These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data
A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year. Such dominance has prompted calls for the tech giants to be broken up, as Standard Oil was in the early 20th century. This newspaper has argued against such drastic action in the past. Size alone is not a crime.
Pathways for Peace : Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflicts
World Bank/United Nations
The resurgence of violent conflict in recent years has caused immense human suffering, at enormous social and economic cost. Violent conflicts today have become complex and protracted, involving more non-state groups and regional and international actors, often linked to global challenges from climate change to transnational organized crime. It is increasingly recognized as an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This has given impetus for policy makers at all levels – from local to global – to focus on preventing violent conflict more effectively. Grounded in a shared commitment to this agenda, Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict is a joint United Nations and World Bank study that looks at how development processes can better interact with diplomacy and mediation, security and other tools to prevent conflict from becoming violent.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
A brilliant analysis by Michael Jacobs of the success factors behind last year’s Paris Climate Agreement appeared in Juncture, IPPR’s quarterly journal recently. Jacobs unpacks the role of civil society (broadly defined) and political leadership. Alas, it’s over 4,000 words long, so as a service to my attention deficit colleagues in aid and development, here’s an abbreviated version (about a third the length, but if you have time, do please read the original).
The international climate change agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 was an extraordinary diplomatic achievement. It was also a remarkable display of the political power of civil society.
Following the failed Copenhagen conference in 2009, an informal global coalition of NGOs, businesses, academics and others came together to define an acceptable outcome to the Paris conference and then applied huge pressure on governments to agree to it. Civil society effectively identified the landing ground for the agreement, then encircled and squeezed the world’s governments until, by the end of the Paris conference, they were standing on it. Four key forces made up this effective alliance.
The scientific community: Five years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was in trouble. Relentless attacks from climate sceptics and a number of apparent scandals – the ‘climategate’ emails, dodgy data on melting Himalayan glaciers, allegations surrounding its chairman – had undermined its credibility. But the scientists fought back, subjecting their work to even more rigorous peer-review and hiring professional communications expertise for the first time. The result was the IPCC’s landmark Fifth Assessment Report, which contained two powerful central insights.
First, the IPCC report introduced the concept of a ‘carbon budget’: the total amount of carbon dioxide the earth’s atmosphere can absorb before the 2°C temperature goal is breached. At present emission rates, that would be used up in less than 30 years. So cutting emissions cannot wait.
The other insight was that these emissions have to be reduced until they reach zero. The IPCC’s models are clear: the physics of global warming means that to halt the world’s temperature rise, the world will have to stop producing greenhouse gas emissions altogether.
The economic community: But it was a second set of forces that really changed the argument. Since the financial crash in 2008–2009, cutting emissions had fallen down the priority lists of the world’s finance ministries. The old orthodoxy that environmental policy was an unaffordable cost to the economy reasserted itself. A new argument was required.
Have you ever been in an argument that ended badly, after which you expected to receive an apology? Did the apology come or was the other side also expecting one? Have you ever done an audit or technical assessment and wondered how a team of professionals could have come to such seemingly erroneous conclusions? How can that be? How is that people can have such different views of the same thing?
One reason misunderstandings occur is that people tend to be naïve realists. That is, we believe that we see social interactions as they truly are. Anyone else who has read what we have read or seen what we have seen will naturally perceive them the say way as we do… that is, assuming they’ve pondered the issue as thoughtfully as we have. In short, our own reality is true, so those who disagree with us must be uninformed, irrational, or biased.
However, one of the most enduring contributions of social psychology is the understanding that two people can interpret the same social interaction in very different ways, based on their own personal knowledge and experiences.
Tim Harford, the Undercover economist at the Financial Times, recently wrote about naïve realism, calling it the, “seductive sense that we’re seeing the world as it truly is, free of bias.” He goes on to say that this is such an attractive illusion that whenever we meet someone that contradicts our own view, we instinctively believe we’ve met someone who is deluded rather than question our own rationale.
When first introduced to the idea of a funnel of attrition (my early attempt at a slightly more nuanced and symmetric — but still generic — version is here), I largely thought of it as a useful heuristic for thinking about sample size calculations, by being forced to think about issues of awareness and take-up as well as a few steps along a causal chain between initial participation or use and longer terms outcomes of interest.
More recently (including here), I have tried to use it as a tool for thinking about articulating assumptions in a theory of change about where people might ‘fall out of’ (or never join) an intervention, thus leaving the funnel. More specifically, I tried (along with colleagues) using it as a goal for a conversation with implementing partners (that is, “let’s map out the funnel of attrition”), tackling the question from multiple perspectives. Various perspectives were brought in using personae, which I created beforehand relying partially on average results from the baseline as well as some stylizing to try to bring certain features into the conversation. At first I feared being overstylized but, in the end, I think I had too little detail. I reviewed my notes from The Inmates are Running the Asylum and was reminded of the importance of specificity, even at the expense of accuracy.
I liked this idea for guiding a conversation because the funnel of attrition is a little more straightforward than a full theory of change but, in constructing it, you still end up articulating some central assumptions, which can be added to thinking about change may/not happen. It seems like a handy building block in a well-considered theory of change.
Susan McPherson is one of those inspiring women working at the wonderful intersection of business and social impact. Susan explains why storytelling is fundamental for success, in the business and nonprofit worlds.
Susan believes in the power of information and knowledge to drive more positive change in the world. Susan and I talk extensively about the power of storytelling for successful communication campaigns. And she gives important tools to effectively implement communication strategies for nonprofits and social entrepreneurs. Susan develops the fundamental communications advice: make it simple, shareable, and fill with empathy. And, most importantly, set up goals and measures of success from the very beginning.
Susan also talks about the great things going on in diversity and inclusion, and also the challenges ahead. She thinks that we know what to do to make more young women embrace math and sciences, and that now is time to move to action. Susan says that you “can’t be what you can’t see” and that more funding is needed for women-led tech companies and ventures.
Priyanka Dutt shares what she has learned while implementing a mobile health program for women in India.
Last month, the Government of India launched a nationwide mobile health (mHealth) program designed by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity. The aim - to train 1 million community health workers and help nearly 10 million new and expecting mothers in India make healthier choices and lead longer, healthier lives.
Mobile Academy is an anytime, anywhere audio training course, delivered via mobile phone, designed to refresh the knowledge and strengthen the communication skills of community health workers. The objective is to enable the nation’s nearly one million health workers to more effectively persuade families to lead healthier lives.
Kilkari (a baby’s gurgle) service delivers free, weekly, time-appropriate audio messages about pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare directly to the mobile phones of mothers and other family members from the second trimester of pregnancy until the child is one year old.
These services were originally designed for use in Bihar in North India, where BBC Media Action, in partnership with the state government works to improve demand for health services, improve social norms and impact health outcomes for mothers and children. Read more.
Mobile Academy and Kilkari leverage the massive penetration of mobile phones to reach the most marginalized, hardest-to-reach communities in India. These are communities where getting pregnant and having babies can be 24 times more life-threatening than giving birth in the United Kingdom!
The statistics are pretty stark. Globally, every five minutes, three women die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, while 60 others will be left with debilitating injuries. Of these deaths, India accounts for the greatest number of women dying – over 150 every day. But we know how many of these health risks that pregnant women and their newborns face are preventable.
Those working on reforms- whether they involve energy subsidies or education stipends- know that implementing change can be difficult. Government ministries often disagree on policy, the private sector may resist changes to their operating environment, and the public may be wary of any policy that increases their financial or social burden. So how can leaders and strategists increase the likelihood they will be successful at achieving sustainable reforms?
Communication is usually at the center of any successful reform initiative. It rallies technical experts, builds support within government and the private sector, and educates the public on the importance and meaning of a reform. Indeed, successful implementation of policy reforms depends significantly on non-technical, real-world issues that relate to people and politics.
The 2016 Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment was developed with this in mind. During this 10-day program, held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, May from 23- June 3, 2016, participants will learn the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation.
We encourage interested applicants to apply today- the first early registration discount ends this Friday, January 29, 2016.