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How change happens (or doesn’t) in the humanitarian system

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been in Stockholm this week [February 13-17] at the invitation of ALNAP, the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action, which has been holding its annual meeting on the banks of a frozen Swedish river. I was asked to comment on the background paper for the meeting, Changing Humanitarian Action?, by ALNAP’s Paul Knox-Clarke.  I read the paper on the flight over (great believer in Just in Time working practices….) with mounting excitement. It’s a brilliant, beautifully written intro to how change happens (or doesn’t) in the aid business, and to a lot of different schools of thought about change.

The paper starts off with the widespread frustration in the humanitarian sector. Despite dozens of new initiatives, impressive sounding statements and resolutions, and endless organizational change processes, ‘everything has changed, but nothing has changed’ in the words of one African humanitarian veteran.  Changes include an avalanche of information technology, the rise of cash programming, geopolitical shifts towards new donors, growth in the number and size of humanitarian emergencies, organizations and the budgets allocated to them. Yet still people ‘did not see these ‘big’ changes as having made a real difference to the lives of people affected by crisis.’ So the paper is as much as study in how change doesn’t happen as how it does.

The bit of the paper that really grabbed me was the succinct summary of three conventional models of change that underpin humanitarian thinking, and three new ones that could shed new light. None of them are definitive; all contribute to a deeper understanding.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Refining advocacy assessment: reflections from practice
ODI
Efforts to assess advocacy – and thinking about how best to do so – are relatively recent compared to other fields. However, in the past decade a number of advocacy evaluation frameworks have emerged. This working paper looks at how these existing frameworks classify people and activities, and define and assess outcomes. It identifies problem areas, discusses implications for practice, and offers suggestions on how they can be addressed. The paper is derived from work over the past five years, revisiting recommendations from existing guidance, many of which the authors have followed and suggested to others. The working paper aims to contribute to further adaption and refinement of conceptual thinking and practical tools to assess advocacy.

Humanitarian Connectivity Charter Annual Report 2016
GSMA
The 2016 Annual Report tells the story of the growthof the Humanitarian Connectivity Charter from its launch in 2015, to the end of 2016, charting how its footprint has expanded to more than 75 countries, becoming a globally recognised industry-wide initiative. This report also details signatory and partner achievements in upholding the HCC principles.

Media (R)evolutions: Media use in the Middle East

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
Also available in:  Françaisالعربية 

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.
 
Digital divides are narrowing between generations and social classes within countries in the Middle East, according to a report published by the Northwestern University in Qatar in partnership with Doha Film Institute. This six-nation (Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates) survey provides a comprehensive overview of media use in the region. Here are some of the findings of the report:
  • “Cultural attitudes
    • A majority of nationals in all six countries want more entertainment media based on their culture and history, ranging from 52% of Tunisians to 80% of Qataris.
    • Use of entertainment media in Arabic is widespread, but use of English is much lower and—in some countries—declining. Only about four in 10 nationals watch films or access the internet in English. Majorities of nationals consume entertainment content from Arab countries, while consumption of film, TV, and music from the U.S. decreased since 2014.
  • Censorship and regulations
    • Three in 10 internet users worry about governments checking their online activity, a slight decline from 2013 and 2015.
    • A majority of nationals supports the freedom to express ideas online even if they are unpopular (54%).
  • Online & Social Media
    • About eight in 10 national internet users in the region use Facebook and WhatsApp, the dominant social media platforms.
    • From 2013 to 2016, internet penetration rose in all six countries surveyed, but most dramatically in Egypt, as well as Lebanon.
    • Nearly all nationals in Arab Gulf countries use the internet.

Virtual Reality: The Future of Immersive Learning for Development

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Former Bougainvillean combatant, now cocoa farmer Timothy Konovai tries out VR for the first time (World Bank/Alana HolmbergIn the blink of an eye, virtual reality can take you from a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan to a first responder’s mission in Nepal, from practicing surgery in Nigeria to tracking storms from earth observation satellites across South America. Virtual reality adds a new dimension to the learning experience: presence, the feeling of actually being in another place.
 
Learning from this new generation technology is becoming available at your fingertips for a minimal cost. Although virtual reality is still in its infancy, its cutting-edge approach and storytelling is already impacting development education, where it can draw us closer to the many development challenges we face.
 
What Exactly is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality refers to technology that generates realistic images, sounds, and other sensory inputs that replicate an environment. A headset completely immerses the individual in the environment being generated. Immersion is a word you will hear quite a bit related to virtual reality: immersive learning, immersive simulations, or immersive applications. The most famous virtul reality tool now is probably Oculus Rift.

Does the Gates’ Letter 2017 answer Warren Buffett’s questions?

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Melinda and Bill Gates have made an annual tradition of publishing their thoughts on their work in global development, the challenges they face, and their goals for the future. These letters are a manifesto for their philanthropic work, most of which is channelled through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Gates structured their 2017 Annual Letter as a response to Warren Buffet’s (CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.) letter to Melinda and Bill Gates, where he asked them to reflect on their work so far – on what had gone well, and what hadn’t; and to describe their goals for the future. He further said:

There are many who want to know where you’ve come from, where you’re heading and why. I also believe it’s important that people better understand why success in philanthropy is measured differently from success in business or government. Your letter might explain how the two of you measure yourselves and how you would like the final scorecard to read.

Buffet’s questions assume great significance given that in 2006, he pledged to donate 85% of his wealth to charity, and allotted a sum of about $31 billion to the Gates Foundation. These questions, from one of the most successful investor of our times, are essentially about how well his philanthropic investment in the Gates Foundation was doing. What had he helped them achieve?

Quote of the week: Fareed Zakaria

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"The world has been transformed by the globalization of goods, services, and information, all of which have produced their share of pain and rejection. But we are now witnessing the globalization of people, and public reaction to that is stronger, more visceral, and more emotional."  

- Fareed Zakaria - host of CNN's international affairs program Fareed Zakaria GPS.

Quoted in Foreign Affairs print edition November/December 2016 "Populism on the March."

Four crises of liberal democracy by Alasdair Roberts

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Angst produced by the current bout of ‘democratic malaise” – that feeling that things are falling apart for the modern world – is often both confused and intense. The new book that I am going to discuss furnishes us with a way of thinking about what might be wrong with liberal democracy in any specific national context that is as elegant and as thought-provoking as anything that I have encountered recently. The formulation is the very opposite of the often bewildered and bewildering musings of perturbed pundits.

The author, Alasdair Roberts, is Professor of Public Affairs at the Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri. He is a Fellow of the US National Academy of Public Administration and co-editor of the journal of Governance (the journal is my favorite on governance matters looked at from a global perspective). In February 2015, Roberts delivered the S.T. Lee Lecture in Political Science and Government at All Souls College, University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. The book I will be discussing is based on the lecture.

The book is actually titled Four Crises of American Democracy. I have chosen my focus …liberal democracy simpliciter… for two reasons. First, the short book is, in parts, self-consciously global, containing as it does examples from around the world. In fact, the first of the six chapters is almost entirely global in focus. Second, I am not interested in discussing the minutiae of American politics. I always try to find generalizable lessons from the books that I decide, from time to time, to review. As you read what follows I urge you to think about your own context. Does the analysis ring true to you? All of it? Some of it? None?

So, what are the four crises of liberal democracy?

Engaging citizens for better development outcomes

Sheila Jagannathan's picture

Also available in: Español, Français, Chinese  

The World Bank Group’s Open Learning Campus (OLC) is launching a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from March 15-April 26—Citizen Engagement: A Game Changer for Development?—through the edX platform. Experts from across the globe critically analyze how citizen engagement can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results.
 
Partnering with leading institutions—the London School of Economics, Overseas Development Institute, Participedia and CIVICUS—to develop each week’s content, the MOOC aims to provide the best knowledge and cutting edge research on the subject. With over 25,000 global learners having joined previous offerings, this third offering of the popular course will continue to build a genuine community of practice.
 
Why citizen engagement? In an increasingly interconnected world, citizen engagement is critical for improving development outcomes. Around the world we have seen that when citizens are engaged, when they participate, they can improve policymaking and service delivery.
 
Simply put, if we want to solve the social, economic, and environmental challenges, we need to take into account the knowledge, experiences, views, and values of the people most directly affected by them.

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.

Turning the Tide Against Cholera
New York Times

Two hundred years ago, the first cholera pandemic emerged from these tiger-infested mangrove swamps. It began in 1817, after the British East India Company sent thousands of workers deep into the remote Sundarbans, part of the Ganges River Delta, to log the jungles and plant rice. These brackish waters are the cradle of Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium that clings to human intestines and emits a toxin so virulent that the body will pour all of its fluids into the gut to flush it out. Water loss turns victims ashen; their eyes sink into their sockets, and their blood turns black and congeals in their capillaries. Robbed of electrolytes, their hearts lose their beat. Victims die of shock and organ failure, sometimes in as little as six hours after the first abdominal rumblings. Cholera probably had festered here for eons. Since that first escape, it has circled the world in seven pandemic cycles that have killed tens of millions.

The Link Between Internet Access and Economic Growth Is Not as Strong as You Think
CFR-Net Politics
Mark Zuckerberg recently published a manifesto about the future of Facebook and our increasingly technology-saturated world. In it, he argued “Connecting everyone to the internet is…necessary for building an informed community.” For those familiar with Zuckerberg’s statements, this is a familiar claim. He argues that not only should we connect everyone in the world to the internet, but that doing so is a necessary step in solving some of the planet’s most pernicious problems. Zuckerberg is not alone in this thinking. Huge sums of money have been invested in projects that connect the billions of people who lack an internet connection. These schemes tend to present digital connectivity as a mechanism to achieve key social and economic developmental goals. This is especially true in Africa–the part of the world with both the lowest incomes and rates of connectivity. Because of the vigor with which such claims are made, and the vast resources that tech companies are able to deploy, we decided to examine the actually existing evidence base that might support them. In a new paper, we set out to test those claims.

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