If you only read one thing this week…

Making micro-loans more successful… by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 30, 2009, 10:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This New York Times article highlights the fact that micro-loans are, maybe not surprisingly, much more likely to be successful if they are paired with training and skills building. The article refers to a paper published by Innovations for Poverty Action which found through randomized control trials that skills and retention rates increased with additional training. It is worth reading the abstract even if you don’t have time for the full article. The NYT article has some nice examples of the power of this approach in it from Bolivia to Afghanistan to India.


Making Corporate Community Relations Work by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 18, 2009, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In “Getting it Right: Making Corporate-Community Relations Work“, authors Luc Zandvliet and Mary B. Anderson analyze seven years of field research with over 60 international companies through the CDA Collaborative Learning Project’s Corporate Engagement Project (CEP).  The book builds on previous work by Anderson and CDA, including “Do No Harm – How Aid Can Support Peace – Or War” and “Confronting War: Critical Lessons for Peace Practitioners”.  Both of which are widely used by the development community.

“Getting it Right” is meant to offer practical experience to help corporate managers ‘get it right’ with respect to interactions with local communities, so that they can combine effective production goals with positive impacts within the local context.  Some of the patterns the authors identified tend to be reproduced in different settings which explain why, even when good intentions are present, companies may face dissatisfaction, opposition or even violence from community members. For example, while economic activities can be neutral, the impacts of a company on a community are, by definition, never neutral. In order to prevent and predict company-community conflict of any type from passive frustration to armed violence, companies need to not only put forth policies that acknowledge the community, but also be aware of how such practices are implemented. Companies also need to be aware that sometimes the tangible benefits are not as relevant to the community’s satisfaction as the basic feeling that the company cares about their opinion and is willing to hear it. Thus the how is equally, if not more, important than the what.

“Getting it Right” is apt to spark wider discussions on the role of the private sector working in conflict zones and other transitional environments, a topic regularly confronted by INGOs whether they are working directly with companies or not.  To aid these debates, the book examines how to make company-community relations a priority and why doing so would be beneficial both to the security and sustainability of the company and the livelihoods of the communities involved.

For more information about the Corporate Engagement Project and CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, visit www.cdainc.com

Vertical farming by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 11, 2009, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

By the year 2050, nearly 80% of the earth’s population will reside in urban centers. Applying the most conservative estimates to current demographic trends, the human population will increase by about 3 billion people during the interim. An estimated 109 hectares of new land (about 20% more land than is represented by the country of Brazil) will be needed to grow enough food to feed them, if traditional farming practices continue as they are practiced today. At present, throughout the world, over 80% of the land that is suitable for raising crops is in use (sources: FAO and NASA). Historically, some 15% of that has been laid waste by poor management practices. What can be done to avoid this impending disaster? A Potential Solution: Farm Vertically”

Dickson Despommier at Columbia is one of the leading proponents of vertical farming – learn more about this fascinating idea here.

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US relationships with Islam by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 9, 2009, 4:22 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The  transcript from President Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4th  is well worth reading. It is a passionate presentation of the future direction for US policy with Islam and touches on five key areas: violent extremism; the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab World; nuclear powers; democracy; and women’s rights. It sets a very different tone and lays out a different agenda to the one followed by the previous administration.