Saturday Morning Reading #9

Here’s your Saturday morning reading…

1) Have hammer, looking for nails
Owen Barder criticises DFID’s new economic development programme for ignoring trade reform, illicit financial flows, climate change, migration and more.
“I applaud the decision to use a wider range of financial instruments. But it is disappointing that the aid budget is the only instrument we can think of to promote economic growth in the developing world.”

2) Can empowered cities save fragile states?
Seth Kaplan argues that political leaders in cities face different incentives than national governments, citing improved governance in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Citizens in densely populated cities find it easier to organize themselves. And in an ethnically and religiously diverse metropolis like Lagos, politicians could not afford to pit ethnic and religious groups against one another.”

3) The Boring Development Manifesto
Some interesting ideas here…
I. Development Does Not Photograph Well; II. “Making the Lives of the Poor Better” is not the same thing as ”Fighting Poverty”; III. Sustainable, but not sustained; IV. Development Bloat is the Imperialism of the 21st Century; and V. Why Income?.

4) Demanding More Proof of What Works in Aid by Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy argues that we’re reaching a tipping point in the role of evidence in aid as advocated by organisations like GiveDirectly, Giving What We Can and Aidgrade.
“Accountability, rightly, is in greater demand. Even if it is hard to precisely prove impact, organizations must be more transparent with what they are doing and accomplishing. An impact-minded approach disrupts long-held ideas about aid.”

5) Is it wrong to shop from places that use child labour?
Lee Crawfurd wants evidence that goes beyond aid to tell him whether he should buy a jumper from H&M, asking whether a boycott would actually make a positive difference to the well-being of child labourers.
“I’m left wishing that there existed some rigorous impartial GiveWell-style analysis for consumption decisions so I could outsource some more everyday moral dilemmas and not have to do the thinking myself.”

6) What makes a perfect short field trip (and a top village power analysis)?
Duncan Green takes a trip to Tajikistan and discusses how to figure out what’s going on by analysing official structures, creating a village power map and having ‘soft eyes’ (noticing stuff in your peripheral vision). An interesting case study.
“Every day throws up a dozen mysteries, and ideas for things to try if you’re working on governance, accountability, water or anything else: test them through conversation and see which fly/get shot down.”

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