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November 2016

Blog post of the month: In the custody of angst

Sina Odugbemi's picture
Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For November 2016, the featured blog post is "In the Custody of Angst" by Sina Odugbemi. 
 


It has been building up for months… as events and data points have mounted. Now, in the global circles that I move in both physically and intellectually what people are experiencing can be summed up in one phrase and one phrase only: utter bewilderment. People are asking: What is happening to the world? Universities, schools, workplaces are organizing counselling and venting sessions. Families, particularly extended families, are being sundered by divisions over preferences in public affairs. The feeling persists that global affairs might have taken a dark turn, perhaps irretrievably. People look at the future with dread. They look at the global calendar of significant mass decisions and ask plaintively: Where is the next shock going to come from? Others, in utter despair, have given up all hope. They forecast a series of dominoes falling…and crashing.

In other words, we now have multitudes in the overmastering claws of angst. Existentialist philosophers describe angst as an unavoidable and ever present disquiet or dread or anxiety about life, the individual life. For, each human being on earth knows that tragedy is potentially just around every corner. There is so much about our lives that we cannot control and we know only too well that life can suddenly go awry. However, in this essay I use angst in a connected but slightly broader sense, as in the top definition of the word that Google offers: “a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.”

The question is: why are so many people angst-ridden? I would argue that we have to look beyond particular events since the condition has been created by a series of political developments and decisions around the world.

A good place to start is the stubborn belief in human progress. Now, in the history of ideas the doctrine of progress has had a rough journey. (For a good survey please see this). Many Enlightenment philosophers believed that with the rise of Science and the spread of Reason not only would human life would improve materially, human beings and human life would get better, saner, ever more civilized. It took the World Wars and the pogroms of the 20th century to discredit the idea. But then came 1989 and the seeming triumph of liberal constitutional democracy. The idea of progress escaped the tombs. Only the environmentalists kept warning us that humanity was hurtling towards catastrophe because of the unstainable impact of humans on the environment. Then came the Paris Accords and that pessimism was tempered somewhat.

But I have always felt that the true plinth of the idea of progress is an unvarying one: our deeply ingrained optimism. Which is why movie makers (Bollywood, Nollywood or Hollywood) concoct happy endings even when the logic of the story makes the denouement silly.

Media (R)evolutions: The world of messaging apps

Darejani Markozashvili'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 number of people using messaging apps continues to rise. In fact, traditional global telecoms are scrambling to compete and maintain relevance. In some parts of the world messaging apps have become the most used apps overall.

According to data (using Android App Data: April 2016) from Similar Web out of 187 countries examined, WhatsApp was the most popular messaging app, becoming the global leader by claiming the top spot in 109 countries. Findings from Global Web Index (GWI) suggest that 3 in 4 WhatsApp users use the service daily, helping this messaging app claim the title for the highest usage frequency of all the messaging apps tracked by GWI. Although Facebook Messenger came in second place, claiming 49 countries, it remains to be one of the most powerful platforms for companies to reach their customers. Third in line was Viber, with 10 countries. LINE messaging app took fourth place.
 

Source: SimilarWeb
 

Data responsibility: a new social good for the information age

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

As climate change intensifies, catastrophic, record-setting natural disasters look increasingly like the “new normal” – from Hurricane Matthew killing at least 1,300 people in September to Typhoon Lionrock, the previous month, causing flooding that left 138 dead and more than 100,000 homeless in North Korea.

What steps can we take to limit the destruction caused by natural disasters? One possible answer is using data to improve relief operations.

Let’s look at the aftermath of the April 2015 Gorkha earthquake, the worst to hit Nepal in over 80 years. Nearly 9,000 people were killed, some 22,000 injured, hundreds of thousands were rendered homeless and entire villages were flattened.

Yet for all the destruction, the toll could have been far worse.

Without in any way minimising the horrible disaster that hit Nepal that day, I want to make the case that data — and, in particular, a new type of social responsibility — helped Nepal avoid a worse calamity. It may offer lessons for other disasters around the world.

In the wake of the Nepal disaster, a wide variety of actors – from government, civil society and the private sector alike – rushed in to address the humanitarian crisis. One notable player was Ncell, Nepal’s largest mobile network operator. Shortly after the earthquake, Ncell decided to share its mobile data (in an aggregated, de-identified way) with the the non-profit Swedish organisation, Flowminder.
 

Why aren’t ‘Diaries of the Poor’ a standard research tool?

Duncan Green's picture

I’ve been having lots of buzzy conversations about diaries recently. Not my own (haven’t done that since I was a teenager), but diaries as a research method. The initial idea came from one of my all-time favourite bits of bottom-up research, the book Portfolios of the Poor. Here are the relevant paras from my review:

‘A financial fly-on-the-wall account of how poor people manage money. To find out, the researchers set up ‘financial diaries’ with 250 households in selected communities in 3 countries (Bangladesh, India and South Africa). For a year, researchers visited every fortnight and picked over people’s financial affairs. The book then assimilates the findings, and intersperses them with unmistakably real-life examples from among the 250 households (‘Pumza is a sheep intestine seller living in the crowded urban hostels of Cape Town……’)


The first and perhaps most striking finding is the sheer complexity, scale and variety of poor people’s financial activity. People living in poverty need financial skills more than the better off. Just to get by from day to day, they borrow, save, and exchange cash with a huge variety of friends, family, neighbours and institutions, both formal and informal. These last include savings clubs, savings-and-loan clubs, insurance clubs, microfinance institutions, and banks. ‘At any one time, the average poor household has a fistful of financial relationships on the go.’ Every one of the 250 households had both savings and debt of some sort, and no household used fewer than four types of financial instrument over the course of the year. Rural households have turnovers (i.e. total cash flows in or out) between 10 and 30 times greater than their asset value at the end of the year.’

Quote of the week: Zadie Smith

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I'm always aware that I'm not writing for the 19th-century reader, I'm writing for a cyborg. A person who has the internet, this enormous database they carry around with them. If you're sitting around describing the sixth arrondissement of Paris, that's crazy, they can look it up in a second."

- 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

Photo credit: By David Shankbone (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Follow PublicSphereWB on Twitter!


 

Campaign Art: Take a good look in the mirror

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

Road traffic injuries are becoming a major cause of death throughout the world, claiming a total of 1.2 million lives each year. According to the data from the “Global Status Report on Road Safety” of World Health Organization (WHO), road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among young people aged between 15 and 29 years.  

Alcohol intake increases the risk of traffic injuries and puts millions of lives in danger. Unless progress is accelerated, road injuries, especially involving drunk driving, will remain a major public health challenge. However, many of these deaths are largely preventable.

We Save Lives is a non-profit organization, dedicated to campaigning against drunk driving. In order to raise awareness about their cause, they launched a powerful anti-drunk driving initiative "Reflections From Inside"
 
We Save Lives

Source of the video: We Save Lives

The Olympic Spirit is still alive: Poland’s Olympian and Paralympian auction off their Rio-2016 medals to fund children's cancer treatment

Leszek J. Sibilski's picture

 “The things you learn from sports – setting goals, being part of a team, confidence – that’s invaluable. It’s not about trophies and ribbons. It’s about being on time for practice, accepting challenges and being fearful of the elements.” — Summer Sanders
  
As the Olympic flame, once stolen from Zeus by Prometheus, was extinguished, the world bid farewell to the 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The downpour that drenched the Maracana Stadium during the Olympic Closing Ceremony didn’t interrupt the carnival with the Brazilian Balao music. Near the end, to the sound of samba beats, the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach declared: “These were marvelous Olympic Games, in the Marvelous City.” A few weeks later at the Paralympic Closing Ceremony, Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee proclaimed: “Marvelous Cariocas, you warmly embraced these Games and took the athletes to your hearts. You made the Paralympics your Games, the People’s Games, and we will forever cherish our time spent with you.” 
 
The next day as guests started to travel back home, the Cariocas were on the verge of facing the reality of post-Olympic nostalgic trauma. To be sure, some of the athletes were already in the middle of the post-Olympic media frenzy; some were sharing the shiny hardware with their communities and their loved ones; some joined the professional tours to continue their season; and some simply went to bed to catch up on some well-deserved sleep. Many of them promised themselves no more -- this is the end of the Olympic journey, and some obliged themselves to work harder to be ready for Tokyo 2020. Some hit the books to experience a back to school reality, and some decided to start families.

Why systems thinking changes everything for activists and reformers

Duncan Green's picture

This week, the Guardian ran a very nicely edited ‘long read’ extract from How Change Happens covering some of the book’s central arguments, under the title Radical Thinking Reveals the Secrets of Making Change Happen. Here it is:

Political and economic earthquakes are often sudden and unforeseeable, despite the false pundits who pop up later to claim they predicted them all along – take the fall of the Berlin Wall, the 2008 global financial crisis, or the Arab Spring (and ensuing winter). Even at a personal level, change is largely unpredictable: how many of us can say our lives have gone according to the plans we had as 16-year-olds?

The essential mystery of the future poses a huge challenge to activists. If change is only explicable in the rear-view mirror, how can we accurately envision the future changes we seek, let alone achieve them? How can we be sure our proposals will make things better, and not fall victim to unintended consequences? People employ many concepts to grapple with such questions. I find “systems” and “complexity” two of the most helpful.

A “system” is an interconnected set of elements coherently organised in a way that achieves something. It is more than the sum of its parts: a body is more than an aggregate of individual cells; a university is not merely an agglomeration of individual students, professors, and buildings; an ecosystem is not just a set of individual plants and animals.

A defining property of human systems is complexity: because of the sheer number of relationships and feedback loops among their many elements, they cannot be reduced to simple chains of cause and effect. Think of a crowd on a city street, or a flock of starlings wheeling in the sky at dusk. Even with supercomputers, it is impossible to predict the movement of any given person or starling, but there is order; amazingly few collisions occur even on the most crowded streets.

In complex systems, change results from the interplay of many diverse and apparently unrelated factors. Those of us engaged in seeking change need to identify which elements are important and understand how they interact.

My interest in systems thinking began when collecting stories for my book From Poverty to Power. The light-bulb moment came on a visit to India’s Bundelkhand region, where the poor fishing communities of Tikamgarh had won rights to more than 150 large ponds. In that struggle numerous factors interacted to create change. First, a technological shift triggered changes in behaviour: the introduction of new varieties of fish, which made the ponds more profitable, induced landlords to seize ponds that had been communal. Conflict then built pressure for government action: a group of 12 brave young fishers in one village fought back, prompting a series of violent clashes that radicalized and inspired other communities; women’s groups were organized for the first time, taking control of nine ponds. Enlightened politicians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) helped pass new laws and the police amazed everyone by enforcing them.

The fishing communities were the real heroes of the story. They tenaciously faced down a violent campaign of intimidation, moved from direct action to advocacy, and ended up winning not only access to the ponds but a series of legal and policy changes that benefited all fishing families.

The neat narrative sequence of cause and effect I’ve just written, of course, is only possible in hindsight. In the thick of the action, no-one could have said why the various actors acted as they did, or what transformed the relative power of each. Tikamgarh’s experience highlights how unpredictable is the interaction between structures (such as state institutions), agency (by communities and individuals), and the broader context (characterized by shifts in technology, environment, demography, or norms).

Unfortunately, the way we commonly think about change projects onto the future the neat narratives we draw from the past. Many of the mental models we use are linear plans – “if A, then B” – with profound consequences in terms of failure, frustration, and missed opportunities. As Mike Tyson memorably said, “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth”.

E Pluribus Unum (out of many one)

Patrick Field's picture

Consider editing a major planning document with 5 federal agencies, 3 agencies each in 6 states, 15 non-profit organizations, three to four layers each. That equals ninety commenters and thousands of comments over multiple drafts. That’s any author’s nightmare! Comments come in late. Multiple commenters from a single agency contradict one another. A new high-level commenter suddenly demands a host of changes without any context, history, or understanding of why you are where you are. This is the reality for many planners, coordinators, and technical writers in multi-stakeholder processes. How in the world do you manage wide-ranging opinions on topics from common usage to fundamental substance, from multiple commenters, and get a product out and done?

Given our experience engaging with talented (and overworked and sometimes frustrated) convenors and coordinators working on issues from oceans planning to government transparency, we at CBI wanted to offer some good practices for such a challenging task. How do you ensure transparency and create legitimacy? How do you provide reasonable procedures for coordination and bring the process to a decisive end? How can you be thorough and collaborative without collapsing under complexity and confusion? In short, what to do?

Establish norms and expectations A coordinator*’s job, first and foremost, is to help establish norms and expectations for the process. The basic expectations and norms should include roles and responsibilities, the process or procedures for how comments are collected and considered, schedules and milestones, and how decisions will be made. It’s best if the group builds norms and expectations together rather than if they are imposed from above or the side. Then, when the coordinator has to “bring the hammer down,” she can remind the offending party of the process the group jointly established. Lastly, whatever the norms, expectations, and process established, the participants will likely need reminders all along the way, and sometimes not just via email, but in direct conversation, be that face-to-face or over the phone. Yes, picking up the phone can help!

Ensure transparency There’s nothing worse than your comments being ignored or the final product seemingly almost unrelated to earlier drafts. The coordinator’s job is to ensure transparency in multiple ways. First, the process should be transparent: this is how and when decisions will be made, and by whom. Second, comments need to be transparent to all who are participating. This involves providing mechanisms so that every commenter can see the comments of others and not wonder who said what. Third, the disposition of those comments needs to be transparent.

In a fast-moving, complex environment, it may be too much to ask for a detailed responsive summary often provided by federal agencies in federal rulemaking. But, a coordinator can deploy any number of techniques. A coordinator can provide a concise summary of key comments or comment themes and how she addressed them. A coordinator can provide a section-by-section redline document (which may or may not include all the comments, depending on how many and how messy it makes the document). A coordinator can take key issues and build a comment matrix of original text, comments, changes, and reasons why comments were not accepted.

Lastly, a coordinator may need to reconcile the comments through group process and meetings so she can rely on the participants themselves to reconcile differences and not hope she gets it “right enough.” Technologies like Google Docs, WebEx, Zoom, and others allow you to share your screen and even share the document for joint, simultaneous editing.

Centralize tracking The mechanics of keeping track of multiple commenters, comments, and versions of the document can be daunting. But here, logistical and technical expertise can be very helpful. The coordinator needs to establish a tool or tools to track the changing nature of the document. First, providing a procedure for version control and a nomenclature is essential. Second, utilizing Google Docs, DropBox, or other on-line tools can keep versions, comments, and responses all in one place and accessible to those who need them. Third, ensuring there is one or only a few coordinators, who can be the contact person as well as keep the whole in her head as she is buffeted by contradictory comments, needs, and expectations from all directions, is very important.

Provide comment guidance To help guide the process, a coordinator should provide clarity on what to comment on. It’s one thing to say, here’s the document and comment away. It’s another thing to say: 1) please focus on the introduction, key findings, and draft recommendations; 2) don’t focus on style or visuals at this time; and, 3) leave copy editing for later drafts. Of course, some participants will not be able to help themselves. They’ll fix commas, semi-colons, and provide lots of visual ideas. But most will appreciate the direction. They are busy people too with too many things to do.

In the custody of angst

Sina Odugbemi's picture

It has been building up for months… as events and data points have mounted. Now, in the global circles that I move in both physically and intellectually what people are experiencing can be summed up in one phrase and one phrase only: utter bewilderment. People are asking: What is happening to the world? Universities, schools, workplaces are organizing counselling and venting sessions. Families, particularly extended families, are being sundered by divisions over preferences in public affairs. The feeling persists that global affairs might have taken a dark turn, perhaps irretrievably. People look at the future with dread. They look at the global calendar of significant mass decisions and ask plaintively: Where is the next shock going to come from? Others, in utter despair, have given up all hope. They forecast a series of dominoes falling…and crashing.

In other words, we now have multitudes in the overmastering claws of angst. Existentialist philosophers describe angst as an unavoidable and ever present disquiet or dread or anxiety about life, the individual life. For, each human being on earth knows that tragedy is potentially just around every corner. There is so much about our lives that we cannot control and we know only too well that life can suddenly go awry. However, in this essay I use angst in a connected but slightly broader sense, as in the top definition of the word that Google offers: “a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general.”

The question is: why are so many people angst-ridden? I would argue that we have to look beyond particular events since the condition has been created by a series of political developments and decisions around the world.

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.

A Lesson from Latin America: Media Reform Needs People Power
CIMA

Policy reform in favor of more plural and independent media is possible when global networks collaborate with national activists. This is the important lesson gleaned from a series of examples in Latin America that are the subject of a new book that I co-authored with Maria Soledad Segura titled Media Movements: Civil Society and Policy Reform in Latin America (Zed/U of Chicago Press). Washington, DC, is home to many global actors committed to supporting freedom of information, fighting oppressive libel laws and promoting plural media ownership—among other key elements to a vibrant and free media. The key lesson for them is that they are unlikely to succeed alone. In fact, we did not find any examples of rapid and sustainable changes single-handedly driven by global programs. Instead, we found success stories where global actors worked patiently and diligently with local activities, building awareness and strong coalitions on the ground that could act when opportune conditions or political junctures arose.

Why Cities Are the Future for Farming
National Geographic

The landscape of our food future appears bleak, if not apocalyptic. Humanity’s impact on the environment has become undeniable and will continue to manifest itself in ways already familiar to us, except on a grander scale. In a warmer world, heavier floods, more intense droughts, and unpredictable, violent, and increasingly frequent storms could become a new normal. Little wonder that the theme for this year's World Food Day, which happens on Sunday, is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” The need for an agricultural sea change was also tackled at the recent South by South Lawn, President Obama’s festival of art, ideas, and action (inspired by the innovative drive of Austin’s SXSW), where I was honored to present.
 

Media (R)evolutions: World Day of Television

Darejani Markozashvili'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.

“I believe television is going to be the test of the modern world, and that in this new opportunity to see beyond the range of our vision, we shall discover a new and unbearable disturbance of the modern peace, or a saving radiance in the sky. We shall stand or fall by television - of that I am quite sure.” E.B. White

Television has an enormous influence on people, bringing the news and entertainment to communities all over the world. In order to recognize the impact of television, in 1996, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 November as World Television Day. On Monday, 21 November 2016, the United Nations TV will host an open day at its studios for talks and interactive dialogues on its programming in observance of this day.

In an increasingly changing global media environment, with modern Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) such as computers, Internet, mobile phones, tablets, wearables, on the rise, television continues to be a resilient communication tool. However, the television industry needs to adapt to the changing landscape in order to remain relevant. One of the most dramatic changes in this industry is the growth in the number of connected TV sets worldwide. Internet connected TVs provide interactive features, such as online browsing, video-on-demand, video streaming and social networking. With the mixture of new and old viewing habits, connected TVs are drawing larger audiences. 

According to Digital TV Research, the number of connected TVs worldwide will reach the new high of 759 million by 2018, which is more than double of 2013 numbers (307.4 million).
 

Beyond rationalisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

In August this year, the Government of India approved the recommendations made by the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Rationalisation of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS). The rationalisation plan would first prune the existing 66 CSSs to 28, and then further divide them into three categories – six ‘core of the core’ schemes, 20 core schemes, and two optional schemes. The ‘core of the core’ schemes include the pension schemes, MNREGA, and four umbrella schemes targeting “vulnerable sections” of the population. Further, the flexi-funds component of the CSSs would be increased to 25% for the state governments to programme. Another set of recommendations were made around the modalities of release of funds. For instance, the release of a tranche of funds would no longer be dependent on producing an Utilisation Certificate of the previous instalment; and instead, it would be based on the submission of the instalment preceding the last one.

This is another step in the process of improving the governance of CSS in India, with the specific rationalisation exercise being prompted by the ongoing fiscal reorganisation between the centre and state governments. Starting last year, transfers from the centre to state governments went up by approximately INR 1.8 lakh crores. This was a result of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations which increased the devolution of the centre’s tax receipts to state governments from the prevailing 32% up to 42%. This reduced the ability of the central government to continue funding CSSs at their previous levels, and at the same time, provided state governments a greater measure of flexibility in financing its own priority development schemes.

Now Accepting Applications!! The 2017 World Bank - Annenberg Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

Instituting reforms is challenging. The changing environment of politics, the conflicting interests of multiple stakeholders, and contrary public opinions can all become obstacles to the success of a reform agenda.
 
So how can leaders and change agents create successful and sustainable reforms?

What is the role of strategic communication in planning, implementing and evaluating a reform? Join us for the 2017 World Bank - Annenberg Summer Institute in Reform Communication: Leadership, Strategy and Stakeholder Alignment to find answers to these important questions.
 
The seventh annual Summer Institute will be held at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, June 5 - June 16, 2017. During the 10-day program, participants will learn the most recent advances in communication and proven techniques in reform implementation. Participants will develop the skills required to bring about real change, leading to development results. Leaders will also connect with a global network of development professionals working on initiatives in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

Quote of the week: Leonard Cohen

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"Songs have a very specific purpose. They must be measured by their utility. Any jaunty little tune that can get you from one point to another as you drive, or get you through the dishes, or that can illuminate or dignify your courting, I always appreciate. And to console yourself when you're lonely, and to rejoice with another when you're happy. That's all we really do in human life.

Music is like bread. It is one of the fundamental nourishments that we have available, and there are many different varieties and degrees and grades. A song that is useful, that touches somebody, must be measured by that utility alone. 'Cheap music' is an uncharitable description. If it touches you, it's not cheap. From a certain point of view, all our emotions are cheap, but those are the only ones we've got. It's loneliness and longing and desire and celebration."

- Leonard Cohen, a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. His work explored religion, politics, isolation, and personal relationships. He is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest lyricists of all time. Cohen was inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2011, Cohen received one of the Prince of Asturias Awards for literature and the ninth Glenn Gould Prize. He died November 7, 2016, aged 82, at his home in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

The practice and craft of multistakeholder governance

Stefaan Verhulst's picture

In a new paper by Stefaan G. Verhulst at Global Partners Digital, Verhulst argues: “In recent years, multistakeholderism has become something of a catchphrase in discussions of Internet governance. This follows decades of attempts to identify a system of governance that would be sufficiently flexible, yet at the same time effective enough to manage the decentralized, non-hierarchical global network that is today used by more than 3 billion people. In the early years of the Internet, the prevailing view was that government should stay out of governance; market forces and self-regulation, it was believed, would suffice to create order and enforce standards of behavior. This view was memorably captured by John Perry Barlow’s 1996 “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which dramatically announced: “Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather”.

However, the shortcomings of this view have become apparent as the Internet has grown in scale and complexity, and as it has increasingly entered the course of everyday life. There is now a growing sense—perhaps even an emerging consensus—that markets and self-policing cannot address some of the important challenges confronting the Internet, including the need to protect privacy, ensure security, and limit fragmentation on a diverse and multi-faceted network. As the number of users has grown, so have calls for the protection of important public and consumer interests.

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.
 
The Economist
STOKE-ON-TRENT in northern England is home to the world’s second-oldest professional football club, Stoke City FC. Founded in 1863, it enjoyed its heyday in the mid-1970s, when the club came close to winning the top division. The playing style was described by its manager, Tony Waddington, as “the working man’s ballet”. These days the flair is often provided by players from far afield. More than half the first-team squad comes from outside Britain, mostly from other parts of Europe. But that is about as far as Europhilia in Stoke goes. In June’s referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, the city voted strongly for Brexit.
 
Stanford Social Innovation Review
Today, examples of rapid, non-linear progress—sometimes called leapfrogging—are evident in a number of sectors. Often, these instances are most obvious in the developing world, where in telecommunications or banking, for example, whole phases of infrastructure and institution-building that other countries had to go through have been by-passed by nations that got a later start down that road. Many African countries never systematically invested in laying phone lines, yet today access to cell phone service on the continent has grown so rapidly that in many cases communities are more likely to be connected to the outside world via cell phone service than to have access to electricity or running water. Likewise for banking: Instead of focusing on expanding physical branches to reach the many communities and families who lack access, people across the developing world are relying on mobile money—transfers and payments via text message—which grew out of innovations in Kenya. Could this type of non-linear progress happen in education?
 

Should we focus more on women’s political empowerment when democracy goes off the rails? Tom Carothers thinks so.

Duncan Green's picture

My inbox has been buzzing with praise for a new paper on this issue by the Carnegie Endowment’s democracy guru, Thomas Carothers. Since he’s one of my favourite guest posters (no editing ever required), I asked him to summarize its findings.

Last year the gender, women, and democracy team at the National Democratic Institute approached me with a question. NDI, like many groups engaged in supporting democracy internationally, was responding to the increasingly fraught landscape of global democracy by attempting to think more strategically and move fully away from any lingering tendency to pursue a standard democracy “menu” across extremely diverse political contexts. NDI’s gender team wanted to insert women’s political empowerment programming into the new strategic discussion. Would I help them think it through? The team deflected my protests that I lack  expertise on women’s empowerment, telling me they would help me get up to speed.  They also politely pointed out that as someone who presents himself as a general expert on democratic change, perhaps it was time for me to correct my lack of knowledge about the gender domain. I signed on.

After some months of delving into the literature on women’s political empowerment and interviewing numerous aid practitioners and women’s activists working on the front lines, some interesting findings came into focus.  I present them in my new paper, “Democracy Support Strategies: Leading with Women’s Political Empowerment.”

At first glance, programs seeking to foster greater women’s political empowerment did seem to follow a standard menu –everywhere I looked I saw training for women candidates in local and national elections, efforts to strengthen the role of women within political parties, advocacy in favor of gender quotas in legislatures, and support for women’s parliamentary caucuses. Yet when I probed how such programming unfolds across different transitional contexts, important variations emerged. 

Quote of the week: Svetlana Alexievich

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Svetlana Alexievich“People always speak beautifully when they are in love or close to death.”

Svetlana Alexievich, an investigative journalist and non-fiction prose writer who was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time." She is the first writer from Belarus to receive the award.
 

How to achieve social transformation through innovation with Marcelo Cabrol

Enrique Rubio's picture

Marcelo Cabrol is close to turn 50, and has more curiosity than ever for ideas that can transform the world. I interviewed Marcelo about how to achieve transformation in order to solve the many compelling social issues that our world faces. He says that there are two fundamental elements: understanding the problems we are trying to solve and listening.

Marcelo tells the story about how the conversation about development has dramatically shifted over the past ten years. There are more participants involved in dialogue around poverty now, and that’s a huge opportunity to enrich the conversation. It is also why “everyone interested in development must become a student of the problems”, as Marcelo says, which means understanding the underlying causes of those problems. There’s no substitute for this when entrepreneurs are getting ready to sell their ideas for development.

Then, the ability to listen, together with an open mind, is essential to find a solution for the many ideas that are sprouting everywhere.

Marcelo uses one of his dearest fields, education, to explain how this powerful combination can transform an entire sector and adapt it to the new demands and needs of the 21st century.

Listen here:

How to Achieve Social Transformation Through Innovation with Marcelo Cabrol

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.

Even in Era of Disillusionment, Many Around the World Say Ordinary Citizens Can Influence Government
Pew Global

Signs of political discontent are increasingly common in many Western nations, with anti-establishment parties and candidates drawing significant attention and support across the European Union and in the United States. Meanwhile, as previous Pew Research Center surveys have shown, in emerging and developing economies there is widespread dissatisfaction with the way the political system is working. As a new nine-country Pew Research Center survey on the strengths and limitations of civic engagement illustrates, there is a common perception that government is run for the benefit of the few, rather than the many in both emerging democracies and more mature democracies that have faced economic challenges in recent years. In eight of nine nations surveyed, more than half say government is run for the benefit of only a few groups in society, not for all people.

Media Development and Countering Violent Extremism: An Uneasy Relationship, a Need for Dialogue
CIMA

This report looks at how media development practitioners are reacting to the rise of the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda, and its growing influence on their field. This influence is the cause of concern, not only because practitioners of CVE and media development have fundamentally different worldviews, but because the CVE agenda is seen to pose serious risks for southern media houses and the organizations that support them. Still, these risks are unlikely to be addressed without coordinated efforts from both sides. However uneasy the relationship, a dialogue between CVE and media development is needed.

Think you know who the manager's favorite is? You may be right: Technology Aided Gut Checks

Tanya Gupta's picture

Welcome to the sixth blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. So far in this series, we have focused on the tools and techniques of a just-in-time learning strategy. We will now switch gears and show how, with very little effort, we can use TAG checks to make simple yet (occasionally) profound conclusions about data - big and small.

As we delve into the details of TAG checks in the next several blogs, we will be using web programming tools and techniques to gather, process and analyze data. While we will try to be as comprehensive as possible in our explanations, it may not be always as detailed as we would like it to be. This forum, after all, is a blog and not a training tutorial. We hope by applying the just-in-time learning strategy that we have discussed so far in the series, you will be able to supplement what we miss in our explanations. Our goal for the overall series has been to empower you. We hope the first part of the series has made you an empowered self-learner.

The second part of the series will make you an empowered and savvy data consumer, a development professional who can confidently rely on the story the data tells to accomplish her tasks.

For the readers who are just joining in, we suggest that you become somewhat familiar with the just-in-time learning strategy by skimming the series so far.

Media (R)evolutions: Mobile devices are disrupting television advertising, putting a premium on live programming

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.

It’s old hat at this point to say that mobile devices are disrupting traditional media….but let’s take another look anyway. According to the Global entertainment and media outlook 2016–2020 from PricewaterhouseCooper, the rising penetration of smartphones and tablets has rapidly led to second-screen viewing in many markets. In other words, consumers are now using multiple devices at once— perhaps watching television and playing games on a tablet during commercials. This behavior has hurt television advertising and put a premium on live programming.

The biggest audiences not using a second device– and therefore the biggest advertising spend – are attracted by entertainment shows with live interaction such as voting and live sporting events. Competition for advertising in these slots has been driven to new heights, as seen in the pricing of competitions like the National Football League in the United States, the English Premier League, and international events like the World Cup and the Olympics.

Blog post of the month: A sidekick for development

Maya Brahmam's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion.
For October 2016, the featured blog post is "A Sidekick for Development" by Maya Brahmam.

October 17 was End Poverty Day – and we at the World Bank in Washington had a small celebration and a lively discussion around the new Poverty report: Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. Topics ranged from 2 billion people living in countries affected by conflict to the work on social inclusion – which included a two-part definition of social inclusion: “The process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society” and “The process of improving the ability, opportunity, and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.”