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January 2013

Connecting Social Media to the Policy Cycle

Jude Hanan's picture

Here are some fact and figures:

- 62% (that’s six in ten) of online citizens now use social media.

- Facebook has 1 billion registered users and is still growing, mostly in developing countries.

- China has the most people online – 456 million (only 34% of population).

- And nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is now spent on social networking sites.

The business case for using social media in communications is clear: Social media is faster, often cheaper and, for the most part, offers a better way to connect. For communicators, social media is (or should be) an intrinsic part of every campaign or project.

Evidence and Results Wonkwar Final Salvo (for now): Eyben and Roche Respond to Whitty and Dercon + Your Chance to Vote

Duncan Green's picture

In this final post (Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon have opted not to write a second installment), Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche reply to their critics. And now is your chance to vote – but only if you’ve read all three posts, please.The comments on this have been brilliant, and I may well repost some next week, when I’ve had a chance to process.

Let’s start with what we seem to agree upon:

  • Unhappiness with ‘experts’ – or at least the kind that pat you patronizingly on the arm,
  • The importance of understanding context and politics,
  • Power and political institutions are generally biased against the poor,
  • We don’t know much about the ability of aid agencies to influence transformational change,
  • Mixed methods approaches to producing ‘evidence’ are important. And, importantly,
  • We are all often wrong!

We suggest the principal difference between us seems to concern our assumptions about: how different kinds of change happen; what we can know about change processes; if how and when evidence from one intervention can practically be taken and sensibly used in another; and how institutional and political contexts then determine how evidence is then used in practice. This set of assumptions has fundamental importance for international development practice.

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.

The Next Web
Facebook passes 1.06 billion monthly active users, 680 million mobile users, and 618 million daily users

“While sharing its financial results for the fourth quarter, Facebook on Wednesday announced a number of new milestones. The social network has now passed 1.06 billion monthly active users. Of those, daily active users passed 618 million on average during December 2012 and the number monthly active mobile users hit 680 million.

Here’s the breakdown from the release:

  • Monthly active users (MAUs) were 1.06 billion as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 25% year-over-year.
  • Daily active users (DAUs) were 618 million on average for December 2012, an increase of 28% year-over-year.
  • Mobile MAUs were 680 million as of December 31, 2012, an increase of 57% year-over-year.
  • Mobile DAUs exceeded web DAUs for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2012.”  READ MORE

The Evidence Debate Continues: Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon Respond from DFID

Duncan Green's picture

Yesterday Chris Roche and Rosalind Eyben set out their concerns over the results agenda. Today Chris Whitty (left), DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser and Stefan Dercon (right), its Chief Economist, respond.

It is common ground that “No-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions.” Neither would anyone argue that power, politics and ideology are not central to policy and indeed day-to-day decisions. Much of the rest of yesterday’s passionate blog by Rosalind Eyben and Chris Roche sets up a series of straw men, presenting a supposed case for evidence-based approaches that is far removed from reality and in places borders on the sinister, with its implication that this is some coming together of scientists in laboratories experimenting on Africans, 1930s colonialism, and money-pinching government truth-junkies. Whilst this may work as polemic, the logical and factual base of the blog is less strong.

Rosalind and Chris start with evidence-based medicine, so let’s start in the same place. One of us (CW) started training as the last senior doctors to oppose evidence-based medicine were nearing retirement. ‘My boy’ they would say, generally with a slightly patronising pat on the arm, ‘this evidence-based medicine fad won’t last. Every patient is different, every family situation is unique; how can you generalise from a mass of data to the complexity of the human situation.” Fortunately they lost that argument. As evidence-informed approaches supplanted expert opinion the likelihood of dying from a heart attack dropped by 40% over 10 years, and the research tools which achieved this (of which randomised trials are only one) are now being used to address the problems of health and poverty in Africa and Asia.

The Political Implications of Evidence-Based Approaches (aka Start of This Week’s Wonkwar on the Results Agenda)

Duncan Green's picture

The debate on evidence and results continues to rage. Rosalind Eyben (left) and Chris Roche (right, dressed for battle), two of the organisers of April’s Big Push Forward conference on the Politics of  Evidence, kick off a discussion. Tomorrow Chris Whitty, DFID’s Director of Research and Evidence and Chief Scientific Adviser, and Stefan Dercon, its Chief Economist, respond.

Distinct from its more general usage of what is observed or experienced, ‘evidence’ has acquired a particular meaning relating to proof about ‘what works’, particularly through robust evidence from rigorous experimental trials. But no-one really believes that it is feasible for external development assistance to consist purely of ‘technical’ interventions. Most development workers do not see themselves as scientists in a laboratory, but more as reflective practitioners seeking to learn how to support locally generated transformative processes for greater equity and social justice. Where have these experimental approaches come from and what is at stake?

Why Don’t People in Power Do the Right Thing - Supply, Demand or Collective Action Problem? And What Do We Do about It?

Duncan Green's picture

My last few days have been dominated by conversations around ‘convening and brokering’, including an exchange between assorted ODI wonks and a bunch of NGOs on the findings of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and a ‘webinar’ (ugh), with our Latin American staff on the nature of ‘leverage’ (a closely associated development fuzzword). Last week, I set out the best example of this approach that I’ve found to date, the Tajikistan water and sanitation network. Today it’s some overall conclusions from the various discussions.

David Booth from ODI described the question he is trying to answer as ‘why don’t people in power do the right thing?’ He thinks aid agencies (both official and NGOs) have moved from thinking that the answer is building capacity in government (supply side) to strengthening the voice of citizens to demand better services (demand side), but argues that both approaches are wrong.

The mistake, he argues is seeing power as a zero sum game, whereas often the barrier to progress is better seen as a collective action problem: ‘doing the right thing involves cooperating with others and people aren’t prepared to take risks and bear the costs of working with others, unless they believe that everyone else will do so too.’

That requires a different approach, getting everyone into a room to build trust and find joint solutions to a common problem.

'Convening and Brokering' in Practice: Sorting out Tajikistan’s Water Problem

Duncan Green's picture

In the corridors of Oxfam and beyond, ‘convening and brokering’ has become a new development fuzzword. I talked about it in my recent review of the Africa Power and Politics Programme, and APPP promptly got back to me and suggested a discussion on how convening and brokering is the same/different to the APPP’s proposals that aid agencies should abandon misguided attempts to impose ‘best practice’ solutions and instead seek ‘best fit’ approaches that ‘go with the grain’ of existing institutions in Africa. That discussion took place yesterday, and it was excellent, but that’s the subject of next week's blog. First I wanted to summarize the case study I took to the meeting.

The best example I’ve found in Oxfam’s work is actually from Tajikistan, rather than Africa, but it’s so interesting that I wrote it up anyway. Here’s a summary of a four page case study. Text in italics is from an interview with Ghazi Kelani, a charismatic ex-government water engineer who led Oxfam’s initial work on water and is undoubtedly an important factor in the programme’s success to date. Ghazi is currently Oxfam’s Tajikistan country director.

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.

ICT Works
10 Observations on Technology in Africa from Eric Schmidt of Google

“After a week of business meetings in the cities of sub-Saharan Africa, Eric Schmidt posted a detailed list of observations. As he used to run Google and is still on their board, I'll give him a bit more credit than others who might want to opine after a week's exposure to the continent's dynamism.

Eric starts with 3 positive major trends:

  1. the despotic leadership in Africa from the 1970s and 1980 is in decline, replaced by younger and more democratic leaders
  2. a huge youth demographic boom is underway, with a majority of the population of 25, or even under 20
  3. mobile phones are everywhere, and the Internet in Africa will be primarily a mobile one”  READ MORE

New Year, New Skills: Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Digital IQ

Jim Rosenberg's picture

Every few months I try to go offline for at least two weeks, trading the incessant frenzy of status updates for the pleasures of longform journalism and books (I also have a mad crush on Spanish cinema). In addition to being prone to “Blackberry Thumb” syndrome, social media burnout is an occupational hazard for me. In the spirit of sharing and as this is the season for lists and resolutions, here are five easy ways you can amp up your digital intelligence.

Media (R)evolutions: World Mobile-Cellular Subscriptions by Level of Development

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.


 

Development Optimism from Justin Lin: Review of 'The Quest for Prosperity'

Duncan Green's picture

‘Every developing country has the opportunity to grow at over 8% a year for 20-40 years, and to get rid of poverty within a generation.’ There’s something very refreshing about listening to East Asian development economists, in this case the prolific Justin Lin, a former World Bank chief economist, launching his new book The Quest for Prosperity, at ODI just before Christmas. The contrast between his can-do optimism and the dark clouds of Eurogloom and Afropessimism could not have been greater. But is he right?

While others in development wonkland are increasingly scathing about blueprints and best practice guidelines, Justin is unabashedly a man with a plan. The book takes his paper on ‘Growth identification and facilitation’, (see my earlier review, and Justin’s reply), and boils his thinking down into what he calls a ‘six point recipe’ for developing country governments.

Quote of the Week: Norman Davies

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Historical change is like an avalanche. The starting point is a snow-covered mountainside that looks solid.  All the changes take place under the surface and are rather invisible.”

- Norman Davies. An English Historian and the author of several books on Polish and European history.

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

Book Review: Knowledge, Policy and Power in International Development: A Practical Guide

Duncan Green's picture

This review appears in the Evidence and Policy journal, where it is now available free online (after I protested about the scandalous, rip-off $30 they were charging). Or you can just read it here. Note to self: in future, I will not write anything for journals that are not open access (thanks to Owen Barder for that suggestion).

In recent years, the public and policy debate over climate change, ‘climategate’, and the debacle of the Copenhagen Summit (and seemingly the wider UN negotiations) has brought home the tenuousness of the links between knowledge and public policy-making. ‘Do the research and they will come’ is clearly not a credible doctrine. Knowledge, Policy and Power, written by a group of researchers from the Overseas Development Institute, tackles some important aspects of these links, building on ODI’s strong track record on the interface between research and policy-making.

The book has good instincts – sceptical of all things linear, of researchers claiming to know more than they do, stressing the importance of values, beliefs, assumptions, taboos and other group pressures, hidden power  and in/exclusion in what are often portrayed as neutral processes of research and debate. There is ample discussion of the relative strengths and weakneses of different kinds of knowledge, whether derived from practice, ‘pure’ research or the people themselves.

Sierra Leone’s Cold Spot? Young People, Elections and Accountability in Kono

Jessica Sinclair Taylor's picture

Ibrahim Fanday, Chairman of Kono Youth Commission smiled proudly as he says ‘Kono is known as a trouble hot-spot – but at the end of the day, the elections were peaceful.’ Martha Lewis, a member of the local women’s network, agreed, saying ‘Hot spot? Cold spot!’ 

When Sierra Leone went to the polls in November last year, it followed months of speculation and fears that the hotly contested elections would be a flash-point for violence.  And Kono, the state which saw the worst of the ten year civil war, and remains notorious chiefly for its diamond miles and its instability, was predicted to be at the centre of any trouble.

The elections passed without major disturbances and were pronounced free and fair by the EU observers following them.  Ibrahim believes that the youth of Kono played a role in keeping the polling peaceful, by acting as ‘peace ambassadors’ in their communities.  His pride is echoed by everyone I speak to - Sierra Leone seems to have passed some kind of test, in both national and international eyes, by holding an election where 87.3% of the population turned out to vote, and the peace held.

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.

Center for Global Development
Development and the Death of Aaron Swartz

“Aaron Swartz, who died on January 11th, worked and fought for key freedoms of our time: the right to information, to share knowledge and ideas, and to speak freely.  He did not just campaign: he built  the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons licence. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). He died, apparently by killing himself, aged just 26. Aaron Swartz faced 13 felony charges for having downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the online repository, JSTOR, allegedly with the intention of publishing them freely online.

The death of Aaron Swartz has made me think about how important it is for development that we continue to fight his fights, and continue to build what he began.” READ MORE

Aaron Swartz R.I.P.

Maya Brahmam's picture

Aaron Swartz died this past January 11th. As Owen Barder noted yesterday, “He did not just campaign: he built  the RSS standard which enables blogs and websites to share information, the Web site framework web.py, the architecture for the Open Library, the link sharing platform Reddit, and he helped to design the Creative Commons license. He co-founded the online group Demand Progress — known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)…”  The list of accomplishments is long, and the end has been so sudden.

Communication for Water Sector Reform

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

The water sector is very much a matter of supply and demand – and you better not forget about the demand side. Reform in any sector depends on public support. A new Learning Note on “Communication for Water Sector Reform: Obstacles and Opportunities,” published by the World Bank’s Operational Communications department, showcases the role of strategic communication in making water sector reform successful and sustainable.

Civil Society, Public Action and Accountability in Africa

Duncan Green's picture

An important new paper from some big development names – Shanta Devarajan and Stuti Khemani from the World Bank, and Michael Walton (ex Bank, now at Harvard Kennedy School) – directs a slightly fierce (but welcome) political economy gaze at donor efforts to strengthen civil society (one of the more recent developmental fads). As with most such papers, after a monumental literature review, one of the striking conclusions is how little we really know, but it gropes gamely through the fog of ignorance and confusion and arrives at some interesting conclusions.

First, the authors find that something significant is going on among Africa’s citizens: “a large shift in Africa in organization among citizens. Village-level group formation in Africa increased dramatically over the 1990s when participatory approaches were emphasized in international development paradigms, promoted through aid, and adopted deliberately by country governments to deliver projects to communities.” Interestingly, that increased participation applies to both democratic and less democratic systems. The question is in what situations that upsurge in civil society has impact, and how (if at all) aid agencies can help.

The paper adds its support to the growing demand that aid interventions abandon futile searches for ‘best practice’ in favour of understanding what are the ‘best fits’ for any given context:

Quote of the Week: Tyler Cowen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“My view of the internet is that it is way overrated in what it’s done to date but considerably underrated in what it will do.”

--Tyler Cowen, the Holbert L. Harris Professor of Economics at George Mason University in the U.S., and the General Director of the Mercatus Center

As quoted in the Financial Times on December 21, 2012, Lunch with the FT: Tyler Cowen, by John McDermott.

Innovations for Development: 2013 Wish List

Maya Brahmam's picture

A recent Poverty Matters blog post in the Guardian noted that mobile technologies and social media are creating cheap ways for citizens to interact with their governments and that development projects are trying to tap into these technologies. It gave a plug to the Bank’s new Open Finances mobile app that lets users find and monitor bank-funded projects near where they live, using mapping and GPS technology.

With the advent of the New Year and given the on-going work in the Bank on the open agenda, here are three things we may accomplish in 2013:

#1 from 2012: Tuning in to Facebook’s Global Frequency

Jim Rosenberg's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on January 4, 2012

Though I work full-time on social media for the World Bank, my career started in public broadcasting. “Radio is the modern version of oral tradition,” a former journalism professor of mine would say, likening radio to the way in which people have communicated for years: using stories, narratives, to connect, to break down complex ideas into concrete pieces. That line resonated with me, summing up the power of radio to connect people using the shared experience of a broadcast.

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.

ICT Works
The Choice Between Facebook and Running Water Isn’t Obvious

"Over the past several years two seemingly independent ideas have been gaining traction:

  1. New technology allows developing nations to leapfrog over traditional growth patterns (M-PESA, long-range wi-fi).
  2. The increasing move towards “convenience models” may be pointing the US’ tech sector away from innovation (Peter Thiel’s “they promised us flying cars but instead we got 140 characters”).

In a recent working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, economist Robert J. Gordon writes that the US’ current wave of innovation is less of a step forward and more of a lateral move, merely finding novel ways to use innovations made 20 years ago, sitting him squarely alongside Thiel. To illustrate, Gordon asks the following hypothetical question between two options, A and B:

With option A you are allowed to keep 2002 electronic technology, including your Windows 98 laptop accessing Amazon, and you can keep running water and indoor toilets; but you can’t use anything invented since 2002. Option B is that you get everything invented in the past decade right up to Facebook, Twitter, and the iPad, but you have to give up running water and indoor toilets. You have to haul the water into your dwelling and carry out the waste. Even at 3am on a rainy night, your only toilet option is a wet and perhaps muddy walk to the outhouse. Which option do you choose?" READ MORE

Implementing Governance Reform for Development Results: the 2013 Summer Institute is Now Accepting Applications

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The World Bank Institute's Leadership and Governance Practice, the World Bank's External Affairs Operational Communications Department, the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California are pleased to announce the 2013 Summer Institute in Communication and Governance Reform

The course is primarily designed for strategists and advisers in the public sector and civil society, senior development professionals, and seasoned communication specialists who want to strengthen critical competencies in providing implementation support to change agents and reform leaders in developing countries.

The 9.5-day course will be held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, May 28 - June 7, 2013. It will equip participants with knowledge about the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation. Participants will develop core competencies essential to bringing about real change, leading to development results in a wide range of sectors. 

Participants will acquire critical skills in five key areas:

Media (R)evolutions: 2012 Social Networking Stats

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.

#2 from 2012: Media (R)evolutions: Global Internet Use

Kalliope Kokolis's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on April 4, 2012

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.

#3 from 2012: The Stubborn Problem of The "Village Elite"

Darshana Patel's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on August 28, 2012

Donor agency X has had a long history of working in Country A. Since the 1970s, the donor agency adapted its projects to be more participatory and has never looked back. Before starting a new project in the country, a project officer from the donor agency researched into international best practices, organized consultations in the country, and put together an action plan with the indicators to measure results.  The project is now ready to be launched.

The donor agency works through a national NGO to organize the first community meeting in village B to start the project. The village is selected because it is close enough to the capital city but far away enough to be considered rural.  (It turns out that this village is often selected for pilot projects.) The community is invited to a meeting in one of the village’s schools.  On the day of the meeting, the room is filled with some familiar faces. The party leader, a local landowner, the school head teacher and even the factory boss are in attendance. The room looks fairly full, the discussion is active for the most part, and promises are made by all to keep the momentum going for the 3-year span of the project.

#4 from 2012: Openness for Whom? and Openness for What?

Soren Gigler's picture

Citizen consultations in Bolivia.Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on April 9, 2012

The emerging concept of “Open Development” has become a topic of keen interest to citizens, policy makers, and development practitioners alike.

Opening data to enhance transparency, accountability and development outcomes sounds great. However, two main issues remain unclear: Openness for whom? And openness for what?

Two weeks ago, I participated in a fascinating panel, entitled ‘Does Openness Enhance Development?’ at the ICTD2012 Conference in Atlanta. At the center of the discussion were the following issues: (i) what do we mean by open development? (ii) Can openness close the ‘accountability loop’ between citizens, governments and international donors? (iii) Can openness lead to a more inclusive development? (iv) What is truly open and what not? and (v) What are the main barriers to opening up the development process?

Quote of the Week: Magnus Carlsen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Of course, analysis can sometimes give more accurate results than intuition but usually it’s just a lot of work. I normally do what my intuition tells me to do. Most of the time spent thinking is just to double-check.”

-- Magnus Carlsen, the number 1 chess-player in the world and the chance to obtain the highest rating of all time. Born in Norway, in 1990, Magnus became an International Grandmaster at the age of 13, the youngest at the time.

As quoted in the Financial Times, December 7, 2012, Lunch with the FT: Magnus Carlsen, by Martin Sandbu.

#5 from 2012: What have We Learned from 5 Years of Research on African Power and Politics?

Duncan Green's picture

 

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on November 13, 2012

The Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP) is winding down as its five year funding from DFID comes to an end, and I’ve been wading through the 120 page synthesis report as well as the strictly-for-wimps Policy Brief. Both are entitled ‘Development as a collective action problem: Addressing the real challenges of African governance’.

Like previous APPP work, the papers are intriguing and frustrating in equal measure. David Booth from the ODI, the principal author, appears torn: his comfort zone is the abstruse conceptual landscape and language of political science. But his paymasters are practical men and women who insist on their ‘so whats’. ‘Researchers have a duty to provide more than negative messages and evidence of complexity. There needs to be a meeting point between researchers’ recognition of complexity and practitioners’ hunger for guidance.’ He does his best, and promises much, but it doesn’t come easy, with conclusions that often stop just as they get interesting (at least to prosaic practitioner types like me).

#6 from 2012: Opening Government Data. But Why?

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2012

Originally published on July 19, 2012

Even as the language of ‘Open Government’ has picked up steam over the past couple of years – driven initially by the 'Obama Open Government Directive', and further boosted by the multi-lateral Open Government Partnership –  the use of the term has tended to fairly broad, and mostly imprecise, lacking a shared, consistent definition. As Nathaniel Heller of Global Integrity, a key player in the OGP, cautioned in a recent blog: “The longer we allow ‘open government’ to mean any and everything to anyone, the risk increases that the term melts into a hollow nothingness of rhetoric.”

In a recent useful piece, Harlan Yu and David Robinson, draw a distinction between “the technologies of open data and the politics of open government,” suggesting that ‘open government data’ can be understood through two lenses – open ‘government data’ or ‘open government’ data. The first approach reflects an emphasis on deploying the functionality of new information technologies to put government datasets in the public space in a way that is amenable to re-use, and can be tied to a range of outcomes – among other things, improved delivery of services, innovation, or efficiency. The second approach prioritizes a mode of governance characterized by transparent decision-making - particularly on issues of public interest and critical for public welfare – and the release of government data (and information in other formats as well) as furthering this goals of transparency.