Syndicate content


Dysfunctional mental models, marginalization, and perverse legitimacy: Reflections from the WDR 2015

James Walsh's picture

What does the World Development Report 2015 have to say about power and institutions – two central determinants of development?

When we think of power, social institutions like the police and the military often come to mind – organizations with the ability to use brute force to compel people to follow rules and obey commands. But while the power structures we observe in the world around us are very real, (they are not simply “in the head”) part of their clout nevertheless lies in their “schematizing role.” Institutions, we argue, are more than just the “rules of the game” as is conventionally understood in the disciplines of economics and political science.

Information as intervention: A visit to Digital Green

Ken Chomitz's picture

The tiny village of Narma Dih, off-grid in Bihar, India, was lit only by the full moon and the beam of a battery-powered pico projector.  A makeshift screen hung on the outside wall of a modest dwelling. A clump of small children clung to each other and stared at the screen, transfixed. Behind them sat a circle of sari-clad women, equally absorbed. A few men stood in back. The object of their rapt attention? Not a Bollywood extravaganza, but a locally produced how-to video on seed preparation for okra cultivation.  

Farmer displays a Digital Green
– informed innovation

I was in Narma Dih to get a first-hand look at Digital Green, which uses technology to accelerate the diffusion of agricultural innovations. The WDR 2016 is all about storing and sharing information, and that is at the heart of agricultural extension. There can be high returns to putting the right information in the right hands at the right time. This is especially true if you can show farmers ways of being more productive with their existing resources -- for instance, showing them how to intercrop, or to make better compost.  But credibly transmitting this kind of information has always been difficult, labor-intensive and costly.  Agricultural extension agents are typically assigned to serve an impossibly large number of farmers spread over a logistically daunting stretch of countryside. And the traditional form of information transmittal leaves something to be desired.  In Bihar, the agents have travelled the back roads shlepping flipcharts, text-heavy and just plain heavy, one per topic.  The flipcharts may not adequately convey new techniques to illiterate farmers, let alone give them confidence to try a risky new idea.  Would you believe someone who told you that you could sow 90% fewer seeds while boosting your yield?  (That's the promise of the system of crop intensification, whose diffusion is a goal of the Bank-supported Jeevika Project.)

Inclusive growth for shared prosperity

Vinaya Swaroop's picture
Announced in April 2013, the twin global goals of the World Bank – eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity – have become the guiding principles of its development work.  While reducing poverty has always anchored the Bank’s work, the goal of boosting shared prosperity – measured by the income of the bottom 40 percent – is new.

Friday Round up: Financial Services for the Poor, India’s Budget, Worldwide Nutrition, HIV/AIDS and Behavior, Basu to deliver Amartya Sen lecture

LTD Editors's picture
Microcredit has been both praised and criticized as a development tool.  In a Financial Services for the Poor conference hosted by CGAP, IPA, J-PAL, and the World Bank, researchers, practitioners, and thought leaders examine and discuss the lessons and implications of the latest research on microcredit.

​Are mega-trade agreements a threat to Brazil?

Otaviano Canuto's picture
The landscape of international trade negotiations has been undergoing an upheaval. On the multilateral level, after 15 years of unsuccessful attempts to close the Doha Development Round at the World Trade Organization (WTO), the negotiation system has shown to be highly vulnerable to blockades by any small group of member countries. The complex web of diverse individual country objectives, cutting across several interrelated themes, made reaching a deal harder than originally expected.

How much is the second generation biofuels technology worth to society?

Jevgenijs Steinbuks's picture
Second generation (2G) liquid biofuels are seen as a promising future technology for meeting global energy demand in the transportation sector, which is currently dominated by fuels derived from crude oil. Life cycle analyses demonstrate that 2G biofuels offset considerably more carbon emissions than corn based ethanol, and environmental advocates see them as a way of reducing the global carbon footprint, especially in the aviation sector, where low carbon alternatives to biofuels do not yet exist.

Experiencing development: fast cars and fast cash

Bilal Zia's picture
In a new paper published in the World Bank Working Paper Series: “Debiasing on a Roll: Changing Gambling Behavior through Experiential Learning” (WPS #7195, February 2015), my co-authors and I study how we can start using insights from the biology of the human mind to better understand and facilitate learning of key development concepts especially among illiterate populations in poor countries.

Making the case for case studies in development practice

Michael Woolcock's picture
The frequency and sophistication with which case studies are deployed by social scientists has greatly expanded in recent years. The goal now is not merely to document or describe, but to diagnose, explain, interpret, and inform a basis for action. Professional schools across the disciplines – from medicine and engineering to business and public policy – now routinely use ‘the case method’ not only to teach but to generate practical knowledge.

Geographical poverty traps in rural areas: A growing global problem

Edward B. Barbier's picture
More than one-third of the rural population in developing countries lives on less-favored agricultural land, according to global spatial datasets from 2000. How, then, does this distribution influence the incidence of poverty in these countries?