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The Bookmark podcast: Uncovering the literary talent of World Bank staff

Peter Kapuscinski's picture

Podcasts are more popular than ever, thanks in large part to the wildly successful This American Life produced, Serial, and the rise of smartphones and Bluetooth enabled cars, that allow listeners to stream podcasts practically anywhere.
 
At the World Bank Group, Senior Communications Officer, Richard Miron has produced a new podcast series, called Bookmark that explores the creative literary works of staff members.
 
Each week, Richard interviews a variety of staff members, past and present, who have put pen to paper and written books of their own. It’s not about World Bank books, but rather the expansive literary talent that work at the Bank.
 
Richard explains the thinking behind the series:
 
“The people of the World Bank are what makes the institution tick. They come with different experiences and from differing backgrounds. The aim of Bookmark is to show– ‘the literary side’ of those at the Bank, and to illustrate how their work has contributed to their writing and how their experience in writing has added to their work.”

The first episode features Agi Kiss, who currently works as a Regional Environmental and Safeguards Advisor. During her career at the World Bank Group, Agi worked in Nairobi, Kenya, managing a wildlife and protected areas project. She went on a number of safaris to explore the country.

The Paralympic Games in Rio: Where the (dis)abilities matter

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

“I savor life. When you have anything that threatens life... it prods you into stepping back and really appreciating the value of life and taking from it what you can.”
- Sonia Sotomayor
 
On the evening after the closing ceremony of the XXXI Summer Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, my mind was still immersed in the scene of several thousand perfectly chiseled bodies. I couldn’t emotionally adjust to the “normal pace of life” knowing that I would have to patiently wait for almost three weeks for the next thrilling global sporting festival, when the 15th Summer Paralympic Games will begin once again in Rio. To compensate for my anxious state of mind, I decided to watch ESPN to obtain a mini-dose of sport emotions. I got more than I bargained for. As soon as I turned on the TV, I became engrossed by a short but very captivating documentary entitled: Owen and Haatchi. From the get-go the story made a huge impression on me and served as a humbling precursor and transition to my next sporting festival where Paralympians will be competing in 22 sports and 528 events. 
 
Between September 7th and the 18th, 4,350 athletes with disabilities from 161 countries will share 4,350 compelling and inspiring stories of triumph. As they put the Paralympic spirit into motion to achieve sporting excellence, it will be our blessing to reflect not on their disabilities, but on their abilities and on the joy they have to represent their nations in the best possible way. Sport is a fair equalizer for all athletes; it doesn’t matter if you come from an affluent or developing country, every athlete still has to show up, participate, and finish the competition. The medal classification for the last Paralympics in London was not a mirror reflection of the Olympics. Instead, the para-athletes representing the nations of the emerging economies and developing countries could hold their own quite well. 

Quote of the Week: Yahia Lababidi

Roxanne Bauer's picture

"The thoughts we choose to act upon define us to others, the ones we do not define us to ourselves."

- Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian-American aphorist, poet and author of 6 books. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, and his writing has been translated into several languages, including: Arabic, Hebrew, Slovak, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, and Swedish. His latest book, Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993-2015) is a celebration of more than twenty years of his poetry. Lababidi has been featured on NPR, Best American Poetry, AGNI, World Literature Today, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera and has participated in international poetry festivals throughout the USA, Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East.

Holding the state to account

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

women at a community meeting, Mumbai IndiaIn a democracy, a critical element in the engagement between citizens and state is “accountability”. There are several definitions—one among them from the World Bank reads: “Accountability exists when there is a relationship where an individual or body, and the performance of tasks or functions by that individual or body, are subject to another’s oversight, direction or request that they provide information or justification for their actions”.

Citizens and civil society organizations seek accountability from the state. Where this builds on broad-based civil society engagement, we hear of “social accountability” whose advocates believe that a regular cycle of elections alone are not enough to hold the state to account. For instance, a decline in the quality of public services or cases of denial of (social) justice call for mobilization outside of the electoral cycle. But how does the state respond?

When the state is under sustained pressure to reform, it could take one of these positions: (1) respond to civil society using physical force and/or its legal prowess; (2) stoically “do nothing”; (3) formulate a response that emphasizes form over function; and (4) undertake genuine reform. These options represent a sliding scale of state response, and on any given issue, the state might change its position over time, depending on how the context evolves.

The reality is that more often than not, status quo rules: the space for citizens seeking accountability relies primarily on the willingness of the state. It is not in the nature of states to do this of their own volition, and often, a sustained campaign by a strong coalition of interests is required to influence them.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 
The Internet
Global Governance Monitor

The Internet has revolutionized communication and radically altered the conduct of business, politics, and personal lives. Information is now widely available and shared through instant message, email, and social media. Businesses can operate internationally with virtually no delay, enabling previously unimaginable opportunities such as providing medical advice across oceans. Moreover, the embedding of sensors, processors, and monitors in everyday products links the physical and virtual worlds, expanding vast streams of data and creating new markets. The Internet has also altered the relationship between governments and societies. Low-cost, nearly ubiquitous communication platforms allow citizens to mobilize and build transnational networks. The speed of communication can make governments more accountable, and open-data initiatives enable the participation of nongovernmental organizations and increased transparency. Though the technology has facilitated unprecedented economic growth, increased access to information, and delivered innovative solutions to historic challenges, the expansion of the Internet has also brought challenges and vulnerabilities.
 

The 2016 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project Report, Advancing equitable financial ecosystems
Brookings Institution

The 2016 Brookings Financial and Digital Inclusion Project (FDIP) evaluates access to and usage of affordable financial services by underserved people across 26 geographically, politically, and economically diverse countries. The 2016 report assesses these countries’ financial inclusion ecosystems based on four dimensions of financial inclusion: country commitment, mobile capacity, regulatory environment, and adoption of selected traditional and digital financial services. The 2016 report builds upon the first annual FDIP report, published in August 2015. The 2016 report analyzes key changes in the global financial inclusion landscape over the previous year, broadens its scope by adding five new countries to the study, and provides recommendations aimed at advancing financial inclusion among marginalized groups, such as women, migrants, refugees, and youth.

Media (R)evolutions: New Publications on Media Development around the World

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.

Twice a year, CAMECO, a consultancy specializing in media and communications, publishes a list of selected publications on media and communications in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. This rich resource includes 250 titles, covering recent media developments and project experiences in about 150 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.
 
The following topics are covered in the January – June 2016 edition:
 

> Audience Research & Media Use
> Children & Media, Youth & Media, Media Literacy
> Christian & Religious Communication
> Cinema & Media Entertainment
> Community Media & Citizen Journalism
> Conflicts, Media & Peacebuilding
> Democracy, Governance & Media, Political Communication
> Development Communication, Environmental Communication, Health Communication
> Disaster & Humanitarian Crisis Communication
> Economics & Management of Media
> Freedom of the Press, Media Policies, Media Legislation
> Gender & Media
> International Communication, Foreign News, Public Diplomacy
> Journalism & Journalism Training
> Media Assistance
> Media Landscapes, Media & Communication General, Media & Society

How do you make aid programmes truly adaptive? New lessons from Bangladesh and Cambodia

Duncan Green's picture
Lisa DenneyDaniel HarrisLeni Wild

Following on from yesterday’s post on adaptive aid, a guest piece from Lisa Denney (far left), Daniel Harris (middle) and Leni Wild (near left), all of ODI.

A swelling chorus of the development community has been advocating for more flexible and adaptive programming that can respond to the twists and turns of political reform processes. They argue that in order to achieve better aid outcomes, we need to do development differently. As part of this agenda, ODI and The Asia Foundation, with the assistance of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, tracked and analysed three programmes in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Mongolia. These programmes explicitly sought to work politically in practice, using a relatively small amount of money, a relatively short timeframe, and a focus on tangible changes. We followed attempts to achieve environmental compliance and increase exports in the leather sector in Bangladesh, and to improve solid waste management in Cambodia and Mongolia; issues identified for their potential to make important contributions (economic, health, environmental, etc.) to the wellbeing of citizens. Two of our case studies were released this month, telling the story of how the reforms unfolded and shifted strategy to better leverage the incentives of influential stakeholders, as well as the mechanics of how the Foundation supported adaptive ways of working.
 

How adaptation worked in practice

In each case, the programme teams (led by staff in the Foundation’s local office, and supported by a variety of contracted partners and a wider uncontracted reform network reaching both inside and outside of government) made significant changes to strategy during the implementation phase that helped to address difficult, multidimensional problems. In Cambodia, the team faced a complex and often opaque challenge in which waste collection is characterized by a single company with a long-term confidential contract that is difficult to monitor, a fee structure that does not encourage improved household waste collection, garbage collectors whose conditions do not incentivize performance, and communities that are difficult to access and do not always understand the importance of sanitary waste disposal. With a small Foundation team and limited funding, the approach relied on working with individuals selected as much for personal connections, disposition, and political know-how in working politically and flexibly, as for technical knowledge. The team began by cultivating relations between City Hall and the single contractor providing solid waste management services, then moved to work with the sole provider to improve their delivery, and finally, resolved to end the single contractor model in favour of competition.

Quote of the Week: Svetlana Alexievich

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Svetlana Alexievich“I am drawn to that small space called a human being … a single individual. In reality, that is where everything happens.”

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.
 

Transnational Companies as Actors in Global Health Outcomes: The Case of Maggi in Africa

Sonia Jawaid Shaikh's picture
Selling fortified Maggi cubes, NigeriaFor decades, health research, policy and outcomes for development work have been the turf of international organizations, local governments and the academia. However, times are changing. Transnational corporations with consumers in many developing countries are in position to affect health outcomes.

Increasing competition in local markets, growing access of low to middle income consumers to pre-made foods, and the advantage of selling popular products by the millions puts companies like Nestlé in a unique situation where they merge brand reputation management with development goals. The are several reasons behind merging a ‘cause’ with business outcomes, including the following:
  • The rise of the social media: When catering to global markets, a company like Nestlé sells of millions products every day. However, any crisis— either in terms of food quality or even an undesirable story— can set off a series of consequences via social media that may be detrimental to a product or brand’s image. This makes it difficult for companies to ignore complaints and inquiries, which could have been the case a decade ago. It also makes having a buffer of good reputation important so that when crises do hit, people give the company the benefit of the doubt.
  • There are more consumers – especially women: The increasing rate of female participation in the workforce increases access of low to middle income households to a greater variety of goods at the market. Further, when women are in control of family budgets, they tend to make more pro-family, future-oriented, and healthier choices. This may ultimately reflect the buying decisions that these consumers make amongst a range of products available – with possibly increased preferences for something which appears to be healthier yet cheaper.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Gasoline, Guns, and Giveaways: Is the End of Three-Quarters of Global Poverty Closer than You Think?
Center for Global Development

Amartya Sen’s famous study of famines found that a nation’s people died not because of a food shortage but because some people lacked entitlements to that food. In a new CGD working paper with Chris Hoy, we ask if a similar situation is now the case for global poverty: are national resources available but not being used to end poverty?  The short answer is yes (but don’t stop reading…). We find that approximately three-quarters of global poverty, at the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day, if not higher poverty lines, could now be eliminated—in principle—via redistribution of nationally available resources.

People-Powered Media Innovation in West Africa
Omidyar

As media ecosystems in West Africa are increasingly diversifying and opening up after decades of state control, innovative and independent journalism is advancing government transparency and accountability. New opportunities for funders are opening in tandem, with potential for both social and economic impact. This report explores several of these opportunities, surfaced through in-depth research on Nigeria and Ghana. While both countries lead the region in terms of both economic and media development, they operate under many of the same dynamics and constraints that exist across West Africa, and show how other markets may evolve, politically and commercially.
 

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