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The role of social media in development

Rosie Parkyn's picture

Why should development organisations care about social media? Rosie Parkyn looks at social media’s potential to enhance development outcomes in the Global South and how this stacks up against the evidence.  

At BBC Media Action, we take our content to people wherever they are, be that a refugee reception centre in Lebanon, a homestead in rural Ethiopia or their Facebook feed. Our work as a media organisation makes the biggest difference when we succeed in getting people talking, whether face-to-face or across virtual networks. Social media enables such discussion, broadening it beyond geographically defined communities and existing editorial agendas, and at a scale hitherto unimaginable.

As a development organisation that predominantly produces mass media outputs, social platforms allow us to see how people respond to our content and debate the issues we raise in our programmes. We can observe and interact with audiences in a way that isn’t possible with legacy media like newspapers and TV.

It’s true that many of our most important audiences in the Global South are yet to gain access to social media. Nonetheless, its role and influence within the information ecosystems we work in will only grow and its ability to support positive development outcomes demands exploration.

Quote of the week: Trevor Noah

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“I see most things in terms of finance and investment and marketing. In school, one of my favourite subjects was business economics. I had an amazing teacher who went beyond the syllabus. And so even now, in life, I read economics textbooks and I try to dabble in financial accounting, just to understand the world.”

-
Trevor Noah – South African comedian, television and radio host.

Quoted in Financial Times Weekend print edition December 17, 2016 "Life" by Michael Skapinker
 

4 things I learned about delivery from African leaders

Dan Hymowitz's picture
How do you teach an elephant to dance? How do you eat an elephant in 15 months? Where is all the elephant meat? The first Africa Delivery Exchange (ADEx), a recent workshop convened by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in Nairobi with the heads of “delivery teams” from seven African countries, was full of pachyderm-inspired metaphors. Not because we met near Nairobi’s famous wildlife park, but because of the weightiness of the issue that we’d gathered to discuss: how can teams in African Presidencies and Prime Minister’s offices drive their governments to deliver results for citizens whether that’s inclusive economic growth and job creation or an effective education system.
 
This was a rare opportunity for these exceptionally busy government leaders from countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Ethiopia to swap experience around the craft of their work. Here are four things that stood out to me from the event: 

1. Delivery is about changing the way government works Critics say delivery units step on civil servants’ toes and usurp the proper role of government ministries. But what I heard from delivery unit heads in Nairobi was a focus on enabling the rest of government to function better – more orchestra conductor than security guard. “We’re not a replacement,” said of one of these government leaders. “The ministries need to own this.”
 
Ray Shostak, former head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in the UK, reflected that delivery teams across the globe often find they need to gradually convince wary ministry colleagues that they’re there to support, not just hold to account. One delivery unit director at the ADEx described initially being perceived as “the police” and only over time winning people over by stepping in as a problem solver.

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.


2017 edition of Attacks on the Press
Committee to Protect Journalists
Despite the promise of new information technologies, governments, non-state actors, and corporations worldwide are censoring vast amounts of information using complex and sophisticated tactics. The 2017 edition of Attacks on the Press, published today [Tuesday] by The Committee to Protect Journalists, chronicles singular methods of controlling the flow of information, including financial pressure on journalists and news outlets, exploitation of legal loopholes to avoid disclosure, and wielding copyright laws and social media bots to curb criticism.

How Better Governance Can Help Rebuild Public Trust
OECD Public Governance Reviews
Trust plays a very tangible role in the effectiveness of government. Few perceptions are more palpable than that of trust or its absence. Governments ignore this at their peril. Yet, public trust has been eroding just when policy makers need it most, given persistent unemployment, rising inequality and a variety of global pressures. This report examines the influence of trust on policy making and explores some of the steps governments can take to strengthen public trust.

Campaign Art: Block by block for inclusive public spaces

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

Public spaces have been a place of social interaction from the very early beginnings of the human civilization. Taksim Square in Istanbul, Tahrir Square in Cairo, Maidan Square in Kiev, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, and Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires are among just a few common places around the world that have witnessed the most iconic events of the recent history.

If public spaces are so important to everyday life of citizens, whose responsibility is it to create and maintain them? Should citizens have a say in how they are designed?

UN-Habitat, a United Nations programme working towards a better urban future, partnered up with Mojang, a Swedish video game developer, and Microsoft to involve people— especially youth, women and slum dwellers— in urban design by using the videogame Minecraft. The innovative partnership, known as Block by Block, was set up in 2012 to support the UN-Habitat’s work with public spaces. Take a look at the video below to learn more about this innovative approach.

Block by Block

Blog post of the month: Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For April 2017, the featured blog post is "Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries" by Jing Guo.

Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
Chart 1

 

Review of Doughnut Economics – a new book you will need to know about

Duncan Green's picture

https://flic.kr/p/9XqtbSMy Exfam colleague Kate Raworth’s book Doughnut Economics is launched today, and I think it’s going to be big. Not sure just how big, or whether I agree with George Monbiot’s superbly OTT plug comparing it to Keynes’s General Theory. It’s really hard to tell, as a non-economist, just how paradigm-changing it will be, but I loved it, and I want everyone to read it.

Down to business – what does it say? The subtitle, ‘Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist’, sets out the intention: the book identifies 7 major flaws in traditional economic thinking, and a chapter on each on how to fix them. The starting point is drawings – working with Kate was fun, because whereas I think almost entirely in words, she has a highly visual imagination – she was always messing around with mind maps and doodles. And she’s onto something, because it’s the diagrams that act as visual frames, shaping the way we understand the world and absorb/reject new ideas and fresh evidence. Think of the way every economist you know starts drawing supply and demand curves at the slightest encouragement.

Quote of the week: Zadie Smith

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“There is a line of Salman Rushdie’s, I think it’s an essay, where he says: our lives teach us who we are. And I think that’s the case. It’s not that you have a set identity, it’s that by your actions you find out what sort of person you are. And the news is not always…lovely.”  

- Zadie Smith - novelist, short story writer, essayist, and a tenured professor in the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Quoted in Financial Times Weekend print edition November 12, 2016 "Lunch with the FT Zadie Smith" by Jan Dalley

Pragmatism and its discontents

Brian Levy's picture

At times in the last few years”, writes Duncan Green in his recent book How Change Happens,  “it has felt like something of a unified field theory of development is emerging”.  As Hegel reminded us, however, the owl of wisdom flies at dusk. As recently as early 2016 (which is about when he wrote these words) Green’s exuberant enthusiasm was shared by many of us. But a year, we now know, can be an eternity.

How Change Happens synthesizes a growing body of work that has aimed to move development scholarship and practice away from a pre-occupation with so-called ‘best practice’ solutions. It captures well the sensibility of the new literature – a paradoxical combination of the enthusiasm of a breakthrough and the pragmatism of seasoned practitioners who have learned the limitations of over-reach, often through bitter experience.  But, as per Hegel, has our quest for useful insight reached its destination only to find that a new journey has begun, a different and more difficult journey than the one we had planned?

In this review essay, I use the insights of How Change Happens to explore this question. I unbundle into two broad groups the categories of analysis Green uses to delineate the grand unified theory. In discussing the first group, I highlight what we got right about the drivers of change; in discussing the second, what we got wrong. I then suggest possible ways forward.

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.

Why people prefer unequal societies
Nature
There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.

2017 Affordability Report
Alliance for Affordable Internet
A4AI is a global alliance of over 80 member organisations from across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in both developed and developing countries, dedicated to ensuring affordable internet access for all through policy and regulatory change. The Affordability Report represents part of our ongoing efforts to measure progress toward affordable internet. The 2017 Affordability Report looks at the policy frameworks in place across 58 low- and middle-income countries to determine what changes countries have made to drive prices down and expand access — and what areas they should focus on to enable affordable connectivity for all.

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