Syndicate content

October 2014

Blog Post of the Month: Realization of the Dream

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.

In October 2014, the most popular blog post was "Realization of the Dream" by Leszek Sibilski.  

In this post, Leszek describes the "changing faces" of his students in university courses and ponders whether terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” will one day be obsolete as his students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds. 

While acknowledging that there is still plenty of space to improve, Leszek reminds us that focusing on differences can limit our ability to connect with each other. He writes, "Instead of building societal firewalls, we should expose the negative vocabulary for classroom and public discussions in order to raise public awareness supported by mutual understanding."
 

In Praise of Cranks and Contrarians

Sina Odugbemi's picture

I hope you have been fortunate enough to meet a few of these. They live amongst us, but they are really an archetypal category: The Outsider. Our settled views on the great issues of the day, our rules and norms, our codes of conduct, all these things annoy them. They mock us. They dispense rudeness with great liberality. They are stubborn, self-willed and ferociously argumentative. They dress as they please. They behave as they please. They dance to the rhythms of drums that the rest of us cannot hear. They annoy, even madden us; yet, every healthy community needs them; every truly diverse and vigorous public sphere needs them, as well.

Cranks are eccentrics. They are capricious in behavior or appearance. And they are almost always contrarians: whatever the majority opinion is, they are against it. Loudly. Vehemently. Yet there is one fundamental reason why we should not only tolerate but celebrate the cranks and contrarians in our midst: every major shift in public opinion started as a view propagated by a few bloody minded contrarians, boldly, even recklessly, taking on the received or conventional wisdom of the day.  We often credit huge social movements for a lot of the progress we have made as human beings, but before the social movements formed crucial path-clearing work was done by tough, rock-ribbed eccentrics and contrarians.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Accountability, Transparency, Participation, and Inclusion: A New Development Consensus?
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Four key principles—accountability, transparency, participation, and inclusion—have in recent years become nearly universal features of the policy statements and programs of international development organizations. Yet this apparently widespread new consensus is deceptive: behind the ringing declarations lie fundamental fissures over the value and application of these concepts. Understanding and addressing these divisions is crucial to ensuring that the four principles become fully embedded in international development work.
 
Ebola communication: What we've learned so far
Devex
This week, a World Health Organization infectious diseases expert reported the death rate due to Ebola in West Africa has now climbed to 70 percent, higher than previous estimates. And by December, new cases could hit 10,000 a week. For front-line medical workers, the projections couldn’t be grimmer. They are overwhelmed and their numbers are dwindling — Médecins Sans Frontières has already lost nine staff members to the epidemic — but reinforcements remain sparse. For organizations involved in communication and awareness-raising campaigns, meanwhile, this situation means they need to be more aggressive and robust, and their messaging fool-proof.  We know many of them are on the ground, conducting door-to-door campaigns and spot radio announcements, putting up posters and distributing pamphlets to inform communities about the disease. Some have even resorted to using megaphones to reach people who choose to remain indoors, conduct skits in schools and communities via youth drama troupes. A few aid groups are even considering perceived viral forms of communication like music and video messaging led by former football player and now UNICEF ambassador David Beckham.  But are these campaigns actually working? Will the new plans be effective?
 

How Soap Operas and Cable TV Promote Women’s Rights and Family Planning

Duncan Green's picture

Taking a break from the How Change Happens book this week to head off to Harvard for a Matt Andrews/ODI seminar on ‘Doing Development Differently’ + a day at Oxfam America on Friday. Will report back, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I’ve just finished the draft chapter on the power of social norms, and how they change (and can be changed). ODI provides an absolute gold mine of a crib sheet on this in the shape of Drivers of Change in Gender norms: An annotated bibliography, by Rachel Marcus and Ella Page with Rebecca Calder and Catriona Foley.

Here’s one of the excerpts that caught my eye:

Jensen, R. and Oster, E. (2007) ‘The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India’. Working Paper 13305. Cambridge, MA: NBER

Campaign Art: How (un)equal is East Africa?

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

The 85 richest individuals in the world own as much as 3.5 billion of the poorest people, according to Oxfam. It's a staggering statistic, but it has friends. 

The 2014 Global Wealth Databook by Credit Suisse reports the bottom 50% of the world's population own less than 1% of its wealth, the richest 10% hold 87%, and the top 1% alone possess 48.2%. 

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group also stated in the Global Monitoring Report that while the number of people living in extreme poverty is decreasing, the gap between the haves and the have nots is increasing. Today, the world's richest 10% earn 9.5 times more than the poorest 10% of the world. Twenty-five years ago, they earned 7 times more than their less fortunate peers.

Taking a closer look at East Africa, Ben Taylor (mtega), an Open Development Consultant with Twaweza, finds that the richest 1% in East Africa own as much wealth as the poorest 91%. The six wealthiest individuals in the region own as much as 50% of the region’s population or 66 million people.
 
How (un)equal is East Africa?

New Study Offers Us Fresh Insights into the Attitudes and Behaviors of Online Users in the Middle East

CGCS's picture

Damian Radcliffe outlines a new report from Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology on internet behaviors in the Middle East. To read the full report, click here

Qatar’s Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ictQATAR) published a new full length study on the attitudes and behaviors of internet users in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

The 20,000 word study benchmarks the experience of the online population in the region against global users in five key areas: access to technology, attitudes towards the internet, levels of concern, trust in online actors, and user behaviors—demonstrating in the process that, despite clear cultural considerations, MENA is not an outlier.

In fact, compared to their global counterparts, online users in the Middle East are among the most enthusiastic commentators about the positive impact that the internet has on their lives.

Civic Space Initiative: Access to Resources Critical to Peaceful Assembly

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Globally, civil society organizations face many obstacles. One of the most pressing regards laws and practices that constrain their ability to obtain or utilize financial, material, and human resources. 

Restrictions include requiring CSOs to obtain governmental approval to receive funding, banning or restricting foreign-funded CSOs from human rights or advocacy activities, stigmatizing or delegitimizing foreign-funded CSOs and labeling them as “foreign agents” or other negative terms, criminalizing some peaceful activities, and restricting their ability to build solidarity with other CSOs.

These obstacles hinder the right of CSOs to peaceful assembly and association. In the following video, Ryota Jonen of the Civic Space Initiative affirms this right, saying, “To exercise fully the rights to freedom of association, we need to have resources, we need materials to carry out what we are said to do.'
 
Acess to Resources are Essential to Peaceful Assembly

 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

BBC Media Action’s governance research: emerging evidence and learning
BBC Media Action
Supported by a five-year grant from the UK Department for International Development to achieve governance outcomes in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, this working paper shares the learning and insights our research generates as it progresses. The paper is designed to share some of the most interesting qualitative and quantitative data we have gathered at this relatively early stage in the research. It also explores the conclusions we are beginning to reach about the contexts in which we work and the impact of BBC Media Action’s programmes. Finally, it highlights what our research is, and is not, telling us.
 
The Bad News About the News
Brookings
1998, Ralph Terkowitz, a vice president of The Washington Post Co., got to know Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who were looking for backers. Terkowitz remembers paying a visit to the garage where they were working and keeping his car and driver waiting outside while he had a meeting with them about the idea that eventually became Google. An early investment in Google might have transformed the Post's financial condition, which became dire a dozen years later, by which time Google was a multi-billion dollar company. But nothing happened. “We kicked it around,” Terkowitz recalled, but the then-fat Post Co. had other irons in other fires. 
 

Realization of the Dream

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

For the last 15 years, I have been a Sociology Professor in private and public institutions of higher education in the Metropolitan area of Washington, DC. Every year, every semester, I was able to observe the constantly changing faces of my students. At one point I asked my class: “so who is the minority in this classroom?” and, in return, I heard a choir of young voices: “You, Dr. Sibilski!”  During all those years, I taught students from all the inhabited continents of all religions and orientations. Although I am still patiently waiting for a student of Eskimo heritage, I think it is only a matter of time. Most students take introductory sociology classes to fulfill their academic requirements so I am very fortunate to be exposed to the entire palette of the student body. As I teach on a daily basis about social justice and equality, I am seeing that our daily work is starting to mold a student who is well acquainted with the religious and cultural differences of his/her classmates, and race or ethnicity is not an issue anymore, especially when group projects are assigned.  I am starting to believe that terms like “minority” or “cultural differences” very soon will be obsolete and will not remain in vogue. Martin Luther King Jr. in his famous “I have a dream speech” of August 28, 1963, was yearning: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I feel very privileged to witness the realization of King’s dream.
 

Media (R)evolutions: Emerging Markets to Lead Sales of Technology Devices in 2015

Roxanne Bauer's picture
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.

2015 forecasts for sales of technology devices indicate global stability as the market remains at around one trillion USD, where it has hovered for the last three years. However, the forecasts also predict shifts at the country level as the top ten largest growth markets will increase by over $10 billion. Emerging markets, in which both volume and pricing contribute to positive sales, will dominate this growth. 

India will experience the highest growth rate, primarily driven by smartphones sales, followed by China. China's technology device market represents an interesting case study because it is predicted to grow by just $1.8 billion in 2015-- a mere 1% increase over the estimated 2014 total-- but that is still large enough for second place. 
 
Emerging Markets to Lead Tech Sector Growth in 2015
Infographic: Emerging Markets to Lead Tech Sector Growth in 2015 | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

DFID is Changing its Approach to Better Address the Underlying Causes of Poverty and Conflict – Can it Work? Guest Post from two DFID Reformers

Duncan Green's picture

Aid donors are often maligned for bureaucratic procedures, a focus on short-term results at the expense of longer-term, riskier institutional change, and a technical, managerial approach to aid with insufficient focus on context, power and politics. Are these institutional barriers insurmountable? Can aid agencies create an enabling environment to think and work politically? 

Tom WingfieldTom Wingfield (top) and Pete Vowles (bottom) from DFID’s new ‘Better Delivery Taskforce’ have been trying to do just that. Here’s where they’ve got to.

For the past year DFID has been focussing on these issues and how we can both guard taxpayer’s money and have transformational impact in the countries where we work. The result has been the introduction of a comprehensive set of reforms targeting our process, capability and culture. Pete VowlesThis is about creating the conditions that allow us to better address the underlying causes of poverty and conflict, and respond effectively to the post-2015 agenda. At the heart of the reform is a revamp of DFID’s operating framework (ie the rules and principles which govern our work). Known as the ‘Smart Rules’, it can be downloaded here.

Like any institutional reform, this is a long term change process.  The next 12 months provide a real opportunity to strengthen our partnerships with a wide range of partners and enhance our collective effectiveness.

The Things We Do: Do Good Things Come to Those Who Wait?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

It’s an iconic test of willpower: sit a child down in front of a marshmallow, tell the child that he/she can either have the marshmallow in front of them now or they can have two— if they wait. Then leave the room and watch what the child does.

Some children will sit patiently for the adult to return so they can have their reward.  Others will try to wait but will ultimately succumb to eating the delicious treat. What is the difference between the two sets of children?

In the early 1960s, Walter Mischel conducted a series of these tests, popularly known as the “Marshmallow Tests”, at the Bing Nursery School of Stanford University to study temptation and self-control. There were other variations of the test, in which children were offered pretzel sticks, mints, or colored poker chips. The tests were also replicated in different settings, including South Bronx, where children experience high amounts of stress and poverty and in a residential treatment program for young people at high risk for aggression/externalization and depression/withdrawal. Joachim de Posada, co-author of the book, Don’t Eat the Marshmallow… Yet!, also tried the test in Colombia. The results were consistent. Some children could wait, others could not.

Our World Isn’t Flat: Role of Power Dynamics in Development Communication

Jing Guo's picture

Power dynamics set the tone at almost every level of human interaction. They influence your decision to speak up in meetings with supervisors, shape an organization’s approach to engaging its clients, and even guide the ways in which a government treats its citizens, responds to dissent, and enforces reforms.
 
We all internalize and externalize power relationships in unique ways; yet, researchers like Geert Hofstede believe that our individual differences are often perceived through shared assumptions about power passed down to us by the histories of our own societies. In his seminal work Culture Consequences, Hofstede introduces the concept of “power distance” to help quantify and measure how the powerful and the powerless interact.

Is the Idea of ‘Areas of Limited Statehood’ Useful or Superfluous?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The October 2014 edition of Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions is a special issue on 'areas of limited statehood’.   As the overview essay states, the themes and arguments of the special issue revolve around external actors, state-building, and service provision in areas of limited statehood. It is an excellent issue of the journal and worth reading. What I am interested in is the idea of ‘areas of limited statehood’ itself.

Now, as we all know, professors spout theories and fine distinctions the way fountains spout water. The global community concerned with the fragility of states has been trafficking for a while in terms like 'fragile states', 'failed states', 'weak and failing states' and combinations thereof. Does the idea of areas of areas of limited statehood serve any additional purpose?

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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
The Guardian
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.

Devel-APP-ment - The Top 5 Lessons from the App Industry

Tanya Gupta's picture

The big 5 multilateral development banks(MDBs) (World Bank Group, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Inter-American Development Bank) collectively provided close to $100 billion in concessional and non-concessional lending in 2012 or FY13. Of late, their size, traditionally an advantage, has become something of a disadvantage. The MDBs are facing intense challenges in at least three major ways. One - criticism from academics, developing nations and others that foreign aid is detrimental for a country’s growth. Two - technology has diluted the monopolistic advantages they had (knowledge, networks, access to funding) and is leading to new models of development.  As echoed by World Bank President Jim Kim, there is a "need for alignment" for development institutions in "a rapidly changing world."  Three - more and more countries are shifting from demanding traditional loans to demanding knowledge and knowledge products, and development institutions are only now starting to respond to this challenge.

Campaign Art: 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Awardee Kailash Satyarthi Reminds Us #dontlookaway

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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

Last week Kailash Satyarthi, a human rights activist from India who has worked at forefront of the global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labor since 1980, won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.  Satyarthi is the founder of Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a grassrots organization that works to save children from trafficking, slavery, and child labor and to rehabilitate them through education. He is credited with saving more than 80,000 children from these practices, and his organization has led the world’s largest civil society campaign - the Global March Against Child Labour.

The following video from Bachpan Bachao Andolan focuses on child trafficking in the form of sexual exploitation and urges viewers and passersby #dontlookaway.
 

#dontlookaway

Quote of the Week: Roberto Mangabeira Unger

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“The essential thing, the ultimate goal of politics and thought, is a bigger life for the individual. A bigger life – that remains the main objective…to increase our divine attributes to have moral life.”

- Roberto Mangabeira Unger, a brazillian philosopher and politician and currently the Roscoe Pound Professor of Law at Harvard University. His political activity helped bring about democracy in Brazil.

The Media Battle for Influence in Latin America

Roxanne Bauer's picture
Latin America seems to be opening up!  The region is home to the fastest growing Internet population in the world and has experienced remarkable growth more broadly across its media industry in recent years.  

At the same time, media companies in some Latin American countries continue to battle governments for greater influence of programming.  New communications laws, cross-media publishing, and mergers among media companies further contribute to the dynamic relationships among media, governments and citizens.

With so much variation among countries regarding both the role that media play in democratic processes as well as how citizens access different platforms, it can be hard to outline major trends.  

We put two questions to Professor Silvio Waisbord of George Washington University:
  1. How has the concentration of media in Latin America changed over time?
  2. Is traditional media in Latin America still important?
His answers may surprise you.


 
Silvio Waisbord on the Evolution of Media in Latin America
 

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Focus on Migration: Rising migration is a myth
SciDevNet
Hardly a week goes by without media coverage of the fears, in developed nations, that immigrants from poorer countries are overwhelming them. A recent story in the British newspaper The Telegraph — describing how open borders, the “ravages of globalisation”, and a welfare economy have given rise to social resentment — is just one example. [1] Such narratives tap into the popular myth that globalisation has led to a one-way, free flow of migrants from poorer countries — making migration a political issue almost everywhere in the industrialised world.

Facebook is more important to news distribution than you think, and journalists are freaked out
Poynter
Facebook’s Liz Heron answered for a litany of perceived sins and slights last week during a conversation with The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal and attendees at the Online News Association conference in Chicago. Journalists are anxious about being left out of the loop about how Facebook works, and they want answers. Does Facebook play favorites in the News Feed Algorithm? Nope, according to Heron, the company’s head of news partnerships. In other words: If you want to be successful on Facebook, don’t get caught up in the nuts and bolts of what it favors or disfavors about posts (and it won’t tell you much about those nuts and bolts anyway, so that works out).

So You’ve Written the Research Report: What Else Do You Need to do to Ensure People Actually Read it?

Duncan Green's picture

Remember the old days when you wrote a report, published it (perhaps with some kind of executive summary), did a couple of seminars and then declared victory and moved on? Social media have changed that game almost beyond recognition: to maximize impact, any new report more closely resembles a set of Russian dolls, with multiple ‘products’ (hate that word) required to hit different audiences and get the message out. I’ve tried to list them, but am bound to have missed some – please fill in the gaps:

  • The report: 100 pages of well researched, clearly argued, and insightful thinking. Which (apart from other researchers) hardly anyone reads
  • The Overview Chapter: 10-15 pages with all the juice from the report
  • The Executive Summary: A two pager for the time-poor
  • The landing page: better be good, or people won’t click through
  • The press release, with killer facts, notes to editors, offers of interviewees, embargo times and all that old media mularkey
  • The blog post: a way of alerting your particular epistemic community to the existence of your masterpiece
  • The tweets, although personally I hate those naff ‘suggested tweets’ you get from comms people
  • The infographic: if you want to get retweets, these work much better than text. ODI currently the most infographic-tastic of development thinktanks
  • The 4 minute youtube piece, preferably not looking as knackered as Matt Andrews often does

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile Attracts ICT Start-ups and Entrepreneurship

Roxanne Bauer's picture

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.

The increasing penetration of mobile services and mobile internet is opening up opportunities for innovation, especially in emerging markets. This can be seen in the health sector, financial services, and many other fields, where ICT start-ups and small and medium enterprise (SMEs) are working with mobile services to create business and jobs. The World Bank reports that "9 out of 10 jobs in developing economies" come from the private sector, and that "The main thrust of that comes from micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, especially in technology sectors—a recent study argues that 3 jobs are created in a community for every new high-tech job." 

The following graph shows the distribution of ICT start-ups and SMEs in relation to the number of mobile subscribers. In developed countries, technology firms and internet providers have been at the forefront of innovation, but in emerging markets mobile operators are increasingly leading the way.
 

 

Enthusiasm, Confusion and a Bit of Clarity: Where are We Going with Social Accountability?

Joe Wales's picture

The debate around social accountability is not short of energy, enthusiasm or ideas. It has gone through many phases over the last 20 years and has become increasingly sophisticated as its evidence base has grown, a trend reflected in discussions at the recent ODI-World Bank conference on “New directions in governance”. Despite this progress is being held back by a lack of clarity on some issues and a narrow focus on the demand side. This blog argues that we need to broaden our thinking beyond a focus on civil society and citizens alone to engage much more strongly and strategically with the state and its divisions, aims and capacity.

One basic issue that raises tensions is whether or not social accountability works – a question that can be endlessly misinterpreted. Often when we talk about social accountability not working what we are actually saying is that external projects to support social accountability have not delivered what we expected them to deliver. Without this caveat, debate on what works can raise hackles amongst activists and SA proponents as it is taken as an attack on the idea of social accountability itself. In fact there is broad agreement that social accountability is a good thing in principle and can produce results. However the need to assert this point of principle is should not hold back attempts to identify where evidence is still needed – particularly on whether external agents can contribute to SA, how they can do so and under what circumstances.

The Things We Do: We Don't Trade Rationally

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Imagine you are shopping for dinner.  You go to the local grocer and notice that rice costs $4 per package and noodles cost $2 per package.  You think to yourself, “hmmmm for one package of rice, I can buy 2 packages of noodles… but I can make more meals with a bag of rice than 2 packages of noodles. I’ll buy the rice.” 

This mental equation tells us much more about what a consumer values than knowing that rice is $4 per bag— a variable the shopper cannot control. It tells us they value rice above noodles.  It tells us about the shopper’s opportunity costs.

Opportunity costs represent the next best option relative to the current choice. Every economic decision necessarily involves an alternative that is passed up in order to pursue it.  The idea is central to how economics views costs and relies on the assumption that in a world of scarcity, the use of resources in one way precludes their use in other ways. 

Nevertheless, while the concept is central to economic theory, there are inconsistencies in how people apply it to their every-day decision-making.  

What would happen if you already had a bag of rice? What would be the opportunity cost of selling it? Would you sell it at the market rate or ask for more?

Quote of the Week: Malala Yousafzai

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I want to bring change to my whole country.  On the spot, I could only help one or two children, but if I want to help the whole country then I need to be a politician.”

- Malala Yousafzai, an education activist from Swat, Pakistan.  She is known for her activism in support of universal education and in support of women, especially in the Swat Valley, where the Taliban have, at times, banned girls from attending school.

Blog Post of the Month: The Best Evidence Yet on How Theories of Change are Being Used in Aid and Development Work

Duncan Green's picture
Each month, People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.

In September 2014, the most popular blog post was " The Best Evidence Yet on How Theories of Change are Being Used in Aid and Development Work"

In this post, Duncan Green, provides an overview of Craig Valters’ new paper ‘ Theories of Change in International Development: Communication, Learning or Accountability’  The paper, and Duncan's blog post, help answer the question: will Theories of Change "go the way of the logframe, starting out as a good idea, but being steadily dumbed down into a counterproductive tickbox exercise by the procedural demands of the aid business?"

Read the blog post to learn more!
 

International Right to Know Day

Thomas Browne's picture
The Event
Earlier this week marked the celebration of the 12 th Annual International Right to Know Day

The event was first proposed during a meeting of access to information advocates in Sofia, Bulgaria in September of 2002 and has since grown to an internationally recognized celebration promoting freedom of information (FOI) initiatives worldwide.

Twelve years later more than 60 countries having access to information legislation celebrate the day ( and in some cases, the week) by promoting FOI initiatives and their results. Primarily hosted by civil society organizations (CSO’s), citizen groups, and academic/research institutions, the idea is to help citizens engage with their governments to become active participants in the democratic process.

Global Collaboration

With more governments and partners adopting transparency initiatives, advocates of access to information continue to see the movement expand worldwide. Events like Right to Know Day are critical to the success of global Open Development initiatives in that they promote the strong collaboration between various partners in order to spread awareness on a larger scale. Citizens are engaged through these events, allowing for millions of individuals worldwide to learn what their governments and organizations are doing for them, and learning what they can do to hold their governments accountable. 
 

Governance and the Supernovas of Politics

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Every now and again, somewhere in the world, a politician comes along who is a supernova: a special astronomical event.  Reacting to him or her, citizens feel a tingle in the spine, they become emotionally flooded, and they fill up with galloping hopes and effervescent dreams. In my adult life, I have yielded to the power of supernovas twice. Between the Special One and the followers, and amongst the followers themselves, you have a case of interpenetrating intensities.

Each of these cases is an instance of what Max Weber calls charismatic authority. According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary, charisma is: “a capacity to inspire devotion and enthusiasm.”  And according to the Oxford Companion to Philosophy: “Charismatic authority exists where exceptional abilities cause a person to be followed or obeyed, and the ability is perceived as conferring the right to lead” [page 70]. Add formal power to charismatic authority and you have power and influence of a tremendous variety.

How do these situations arise? Nobody knows for sure. Clearly, it is a potent mix of a gifted person, some inner magnetism, and the specificities of the particular cultural and political context. What is clear is that for the leaders so blessed being a supernova is great for winning elections. It produces enormously enthusiastic, self-sacrificing efforts by millions of followers. It tends to produce big wins and powerful mandates. What fascinates me about the phenomenon though is what happens to governing when the leader is a supernova.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

How mobile phones can save, not waste, energy
World Economic Forum
The mobile industry is experiencing explosive growth worldwide, fuelled by almost 7 billion subscribers and an ever-growing demand for data traffic. However, the energy efficiency of mobile networks remains extremely low. Both base stations and smartphones regularly waste 70% of the energy consumed as heat. The underlying power architecture used in mobile communications still relies on outdated technology developed during the 1930s. The impact of relying on such outdated technology is huge.

U.N. Predicts New Global Population Boom
MIT Technology Review
A new analysis suggests that the world’s population will keep rising through 2100, and not flatten around 2050 as has been widely assumed. Such an increase would have huge implications, but the prediction’s reliability is debatable, given that it does not take into account future hardships a large population would likely face.  According to the new analysis by researchers at the United Nations and several academic institutions, there is an 80 percent chance that the world’s population, now 7.2 billion, won’t stop at nine billion in 2050, but will instead be between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100.

How Change Happens: Great New Case Studies + Analysis on ‘Politically Smart, Locally Led Development’

Duncan Green's picture

The research star of the show at last week’s Thinking and Working Politically event was a great new ODI paper from David Booth and Sue Unsworth. Bioversity International/Ronnie Vernooy

Politically smart, locally led development seeks to identify the secret sauce behind 7 large and successful aid programmes: a rural livelihoods programme in India; land titling and tax reform in the Philippines; disarmament, demobilization and reintegration in the Eastern Congo; the EU’s global plan of action to reduce illegal logging; civil society advocacy on rice, education and HIV in Burma and inclusive governance in Nepal.

The paper identifies a number of common elements:

Campaign Art: Food For All

Roxanne Bauer's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
 
Imagine a world in which we had to eat with long spoons and chopsticks or could not bend our arms to bring food to our mouths... What would we do? How would we eat?  The parable of the long spoons teaches us a valuable lesson: focusing solely on ourselves leads to struggle and hardship, but focusing on others gives us the freedom to find new solutions. 

The following video from Caritas International's One Human Family, Food For All campaign uses this parable to encourage viewers to consider their own food choices and proactively reduce the hunger of their neighbors. FAO estimates that about 805 million people were/are chronically undernourished in 2012–14, the vast majority of which live in developing countries, where 13.5% of the population is undernourished.  However, by working together, investments in agriculture can be made, food wastage can be reduced, and hungry people can be fed.  
 
One Human Family, Food For All