“I love how humans talk…I love the lone human voice. It is my greatest love and passion.”
- Svetlana Alexievich, an investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.
Are you a student or a young professional passionate about development and data? Do you care about poverty and inequality in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)? Then this blog contest is for you.
Regular readers of this space will know by now that we have run a periodic blog series - #LACfeaturegraph – that highlighted a particular data point from our LAC Equity Lab data portal and analyzed critical development issues across the region. Now this is your chance to be a part of this effort. You, too, can use the data from the LAC Equity Lab and come up with a blog entry that addresses some of these issues. Through the contest, we are looking for original, well-written posts whereby participants can share their perspective on poverty and equity issues in the LAC region and also recommend plausible public policy interventions.
The winner of this blog contest will get his or her entry published as part of the #LACfeaturegraph series. The winner will also have the opportunity to visit the World Bank Group headquarters in Washington D.C. at a later date to participate in a poverty event. Blog entries will be accepted for a month – from May 15, 2017 to June 15, 2017.
About a year ago I reviewed Angela Duckworth’s book on grit. At the time I noted that there were compelling ideas, but that two big issues were that her self-assessed 10-item Grit scale could be very gameable, and that there was really limited rigorous evidence as to whether efforts to improve grit have lasting impacts.
A cool new paper by Sule Alan, Teodora Boneva, and Seda Ertac makes excellent progress on both fronts. They conduct a large-scale experiment in Turkey with almost 3000 fourth-graders (8-10 year olds) in over 100 classrooms in 52 schools (randomization was at the school level, with 23 schools assigned to treatment).
Helen Mwangi and her solar-powered water pump in Kenya © infoDev/World Bank
Managers of initiatives that support innovative entrepreneurs have a choice to spread their resources (and luck) among many opportunities or focus them on the most promising few. In developing countries, public and donor programs can learn a lot from how private investors pick and back innovative ventures.
In the early days of infoDev’s Climate Technology Program, our thinking was very much about letting a hundred flowers bloom: supporting a large number of firms with the hope that a few would emerge as blockbusters. Firms were selected on the basis of objective metrics tied to the innovative nature of their ideas and their economic, social and climate-change impacts. For example, while infoDev’s partner the Kenya Climate Innovation Center has more than 130 companies in its portfolio, a $50 million venture-capital fund in California would have at most six. Inspired by private investors, we have since rethought our program objectives for these centers, as well as the way we select and support businesses. The Kenya center is going through a rationalization of the firms it supports.
Like many public programs, infoDev and its network of Climate Innovation Centers had good reasons to support large numbers of companies. The main reason is the need to spread the entrepreneurship risk through a diversified portfolio. A recent infoDev literature review found that up to a third of all new firms do not survive beyond two years, let alone grow. Out of those that survive, data from high-income countries suggest that fewer than 10 percent become high-growth firms. So casting a wide net increases the chances of hitting the jackpot. The opposite approach, picking winners, is seen as destined to fail and distort the market.
In his 2014 annual address known as the ‘Throne speech’, King Mohammed VI of Morocco focused on the less visible but critical aspects of development such as the quality of institutions, the quality of learning, and the quality of interpersonal relations in society. This speech set wheels in motion that have culminated in the launch of the 2017 Economic Memorandum, entitled Morocco 2040 – Emerging by Investing in Intangible Capital.
Designing programs and policies to eliminate extreme poverty and boost the income of the bottom 40% of the world’s population requires reliable data. The data is gathered through using household surveys that typically collect information on consumption and expenditure on a comprehensive set of 300 to 600 items in the household. A list of items includes anything that a household potentially consumes, for example, typical items like maize, milk, and soap, as well as rare items like mustard.