Here’s your Saturday morning reading (because you need to read something that isn’t about the election). This week’s edition features the future of (beyond) aid, the data revolution, an attack on advocacy, shock tactics in NGO messaging, how to make it easier to give effectively and some answers to why the number of poor people in Africa seems to be growing despite economic growth.
1. Aid 2030 | Owen Barder – Owen abroad
What is going to happen to development cooperation up to 2030?
Group members may be especially interested in the third implication on what new skills and mind-sets are going to be needed.
“There are three big global trends which will shape the future of international development cooperation:
1. The concentration of poverty in fragile states
2. Inequality in middle income countries
3. Global and transboundary problems
And there are four implications for development policy:
1. Aid still has an important role to play.
2. If we are to meet to SDGs, we need to focus much more on the beyond aid agenda, notably the question of how we bring about effective international action to tackle shared problems.
3. We are going to need new mind-sets, new institutions, new skills, and new approaches.
4. And we are going to have to build a consensus that sees this as a shared enterprise rather than a competition.”
2. Data for Development | Project Syndicate – Jeffrey D. Sachs
Even within a developing country government, it’s currently supper difficult to get any kind of reliable data (trust me, I’ve tried many times!). Therefore, while data availability can be transformative, it has to align with the domestic political economy; It’s important that the ‘data revolution’ is not just another agenda pushed by donors without enthusiasm from governments who would rather not measure how well (or not) they are doing. At the moment, we barely know the progress of many countries against the MDGs let alone have baselines for the 169 targets that could be part of the SDGs. [rant over]
In this article, Jeff Sachs points out four main purposes for data:
1. Data for service delivery
2. Data for public management
3. Data for accountability of governments and businesses.
4. The data revolution should enable the public to know whether or not a global goal or target has actually been achieved.
3. Book Review of ‘Advocacy in Conflict’ – a big attack on politics and impact of global campaigns | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power
From Duncan: “Advocacy in Conflict brilliantly explores the contradictory pressures on transnational advocacy: northern campaigners’ need to simplify, grab headlines and declare victory v the messy reality of achieving long term structural change in the complex social and political environments of countries wracked by conflict.”
From the book: “Our central argument is that the development of these specific forms of activism, in which advocates have shaped strategies to fit the requirements of marketing their cause to Western publics, and adapted them to score tactical successes with Western governments (especially that of the USA) has led to the weakening or even abandonment of key principles, including receptivity to the perspectives of affected people and their diverse narratives and attention to deeper, underlying causes and therefore a focus on strategic change rather than superficial victories.”
Poverty porn is being replaced by profanity. Is this the best way to get the public’s attention or does it oversimplify too much? Could it backfire? What is the logical end point? Will UNICEF end up plastering posters with the C-word all over billboards?
“Disruptive messages won’t be for everyone but in this ever competitive market charities need to take calculated risks in order to get cut through. And it certainly seems to be working.”
5. Proponents of strategic philanthropy should provide practical help for donors | Caroline Fiennes – Stanford Social Innovation Review
We have to make it easier to make good choices about where to give money. This means producing and sharing evidence in order to nudge foundations and wealthy donors to make better decisions. Should the same approach apply to fundraising more widely?
“Our fundamental challenge is this: that social change is hard and calls for slow thinking, but most donors will only think fast. It therefore falls to us to do the work that Thaler describes: get the evidence, and make it easy.”
6. Why is the number of poor people in Africa increasing when Africa’s economies are growing? | Laurence Chandy – Brookings Institution
In summary: 1) Rapid population growth; 2) depth of poverty; 3) inequality already high (absolute increases in income at the bottom are small); 4) a mismatch between where growth is happening and where the poor are; and 5) data quality is poor so we don’t have an accurate and put to date sense of progress.
Time for #41.
1. How can we take on the power of the few? Three lessons from Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement in advancing a society that works for all | Ben Phillips – Global Dashboard
2. Elephants aren’t the only ones who never forget broken promises | Maria May – 59 Minutes
3. Protagonists and power: why the aid organization shouldn’t be at the center of the story | Stephanie Buck – Until the Lions
4. Walling Ourselves Off | Jay-Ulfelder Dart-Throwing Chimp
5. Why Katie Hopkins is so dangerous for development (journalism) | Tobias Denskus – Aidnography
Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring development reformers, change on a biblical scale, sexual harassment in Bangladesh, engaging with Nigel Farage, a cartoon on plunder in South Sudan, empowering people to advocate for themselves and resettling Syrian refugees…
- The mistakes made by most development reformers | Chris Blattman
This, along with the interview with Dani Rodrik it links to, really resonates with me. A question for the ‘thinking and working politically’ and ‘doing development differently’ crowds – how can you get governments to think in terms of adaptation when there are all sorts of incentives and norms against that kind of thinking?
“To me the important question is not “what is the right policy?”, but “what is the process for generating good policies over time?”, and more importantly “how to get governments and aid organizations to adapt to the good and throw out the bad?”.
I don’t know a good answer. To me, this is what makes most development aid and planning not just fruitless but downright dangerous.”
- We need a new Jubilee campaign to achieve equality and sustainability | Alex Evans – The Guardian
Tearfund have released an interesting new report looking at how we can frame ideas of equality and sustainability in a biblical context to build deep movements for change.
“To resolve the problem, a transformation of our economy is needed. And given the formidable barriers to this happening – inertia, vested interests, institutions built for another age, public apathy – a new theory of influence is needed too.
As the report sets out, this is going to mean less time spent on insider lobbying and more on building a movement that lives the values of a restorative economy and mobilises to demand political change – exactly what we saw in the US civil rights struggle, the campaign to abolish slavery, and other movements that have overcome apparently impossible odds.”
Also read about it on Alex’s blog.
- React every which way | Rachel Kurzyp – WhyDev
A discussion of the everyday realities of sexual harassment for a white Australian female living overseas.
“Sexual harassment is only a symptom of a much larger and complex issue of gender inequality as we all know but for those of us who don’t have to experience every day it’s hard to imagine just how unavoidable the issue is and more importantly the right way to react. After six months of the violating stares and leering comments I still don’t know what to do.”
- Nigel Farage is wrong on the aid budget – but it’s an argument that’s worth having | David Hudson – Global Development Professionals Network
“We can’t just dismiss Ukip and more general concerns about the aid budget and DfID as wrong and bigoted. That won’t achieve anything. Instead we need to make the public case for development in a way that makes sense, simple but honest. This – winning the argument and allowing people to engage – is a political and emotional task, not an intellectual or moral one.”
- South Sudan: Who Got What? | Alex de Waal & Victor Ndula
A comic written by Alex de Waal, who many consider to be one of the world’s leading experts on South Sudan, and drawn by Victor Ndula, one of Africa’s leading comic artists as well as editorial cartoonist for the Nairobi Star. In 8 pages it explains how South Sudan was bankrupt and at war within just three years after independence.
- Going from “On Behalf of” to the Whole Story | Ruth Levine – Hewlett Foundation
“There is something crucial missing—it’s the voice of people who should be setting the agenda for their own better futures, and telling their own story to educate and persuade. To me, the active participation of people who are directly affected by bad policies is essential to the most powerful and sustained kind of advocacy, the kind that will demand the right responses. And it’s just not there often enough.”
- UK Election Notes: Foreign Policy Opportunities – Resettling Syrian Refugees | Dr Neil Quilliam – Chatham House
An opportunity for the next UK government with wins all round.
“A change in policy on resettlement and humanitarian admission would not only be a symbolic act of moral leadership, but would also serve the government’s policy of supporting stability in the Middle East and offer long-term benefits for British national life, foreign policy and security.”
Here’s your Saturday morning reading featuring development consultants, learning from the bad guys and from mistakes, distortions in humanitarian assistance and doing things right before you try to do them quickly.
“Funders also often allow organisations to count consultants as a programme cost, while full time staff count as administrative costs. If you hire a staff member with expertise in child protection, you look inefficient and bureaucratic. If you hire a consultant at twice the cost you look dynamic and action orientated.
In the short term, I would love to see a TripAdvisor equivalent for consultants. Something where clients could rate consultants and provide feedback in an open forum. Think of it as ratemyconsultant.com.
In the long run, however, there’s only one thing which will really make a difference. Development organisations need to stop relying on consultants and invest in their own staff.”
2. Advocacy and Lobbying: What Can We Learn from the Bad Guys? | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power
The list: Control the ground, spin the media, engineer a following, buy in credibility, sponsor a think tank, consult your critics, neutralise the opposition, control the web, open the door and offer jobs. NGOs can’t/shouldn’t use all of these tactics but there are some that could be adapted.
3. Glorious failure: the joy of learning from your mistakes | Scott Macmillan – Global Development Professionals Network
“Despite the vogue for failure, it’s not often that nonprofits admit to it. For one thing, people are not clay pots. We need to be careful about blithely celebrating failure when their lives and wellbeing are at stake, especially when it results from programmes that were poorly designed to begin with.”
Scott discusses early failures by BRAC and how the organisation learned from these to grow in scale and success.
4. The way we give disaster aid to poor countries makes no sense | Tim Kovach – Vox
Media coverage and distance play a big role in how much assistance is given to victims of disasters.
“In the weeks after the floods, Pakistan received just $16.36 per person affected. That pales beside the $388.33 per person affected for Pakistan’s earthquake, or $1,249.80 per person affected for the Indian Ocean tsunami.”
“”To have the same chance of receiving relief, a country at the other side of the earth must have 160 times as many fatalities as a country at zero distance.” This type of neighborhood bias has clear ramifications for countries in the developing world. Compared with disasters in Europe, those occurring in Asia-Pacific and Africa garner 36 percent and 21 percent less relief aid, respectively.”
5. Political Patience, part 3 | Matt Andrews – The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development
I find this making a lot of sense in my own context in Zanzibar.
“I often find new political leadership speaking about introducing reforms that will generate something like the Malaysian ‘Big Fast Results.’ This seems to assume that they have small, slow results and the management challenge is one of scale and speed. But what if the management challenge is more severe, and the government is not producing anything at all–or the government produces things that are of poor quality (regulations that are not enforced, roads that do not last, police services that are corrupt, schools that produce poor teacher quality, clinics that fail to dispense proper health care, etc.)?”
“Political patience, on the other hand, supports a management and reform process that builds quality before it forces speed and scale (as in the figure below). This is essentially what PDIA aims to do–gradually address the problems with organizational failure, working at a rational (but fast-as-possible) pace to establish the wherewithal for an organization to function successfully. Political patience helps to support and protect this kind of process. This patience is usually built on clear and prioritized views of ‘what is important’ (where the list is not very long) and is maintained through adherence to a structured process of ‘building’ with constant feedback and learning. It is not clean or easy but it is structured.”