If you only read one thing this week…


Qualitative or Quantitative – which is better? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

For anyone interested in understanding the differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods this website hosted by the Web Center for Social Research Methods. All too often we get into fruitless debates about which approach is better, whereas both are equally valid approaches and more important is to determine which approach is better for the research you are looking at conducting. The bite size chunks and easy navigation make this is a useful site to peruse and then bookmark. Highly recommended!

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Challenges with community based tourism by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 25, 2008, 4:31 am
Filed under: Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

This ODI opinion paper here provides a fairly harsh critique of development agencies’ attempts to foster community-based tourism. The main criticism is that these projects usually fail because they have not been set up sustainably and the article points to some interesting facts and figures (e.g. a recent survey across the Americas show that many of the CBT accommodation providers have only 5% occupancy). The counter solution proposed in the piece is that we should in fact be doing more to include the poor in mainstream tourism and there are more opportunities than have previously been perceived. In one project in Brazil a large mainstream resort increased its employment of local people by 40% in a year following training and an extra $2 million is now flowing into the local economy. I’m not sure I agree full-heartedly with the solutions proposed and think the critique may be a little harsh, but it definitely provides food for thought.



Food System in Crisis – Hunger and the Pursuit of Profit by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 18, 2008, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have time for longer reading!

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (a member of Caritas) has just published a new report on the effects of the global food system on smallholders, communities and farmers in the global south. The 22-page report, prepared with input and reflections from Development and Peace partners in the countries where it works in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, provides a Christian reflection on food and hunger, highlighting catholic social teaching on the issue. The report calls for a serious overhaul of the system that has led to the current global food crisis.

You can download the English version here, and read the synopsis here.

Our increasingly fragile global food system is in major trouble. Decades of inappropriate economic and agricultural policies have finally become too much for farmers and people around the world to withstand. Decision-making power over one of the most primary elements of life – food – has been wrenched from the people who produce and need food, and placed in the hands of people who profit from its trade. The policies of the international financial institutions, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), shaped by the governments of the North, have systematically undermined the capacity of individuals and communities to access food, and the resources to grow their own.

This report explores the long-term causes of the global food emergency, as well as the specific current day factors that are converging to increase global hunger. It is based on the experience of Development and Peace’s partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  As Milo Tanchuling, of the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the Philippines notes, ‘[t]oday’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions’”.

It is imperative to bring agriculture back to its primary and basic function: to nourish local and national communities.
– The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops  May 1, 2008



How do we learn in 2008? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The Masie Center’s Learning Consortium has just posted a report on a survey of over 6000 employees on how they learn and preferred methods. A summary is posted here and the full article which has interesting graphs in it is also available to download from the site. The survey discovered that most employees currently rely primarily on self learning and motivation and pick up new knowledge from reading, web searches and/or e-learning on line. A lot of people are using sources such as YouTube but are not necessarily using podcasts as they aren’t easily accessible from work. Only 48% of people are satisifed with the amount of time they have available to learn and I would be interested to know how this maps against our own organizations. We have invested time in creating placeholders for learning, but whether people are taking the opportunity to make this happen (or prioritizing over all the competing things we are asked to do) would be something to explore. Perhaps most interestingly for me, people seem to overwhelmingly want to have job stretch/rotation opportunities and yet don’t feel that these opportunities exist. I wonder if this would be the same finding if we just looked at the humanitarian world, where it seems as though there are numerous opportunities (maybe too many) to rotate through different jobs fairly rapidly. I also wonder if these are much more accessible to international than to national staff. Anyway the article gave me food for thought and is worth looking at.



Why are borders still so important to us? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 2, 2008, 11:18 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Management

A Business Week article from a few years ago recently resurfaced in a discussion humanitarian planning, and it made me think about why we still have the concepts of ‘headquarters’ and ‘field’ offices long after leading transnational companies have abandonned these in favor of truly distributed leadership with executive level folks spread out around the world to leverage proximity to clients, lower costs, talent availability and time zone responsiveness.

Take a look at the article here, and let me know what you think – why don’t NGOs have more of their senior leadership in the countries where they work?



Development as social transformation by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 1, 2008, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Alejandro Bendaña (Harvard Ph.D. and founder of the Centro de Estudios Internacionales in Managua, Nicaragua) writes a provocative piece for FocusWeb (Focus on the Global South) (www.FocusWeb.org) called Alternative Financing for Development. It is short, readable, and challenges our usual assumptions about what ‘development’ is.

His thesis that ‘“Development aid” as practiced by the North is part of a system that generates deepening inequality and dependence across and within countries. In this context, it is a question of making aid less not more effective, of ending aid altogether, because on the whole it does more harm that good.‘ is not unusual in itself, but his concrete ideas for alternatives are interesting.