If you only read one thing this week…


Should we talk about our failures more? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 30, 2007, 10:28 pm
Filed under: accountability

With the increased impetus for measuring the impacts of our programming, one challenge that emerges is how we deal with any short-comings or criticisms that may exposed by more rigorous evaluations.  This article, recently published in the New York Times, examines how foundations are increasingly admitting to failure as part of their efforts to promote greater transparency and learning from mistakes.  Referencing a recent Carnegie Foundation report that is about “the anatomy of a grant that failed, one official states, “Given the emphasis in foundations these days on communication, transparency and accountability, it just seems to me that you aren’t going to be credible if all you talk about is your successes.”   There are undoubtedly some lessons we could learn from here for our development work.  



Metrics of progress in failed states by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 30, 2007, 5:36 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

The Wall Street Journal ran an article last week on the issues involved in measuring ‘progress’ in Iraq – while the article is pretty specific, it’s interesting to think about the metrics that are being proposed by Michael O’Hanlon, the Senior Fellow of Foreign Polivy Studies at the Brookings Institute – read the article here.



Another day, another $1.08… by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 28, 2007, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

The Economist is running an article about the catchy measure of poverty, the ‘dollar a day index’ here. They describe an article in the Journal of Economic Perspectives in which Abhijit Banerjee and Ester Duflo from MIT discuss the index both in terms of its rhetorical power, but also the practical usage of an index that converts local expenditure into a common unit of purchasing parity (the dollar a day unit is the equivalent purchasing parity, not the exchange rate value, so that an Indian in 1960 can be said to be living on a dollar a day if they spend 15 rupees a month, the unit is adjusted to reflect different costs of living). The current version of the measure is adjusted to $1.08 at 1993 prices, or $1.53 in 2007.

The article challenges some of the commonly held wisdom about how well the poor understand their own economic interests. In particular, it highlights the very high relative levels of spending on alcohol, cigarettes, and festivals.



Do we need to reduce population to save the planet and meet development goals? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 24, 2007, 5:37 pm
Filed under: Development theory, Environment, If you only have 15 mins

The Guardian is covering an opinion piece by Professor Chris Rapley, currently Director of the British Antarctic Survey, recently appointed the head of the Science Museum in London, where he advocates voluntary population reduction as key to meeting development and environment goals. Read the article here.

I am not advocating genocide,‘ says Rapley. ‘What I am saying is that if we invest in ways to reduce the birthrate – by improving contraception, education and health care – we will stop the world’s population reaching its current estimated limit of between eight and 10 billion.

That in turn will mean less carbon dioxide is being pumped into the atmosphere because there will be fewer people to drive cars and use electricity. The crucial point is that to achieve this goal you would only have to spend a fraction of the money that will be needed to bring about technological fixes, new nuclear power plants or renewable energy plants. However, everyone has decided, quietly, to ignore the issue.

For those who can’t get enough, he also recently wrote an article for the Independent on a similar issue – This planet ain’t big enough for the 6,500,000,000.



Stop trying to ‘save’ Africa by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 16, 2007, 7:54 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Writer Uzodinma Iweala (named one as one of Granta magazine’s 20 best young American novelists, and author of Beasts of No Nation) has written an op-ed in the Washington Post. He argues that Africa does not want to be “saved” and questions whether aid to Africa is really just an exercise in “affirming one’s cultural superiority.” His concern is targeted at the celebrity interest around Africa and the resulting headlines like “Can Bono Save Africa?” Read the article here.



The excesses of green journalism by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 13, 2007, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Environment, If you only have 15 mins

Here is an interesting article published by Slate magazine that talks about the green bias of current journalism these days and how it plays to our worst fears and/or preaches a message. The authors argue that journalism has jumped on a band-wagon and that a lot of the messages haven’t been fully verified for scientific accuracy and/or have a tendency to inflate facts. I liked the suggestion that it is possible that the most carbon guzzling part of the journey of a piece of fruit may be the trip back from the supermarket in the car rather than where it originates from (something which local food proponents would disagree with).  As someone who aspires to be reducing her footprint on the planet and has a tendency to take at face value all suggestions for being more environmental, this article is a good reminder to keep questioning what I can best do and not to swallow all recommendations immediately.




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