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social networks

Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the third post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

International migration trends have been the subject of fierce debate globally, and when you look at the data it’s no surprise why this is the case.  In 2015, the number of international migrants was the highest ever recorded, reaching 244 million (from 232 million in 2013), according to the International Organization for Migration.  Moreover, the number of people fleeing conflict has also risen. UNHCR, the UN’s Refugee Agency, estimates that 65.3 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, 21.3 million of which are now refugees, and around 10 million people are stateless.

These massive flows of people, however, demonstrate the incredible capacity of social networks to help individuals navigate and deal with new experiences. For most migrants the choice to move is an existential one in which they weigh the risk it takes to make the journey with the potential opportunities it may bring.  In doing so they consider where and how people they know have traveled before them, and which relationships they can tap into for support. Individuals living in diasporas also respond by sharing critical knowledge and tools, sending remittances, and in bridging the cultures between the newly arrived and their new communities.

As Michael Woolcock explains, the risk involved with migrating is directly affected by the social networks that individuals can construct to cope with the hazards and vulnerability that they encounter- both in the process of moving but also in settling and figuring out how things are done in the new locale.
 

Immigration and displacement: The importance of social networks for those leaving home

Ubuntu: How social networks help explain theories of change

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the second post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

There is a Nguni-Bantu phrase, “I am because we are” which arises from the Ubuntu philosophy of community. Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee translated it in her TED Talk as “I am what I am because of who we all are.” At its most basic understanding, Ubuntu means “human kindness toward others,” but its meaning is much greater, expressing ideas of connection and community. It is a concept known to cultures around the world. The Maori of New Zealand say “We all in the same boat”, and the North American Sioux tribe believes that, “With all things and in all things, we are relatives.” Globally, cultures around the world know and use the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. 

Modern philosophers have taken these axioms and developed social science research to explore them. Social capital refers to the interpersonal interactions we all participate in to create economic and cultural resources. When social capital is functioning well, social relations are marked by reciprocity, trust and cooperation and individuals can produce goods and services not just for themselves, but for the common good.  Relatedly, social cohesion describes the degree to which a society works toward the wellbeing of all its members, supports inclusive practices, and allows individuals to work for upward mobility.

These theories are essential to international development because, as Michael Woolcock points out, “Development changes who people interact with, and the terms with which people interact.”  Whether you think of these ideas as Ubuntu or social capital, they encompass the way in which people deal with power structures, like the state, and with other people who are not like them. 
 
Michael Woolcock

 

Media (R)evolutions: Convergence around mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Globally, all regions of the world are gaining access to the internet and mobile phones, with mobile phones driving a great deal of the gains. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of individuals now have access to a mobile phone. Convergence around mobile phones is occurring in two simultaneous and reinforcing ways: mobile phones are superseding or preceding other communication methods as the technology of choice for individuals looking for greater interconnectedness, and they are also incorporating (rather than replacing) other mediums in the provision of content.

Mobile phones are cheap, easy to use, provide many benefits, and do not require much literacy or numeracy for basic use. They can be shared, prepaid, billed in prices per second, depending on the needs and abilities of the owner(s).  In Cameroon, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, more than four in five mobile phone owners have simple phones, not capable of browsing the internet.  

Mobile phones are also capable of providing a diversity of interactive activities. Mobile apps, text messaging, calling, and internet browsing are all possible from these small devices. In African countries, social networking, sending and receiving e-mails, instant messaging, and checking facts and definitions are the most common uses of the internet. The consumption of games, online newspapers, books, radio, and video also signals that rather than replacing these traditional mediums, the internet incorporates their digital versions.

Uses of internet, mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa

Increasing Prosperity for the Poorest using Social Networks: Guest post by Kathryn Vasilaky

Social networks affect all of our lives; the people we know influence what we're exposed to and the actions we take. Gaining weight? Blame your network. Got a job promotion? Thank your network. In the developed world, the term "social networks" often illicits thoughts of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and many, many more. In the rural developing world, networks still depend, for the most part, on offline interactions. Access to information is by word of mouth, and a few central individuals often disseminate information from the top down to the remainder of a village.

How Social Connections and Business Ties Can Boost Trade: An Application of Social Network Analysis

Anasuya Raj's picture

The Nigerien city of Gaya is booming. Sitting on the banks of the Niger River not far from the borders of Benin and Nigeria, Gaya has grown from a quiet village to a hopping new hub. Its population is five times what it was just a few decades ago. So what has Gaya on the go? 

To some extent, it's a trade story. Price differences across its nearby borders, helped by a ban on imports of second-hand clothes in Nigeria, and an avoidance of tax collection by customs officials have all been important factors in explaining the boom of trade in the region. Yet, combining these with an analysis of the development of transnational networks gives a more complete picture.

This is where Social Network Analysis sheds new light on the story of Gaya, by looking at these interactions to help improve our understanding of the dynamics involved.
 

Quote of the Week: Sean Parker

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Economically speaking, I profited handsomely from the destruction of the media as we knew it. The rest of the world did not make out so well, and society certainly got the worse end of the bargain.”

Sean Parker, an American entrepreneur who cofounded Napster and served as the first president of Facebook

As quoted in the Financial Times, June 28, 2013, Napster Co-founder Attacks Online Media Jackals

When the People Say Yes and the Leaders Say No

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Does the state of public opinion on a public policy issue create obligations for political leaders, obligations they ignore at their peril? This is an issue being debated in the United States right now about a specific public policy controversy – gun control – but the core issue applies everywhere. In the specific case of the United States, many readers will know that there was an attempt to pass legislation requiring background checks before you can buy guns online or at gun shows. The legislation was blocked in the US Senate in spite of the fact that opinion polls say again and again that 90 per cent of Americans polled support the measure. So, the question is being asked and debated: how can 90% of the people support a measure and it does not become law? Very often the question is asked with real heat. Now, we are not going to get into the Byzantine complexities of American politics. What I am interested in is bringing to your attention what professional political scientists who blog have been saying about the core, universally relevant issue: does the state of public opinion create unavoidable obligations for political leaders?

In a couple of blog posts Jonathan Bernstein (he writes the excellent A Plain Blog about Politics) offers the following insights:

To Give or Not to Give: Getting into Your Head

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In a previous blog post, I wrote about a small airfare tax that’s been implemented in a number of countries to help fight three of the world’s deadliest diseases. The idea behind the initiative (UNITAID) is to raise funds by applying a small levy on domestic and international flights; a levy so small that most people do not even take notice. It’s interesting what the success of this method says about us and human behavior. Let’s say, had a traveler been given the option to donate $1 before purchasing the air ticket, the outcome of UNITAID would probably have been very different. While studies show that there’s a strong connection between giving and the level of happiness, most people opt out. Why?

David Brooks of The New York Times points out that “we spend trillions of dollars putting policies and practices into place, but most of these efforts are based on the crudest possible psychological guesswork.” Understanding behavioral sciences is important. As he points out, sometimes “behavioral research leads us to completely change how we think about an issue,” and result in new policy approaches. He’s referring to one well-known example, which has to do with default settings: “Roughly 98 percent of people take part in organ donor programs in European countries where you have to check a box to opt out. Only 10 percent or 20 percent take part in neighboring countries where you have to check a box to opt in.” There’s something magical about the check box!

How Social Networks Improve Your Health

Maya Brahmam's picture

My neighbor, who is 44, just suffered a heart attack and underwent triple bypass surgery. His wife, with two young children, was understandably in a state of shock. We rallied around with home-cooked heart-healthy meals and helped with exercise. My family stepped up because we knew that our neighbors, without close relatives locally, could use our help and support.

So I felt a sense of connection when I read Mark Hyman’s recent article in the Huffington Post on how communities are often the best medicine for change.  He pointed out that the secret of an effective model for treating drug resistant TB and AIDS in Haiti lay not in new drugs or medical centers, but in the community. He notes, “Recruiting and training over 11,000 community health workers across the world…proved that the sickest, poorest patients with the most difficult to treat diseases in the world could be successfully treated. The community was the treatment…”

The Future of Education: Amazon or an eBay Model?

Tanya Gupta's picture

In a Washington Post article that Dr. Qasem and I wrote entitled “The Arab Spring of Higher Education,” we spoke of the Amazon model and the eBay model of higher education. Here we elaborate on these two models and talk about what education will look like in the future.

First, let’s look at some US trends in higher education:

  1. Tuition costs are becoming increasingly unaffordable for college students.  President Obama in his Michigan address asked colleges to think of ways to make education cheaper and more accessible.  Large capital investments and fixed costs make it difficult for colleges to cut their expenses drastically
  2. College degrees are unaffordable for many and even so, do not guarantee a job.  There is a demand for many prospective students is to learn materials and skills that would help them get a job
  3. Free availability of multimedia tools, broadband access, differentiated student base, demand for flexibility and modularized education, and technologically empowered end-users has created an environment where a demand for 24/7 education can be fulfilled by individuals or groups of individuals

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