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October 2012

Media (R)evolutions: 43 Million Arab Users on Facebook

Kalliope Kokolis'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.


 

Quote of the Week: Norman Davies

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“All political institutions will end sooner or later.  The question is when and how.  It’s our vanity that makes us think that what forms part of our world today must be stable and secure.”

Norman Davies. As quoted in the Financial Times, October 19, 2012. Lunch with the FT: Norman Davies, by Tony Barber.

How Can a Post-2015 Agreement Drive Real Change? Please Read and Comment on this Draft Paper

Duncan Green's picture

The post-2015 discussion on what should succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is picking up steam, with barely a day going by without some new paper, consultation or high level meeting. So I, along with Stephen Hale and Matthew Lockwood, have decided to add to the growing slush-pile with a new discussion paper. We want you to read the draft (see right) and help us improve it. Contributions by 5 November please, either as comments on the blog, or emailed to research[at]oxfam.org.uk.

The paper argues that there’s an urgent need to bring power and politics into the centre of the post-2015 discussion. To have impact, any post-2015 arrangement has to take into account the lessons of over a decade of implementing the existing MDGs, and be shaped by the profound global change since the MDGs were debated over the course of the 1990s and early noughties.  We’re hoping that this will be at the centre of this week’s discussions in London linked to the High Level Panel and in Berlin at the Berlin Civil Society Center on Development post 2015.

Getting Evaluation Right: A Five Point Plan

Duncan Green's picture

Final (for now) evaluationtastic installment on Oxfam’s attempts to do public warts-and-all evaluations of randomly selected projects. This commentary comes from Dr Jyotsna Puri, Deputy Executive Director and Head of Evaluation of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)

Oxfam’s emphasis on quality evaluations is a step in the right direction. Implementing agencies rarely make an impassioned plea for evidence and rigor in their evidence collection, and worse, they hardly ever publish negative evaluations.  The internal wrangling and pressure to not publish these must have been so high:

  • ‘What will our donors say? How will we justify poor results to our funders and contributors?’
  • ‘It’s suicidal. Our competitors will flaunt these results and donors will flee.’
  • ‘Why must we put these online and why ‘traffic light’ them? Why not just publish the reports, let people wade through them and take away their own messages?’
  • ‘Our field managers will get upset, angry and discouraged when they read these.’
  • ‘These field managers on the ground are our colleagues. We can’t criticize them publicly… where’s the team spirit?’
  • ‘There are so many nuances on the ground. Detractors will mis-use these scores and ignore these ground realities.’

The zeitgeist may indeed be transparency, but few organizations are actually doing it.

Election Time: Be Careful around Men

Sina Odugbemi's picture

If there is an election campaign going on where you are, chances are that passions are galloping like unruly horses.  Everywhere, it seems, self-command is under threat.  The very air is thick with the clang of contention. The airwaves are clogged with clashing adverts and points of view. Supporters of rival political parties and candidates move from despair to euphoria and back again. Nerves are wrought; blood pressure levels rise; panic attacks spread like viruses.  Suddenly, everybody is an interpreter of opinion polls, of likely voters, registered voters, swing voters, independents, firm partisans, and all the subtle distinctions foisted on us by political communication experts for whom elections have become seasons to fatten up.

When Participation Works: Increasing CSO Involvement in Annual Meetings

John Garrison's picture

Involving CSO representatives in the planning process for the Civil Society Program has led to increased and more substantive civil society participation at the Annual Meetings over the past few years. This was vividly exemplified at the recently concluded Annual Meetings in Tokyo which witnessed the largest number of CSO participants and policy sessions to date.  The cornerstone of this participatory approach was the convening of a CSO Planning Group composed of 17 CSO and Youth Leaders from throughout the world invited to help plan the CSO Program (see photo and list).

Increased CSO participation in Tokyo was most evident in the number of CSOs who attended the Meetings.  A total of 630 CSO representatives from a wide range of constituencies such as NGOs, labor unions, youth groups, faith-based organizations, and foundations participated.  The Bank and Fund also sponsored the largest number of CSO / Youth Leaders and Academics – 56 from to 45 developing countries – who travelled to Tokyo to ensure that Southern voices and perspectives were represented (see sponsored CSOs list).  They participated in a week-long schedule of events which began with an orientation session on the Fund and Bank and included attending the Opening Plenary of the Annual Meetings which featured Crown Prince Naruhito.

What Do DFID Wonks Think of Oxfam’s Attempt to Measure its Effectiveness?

Duncan Green's picture

More DFIDistas on the blog: this time Nick York, DFID’s top evaluator and Caroline Hoy, who covers NGO evaluation, comment on Oxfam’s publication of a set of 26 warts-and-all programme effectiveness reviews.

Having seen Karl Hughes’s 3ie working paper on process tracing and talked to the team in Oxfam about evaluation approaches, Caroline Hoy (our lead on evaluation for NGOs) and I have been reading with considerable interest the set of papers that Jennie Richmond has shared with us on ‘Tackling the evaluation challenge – how do we know we are effective?’.

From DFID’s perspective, and now 2 years into the challenges of ‘embedding evaluation’ in a serious way into our own work, we know how difficult it often is to find reliable methods to identify what works and measure impact for complex development interventions.  Although it is relatively well understood how to apply standard techniques in some areas – such as health, social protection, water and sanitation and microfinance – there are whole swathes of development where we need to be quite innovative and creative in finding approaches to evaluation that can deal with the complexity of the issues and the nature of the programmes.  Many of these areas are where NGOs such as Oxfam do their best work.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

CIPE
Closing the Implementation Gap

“In every country, sound laws are a key foundation of democratic governance and economic development. Crafting such laws, however, is only part of the path to success. The other half is making sure that the laws are properly implemented – which is often more challenging.

When laws and regulations are not properly adopted, such discrepancy creates an implementation gap – the difference between laws on the books and how they function in practice. This gap can have very negative consequences for democratic governance and the economic prospects of countries and communities. When laws are not properly implemented, that undermines the credibility of government officials, fuels corruption, and presents serious challenges for business, which in turn hampers economic growth.”  READ MORE

Why Are International Conferences so Bad, and What Can Be Done about It?

Duncan Green's picture

Last week I attended the OECD’s 4th World Forum on Measuring Well-being. Actually, I sampled it, ducking out to look at Oxfam programmes in Delhi, meet people and give a couple of lectures in local universities. Lots of people do this, so it ought to have a name – conflirting? Condipping? Any better suggestions?

My overall impression was that official interest in well-being and its measurement continues to grow, but has moved to a national level, where numerous governments are seriously trying to put it into practice (here’s where the UK has got to, big report due next month). Although it has set up its 36 country ‘Better Life Index’ (with a funky interactive website where you can construct your own measure of well-being) and has launched the wikiprogress site, the OECD is not driving the debate as it was when I attended the previous Forum in Busan in 2010, (many fewer delegates this time around, and not much new in the debates). That is probably a good thing – national action and experimentation is what really matters.

Global Launch of From Poverty to Power 2nd Edition

Johanna Martinsson's picture

Our guest blogger Duncan Green has a new edition of his book out. What follows is the announcement.

Rooted in decades of Oxfam’s experience across the developing world, Duncan Green’s book From Poverty to Power argues that it requires a radical redistribution of power, opportunities, and assets to break the cycle of poverty and inequality and to give poor people power over their own destinies. The forces driving this transformation are active citizens and effective states. The book has received great acclaim since it was first published in 2008 and the updated version published on 23rd October is set to reach an even wider audience, helping to spark debate about the issues Oxfam works on.

From Kigali to Kabul: The Role of Art in Post-Conflict Reconciliation

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the experience of Rwanda, a post-conflict society that is using art as part of its national reconciliation effort. I argued that Rwanda’s active support of cultural industries, including film, music, crafts, architecture and theater, among other art forms, has played a key role in its peace building efforts  in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide that killed nearly one million people. Using anecdotal evidence, I specifically examined the use of theater, which helped national audiences express difficult emotions, re-examine established ideas, and improve their emotional well-being. In this blog post, I will examine how the creative sector has helped facilitate national reconstruction efforts in another conflict zone: Afghanistan.

To begin with, it is important to note that every country’s experience in using art in their reconciliation process is different – anywhere from how their history of conflict influences their engagement to the state of cultural policies in countries. In Rwanda’s case, the government began working alongside international partners shortly after their civil war to establish a platform for the growth of creative industries. Through relatively peaceful periods, they were also able to create an enabling environment that sustained this growth. However, in the case of Afghanistan, the cycles of conflict have made the growth of the cultural policies all the more challenging. Despite difficulties, there are several interesting examples in Afghanistan of how a network of actors, including government, civil society, and international partners, has used art in its attempt to facilitate healing and rebuild national identity.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

Transparency International
Hacking against corruption

“30 people, some of them friends, some others strangers, put together their skills in one place for one cause: beating corruption while having fun programming, coding, testing and, when things did not work out, starting all over again. The goal was making one good idea  become reality by the end of 24 hours.

In Bogotá, Colombia, hackers and developers were full of energy when they arrived at Academia Wayra at 5PM where the ‘Hacks Against Corruption’ hackathon took place the Saturday before last.

Their commitment was really amazing! They literally did not stop working for 24 hours.”  READ MORE

What’s Up (or Down) with Global Hunger?

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Oxfam Research Policy Adviser Richard King (right)

Today the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is celebrating World Food Day, and is playing host to the latest Committee on World Food Security meeting. Last week, to warm things up, the FAO, World Food Programme, and International Fund for Agricultural Development launched their joint 2012 ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World’ (SOFI) report, with the FAO’s latest estimates of global hunger. If you’re familiar with oft-cited facts such as ‘nearly one in seven people go to bed hungry’, or ‘nearly a billion people don’t have enough to eat’ reverberating around the echo chamber, they’re based on the calculations in previous editions of this publication.

The annual report has commanded a lot of interest over the past few years, partly because we’re living through a time of extraordinary food price volatility, but also because some of the FAO’s estimates of hunger (or more properly ‘undernourishment’) during the global food and economic crises have raised eyebrows. I won’t rehash here previous critiques of the recent estimates; suffice to say the shortcomings have been increasingly recognised by the FAO itself, and they’ve been beavering away behind the scenes to improve both their calculations and the data that they rely on. So it was with much anticipation that we waited to see what changes last week’s report would bring. And [fanfare!] here they are…

Information Dumping vs. Information Intermediation

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Dumping and intermediation – that doesn’t even sound similar, does it? Nevertheless, information intermediation is often misunderstood to mean a dump of lots of technical information on unsuspecting audiences. Do you know those websites that provide all the information you can possible imagine, and a lot you can’t imagine besides, about a certain issue or project or initiative – and that’s then called “reaching out to the public” or even engagement? Well, it’s not. It’s dumping. And it’s not useful.

Reducing the Risk of Disasters; Reducing Inequality – What’s the Link?

Duncan Green's picture

Another day, another, errm Day. Ahead of tomorrow’s International Day for Disaster Reduction (hold the front page….), Debbie Hillier, Oxfam’s Humanitarian PolicyAdviser (right), explores the links between DRR and inequality

I have never understood why disaster risk reduction (DRR) gets so little attention – from governments, donors and the aid system in general.  Be honest, how many of you know what the Hyogo Framework for Action is, or know what UNISDR stands for? This is despite the proven effectiveness and – the holy grail - value for money of disaster risk reduction.  Frankly speaking, it’s a no-brainer.

We all seem to understand the imperative for prevention when it comes to vaccinations and insurance, but somehow this falls apart when it comes to reducing the impacts of disasters.  For national governments, I suppose that time delays between public investment in risk reduction and benefits when hazards are infrequent, and the political invisibility of successful risk reduction can be pressures for a NIMTOF (Not in My Term of Office) attitude that leads to inaction.  And donors prefer the Superman of high profile disaster response to the Clark Kent of disaster risk reduction.

The Saakashvili Example: Too Bad We Can’t Design Such Projects

Sina Odugbemi's picture

To make governments truly accountable to their citizens, by far the best basis is to have credible elections. When citizens can actually throw out governments they no longer approve of then you have a fundamental framework for transforming accountability relationships. This is true even when you concede that elections are not perfect instruments of accountability. More needs to be done in the period between elections; citizen vigilance must not wane. But free and fair elections are incredible accountability devices.

That is why for new or young democracies, the first time a sitting government concedes defeat in an election is a milestone. It does not follow that the new democracy is going to make it but you know immediately that the basis is being created for constitutional democracy. Hopes begin to rise that maybe, just maybe, another new democracy is becoming viable. So, while staying out of the intricacies of the politics of Georgia and its passions, please join me in saluting the fact that President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia conceded that his party lost the recent elections in that country and promised to work with the new government for the remainder of his own term.  That singular act of statesmanship has now set the stage, as CNN reports, ‘for the nation’s first peaceful, democratic transition through election since the breakup of the Soviet Union’.  And as the political scientist Joshua Tucker, writing in The Monkey Cage, points out, ‘this is a further step of the incremental growth of Georgian pluralism. But it is not a final step.’ Here’s hoping Georgia continues to take these steps to pluralism.

Day of the Girl (and a small revolution in the birthplace of humanity)

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from Carron Basu Ray, (right) who coordinates Oxfam’s ‘My Rights, My Voice’ programme

The Ngorongoro area of Tanzania is regarded as the birthplace of humanity, a vast, strikingly beautiful part of the world. The Maasai pastoralists who live there are among the most marginalised people in the country and their children, especially the girls, have little access to quality education. I was in Tanzania a couple of weeks ago, meeting representatives from partner organisations and Oxfam colleagues who are implementing a dynamic education project that works with marginalised children and young people, their allies (parents, teachers, community leaders, etc) and many others on education issues and youth empowerment. The work is part of Oxfam’s eight country My Rights, My Voice global programme, funded by the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Johanna Martinsson's picture

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

CIMA
Making Media Development More Effective

"CIMA is pleased to release a special report, Making Media Development More Effective, by Tara Susman-Peña, a media development and communications consultant. She was the director of research for Internews’s Media Map Project, which informed this paper. A wealth of research demonstrates that a healthy media sector is consistently paired with better development outcomes and can contribute to better development. However, media development–donor support for strengthening the quality, independence, and sustainability of the news media–has comprised only about 0.5 percent of overall aid to developing countries. Should media development’s track record earn it a more central place in international development? A strong evidence base of original research conducted for the Media Map Project, a collaborative effort between Internews and the World Bank Institute, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, provides the opportunity to analyze the extent to which donor support to media has helped the media sector fulfill its promise to strengthen development. This report points out that donors to media development have a number of blind spots that prevent their interventions from being more effective and that media development stakeholders could improve their efforts by applying aid effectiveness principles to their practice." READ MORE

DFID Research for Development
Emerging Implications of Open and Linked Data for Knowledge Sharing in Development

"Movements towards open data involve the publication of datasets (from metadata on publications, to research, to operational project statistics) online in standard formats and without restrictions on reuse. A number of open datasets are published as linked data, creating a web of connected datasets. Governments, companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) across the world are increasingly exploring how the publication and use of open and linked data can have impacts on governance, economic growth and the delivery of services. This article outlines the historical, social and technical trajectories that have led to current interest in, and practices around, open data. Drawing on three example cases of working with open and linked data it takes a critical look at issues that development sector knowledge intermediaries may need to engage with to ensure the socio-technical innovations of open and linked data work in the interests of greater diversity and better development practice."READ MORE

When We (Rigorously) Measure Effectiveness, What Do We Find? Initial Results from an Oxfam Experiment

Duncan Green's picture

Guest post from ace evaluator Dr Karl Hughes (right, in the field. Literally.)

Just over a year ago now, I wrote a blog featured on FP2P – Can we demonstrate effectiveness without bankrupting our NGO and/or becoming a randomista? – about Oxfam’s attempt to up its game in understanding and demonstrating its effectiveness.  Here, I outlined our ambitious plan of ‘randomly selecting and then evaluating, using relatively rigorous methods by NGO standards, 40-ish mature interventions in various thematic areas’.  We have dubbed these ‘effectiveness reviews’.  Given that most NGOs are currently grappling with how to credibly demonstrate their effectiveness, our ‘global experiment’ has grabbed the attention of some eminent bloggers (see William Savedoff’s post for a recent example).  Now I’m back with an update.

Grievance Redress Mechanisms – Do they work?

Shamiela Mir's picture

Among many tools that enable gathering of project beneficiaries’ concerns and solving them are Grievance Redress Mechanisms (GRMs). Although the mechanisms themselves are not new, World Bank teams are increasingly encouraged to systematically include GRMs in their projects to increase beneficiaries’ participation, solve project-related disputes and ensure that projects achieve their intended results. As such, GRMs have been a topic of debate among World Bank staff.  GRMs are also called dispute resolution and conflict management/resolution mechanisms and they are considered to be one of several social accountability mechanisms. The topic is, therefore, not only timely at the World Bank but should also be of interest to development practitioners generally.

Celebrities, Politics, and Development: Is it a Good Mix?

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The use of celebrities to promote causes and political campaigns has been around for some time. It’s nothing new, yet it's a fascinating topic. With the U.S. election just around the corner, celebrities seem to be popping up everywhere endorsing their preferred candidate, speaking out on issues they deem important, and raising money, lots of money, for the campaigns. As Sina mentioned in a previous post, there is not a doubt that celebrities are effective in attracting attention to issues, but as he said “noise is not the same thing as impact.” The level of influence celebrities have on policy-making and affecting change on the ground has long been debated.

Weekly Wire: the Global Forum

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

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

TechCrunch
Meet The $35 Tablet That Could Connect The World

“TechCrunch just got its hands on the new Aakash UbiSlate 7Ci, the super-cheap tablet that will attempt to connect every student in India to the Internet. Educators have long hoped that cheap computing devices could bridge the global information divide, but previous attempts have been dogged by disappointing performance, lack of Internet access, and financial barriers. The latest version of India’s $35 tablet comes equipped with WiFi and has an optional upgrade ($64) of a cellular Internet package of $2/month for 2 GB of data (roughly 25 emails, 25 websites, 2 minutes of streaming video, and 15 minutes of voice chat a day). More importantly, it is expected to launch this month in India with the government’s commitment to connect even the most remote areas to the Internet. The impact of a successful rollout is difficult to overestimate: rural schools that have been connected to the Internet show immediate and tremendous gains.”  READ MORE

How are Citizens’ Movements Getting More Active in Asia? Lessons from a 10 Country Dialogue

Duncan Green's picture

Yesterday’s post discussed two of the case studies from last week’s Asia Development Dialogue on active citizenship. Today’s installment covers my more general thoughts  on the discussion, based on some final reflections I was asked to give at the end of the day.

First, I felt pretty privileged to be able to eavesdrop on a conversation between activists, political leaders and academics from 10 Asian countries: a women’s rights organizer from Myanmar seeking advice from a women’s leader from muslim Southern Thailand on dealing with ethnic conflict; a woman mayor from the Philippines asking a Cambodian leader if she had considered expanding her work on nurturing grassroots women’s political leadership to other countries. Fascinating.

Media (R)evolutions: Blog Viewership in South East Asia

Kalliope Kokolis'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.


 

Building Active Citizenship and Accountability in Asia: Case Studies from Vietnam and India

Duncan Green's picture

Last week I attended a seminar in Bangkok on ‘active citizenship’ in Asia, part of an ‘Asia Development Dialogue’ organized by Oxfam, Chulalongkorn University and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation. It brought together a diverse group of local mayors, human rights activists and academics, and discussed a series of case studies. Two in particular caught my eye.

In India, Samadhan, an internet-based platform for citizens to directly demand and track their service entitlements under national and state government schemes, is being piloted in two districts in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. The pilot is supported by the UN Millennium Campaign and implemented by the VSO India Trust. Here’s the blurb from the case study:

Quote of the Week: Salman Rushdie

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"And the problem with freedom is that there -- is that people will always misuse it, you know, because not everybody's a nice guy and not everybody is smart and sophisticated and intelligent. Some people are just the opposite of that, you know. But that, you know, freedom means freedom for those people too. And so in order to defend the general subject of freedom, you have to defend the freedom of people you don't like or do things that you find ugly and cheap and tawdry like this video, you know, which is clearly not a work of any merit at all, you know, and yet the point about freedom is there has to be freedom for work without any merit at all as well. And so that's the -- that's just the simple logic of it, and I think if we believe in this value, you know, of free expression, we just have to hold the line. We just have to say, this is what we do."

--Salman Rushdie (Interviewed by Fareed Zakaria, GPS, September 23, 2012)