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February 2013

What is the Evidence for Evidence-Based Policy Making? Pretty Thin, Actually

Duncan Green's picture

A recent conference in Nigeria considered the evidence that evidence-based policy-making actually, you know, exists. The conference report sets out its theory of change in a handy diagram – the major conference sessions are indicated in boxes.

Conclusion?

‘There is a shortage of evidence on policy makers’ actual capacity to use research evidence and there is even less evidence on effective strategies to build policy makers’ capacity. Furthermore, many presentations highlighted the insidious effect of corruption on use of evidence in policy making processes.

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 Guardian
Youth unemployment: can mobile technology improve employability?

“Attention in the development sector has shifted sharply towards two areas over the past couple of years: youth and employment. While the huge increase in some countries' 15-24 year old population offers an opportunity for catalysing change and bringing in fresh ideas and new energy, many are grappling with the challenge of providing young people with meaningful work opportunities and concerned about the growing number of youth who are disillusioned about their futures.

The ILO reported that 74.8 million youth between 15 and 24 years were unemployed in 2011, an increase of more than 4 million since 2007. Globally, the youth unemployment rate is almost 13%, and youth are nearly three times as likely as adults to be unemployed. In some countries there are no jobs. In others, there is a skills mismatch and with some quality soft and hard skills training and support, young people could be ready for existing, unfilled jobs.”  READ MORE

Stephen King Makes a Wish

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Political polarization is one of the most worrisome phenomena even in established democracies—or perhaps especially in established democracies. With a divided electorate and a legislature unable to compromise, the business of governing essentially comes to a standstill. And damage will be done. There is little doubt that the media plays a significant role in confirming people’s political views, forming them, and eventually cementing them. Novelist Stephen King recently had a brilliant idea for countering polarization of the media and the audience—force people to watch media from the political side that is opposite their own.

Quote of the Week: David Fincher

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“No movie is made with the intention of losing money. The ones that are good are as much a by-product of luck as they are of effort. You’re running around a field with a jar trying to catch lightening.”

- David Fincher, an American Film and Music Video Director.
As quoted in the Financial Times, February 1, 2013. Lunch with the FT: David Fincher.

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.

SciDev
Cell Phones can speed up malaria treatment in remote areas

“Mobile phones along with local knowledge and field support, can help to ensure the effective diagnosis and treatment of malaria in remote rural areas, according to a study in Bangladesh.

Researchers examined almost 1,000 phone calls to report suspected cases of malaria that were made over two years by inhabitants of a hilly and forested part of the country bordering Mynamar. This area, called the Chittagong Hill Tracts, has Bangladesh’s highest malaria rates.”  READ MORE

I’m Sorry. Let Me Make It Up to You - Is There a Role for Apologies in International Development?

Shamiela Mir's picture

Public figures often choose to publicly apologize for their actions, whether the actions relate to their public or personal lives. Most recently, a renowned cyclist, Lance Armstrong was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey where he admitted and apologized for using illegal performance-enhancing substances during his cycling career. The quality and the intention of his apology are up for debate; however, he (or his publicist) felt the need to publicly confess and apologize.

Media (R)evolutions: Mapping Tweets in Africa

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.

"Who uses Twitter in Africa - and where are they based? Mark Graham and the team at the Oxford Internet Institute have looked at Tweets from key African cities - and the variation tells you a lot about access to technology across the continent. Just look at the variation between Johannesburg and Mogadishu. The data is not normalised for population but it still provides a unique insight."

Quote of the Week: Andre Geim

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We are in the midst of a technology crisis. Disruptive technologies now appear less frequently than steady economic growth requires. Even bankers complain about a dearth of new technologies in which to invest.”

Andre Geim, 2010 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics and Research Professor at the School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Manchester

A quote from the article, Be afraid, be very afraid, of the world’s tech crisis, Financial Times, February 6, 2013

Why Won’t Babu Move?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Much of what we do in international development as a field of practice is designed to make Babu move, yet more often than not Babu does not make the move we would like her to make, a move that we are convinced is clearly, evidently, certainly, demonstrably in her overall best interest. As a result, we are, at turns, surprised, frustrated, angry, resigned, cynical even.  The fault is with Babu, we are convinced, and not with us.

As you must have guessed by now, Babu is the prototypical intended beneficiary of many of our development programs and initiatives. Depending on how you pronounce her name, she could be from any of the continents to which most developing countries belong. We work in development largely because we want to improve Babu’s life. We have a passionate concern; we want to do the very best that we can for her. We bring money, expertise and oodles of benevolence to Babu’s hometown. But we know that for the initiative to go well (and produced those magical ‘development results’) we need Babu to play her part. We need her to make a move of some kind. Perhaps we want her to:

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.

Mashable
Mobile Devices will Outnumber People by the End of the Year

“By the end of 2013, there will be more mobile devices on Earth than people, a new report suggests.

According to Cisco's Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, consumers' mobile appetite has grown a lot in the past year, and it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, Cisco predicts global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold by 2017, with more than 10 billion mobile-connected devices by then. It also believes mobile network speeds will grow by seven times what it is now.”  READ MORE

Only Home-Grown Solutions Need Apply

Maya Brahmam's picture

Mulling over the whole “solutions for development” concept the other day, I was struck by what Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and creator of FrontlineSMS, said when asked about what made for successful mobile technology development projects: “The single most important thing is starting with the problem and not the technology. It is quite common for people to grab the latest smartphone or iPad or whatever happens to be hot at the moment and try to figure out how it could be used in a development context. I think that the correct sequence should instead be problem-people-technology. By ‘people’ I mean the individuals at the grassroots who usually understand the problem better than anybody else. Pick just about any development project and there will be a local organization or group that is already trying to achieve the same goals. Gaining a full understanding of conditions on the ground – and properly defining the role that technology can and should play – is really important and the projects that do not make the effort to do this have a much harder time in the long run.”

Now Operational: Groundbreaking Social Accountability Fund

John Garrison's picture

After an extensive consultation process and over a year of planning, the Global Partnership on Social Accountability (GPSA) is getting off the ground with the first call for proposals just announced on February 11, 2013. With its transparent policies, inclusive governance structure, and strategic thematic focus on social accountability, the GPSA clearly represents a milestone in Bank – civil society relations. After 30 years of engaging civil society through policy dialogue, consultation, and funding, the establishment of GPSA is a clear signal that the Bank intends to institutionalize and scale-up its support to CSOs.

The idea for the GPSA emerged from a speech former Bank President Zoellick made at the Peterson Institute in April 2011 in the wake of the Arab Spring, in which he spoke of the need for a new social contract between citizens and governments.  He indicated that the Bank would explore with its shareholders means to support CSOs working on social accountability.  This was followed by an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process conducted on the design and scope of the proposed fund.  From January through March 2012, more than 870 stakeholders from 57 different countries participated in 25 face-to-face meetings and video conferences organized across the world. In addition, nearly 300 persons submitted written comments online directly onto the GPSA website.  As a result, several CSO recommendations were incorporated into the design of the GPSA such as the need to support core and longer term funding of CSOs, and ensure that CSOs had adequate representation on its governing body.

Of Protests, Politics, and Policies

Anupama Dokeniya's picture

The recent massive streets protests against the brutal and deadly assault on a young woman in a private bus in India capital, New Delhi, have been likened to the Arab Spring of India, a definitive turning point in the country’s political evolution. Clearly, in both its composition and content, the protests resonate with, not only the revolutionary street demonstrations in early 2011 in many countries in the Middle East, but also with a number of other movements that have burgeoned in countries across the world over the last couple of years. In the wake of the Arab Spring, and supposedly drawing inspiration from it, demonstrators occupied the financial centers of the US and Europe, conjuring up images of the 1960s. Unrest over austerity measures in European capitals hit by the global financial crisis continued. In the UK and Chile, students took to the streets protesting against high university fees. And in India itself, the anti-rape protests came on the heels of an anticorruption movement, unparalleled in its mass participation, media attention, and longevity.

Quote of the Week: Jemima Khan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“WikiLeaks – whose mission statement was “to produce a more just society based upon truth” – has been guilty of the same obfuscation and misinformation as those it sought to expose, while its supporters are expected to follow, unquestioningly, in blinkered, cultish devotion.”

- Jemima Khan, a writer and human rights campaigner. Associate Director of the New Statesmen.  She’s former supporter of WikiLeaks.

Quote from the article, Jemima Khan on Julian Assange: how the Wikileaks founder alienated his allies, NewStatesman, February 6, 2013.

So What do I take Away from The Great Evidence Debate? Final Thoughts (for now)

Duncan Green's picture

The trouble with hosting a massive argument, as this blog recently did on the results agenda (the most-read debate ever on this blog) is that I then have to make sense of it all, if only for my own peace of mind. So I’ve spent a happy few hours digesting 10 pages of original posts and 20 pages of top quality comments (I couldn’t face adding the twitter traffic).

(For those of you that missed the wonk-war, we had an initial critique of the results agenda from Chris Roche and Rosalind Eyben, a take-no-prisoners response from Chris Whitty and Stefan Dercon, then a final salvo from Roche and Eyben + lots of comments and an online poll. Epic.)

On the debate itself, I had a strong sense that it was unhelpfully entrenched throughout – the two sides were largely talking past each other,  accusing each other of ‘straw manism’ (with some justification) and lobbing in the odd cheap shot (my favourite, from Chris and Stefan ‘Please complete the sentence ‘More biased research is better because…’ – debaters take note). Commenter Marcus Jenal summed it up perfectly:

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
Will We Have Free Worldwide Wireless Internet Access From Google?

"The last mile is the first mile of cost in Internet access. The barriers to connecting everyone to low-cost, high-speed bandwidth are many, and many people feel we are solving the problem with mobile data – connectivity via mobile phones.

But 3G or even 4G speeds pale in comparison to fiber and WiMax is in its infancy (and often expensive), which means 2G is what most of the world’s population has for access via mobiles. EDGE is just not that edgy. In fact, all these systems pale in comparison to what could be coming: free worldwide bandwidth by Google.”  READ MORE

Policy Makers and Network Science: Time to Bridge the Divide

Milica Begovic's picture

Last week I attended Masters of Networks, an event that analyzed how a greater understanding of networks can be used to make better policies, especially in the digital era. Many questions built in policy making both from the procedural and substantive perspective involve networks dynamics:

  • How does information spread?
  • Who participates in decision making?
  • How do we collect evidence?
  • Who influences behavior change?

Alberto Cottica, the mastermind behind the event, had a vision of putting two groups of people who traditionally don’t mingle much in the same room – policy makers and network scientists – to see what emerges as a result. Policy makers presented a variety of policy problems, and network scientists helped better frame the problems and address them through applying principles from network theory.

I had the privilege of presenting my perspective of what policy making in the digital era looks like (slides will be put on Slideshare soon). I will summarize below the main points from my intervention, but, more interestingly, reflect on feedback from the group.

My presentation consisted of three elements:

The Conflict Resolution Elephant in the Room

Caroline Jaine's picture

Last week I spent an evening sitting beneath a mammoth painting of Alfred Inciting the Saxons to prevent the landing of the Danes in Committee room 10 at the Houses Parliament in London.  A Member of Parliament called Slaughter introduced two peace-building academics in an irony I'm sure he is very tired of.

We were there to listen and discuss the notion of Conflict Resolution in the context of Islam. Professor Mohamed Abu Nimer, the Director of the Salaam Institute for Peace and Justice spoke first about how Islamic peace-building was no different from any other in that it was all about justice, peace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion and equality.  It’s the basic teachings, he professed that a parent offers a five-year-old child.  He went on to describe the nuances that were different when working in Muslim communities. Unfortunately he spent longer on the nuances than he did in examining common ground and the nuances themselves underplayed the vast diversity in Islamic tradition across the Muslim world (which he later acknowledged). Time was short. 

I disagreed with the second speaker, Dr Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana who claimed, when an Afghan in the audience challenged this broad-brush approach, that culture and religion are entirely separate.  Surely one is bound up in another? 

New Publications on Media Development around the World

Johanna Martinsson's picture

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 311 titles, covering 140 countries worldwide. Many of the titles can be downloaded directly.

The following topics are covered:

What have We Learned about Crisis/Fragile States? Findings of a 5 Year Research Programme

Duncan Green's picture

Cards on the table, confronted with a closely argued 11 page exec sum, I am unlikely to then read the full report. But the short version of Meeting the Challenges of Crisis States, by James Putzel (LSE) and Jonathan Di John (SOAS), is a meal in itself. It summarizes 5 years of DFID-funded research by the Crisis States Research Centre, led by the London School of Economics, and is a great way to take the temperature of academic thinking on ‘states with adjectives’ – fragile, failing, crisis etc etc.

The key question it seeks to answer is why the daily and inevitable tensions of politics and ‘conflict as usual’, which exist in any society, tip some states over into a downward spiral of distintegration, grand theft and violence, while others, even poor ones, prove resilient. Key Findings?

Like most political scientists, Putzel and Di John believe that if you want to understand politics, you have to understand elites. And that means jettisoning preconceptions of ‘good governance’ (aka how much do the institutions resemble an idealized notion of American/European democracy) and thinking instead about the underlying political settlement. How do individuals and groups with different slices of power protect and negotiate over their pieces of the pie?

What leads to fragility? In the rather disturbing language of the report:

To Give or Not to Give: Getting into Your Head

Johanna Martinsson's picture

In a previous blog post, I wrote about a small airfare tax that’s been implemented in a number of countries to help fight three of the world’s deadliest diseases. The idea behind the initiative (UNITAID) is to raise funds by applying a small levy on domestic and international flights; a levy so small that most people do not even take notice. It’s interesting what the success of this method says about us and human behavior. Let’s say, had a traveler been given the option to donate $1 before purchasing the air ticket, the outcome of UNITAID would probably have been very different. While studies show that there’s a strong connection between giving and the level of happiness, most people opt out. Why?

David Brooks of The New York Times points out that “we spend trillions of dollars putting policies and practices into place, but most of these efforts are based on the crudest possible psychological guesswork.” Understanding behavioral sciences is important. As he points out, sometimes “behavioral research leads us to completely change how we think about an issue,” and result in new policy approaches. He’s referring to one well-known example, which has to do with default settings: “Roughly 98 percent of people take part in organ donor programs in European countries where you have to check a box to opt out. Only 10 percent or 20 percent take part in neighboring countries where you have to check a box to opt in.” There’s something magical about the check box!