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Do ‘media’ and civil society work together well to produce change? (Notes from a CIMA Seminar)

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In the untroubled, quotidian quietude of a cloudy morning in Washington DC on Tuesday this week, I walked from World Bank HQ on Pennsylvania Avenue to the offices of the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) on F Street, hoping that the skies above would not open up uproariously and ruin the walk. Happily, they did not, and I made it to the plush offices of CIMA, a think tank within the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). I was there to attend a seminar on: Media and Civic Engagement: From Protests to Dialogue. I had been attracted by both the topic and the panelists: Naomi Hossain of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, England, Ivana Bajrovic of NED, Tara Susman-Pena of IREX, a major implementing agency in development, and the World Bank’s own Marco Larizza, one of the authors of the World Development Report 2017 on Governance and Law. The session was ably moderated by Nicholas Benequista of CIMA.

You will notice that I put the word media in quotation marks in the title of the piece.  That is because, as often happens in these events, the term at the center of the discussion turned out to be contested. What is media as a subject of intervention and support in international development? It became clear that as the discussion went on that there are those who still think of media in the sense of traditional print and broadcast entities. But there are those --and I am in that group --who think of media in terms of media systems, as in the media ecosystem in a particular country: the totality of the means of communication, how it is structured, owned and governed. There is a normative element here of course; you also want the media system to travel firmly in the direction of pluralism, independence and a capacity to serve as not only an inclusive public forum but as a truculent watchdog. Finally, at the seminar Susman-Pena of IREX was promoting the organization’s intriguing new formulation: Vibrant Information Systems.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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

Fragile States Index 2017 – Annual Report
Fund for Peace
The Fragile States Index, produced by The Fund for Peace, is a critical tool in highlighting not only the normal pressures that all states experience, but also in identifying when those pressures are pushing a state towards the brink of failure. By highlighting pertinent issues in weak and failing states, The Fragile States Index—and the social science framework and software application upon which it is built—makes political risk assessment and early warning of conflict accessible to policy-makers and the public at large.

Inclusive Growth Opportunities Index 2017
The Economist Intelligence Unit
Technological advances and globalization have led to major advances for many, but have seen others’ income and well-being stagnate or even decline. These disparities, both real and perceived—and, more broadly, how to make growth inclusive—are some of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Support for inclusive growth—that is, economic growth that is broad-based, sustainable, and provides opportunities for all to participate in its benefits—is gaining momentum. The hoped-for result: dramatic reduction of poverty and inequality. As the world seeks to address these challenges, there is significant potential for private sector actors to pursue unique opportunities that support inclusive growth.

Campaign Art: #GirlsCount

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Getting access to quality education is one of the most pressing challenges. Around 61 million primary school-age children remained out of school in 2014, even though globally the enrollment in primary education in developing countries reached 91 percent.
 


Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics; WDI (SE.PRE.ENRRSE.PRM.ENRRSE.SEC.ENRRSE.TER.ENRR).

Although a global issue, it affects some groups more disproportionally than others. In many countries around the world girls are more likely to be denied education than boys. In order to raise awareness about the gender inequality and to urge global leaders to prioritize girls’ education, The One Campaign has launched a digital campaign #GirlsCount.

Why rethinking how we work on market systems and the private sector is really hard

Duncan Green's picture

Whatever your ideological biases about ‘the private sector’ (often weirdly conflated with transnational corporations in NGO-land), markets really matter to poor people (feeding families, earning a living, that kind of thing).  But ‘making markets work for the poor’ turns out to be really difficult and, just as with attempts to tackle corruption or improve institutions, there is a rethink going on in the aid business. Critics of conventional approaches (of which I am one) argue that systems thinking and complexity both explain why a lot of previous approaches haven’t worked that well, and suggest some new ways to tackle the problem.

To catch up on some new research on all this, I spent a fascinating afternoon at DFID last week. The ‘knowledge hub’ BEAM Exchange (they don’t like to be called a thinktank) presented a discussion paper and technical paper on ‘rethinking systemic change’, along with a warts-and-all case study from Palladium on the difficulty of trying to put this into practice in a large market development programme in Uganda. Some highlights.

The discussion and technical papers reviewed the lessons from the 3 elements of New Economic Thinking: evolutionary economics, new institutional economics and complex adaptive systems. Eric Beinhocker’s influence much in evidence. The papers draw some useful and pretty challenging conclusions:

‘The aim of development must be to enhance the evolutionary process in an economy and create access to this process for all levels of the society, both politically and economically.’

Satellites find "hidden forests" helping fight against global warming

Umberto Bacchi's picture
Vast tracts of land previously considered barren are actually covered by forests "hiding in plain sight", scientists said on Friday, a discovery that could help the fight against climate change and desertification.
 

An international team of researchers led by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) used new technology to analyse high-resolution images from Google Earth and map forest coverage in drylands worldwide.

They found that trees like baobab and acacia shade 467 million more hectares of land than previously thought - an area roughly equal to half the size of the United States - increasing estimates of global forest cover by at least nine percent.

The discovery allows for more accurate assessments of how much greenhouse gases are absorbed from the atmosphere by the world's vegetation, FAO experts said.

"Drylands absorb more carbon than we thought and they can actually help mitigate climate change," Eva Muller, director of FAO's forestry policy and resources division told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

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

Report Card on International Cooperation
Council of Councils (CFR)
The Council of Councils (CoC) Report Card on International Cooperation evaluates multilateral efforts to address ten of the world’s most pressing challenges, from countering transnational terrorism to advancing global health. No country can confront these issues better on its own. Combating the threats, managing the risks, and exploiting the opportunities presented by globalization require international cooperation. To help policymakers around the world prioritize among these challenges, the CoC Report Card on International Cooperation surveyed the Council of Councils, a network of twenty-six foreign policy institutes around the world.

Global survey reveals the impact of declining trust in the internet on e-commerce
UNCTAD/Ipsos/Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
The survey, conducted by Ipsos and the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Internet Society, comes as data breaches and the reported hacking of elections in several European countries continues to capture international headlines. The survey results suggest that the resulting impact on trust is hindering further development of the digital economy. Released today at the UNCTAD E-Commerce Week in Geneva, the 2017 CIGI-Ipsos Global Survey on Internet Security & Trust shows that among those worried about their privacy, the top sources of concern were cybercriminals (82%), Internet companies (74%) and governments (65%).

Media (R)evolutions: Virtual Reality – a future business model for newsrooms?

Darejani Markozashvili'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.
 
Virtual reality (VR) in journalism is still in its early years of development. However, it has enormous potential to transform the way news content is made and consumed. Offering a new narrative form, VR has become increasingly popular in newsrooms. Is this the way of the future? Is virtual reality a feasible way to present news? Is this a lucrative stream of revenue for newsrooms?

VR is “an immersive media experience that replicates either a real or imagined environment and allows users to interact with this world in ways that feel as if they are there.” Immersive storytelling may come in a few forms such as “virtual reality,” “augmented reality” and “spherical/360-degree video.”  While early experimentation of VR in media focused on documentaries, by 2017 there is a larger variety of VR news content expanding to short features, foreign correspondence, political news coverage and others.

According to the recent report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, further success of VR in journalism is highly dependent not only on good/diverse content, but also on the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers to fully immerse themselves in the virtual reality experience. While the experimentation of virtual reality storytelling has been on the rise, the adaptation of VR headsets by consumers is still low. It is estimated that total high-end headset sales are around 2 million worldwide. Others predict that by 2020 up to 34 million headsets will be sold, with virtual reality market reaching $150 billion in sales

Building Capacity vs. Building Capability: Why Development Needs ‘Systems Thinking’

Roxanne Bauer's picture

This is the fifth post in a series of six in which Michael Woolcock, Lead Social Development Specialist at the World Bank and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, discusses critical ideas within the field of Social Development.

Development is both an individual and collective endeavor. To be lifted out of poverty, people must attend school, stay healthy, live free of violence, and find rewarding employment— to name a few.  Yet these achievements rely on the systems that provide these services and opportunities— the educational system, the healthcare system, the police and civil servants… the list goes on.  

Systems, as many of us know, rely on a huge amount of human interaction. Every system relies on time being kept, progress and problems being reported, and rules being followed. This is why Michael Woolcock emphasizes that development could be more effective if it focused on building the capability of systems, not just the capacity of individuals. 

In his mind, capacity building involves strengthening the individual ability of people to function or perform tasks. It therefore, focuses on skills training and improving technical ability among individuals. But people change, they move around, they leave.  What is really needed for development to take hold are strong systems that can deliver services and weather storms. These complex systems underpin much of what people do and require learned collective skills, robust structures, rules that apply for everyone.
 

Video

Blockchain for Development: A Handy Bluffers’ Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Top tip: if you’re in a meeting discussing anything to do with finance, at some point look wise and say ‘you do realize, blockchain is likely to change everything.’ Of course, there is always a terrifying chance that someone will ask what you actually mean. Worry not, because IDS has produced a handy bluffer’s guide to help you respond. Blockchain for Development – Hope or Hype?, by Kevin Hernandez, is the latest in IDS’ ‘Rapid Response Briefings’ series, (which itself is a nice example of how research institutions can work better around critical junctures/windows of opportunity). It’s only four pages, but in case even that is too onerous, here are some excerpts (aka a bluffer’s guide to the bluffer’s guide).

‘What is blockchain technology?

At its heart, the blockchain is a ledger. It is a digital ledger of transactions that is distributed, verified and monitored by multiple sources simultaneously. It may be difficult to think of something as basic as the way we keep and maintain records as a technology, but this is because record-keeping is so ingrained in daily life, albeit often invisibly. The ubiquity of ledgers is in part the reason why blockchains are held as having so much disruptive potential. Traditionally, ledgers have enabled and facilitated vital functions, with the help of trusted third parties such as financial institutions and governments. These include: ensuring us of who owns what; validating transactions; or verifying that a given piece of information is true.

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