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April 2013

Pick Your Celebrity!

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

You know those pictures of Angelina Jolie hugging a starving child in Chad? Elton John singing at AIDS fundraisers? Bono being everywhere all over Africa in campaigns against poverty? There is a very good reason why celebrities lend their names and faces to development causes: it works. By the sheer force of their fame they draw attention to issues that would normally not be on our radar screen and they are able to mobilize parts of the population that does not always have access to information about development issues. So all you need to do is put a famous face on your cause and you’re set for success – increased awareness, increased attention, increased funding, and sometimes even behavior change? It’s not quite as easy as this. Picking the right celebrity is important, or the whole thing can backfire. Here are a few dos and don’ts when involving celebrities in a cause.

What is Social and Solidarity Economy and Why Does It Matter?

Duncan Green's picture

UNRISD Deputy Director Peter Utting introduces the theme of his organization’s big conference in May.

Having had my professional and political interests shaped during the somewhat heady days of the 1980s in Sandinista Nicaragua, I’ve long been interested in the potential and limits of collective action—of people organizing and mobilizing through associations, unions, cooperatives, community organizations, fairtrade networks and so on. The Sandinista “revolution” soon gave way to the “neoliberal” 1990s. As in much of the world, collective action went on the backburner or assumed new forms via NGO networks and identity politics. Fast forward two decades and we are witnessing a significant rebound in collective action associated with workers, producers and consumers. Whether in response to global crises (finance and food), the structural conditions of precarious employment or new opportunities for cultural expression and social interaction afforded by the internet age, old and new forms are on the rise.

The term social and solidarity economy (SSE) is increasingly being used to refer to a broad range of organizations that are distinguished from conventional for-profit enterprise, entrepreneurship and informal economy by two core features. First, they have explicit economic AND social (and often environmental) objectives. Second, they involve varying forms of co-operative, associative and solidarity relations.  They include, for example, cooperatives, mutual associations, NGOs engaged in income generating activities, women’s self-help groups, community forestry and other organizations, associations of informal sector workers, social enterprise and fair trade organizations and networks.

Is It Time for a New Paradigm for "Citizen Engagement"? The Role of Context and What the Evidence Tells Us

Simon O'Meally's picture

The meteoric rise of "citizen engagement"

Almost all development agencies promote some form of citizen engagement and accountability, often framed as 'voice', 'demand-side governance', 'demand for good governance' or 'social accountability'.   The current World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, recently put it that, "citizen voice can be pivotal in providing the demand-side pressure on government, service providers, and organizations such as the World Bank that is needed to encourage full and swift response to citizen needs".  There has, in turn, been a mushrooming of useful operational guidance on different "tools" for social accountability - i.e. steps, inputs and methodologies - that guide discrete interventions, ranging from citizen score cards to participatory expenditure tracking.

One might, however, be forgiven for thinking that some of the debates on citizen engagement need an injection of realism; especially as contextual factors can make or break a "tool's" implementation.  A review of experience to date would be one good place to start.

Quote of the Week: Jose Manuel Barroso

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“I know that there are some technocratic advisers who tell us what the perfect model to respond to a situation is, but when we ask how we implement it, they say: ‘That is not my business.’  We need to have a policy that is right. At the same time we need to have…acceptance, political and social.”

-- José Manuel Barroso. President of the European Commission.

As quoted in the Financial Times, April 25, 2013. Global Insight: Politics draws out accidental truth on becalmed Europe, by Peter Speigel.

The Highs and Lows of the Global ICT Landscape

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

For the last twelve years, the World Economic Forum and INSEAD have been publishing The Global Information Technology Report (GITR), which features a Network Readiness Index (NRI) that measures the ability of countries to leverage information communication technologies (ICTs) for growth and well-being. This year’s GITR, which focuses on jobs and growth, covers 144 countries. The assessments are based on a broad range of indicators that include Internet access, adult literacy, and mobile phone subscriptions. As noted in the report, the growing availability of technology has empowered citizens of both developed and developing countries with good access to the digital world. However, this year’s GITR has some sobering news about the state of ICTs in many parts of the developing world. Despite some positive trends, the report shows a sharp digital divide between impoverished nations and richer economies.

Make Inequality History? What Would Change if We Focused on Inequality Rather than Poverty?

Duncan Green's picture

Last week I spoke at a Brussels conference on inequality, organized by the Belgian NGO coalition 11.11.11. Inequality is flavour of the month right now, showing surprising staying power within the post-2015 process and elsewhere. Inequality gabfests usually involve violent agreement that inequality is indeed a Bad Thing, lots of evidence for why this is the case, and polite disagreements on what inequality we should target first – often along the lines of ‘because inequality is really important, we should all work on X’, where X just happens to be the thing that person works on anyway. A more retro variant involves ritual combat between supporters of equality of opportunity (aka American Dream) v equality of outcome (Socialist Paradise). Cynical, moi?

But in Brussels, I had a more difficult, but interesting job: what, if anything, should we do differently if our focus is on inequality rather than, say ‘getting to zero’ on poverty? So let’s imagine. It’s 2015, the UN has signed off on a shift in focus from poverty (MDGs) to inequality (post-2015). True, the commitment is a little vague (hey, this is the UN we’re talking about), but now NGOs and official donors are charged with the task of turning this into a viable campaign and lobbying exercise. What might a Make Inequality History campaign look like?

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.

Mobile for Development Intelligence
Scaling Mobile for Development: A developing world opportunity

“The mobile phone holds the power of ubiquity. Across the developing world, around 40% of people now actively subscribe to mobile services. Including those with access to a mobile despite not owning one would push the connected population to well over 50%. However, while access to core services such as banking, electricity and sanitation is near universal in developed regions such as Europe and the United States, it is enjoyed by below 50% in several developing regions.

This confluence underlines the opportunity held by Mobile for Development, which seeks to draw investment and partnership to scale mobile-enabled services that can help to facilitate service delivery in the absence of traditional modes of infrastructure that would otherwise do this. Indeed, Mobile for Development is a growing sector, with well over 1,000 live services now tracked by the GSMA across the developing world in verticals such as money, health, education and entrepreneurship. The problem is that while the sector has enjoyed continued growth in the number of services over the last 5-7 years, scale and sustainability have generally not been achieved.”  READ MORE

Is Working on Governance Reform Like the Sport of Curling?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

A few weeks ago, I attended an internal seminar here at the World Bank. Topic: the governance challenges in a big, complex, not -aid -dependent, and deeply corrupt country.  The team working on governance in the country wanted to present ideas to the broader community in the Bank and receive feedback. It was a good and lively discussion, and you will forgive me for not going into the details.  But something happened that I wanted to bring to broader attention. After the country team had presented the work they were doing, one of those asked to lead the comments was my esteemed colleague, Nick Manning, one of the most experienced public sector governance advisers anywhere.

Nick opened his remarks with this arresting image. I paraphrase him thus: Some of you I’m sure are aware of the Olympic sport of curling. You see these people with a broom sweeping the ice in front of a ball. Those who do this swear that sweeping the ice makes a difference. So, maybe what we do in these situations is like sweeping the ice to shape the path of the ball that is rolling down, and we hope it makes a difference.

Merit, Privilege or Slumdog Millionaires? Income Inequality and Social Mobility

Duncan Green's picture

In memory of Sebastian Levine, who liked to read these posts.

This post is written by Ricardo Fuentes-Nieva, Oxfam’s Head of Research (twitter @rivefuentes)

In Danny Boyle’s movie Slumdog Millionaire, the young character wins a large pot of money against all odds. The movie is a fantasy tale for all practical purposes. The hero knows the responses posed to him in a quiz show through a number of coincidences and lucky breaks. It was his only chance to become wealthy.

What type of societies give better, more just chances to everyone? What is the connection between opportunity and socio-economic disparities? There are, at the risk of being simplistic, two broad sources of inequality: inequality resulting from individual entrepreneurship and effort (I’ll call it merit inequality) and the inequality that reproduces privilege and elite capture (I’ll call it privilege inequality).

A simple way to discover whether inequality is actually a result of merit is to think how far effort and hard work can take us. I recently heard Kaushik Basu, the new Chief Economist at the World Bank, detail an anecdote about this during a meeting with civil society people in London.  When Basu visits his home city of Kolkata he goes for long walks and sometimes he wanders around a privileged district that stands in sharp contrast with the nearby slums. The close proximity of the two vastly different lifestyles ensures that slum dwellers also visit this district. Then Basu said, to the best of my recollection: “it is not fair to tell a kid in the slum that by working hard he will be able to achieve the wealth needed to live in that neighbourhood.”

Government Spending Watch - A New Initiative You Really Need to Know About

Duncan Green's picture

I’m consistently astonished by how little we know about the important stuff in development. Take the Millennium Development Goals – the basis for innumerable aid debates, campaigns, and negotiations. A large chunk of the MDG agenda concerns the size and quality of public spending – on health, education, water, sanitation etc. So obviously, the first thing we need is to know how much governments are spending on these things, right?

Well no actually, because we don’t have those numbers. Until now. Oxfam has teamed up with an influential and well-connected NGO, Development Finance International, which advises developing country governments around the world. Working with a network of government officials, DFI has pulled together and analysed the budgets of 52 low and middle income countries (With another 34 to follow). The result is a new database, called Government Spending Watch, (summary of overall project here) and a report ‘Progress at Risk’, previewed in Washington last Friday in a joint DFI/Oxfam America event to coincide with the IMF and World Bank Spring meetings. The full report won’t be ready ‘til May, but an initial draft exec sum is available, and here’s what it says.

Quote of the Week: Theresa Marteau

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“We are exquisitely sensitive to environment. We are just like rats – energy misers and cognitive misers. If there is a shortcut, we will take it.”

--Theresa Marteau, Head of the Behavior and Health Research Unit at Cambridge University

As quoted in the Financial Times, March 13, 2013. Drinking yourself to death is not a right, by John Gapper

Open Data has Little Value if People Can't Use It

Craig Hammer's picture

This post is one of a 3-month Harvard Business Review series, focused on scaling entrepreneurial solutions and benefitting society through technology and data.  The full HBR.org series is available here, and was launched with support from The Bridgespan Group and the Omidyar Network

Open data could be the gamechanger when it comes to eradicating global poverty. In the last two years, central and local governments and multilateral organizations around the world have opened a range of data — information on budgets, infrastructure, health, sanitation, education, and more — online, for free. The data are not perfect, but then perfection is not the goal. Rather, the goal is for this data to become actionable intelligence: a launchpad for investigation, analysis, triangulation, and improved decision making at all levels.

While the "opening" has generated excitement from development experts, donors, several government champions, and the increasingly mighty geek community, the hard reality is that much of the public has been left behind, or tacked on as an afterthought. So how can we support "data-literacy" across the full spectrum of users, including media, NGOs, labor unions, professional associations, religious groups, universities, and the public at large?

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.

BET
Like Water for Internet: Ory Okolloh Talks Tech in Africa

“Last week, ahead of her trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to the World Bank about Africa’s private sector, the 35-year-old Policy Manager for Google Africa took to her Twitter account and asked her followers, “What should I tell them?”

The responses came in fast and varied from rants about corruption in multinational corporations to comments about infrastructure and energy. For the most part, Okolloh didn’t engage the responses, but she did re-tweet them for all to read and she made sure to add the World Bank’s twitter account to the dispatches so that the behemoth institution could also see what Africa’s tweeting populace had to say.”  READ MORE

Can the Internet Make Elections Fair and Efficient?

Shamiela Mir's picture

Can the internet help make elections fair and efficient in developing countries?

A presentation “eParticipation: Citizen Consultation ePlatform –Mexico City Case Study” was given by Edgardo Torres-Caballero, the General Manager for Latin America for Scytl who talked about how ePlatform developed by the company helped Mexico City successfully conduct an electronic consultation through which the city residents cast their votes on-line to select public projects.

Inspired by the Future of Open Contracting

Robert Hunja's picture

I just returned from an intense but inspiring week in London with my team, to meet with the open contracting steering group and other committed practitioners, to shape how we will take open contracting forward.

As someone who has worked on procurement and contracting his whole life, it has been heartening for me to see such strong interest and engagement around open contracting. Now that I am back from London, I’d like to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the inspiring conversations that I had over the last few days and to share some important decisions that the open contracting steering group has made.

Let me begin with the heart of open contracting – the open contracting principles. At the first global meeting for open contracting in South Africa, October 2012, practitioners called for overarching principles to define how open contracting will work in practice.

Are International Conferences Getting Any Better? A Bit - Thanks to Some Sparky New Tech

Duncan Green's picture

For a ‘club of rich countries’, the OECD spends a lot of time thinking about development. It’s Development Cooperation Directorate does the number crunching on aid; the OECD Development Centre publishes annual Economic Outlooks on Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, or Latin American revenue statistics.

Last week I spent a couple of chilly days at its Paris HQ at the 5th Global Forum on Development discussing the inevitable topic – post2015 and what comes after the MDGs (background papers here). I’m trying to resist the post2015 bandwagon, but it’s generating a hell of a slipstream.

But why did they even invite me? After all, my main reaction to the last OECD conference I attended was to write a post on the awfulness of such international events (a series of soporific panels in a lightless room), and whether they can be salvaged.

So was this one any better? Yes in a few important ways. OK, it was still 300 people in an underground bunker flicking through their emails and half-listening to panels that over-ran and ate up question time, but the organizers had added some nice IT spice to the mix.

Do Hunger and Malnutrition Make You Want to Cry? Time to Get Your HANCI Out

Duncan Green's picture

Yesterday marked the launch of the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), produced by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) with funding from Irish Aid and DFID. It looks like it could become one of the more useful annual league tables.

It may not be seen as a progressive view in the UK, but I’m a big league table fan, especially when they’re combined with access to new information. They use political rivalry to motivate politicians, the media love them, they allow good guys to be praised, as well as under-performers to be slapped, and they hand civil society some useful ammunition. The post2015 circus might be well advised to spend more time designing an effective league table, rather than adding yet more issues to its Christmas tree.

The Rise of Brazil’s 'Marqueteiros'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Did you know that Brazil is now exporting political campaign strategists? According to a fascinating profile published in the New York Times, Brazil’s top political campaign consultants are now working on elections in other Latin American countries, and they are even beginning to venture into Africa. Written by Simon Romero, the profile focuses on the work of Joao Santana, apparently a colorful and controversial figure. Key quotes:

In the past year, Mr Santana, a hypercompetitive 60-year-old former lyricist for an avant-garde rock band who refers to elections as “almost bloody combat,” accomplished the uncommon feat of simultaneously running winning campaigns for three presidents: Danilo Medina, in the Dominican Republic; Hugo Chavez, in Venezuela; and Jose Eduardo dos Santos, in Angola.

He [Mr Santana, that is] described politics as an activity involving theater, music and even religious rites since “primordial” times, and, with a dash of humor, said about his field, “Just as psychoanalysts help people to have sex without guilt, we help people to like politics without remorse.’

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.

ijnet
How InfoAmazonia is taking data storytelling to the next level

“Last year, InfoAmazonia launched a new website that began tracking environmental threats to the Amazon region, such as deforestation and wildfires, and displaying them in maps. Now, we're taking it to the next level by using interactive photo galleries and video mashups as a unique storytelling tool.

In addition, we are adding functionality to the site with the “distribution widget,” which will allow journalists and NGOs to customize their own maps and data layers.”  READ MORE

What Is the Point of the European Report on Development 2013?

Duncan Green's picture

The 2013 European Report on Development was published yesterday, with the title Post 2015: Global Action for an Inclusive and Sustainable Future. I’ve been rude about previous ERDs, and I’m afraid I’m going to be rude about this one, but a conversation at last week’s OECD gabfest (more on that tomorrow) at least made me think differently about the ERD’s purpose and value.

If you read the ERD as a thinktank document, it is pretty underwhelming. The 20 page exec sum (which is all they sent me in advance) contains no killer facts, no big new ideas and not much new reseach. When I asked one of the report’s authors for his 30 second elevator pitch on what was new, he couldn’t answer. So far, so bad (and they really need to get some media people involved on that elevator pitch).

The Key’s in the Keyboard: New Technologies Can Help Enhance India's Agricultural Productivity

Abhilaksh Likhi's picture

Agriculture in India still remains the main source of livelihood for the majority of the rural population and more importantly the small holding farmers. With an average annual growth rate of 3.3%, the major challenges facing this sector include a shrinking land base, dwindling water resources, the adverse impact of climate change, shortage of farm labour, increasing costs and uncertainties associated with the volatility of international markets.

A pertinent factor that continues to impinge upon these challenges is the lack of timely information about market prices, crop varieties, production techniques, seasonal risk and disease control strategies. The critical question thus is — how can we effectively apply information and communication technologies (ICTs) in agriculture to mitigate the factors that lead to the physical isolation of the rural smallholder during the ensuing 12th Five Year Plan period.

Quote of the Week: Michael Sandel

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“Right at the heart of market thinking is the idea that if two consenting adults have a deal, there is no need for others to figure out whether they valued that exchange properly. It’s the non-judgmental appeal of market reasoning that I think helped deepen its hold on public life and made it more than just an economic tool; it has elevated it into an unspoken public philosophy of everything.”

-- Michael Sandel, Professor of Government, at Harvard University. He's the author of numerous books, his most recent includes What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets.

Mortal Combat in the Public Sphere

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The nature of the relationship between (elected) political leaders and the elite reporters dedicated to reporting on their activities is insufficiently studied, and its importance is inadequately appreciated. Yet that relationship says a lot about a political community, particularly:

  • the public political culture;
  • the nature of press/government relations generally;
  • some of the strengths of the governance system in that country;
  • some of the pathologies bedeviling governance in that country, and so on.

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.

Washington Post 
New apps transforming remote parts of Africa

“For generations, breeding cows in the rural highlands of Kenya has hinged on knowledge and experience passed down from parents to children. But Mercy Wanjiku is unlike most farmers. Her most powerful tool is her cellphone, and a text messaging service called iCow.

The service informs her when her cows are in heat, which feed might boost their milk output and what their fair market price is. And when she needed a veterinarian recently, she relied on the service’s extensive database. “Otherwise, it would have been hard to find someone qualified in my area,” said Wanjiku, a 29-year-old farmer in Mweru, a village about 100 miles north of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.” READ MORE

Transparency and Volatility: A New Era in International Relations

Johanna Martinsson's picture

The accelerated changes in communication flows are posing both opportunities and challenges in the global system.  A recently published book entitled ‘Diplomacy, Development and Security in the Information Age,’ edited by Shanthi Kalathil (a former colleague and contributor to this blog), seeks to better understand the changing face of international relations in a new era, by examining two emerging themes: heightened transparency and increased volatility. Leading up to the publication, practitioners grappled with these themes, and how they are affecting international affairs. Craig Hayde, one of the authors, notes that transparency and volatility are increasingly inextricable concepts. He says “transparency does more than simply put information out there – it inculcates a shared value that information should be available”, but that it is also “facilitated by the same technologies that promote instability, risk, and uncertainty in the business of international relations.”

The collection of essays provides fresh thinking in an area that has mainly focused on the use and impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs). While several essays discuss ICTs, Kalathil points out that “the premise for the series is not to minutely examine new forms of technology and their impact. Rather, the premise for the series is that ubiquitous global communication flows have, over time, created an encompassing information environment that nurtures transparency and volatility in pervasive conditions and/or guiding norms.”

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Will Eclipse Desktop by 2014

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.