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South Asia

Village Intelligence: There Are No Obvious Solutions

Naniette Coleman's picture

The story was told to me and so I will tell it to you. No, it was not passed down to me by my father or my father’s father but I still think it is a great story. A known story amongst international volunteer corps, it is whispered between friends with wistful eyes and knowing glances. 


The Well


The Goal is Sacred Space

Naniette Coleman's picture

When Siphiwe Tshabalala scored the first goal of the World Cup, that beautiful, upper right hand corner net buster, just minutes into the second half, I fell in love. I took to my suburban balcony, danced with wild abandon, and screamed “GOAL SOUTH AFRICA, GOAL BAFANA BAFANA” at the top of my lungs. I celebrated because during the 55th minute, of the first game, of the first World Cup on African soil, we all accomplished something great. No, I did not fall in love with Tshabala or South Africa or Bafana, Bafana per se in those moments. I actually fell in love with the idea of world collaboration all over again.   I fell in love with the idea that if we are all present in one room/stadium and devoted to the same initiative, magic can happen. It was ethereal, and I, I was committed and in love and on top of the world for about 24 hours before reality brought me and all that idealism back to earth. Actually, it was the words escaping the mouths of my fellow Americans during the US vs. England game.

Can Community Groups Influence Public Policy?

Sabina Panth's picture

There is a common perception held by some that the dominating framework of social development practice is a community and that framework does not often extend beyond a certain group or a locality to include districts, provinces and other tiers of government.  There is evidence, however, that social development can instigate structural changes and devolution of power by mobilizing a community to build associations and exercise their agency to influence broader national goals and policies.  To illustrate this point, I want to begin with the evolution of self-help groups that are prevalent in India and Nepal.  


The Public’s Proxy?

Antonio Lambino's picture

I recently attended a brown bag on the Bangladesh Investment Climate Fund (BICF), an advisory facility that seeks to help improve the country’s investment climate.  The International Finance Corporation’s Advisory Services team runs the initiative, generously supported by the UK’s Department for International Development and the European Commission.

Core program areas include regulatory reforms, economic zones, and capacity building and institutional strengthening.  According to Syer Akhtar Mahmood, BICF’s Senior Program Manager, results include the following: a 50% reduction in property registration fees; an online system for business registration; effective consultation mechanisms to identify regulatory issues and recommend reforms; platforms for broad-based public-private dialogue on policy formulation and implementation; and a core group of mid-level government officials who have, among other things, generated notes on reform options and authored 10 articles/op-eds which, according to Mr. Mahmood, rarely happens in Bangladesh.

Reflecting on Mumbai

Caroline Jaine's picture

I do not have to be Indian to feel the sense of sorrow and unfathomable injustice as this month the world remembers the Mumbai attacks of a year ago.  Many times we seem to have shaken our pitiful heads and said “never again” after a grand scale terror attack, but still man continues to kill man for an increasingly bizarre list of reasons.  Political pressure, ignorance, social emasculation, brainwashing and drug addiction are amongst the culprits.

In the year since Mumbai, across the region we have seen murderers in Pakistan turn on their own people – with a recent gruesome blast in a Peshawar market killing over 100, mainly women and children, with no real explanation that I could fathom. Again, I do not have to be Pakistani to feel a sense of sorrow. 

The Public and Its Pundits

Antonio Lambino's picture

The public needs its pundits.  Those with expertise on various topics, ranging from financial derivates to pop psychology, serve as “opinion leaders” on the important and not-so-important issues of the day.  From personal experience -- talking to family, friends, and colleagues -- I notice that we tend to repeat what we hear from them on various topics, whether consciously or not. 

We know from applied communication research that, over time, people tend to retain bits and pieces of information while forgetting their sources.  How many times have we made authoritative statements and when asked where we got the information, say something like “I don’t remember from where exactly but I’m pretty sure that… “  This is normal because we can’t be expected to keep track of each and every information source.  And we can’t be expected to come up with our own erudite analysis of each and every public issue either.  Hence, we need pundits.  But we should also keep in mind that not all of these experts on all things public are created equal.  We could very well be mouthing off as hard fact something a pundit shared as her or his own misinformed opinion. 

Accountability Alchemy

Darshana Patel's picture

A self-help group member shows us her paralegal identification (Medak District, Andhra Pradesh).Alchemy is well known as the science of turning invaluable substances into gold.  But it symbolizes transformation of the most radical kind.  (From the Arabic word al-kimia, alchemy literally means "the art of transformation.")

So what does accountability have to do with radical transformation? According to the Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) , a government agency in Andhra Pradesh, India; accountability is key to ensuring transformation of the poor.   

SERP is implementing the Andhra Pradesh Rural Poverty Reduction Project, locally known as Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) in all the 22 rural districts of Andhra Pradesh. IKP is the longest running livelihoods program financed by the World Bank in South Asia but what makes the project unique is not large-scale spending. It is the slow, intentional process of building institutions of and by the poor that no amount of money alone has been able to accomplish.  The idea behind this project is that accountability and sound governance practices must be embedded in the norms and culture of institutions rather than treated as after-thoughts.

Talking with Teeth: Micro-Planning with Community Scorecards

Darshana Patel's picture

Village youth decribing the social accountability process before a village elected official.Coming together is a process
Keeping together is progress
Working together is success

This message, written on the wall of a public building in Gureghar village in the district of Satara in Maharashtra, India, implies the significant changes that have taken place at that village.  Since mid-2007, 178 villages including Gureghar have been part of an innovative social accountability process that has redefined relationships between citizens, service providers and local government.  Although micro-planning has been happening for over 2 decades in Maharashtra, the innovation in this pilot project is that micro-planning has been combined with a community scorecard process to strengthen relationships of accountability at the village level. 

Breathing Life into a First Generation Right

Darshana Patel's picture

The RTI truck makes a stop in Hiware Bazar, a town in Ahmednagar District.The Right to Information (RTI) truck leaves the city of Pune, India and makes it way through all the neighboring towns and villages at a slow but steady pace.   The main features of this truck are the placards hanging outside of it.  Written in the local language, Marathi; they explain what the Indian RTI Act is and what it can do for citizens.  The truck makes stops in local meeting places such as markets and town centers to educate citizens about RTI through videos and written materials. 

RTI is considered to be widely used in the state of Maharashtra where this truck operates.  On a recent trip, I understood just how prolific RTI in Maharashtra is.