Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For April 2017, the featured blog post is "Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries" by Jing Guo.Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform. In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
My Exfam colleague Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics is launched today, and I think it’s going to be big. Not sure just how big, or whether I agree with George Monbiot’s superbly OTT plug comparing it to Keynes’s General Theory. It’s really hard to tell, as a non-economist, just how paradigm-changing it will be, but I loved it, and I want everyone to read it.
Down to business – what does it say? The subtitle, ‘Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist’, sets out the intention: the book identifies 7 major flaws in traditional economic thinking, and a chapter on each on how to fix them. The starting point is drawings – working with Kate was fun, because whereas I think almost entirely in words, she has a highly visual imagination – she was always messing around with mind maps and doodles. And she’s onto something, because it’s the diagrams that act as visual frames, shaping the way we understand the world and absorb/reject new ideas and fresh evidence. Think of the way every economist you know starts drawing supply and demand curves at the slightest encouragement.
“There is a line of Salman Rushdie’s, I think it’s an essay, where he says: our lives teach us who we are. And I think that’s the case. It’s not that you have a set identity, it’s that by your actions you find out what sort of person you are. And the news is not always…lovely.”
- Zadie Smith - novelist, short story writer, essayist, and a tenured professor in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.
Quoted in Financial Times Weekend print edition November 12, 2016 "Lunch with the FT Zadie Smith" by Jan Dalley
At times in the last few years”, writes Duncan Green in his recent book How Change Happens, “it has felt like something of a unified field theory of development is emerging”. As Hegel reminded us, however, the owl of wisdom flies at dusk. As recently as early 2016 (which is about when he wrote these words) Green’s exuberant enthusiasm was shared by many of us. But a year, we now know, can be an eternity.
How Change Happens synthesizes a growing body of work that has aimed to move development scholarship and practice away from a pre-occupation with so-called ‘best practice’ solutions. It captures well the sensibility of the new literature – a paradoxical combination of the enthusiasm of a breakthrough and the pragmatism of seasoned practitioners who have learned the limitations of over-reach, often through bitter experience. But, as per Hegel, has our quest for useful insight reached its destination only to find that a new journey has begun, a different and more difficult journey than the one we had planned?
In this review essay, I use the insights of How Change Happens to explore this question. I unbundle into two broad groups the categories of analysis Green uses to delineate the grand unified theory. In discussing the first group, I highlight what we got right about the drivers of change; in discussing the second, what we got wrong. I then suggest possible ways forward.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Why people prefer unequal societies
There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.
2017 Affordability Report
Alliance for Affordable Internet
A4AI is a global alliance of over 80 member organisations from across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in both developed and developing countries, dedicated to ensuring affordable internet access for all through policy and regulatory change. The Affordability Report represents part of our ongoing efforts to measure progress toward affordable internet. The 2017 Affordability Report looks at the policy frameworks in place across 58 low- and middle-income countries to determine what changes countries have made to drive prices down and expand access — and what areas they should focus on to enable affordable connectivity for all.
- Weekly Wire
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.
According to the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), for the first time ever the internet penetration will surpass 50 percent in 2017. However, in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of affordable, universal internet access by 2020 there is more work to be done. Especially in eliminating an existing digital gender gap, as those not connected tend to be women in developing countries unable to afford access to the Internet.
A4AI’s Affordability Report 2017 looks at the policy frameworks in place across 58 low and middle income countries and provides actionable steps countries need to take to enable affordable connectivity for all.
Source: Alliance for Affordable Internet
The policy recommendations of A4AI focus on employing public access solutions, promoting market competition, supporting community networks, partnering to develop technologies, incentivizing infrastructure and resource sharing, making effective use of universal service and access funds, and ensuring effective implementation.
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.
Jetlag is a book reviewer’s best friend. In the bleary small hours in NZ and now Australia, I have been catching up on my reading. The latest was ‘Building State Capability’, by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock, which builds brilliantly on Matt’s 2013 book and the subsequent work of all 3 authors in trying to find practical ways to help reform state systems in dozens of developing countries (see the BSC website for more). Building State Capability is published by OUP, who agreed to make it available as an Open Access pdf, in part because of the good results with How Change Happens (so you all owe me….).
But jetlag was also poor preparation for the first half of this book, which after a promising start, rapidly gets bogged down in some extraordinarily dense academese. I nearly gave up during the particularly impenetrable chapter 4: sample ‘We are defining capability relative to normative objectives. This is not a reprisal of the “functionalist” approach, in which an organization’s capability would be defined relative to the function it actually served in the overall system.’ Try reading that on two hours’ sleep.
Luckily I stuck with it, because the second half of the book is an excellent (and much more accessible) manual on how to do Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation – the approach to institutional reform that lies at the heart of the BSC programme.
“Do I worry about people focusing on what I wear? No. There’s a story that might illustrate why. A few years ago I got into a lift in the House of Commons with a young woman who happened to be wearing a nice pair of shoes and I said: “oh, nice shoes.” And she said she liked my shoes as well. And then she looked at me and said: “Your shoes got me into politics.”
Theresa May – Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since July, 2016.
Quoted in the Financial Times, December 10, 2016, “Women of the year” by George Parker and Lionel Barber.
- Quote of the Week
To recap and settle our terms, the populist demagogues now emerging as leaders of governments around the world have a peculiar way of operating. At the core of their practice is a truculent nationalism that defines a part of the political community as the ‘real’ people. They claim to govern in the name of ‘the people’, as defined. They use polarization deliberately, even when in government; they define enemies and rail against these unceasingly in colorful language. They demonize The Other/ the Outsider. They are crude propagandists without the slightest regard for truth or logic or the rules of polite discourse. They can be both boorish and ridiculous…and they rejoice in the fact.
Now, typical technocrats or policy wonks are highly educated persons, usually with advanced degrees from excellent universities. These are minds that have been tilled, ploughed and cultivated to a sophisticated degree. They understand ideas. They have been trained to handle evidence with care. They have been taught the basic rules of logic, the nature of fallacious or tendentious reasoning etc. They also know the importance of public debate and discussion, of making your case vigorously but fairly, of avoiding lies, obfuscation and downright dishonesty. Finally, whatever the ideological commitments of these technocrats or policy wonks, they are not usually people who go around spouting racist or misogynistic views in public …no matter what they privately believe.
Yet, look around the world today, and you will notice that quite a few supposedly polished technocrats are working for brute demagogues. You listen to them and you wonder: How have you sold this gig to yourself, comrade?