My inbox has been buzzing with praise for a new paper on this issue by the Carnegie Endowment’s democracy guru, Thomas Carothers. Since he’s one of my favourite guest posters (no editing ever required), I asked him to summarize its findings.
Last year the gender, women, and democracy team at the National Democratic Institute approached me with a question. NDI, like many groups engaged in supporting democracy internationally, was responding to the increasingly fraught landscape of global democracy by attempting to think more strategically and move fully away from any lingering tendency to pursue a standard democracy “menu” across extremely diverse political contexts. NDI’s gender team wanted to insert women’s political empowerment programming into the new strategic discussion. Would I help them think it through? The team deflected my protests that I lack expertise on women’s empowerment, telling me they would help me get up to speed. They also politely pointed out that as someone who presents himself as a general expert on democratic change, perhaps it was time for me to correct my lack of knowledge about the gender domain. I signed on.
After some months of delving into the literature on women’s political empowerment and interviewing numerous aid practitioners and women’s activists working on the front lines, some interesting findings came into focus. I present them in my new paper, “Democracy Support Strategies: Leading with Women’s Political Empowerment.”
At first glance, programs seeking to foster greater women’s political empowerment did seem to follow a standard menu –everywhere I looked I saw training for women candidates in local and national elections, efforts to strengthen the role of women within political parties, advocacy in favor of gender quotas in legislatures, and support for women’s parliamentary caucuses. Yet when I probed how such programming unfolds across different transitional contexts, important variations emerged.
“People always speak beautifully when they are in love or close to death.”
- Svetlana Alexievich, an investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.
Marcelo Cabrol is close to turn 50, and has more curiosity than ever for ideas that can transform the world. I interviewed Marcelo about how to achieve transformation in order to solve the many compelling social issues that our world faces. He says that there are two fundamental elements: understanding the problems we are trying to solve and listening.
Marcelo tells the story about how the conversation about development has dramatically shifted over the past ten years. There are more participants involved in dialogue around poverty now, and that’s a huge opportunity to enrich the conversation. It is also why “everyone interested in development must become a student of the problems”, as Marcelo says, which means understanding the underlying causes of those problems. There’s no substitute for this when entrepreneurs are getting ready to sell their ideas for development.
Then, the ability to listen, together with an open mind, is essential to find a solution for the many ideas that are sprouting everywhere.
Marcelo uses one of his dearest fields, education, to explain how this powerful combination can transform an entire sector and adapt it to the new demands and needs of the 21st century.
Even in Era of Disillusionment, Many Around the World Say Ordinary Citizens Can Influence Government
Signs of political discontent are increasingly common in many Western nations, with anti-establishment parties and candidates drawing significant attention and support across the European Union and in the United States. Meanwhile, as previous Pew Research Center surveys have shown, in emerging and developing economies there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way the political system is working. As a new nine-country Pew Research Center survey on the strengths and limitations of civic engagement illustrates, there is a common perception that government is run for the benefit of the few, rather than the many in both emerging democracies and more mature democracies that have faced economic challenges in recent years. In eight of nine nations surveyed, more than half say government is run for the benefit of only a few groups in society, not for all people.
Media Development and Countering Violent Extremism: An Uneasy Relationship, a Need for Dialogue
This report looks at how media development practitioners are reacting to the rise of the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda, and its growing influence on their field. This influence is the cause of concern, not only because practitioners of CVE and media development have fundamentally different worldviews, but because the CVE agenda is seen to pose serious risks for southern media houses and the organizations that support them. Still, these risks are unlikely to be addressed without coordinated efforts from both sides. However uneasy the relationship, a dialogue between CVE and media development is needed.
Welcome to the sixth blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. So far in this series, we have focused on the tools and techniques of a just-in-time learning strategy. We will now switch gears and show how, with very little effort, we can use TAG checks to make simple yet (occasionally) profound conclusions about data - big and small.
As we delve into the details of TAG checks in the next several blogs, we will be using web programming tools and techniques to gather, process and analyze data. While we will try to be as comprehensive as possible in our explanations, it may not be always as detailed as we would like it to be. This forum, after all, is a blog and not a training tutorial. We hope by applying the just-in-time learning strategy that we have discussed so far in the series, you will be able to supplement what we miss in our explanations. Our goal for the overall series has been to empower you. We hope the first part of the series has made you an empowered self-learner.
The second part of the series will make you an empowered and savvy data consumer, a development professional who can confidently rely on the story the data tells to accomplish her tasks.
For the readers who are just joining in, we suggest that you become somewhat familiar with the just-in-time learning strategy by skimming the series so far.
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.
It’s old hat at this point to say that mobile devices are disrupting traditional media….but let’s take another look anyway. According to the Global entertainment and media outlook 2016–2020 from PricewaterhouseCooper, the rising penetration of smartphones and tablets has rapidly led to second-screen viewing in many markets. In other words, consumers are now using multiple devices at once— perhaps watching television and playing games on a tablet during commercials. This behavior has hurt television advertising and put a premium on live programming.
The biggest audiences not using a second device– and therefore the biggest advertising spend – are attracted by entertainment shows with live interaction such as voting and live sporting events. Competition for advertising in these slots has been driven to new heights, as seen in the pricing of competitions like the National Football League in the United States, the English Premier League, and international events like the World Cup and the Olympics.
While independent journalists are bastions in support of good government, “independence” is not always an available choice. In Nigeria, for example, in a highly competitive job market that underpays and has little respect for journalists, many sway their coverage according to explicit and implicit political pressures and are sometimes expected to take bribes. One member of the media explained it this way:
“If there’s a cholera outbreak from contaminated water sources and the Ministry of Water Resources is doing an event, reporters will cover the event and not bother about the cholera outbreak itself. This is not because they don’t care; [editorial choices] have mostly become economic decisions. The Ministry will pay for the event to be covered, that is how the system works. You aren’t supposed to pay for news but you can pay to make news.”
In a media landscape like this one, where economic and editorial decisions are in conflict, international donors can provide vital financial support to independent media organizations, empowering them to hold governments accountable. But as my team at Reboot detailed in a report published this summer, providing strategic support requires a holistic approach, beyond program funding.
Because of its flourishing media ecosystem, Nigeria is a powerful regional case study for how funders might take such an approach. Even though Nigeria formally ended state-owned media monopolies when it deregulated broadcasting in 1992, the government maintains informal control of the news through political patronage, corrupt practices, and direct threats and violence. This is true both at the federal level as well as subnational; state and local governments, to varying degrees, use these tools to bend media coverage.
Examples can be found across West Africa, such as in Ghana, where we learned that the practice of purchasing coverage is so widespread it has entered common parlance under the word “soli,” or solidarity money. In this landscape, independent media struggles to be truly independent.
Nevertheless, the rise of the digital age is democratizing coverage control in West Africa. Citizens are breaking news and analyzing stories through social media. Their voices are transforming media—upending the traditional media models and inspiring new ones—and demanding that media uncover corruption and hold leaders accountable. This citizen-powered media landscape has in turn pushed the government to become more responsive to public discourse, potentially driving more citizen engagement.
“You can’t tell somebody how to express themselves — you can’t. But I think you can tell people, ‘Hey, the way you’re expressing yourself, that hurts me.’ "