BBC Media Action's Director of Policy and Learning argues for an urgent rethinking of what is often considered a relic of the past - the state broadcaster - to encourage discussion, dialogue and understanding across communities in fragile states.
Speaking personally, I have advanced at one time or another all these tenets and continue (mostly) to do so. This blog, however, marks the publication of a set of BBC Media Action policy and research outputs I’ve commissioned which collectively advance some unfashionable arguments.
We focus particularly on the role of media in fragile and divided societies and especially on what can be done to support media that transcends, rather than exacerbates, divisions in society. We argue that, for all the innovation, dynamism and potential that exists, there are growing signs that publics are less and less trusting of the media that is available to them. Media environments appear more dynamic, interactive and complex, but much of media – both traditional and social – exists to advance particular agendas or interests in society rather than to serve a public. 21st-century fragmentation of media environments has often been accompanied by an associated fracturing of media often owned, controlled or heavily influenced by particular political, factional, ethnic or religious interests. Such fracturing often applies to both social and traditional media.
Evidence-informed policymaking is gaining importance in several African countries. Networks of researchers and policymakers in Malawi, Uganda, Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Benin and Zimbabwe are working assiduously to ensure credible evidence reaches government officials in time and are also building the capacity of policymakers to use the evidence effectively. The Africa Evidence Network (AEN) is one such body working with governments in South Africa and Malawi. It held its first colloquium in November 2014 in Johannesburg.
Africa Evidence Network, the beginning
A network of over 300 policymakers, researchers and practitioners, AEN is now emerging as a regional body in its own right. The network began in December 2012 with a meeting of 20 African representatives at 3ie’s Dhaka Colloquium of Systematic Reviews in International Development.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Aid Transparency Index 2014
Publish What You Fund
The 2014 ATI results follow the trends observed in previous years. A lead group of organisations are making significant and continuous improvements to the information they publish on their current aid activities – and many others have taken steps towards improving their publication in 2014 – but the majority have not made significant progress and continue to lag behind.
12 ways to communicate development more effectively
From fundraising to behaviour change, communications is key to development work. Our panel explain how to do it better. Sina Odugbemi, senior communications officer (policy), World Bank, Washington DC, USA, @WorldBank:
- Make a case for development spending: Polls in Europe consistently show that support for development is wide but shallow. This is due to the limited power of emotive campaigns. People need to know if any of their money is doing permanent good or whether the cynics are right. That kind of case-making is, sadly, not done consistently and rigorously.
- Avoid promoting quick fixes: What that does is provoke disillusionment down the road. We need to discourage young people particularly from thinking complex problems can be solved with a rush of energy and cool new tools. We need to be communicating that many tough challenges will require stamina and sustained effort and commitment.
Some more innovative work from the London School of Economics. This genuinely thought-provoking 8 minute video describes a collaboration between the LSE-hosted International Growth Centre and Zambia’s Ministry of Health. The background academic paper is here.
Researchers and officials worked together to answer an important question: to motivate people in rural villages to become rural community health workers (CHWs), is it best to appeal to their community spirit, or to their hopes for individual career development? If you do the latter, will people lose their link to the community, and replicate the problem with more standard professional health workers, many of whom hate working in rural areas, and head for the city?
To do that, they divided up 160 villages targeted for recruitment. In half they put up posters that stressed ‘come and serve your community’, in the rest they put the emphasis on careers (see above: figures 1a and 1b of the paper). Sure enough, the posters attracted different kinds of people to apply for CHW training.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Pew Research Internet Project
As Internet experts look to the future of the Web, they have a number of concerns. This is not to say they are pessimistic: The majority of respondents to this 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing say they hope that by 2025 there will not be significant changes for the worse and hindrances to the ways in which people get and share content online today. And they said they expect that technology innovation will continue to afford more new opportunities for people to connect. Still, some express wide levels of concern that this yearning for an open Internet will be challenged by trends that could sharply disrupt the way the Internet works for many users today as a source of largely unfettered content flows.
Good Governance- A Sustainable Development Goal Too Essential To Be Side-lined
What do the public in the USA, UK, France and Germany consider the greatest impediment to global development? According to new research by the Gates Foundation and partners released at the InterAction forum last month called the Narrative Project, the answer is corruption. Additionally, a recent Gallup poll showed that, around the world, satisfaction with "freedom" is inversely proportional to the perception of corruption in a given country. The answer to corruption is good governance, at the national and local levels. But governance goes well beyond just stopping corruption. It is the cornerstone of individual freedom, political participation, secures the rights of the individual and the media, and makes politicians accountable to their constituencies.
It is 10 years since the World Bank launched its landmark World Development Report (WDR), Making Services Work For Poor People. A decade later, what have we learnt about the science and politics of service delivery – and what are the emerging issues that will shape future priorities? The recent anniversary Conference in Washington D.C., co-hosted by ODI and the World Bank, with support from the UK Department for International Development, discussed new developments, data and trends in public service delivery since 2004 across a range of service delivery sectors.
In the conference report, ODI experts share their reflections on the conference and on future directions in five key areas for service delivery: information and incentives, behavioral economics and social norms, financing service delivery, fragile states and the politics of delivery. This article by Leni Wild talks about information and incentives.
There is still a gap to be filled between having more information and figuring out whether and how services improve. However, February’s joint ODI and World Bank Conference marking ten years since the World Development Report (WDR) on Making Services Work for Poor People flagged up where progress has been made, and what we are learning about the role information can – and cannot – play here.
A recent conference in Nigeria considered the evidence that evidence-based policy-making actually, you know, exists. The conference report sets out its theory of change in a handy diagram – the major conference sessions are indicated in boxes.
‘There is a shortage of evidence on policy makers’ actual capacity to use research evidence and there is even less evidence on effective strategies to build policy makers’ capacity. Furthermore, many presentations highlighted the insidious effect of corruption on use of evidence in policy making processes.
This review appears in the Evidence and Policy journal, where it is now available free online (after I protested about the scandalous, rip-off $30 they were charging). Or you can just read it here. Note to self: in future, I will not write anything for journals that are not open access (thanks to Owen Barder for that suggestion).
In recent years, the public and policy debate over climate change, ‘climategate’, and the debacle of the Copenhagen Summit (and seemingly the wider UN negotiations) has brought home the tenuousness of the links between knowledge and public policy-making. ‘Do the research and they will come’ is clearly not a credible doctrine. Knowledge, Policy and Power, written by a group of researchers from the Overseas Development Institute, tackles some important aspects of these links, building on ODI’s strong track record on the interface between research and policy-making.
The book has good instincts – sceptical of all things linear, of researchers claiming to know more than they do, stressing the importance of values, beliefs, assumptions, taboos and other group pressures, hidden power and in/exclusion in what are often portrayed as neutral processes of research and debate. There is ample discussion of the relative strengths and weakneses of different kinds of knowledge, whether derived from practice, ‘pure’ research or the people themselves.
Got dragged into DFID this week for yet another session on theories of change. This one was organized by the DFID-funded Research for Development (R4D) project (sorry, ‘portal’). A lot of my previous comments on such sessions apply – in DFID the theories of change agenda seems rather dominated by evaluation and planning (‘logframes on steroids’), whereas in Oxfam, it is mainly used to sharpen our work in programmes and campaigns. But the conversation that jumped out at me was around ‘how do we influence the researchers that we fund to use theories of change (ToCs) to improve the impact of their research?’
It’s risky to generalize about ‘academics’, but I'm going to do it anyway. Let’s apply some ToCs thinking to academia as a target. Applying ToCs to try and understand why academics don't use ToCs may feel a bit weird (like the bit in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich enters his own brain), but bear with me.
On April 10th the World Bank announced that it is adopting an open access (OA) policy that requires that all research and knowledge products written by staff, and the associated datasets that underpin the research, be deposited in an open access repository and that these works be released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. Also on this date the Bank launched the new open access repository, the Open Knowledge Repository (OKR). This represents a sea change in the Bank’s approach to publishing, builds on the Open Data initiative and the Access to Information policy implemented in 2010, and is another cornerstone in the Bank’s move toward ever-greater openness and its focus on results and accountability.