If you only read one thing this week…

Maybe we need to be a little bit more sceptical about research by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 27, 2007, 7:40 pm
Filed under: accountability, Articles, If you only have 15 mins

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, based on research from Tufts University and the University of Ioannina, we should be a little bit more skeptical before about what we read that comes out of scientific research. Many of the reports that he reviewed suffer from poor methodology, self-serving analysis and/or miscalculations. Apparently the paper written by Dr Ioanndis Why Most Published Research Findings are False (2005) is the most downloaded technical paper from the journal PLoS Medicine ever. Dr Ioanndis says, “People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual“. Clearly the article is referring primarily to the scientific field (which in the U.S. is a $55 billion a year industry). However, it must be equally, if not more, applicable within the humanitarian relief and development field which is less well funded and where the findings of our research have clear implications for funding down the line.

The key take-away for me is that I should be more vigilant when reading reports and articles to a) understand the methodology that led to any particular findings and b) to look for corroborating (or conflict) results before jumping to any conclusions.


Global Public Opinions on Climate Change by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 25, 2007, 4:15 pm
Filed under: Environment, If you only have 15 mins, Megatrend

The BBC has just conducted a poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries to ascertain opinions towards Climate Change. Not surprisingly perhaps, given recent reports and media attention, an average of 79% now believe that human activity is a significant cause of climate change. The biggest skeptics are in the US, India, Kenya, and (surprisingly to me) Canada. There are some interesting graphs and it is interesting to see which countries are the most supportive of immediate action and those which are less inclined to jump in immediately. I found it positive to see where public opinion is currently at. However, I also feel the need to balance it with another poll I read recently in Britain in The Week which says that the vast majority of Britains feel the need to pretend to be greener than they are and that most people don’t a) trust the government to be really making effective legislation or b) believe that they need to cut down on their own energy consumption.

Red Sky at Morning – Gus Speth on Climate Crisis, and what we must do by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 20, 2007, 7:16 pm
Filed under: Environment, If you only have 15 mins

James ‘Gus’ Speth is the Dean and Professor in the Practice of Environmental Policy at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Amongst other things, he was co-founder of the Natural Resource Defense Council and founded the World Resources Institute, as well as serving as Administrator of the UNDP.

His book Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment (click here to buy it from Powells) is about how environmentalism has so far failed to arrest the destruction of the planet. “The climate convention is not protecting climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, [and] the desertification convention is not preventing desertification.” Potential for effective environmentalism, he says, now rests upon actions analogous to “jazz”: volunteerism and improvisation.

Read the transcript of an interview with Speth at the Carnegie Council, where he summarizes the main premise and deals with audience questions here. If you can’t get enough, there’s more of Gus’s writing here.

Collaborative Learning Projects by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 12, 2007, 8:14 pm
Filed under: If you have 30 mins, Interesting links, Web sites

We’ve featured the Collaborative for Development Action before, but Mary’s trip to Portland this week seemed like a good opportunity to showcase some of their recent work. Their website at CDAinc.com is full of fascinating publications (despite the web design!). Highlights include the Do No Harm Checklist and the Do No Harm Workbook (both PDFs) and updates to the Listening Project.

Collaboration between 7 INGOs – how hard can it be? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
September 7, 2007, 9:12 pm
Filed under: accountability, If you only have 15 mins, organizational learning

The Emergency Capacity Building project is a Gates-funded project that allows seven international NGOs to collaborate to find better solutions to responding to humanitarian emergencies. Over a two-year period, these agencies and their strategic partners have addressed issues pertaining to staff capacity, accountability (primarily to affected populations), impact measurement, risk reduction, and the use of information and technology in emergencies.

Collaborating across seven different agencies on such a broad spectrum of issues has been interesting, challenging and with moments of humor (sometimes all at the same time!). The ECB evaluation spells out the lessons learned and recommendations for the future. The evaluation itself is a hefty 57 pages so before diving in you might want to skim through the eight page summary attached to this entry. The recommendations which are targeted towards a follow on phase have relevance to all of us involved in coordination, ECB Evaluation – key points wherever that might be.