive policy frameworks – and what you get is a situation ripe for human conflict.

More and Better Jobs in Bangladesh

Sanjay Kathuria's picture

We launched South Asia’s first regional report, ‘More and Better Jobs in South Asia’ in a series of events in Dhaka early last week.

Through events including a seminar with youth at the University of Dhaka, a formal report launch the next day, a TV interview with the South Asia Chief Economist, Kalpana Kochchar, and an op-ed in the leading English language newspaper, the report helped  generate discussion on core economic challenges facing Bangladesh, as job creation are highly correlated with the challenges of faster growth.

Bangladesh, along with other South Asian countries, has seen steady job growth and a substantial decrease in poverty over the past three decades. The country has added nearly 1.2 million new jobs every year over the last ten years, and this has been accompanied by increasing real wages and declining poverty amongst all categories of workers. This performance will have to be improved in the future, owing to Bangladesh's early progress in its demographic transition. With substantial reductions in infant and child mortality following a significant decline in fertility rates, Bangladesh's working age population is growing more rapidly than its young and old dependents. In turn, this can be attributed to Bangladesh’s success in nurturing the desire for smaller families, through its reproductive health program as well as its emphasis on girls’ education.

Quote of the Week: Paolo Freire

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

“Attempting to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation is to treat them as objects that must be saved from a burning building.”

 

Paolo Freire, Educator and Influential Theorist of Critical Pedagogy

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Are the Knowledge Bank’s staff under-specialized?

Adam Wagstaff's picture

Ideas often come from unexpected quarters. Last week, Ricardo Hausmann came to the World Bank to talk about his work on economic complexity. I missed the seminar, but afterwards read his Atlas of Economic Complexity: Mapping Paths to Prosperity. (I had actually already looked at the stunning – but rather confusing charts – of his coauthor Cesar Hidalgo after reading Tim Harford’s great new book Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure.)

On the face of it, the Atlas of Economic Complexity doesn’t have a lot to do with the topic of this blog post – whether World Bank staff are under-specialized.  But bear with me, and I hope I’ll convince you otherwise.

Helping new immigrants find work: a policy experiment in Sweden

David McKenzie's picture

Despite the large and growing literatures on migration in economics, sociology, and other social sciences, there is surprisingly little work which actually evaluates the impact of particular migration policies (most of the literature concerns the determinants of migrating, and the consequences of doing so for the migrants, their families, and for native workers). I am therefore always interested to see new work in this area, particularly work which manages to obtain experimental variation in policy implementation.

The earthquake that changed the world forever

Abhas Jha's picture

The Japanese phrase “Shikata ga nai (仕方がない)  -loosely translated as "it can't be helped" -captures the essence of the resilience and sense of duty towards one’s community that the Japanese people displayed in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

What Sesame Street Can Teach the World Bank

Michael Trucano's picture

 Plaza SésamoZhima Jie. Takalani Sesame. Galli Galli Sim Sim. Behind the various incarnations of 'Sesame Street' around the world stands the Sesame Workshop, the non-profit group committed to help children (and especially young children) develop literacy and numeracy skills, build the resilience they need to cope with tough times, establish an early foundation for healthy habits, and help fostering respect and understanding.

Sesame claims that it produces the "most studied TV progam in history".  While I don't have hard data to support this assertion, I can't even imagine a potential competitor to this claim.  Long a touchstone for many of us who work in the educational technology field, I would add that it is probably the most studied educational technology initiative in history as well.

Recently a group from Sesame spoke to a packed conference room at the World Bank about what it does around the world, and how it does it.  It was an entertaining presentation -- videos of small children cavorting with the likes of Elmo and Kami do tend to engage people in ways that, say, arguments about multivariate regression analysis do not.  The event was organized by the World Bank's early childhood development (ECD) group, but attracted many people from our more diffuse 'EduTech' thematic community as well.  This led me to wonder: What can those of us of work on educational technology initiatives within large institutions like the World Bank learn from how Sesame Workshop operates? 

While attempting to answer this question for myself, I came away from the entertaining and thought-provoking presentation with quick notes on five core 'lessons' to consider:

Disruptive Innovation needed, submit your ideas now

Jean-Louis Racine's picture

Henry Ford once famously said that if he had asked his customers what they wanted they would have asked him for a faster horse. If he had listened to his customers, the Ford Motor Company may never have existed, or would be called the Ford Faster Horse Company. The automobile became what is called a “disruptive innovation” meaning that it radically displaced the incumbent technology (the horse and carriage) by not listening to the demands of mainstream consumers, but trying to uncover their real needs.

This is the approach the World Bank is now prototyping in Indonesia: Trying to uncover the real clean energy needs of rural communities by understanding their underlying energy-related problems rather than simply asking them what technologies they want. The Indonesia Green Innovation Pilot Program is prototyping a new approach to fostering green disruptive innovation. The first stage of the program is being launched this week, and consists of identifying possible challenges – or problems – linked to energy in rural communities. In keeping with the logic of disruptive innovation, the program does not start with a market demand study, or a survey of clean energy solutions in the market, but with uncovering stated and unstated needs that affect the population of a rural community in their everyday lives. This is being done in three ways: One is through field research by a team of designers from Inotek and Catapult Design, a second way is through consultative workshops in Jakarta and in the rural communities,  and a third is through a “call for challenge” where the program is using a crowdsourcing approach to collect problems linked to energy in rural Indonesian communities. If you are in any way familiar with rural Indonesia and its energy challenges, the program invites you to submit a challenge through this website.

Ask the experts! Upcoming MENA Forum on Economic and Political Transitions

Caroline Freund's picture
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of the Arab Spring. Revolutions brought new governments to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while a number of other governments in the region introduced important reforms.  The peoples’ demands are clear: democracy, dignity, better governance, and a more inclusive growth model.  Now is the time to deliver. Yet, the political, economic and social developments are shifting and it is not clear how the population’s heightened expectations can be met. 

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