If you only read one thing this week…

Insurance against climate change by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
November 19, 2009, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have 30 mins, Uncategorized

“Climate change is a development issue” Douglas Alexander, UK Secretary of State

What’s the best way to deal with climate change? Oxfam America recently published a report, “The New Adaptation Marketplace: Climate Change and Opportunities for Green Economic Growth,” that highlights many industries and businesses, including the insurance, industry that may grow due to climate change. Insurance companies have been offering insurance against climate and weather-related causes as a means for individuals and companies to protect against ever-growing environmental changes. Companies like Zurich Financial Services Group and Swiss Re advocate that insurers can play a role in both mitigating and addressing climate change by encouraging and rewarding technologies that help with climate issues, and through supporting improving and building better infrastructure to withstand future problems. With the Zurich Financial Services Group noting that weather-related claims have grown nearly fifteen-fold in the past thirty years, climate insurance seems posed continue growing both as a business sector and resource.

But with the development of this insurance niche comes questions about how climate policy is assessed and carried out, and who will be able to afford these policies. The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies’ Climate Change and Global Warming Task Force notes insurance is contingent on risk assessment and certification, along with a “statement of catastrophe.” Swiss Re uses four indices to assess risk: weather, precipitation, wind and a combination of all three). But the Climate Change task force also notes that issues may arise in areas where there is a high-level of risk contrasted by low-level preparedness, such as in developing countries. With insurance premiums typically linked to risk, is it possible for those in poorer areas of the world (who may also be a greater risk of weather issues and climate change) to afford to insure themselves?

Additionally developed countries such as the United States are not immune to concerns climate insurance. The Climate Change task force also raised concern about companies having enough capital to fill claims when disasters hit. Hurricane Ike, the 2008 storm that hit Florida, caused nearly $11.5 billion in insurance losses.

With all companies emphasizing risk reduction as central to climate insurance, watching how companies and groups address this in both developing and developed countries. As the severity of our climate continues to change, so too will the means and methods of addressing it.


Complex or complicated? How complexity theory is influencing evaluations by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
November 10, 2009, 11:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Complexity theory originally comes from science/biology and is just beginning to be applied to social sciences, including development.  It recognizes that the contexts in which we work are complex – multi-polar, diverse, often chaotic, etc., and that changes occurring within these systems are therefore usually non-linear, emergent, unpredictable, and experienced or viewed differently for the various people and groups who experience it (i.e., multiplicity of knowledge).

The implication for monitoring and evaluation is to further emphasize methods that realistically recognize these complex social systems and the underlying unpredictability and diversity of outcomes and perspectives for the various actors within them, and looking for the changes that our programs can help trigger within these wider systems. This isn’t new to the field of evaluation: our traditional mixed-method evaluations which incorporate surveys, focus groups, key informant interviews and other methods, when done correctly, do often succeed in drawing out diverse viewpoints and effects on different individuals and groups.

However, there are other methods that fit more naturally with complexity and are being increasingly mainstreamed relief and development agencies.  These approaches distinctly recognize the complex and unpredictable nature of program contexts, and therefore seek to measure changes in ways that:

–          are beneficiary-led:

–          recognize and celebrate the diversity of actors/views/experiences;

–          look for emergent trends and evidence of change, often in unpredictable and unintended ways:

–          assess change from the distinct viewpoint of different types of individuals and groups,

–          do not seek to predict outcomes or pre-ordain indicators of success as viewed by outsiders;

–          look for “resonance” of certain themes or indications of change across groups and contexts; and,

–          lend quantitative and qualitative results through systematic analysis and interpretation.


Techniques which specialize in fitting into a complexity theory lens on evaluation and meet some or all of the characteristics above include:

–          Most Significant Change;

–          Outcome Mapping;

–          Participatory Impact Assessment (PIA) ;

–          Locally-developed indicators;

–          Self and peer-evaluation;

–          Photo voice;

–          Some applications of Appreciative Inquiry;

–          Other forms of participatory action research with emphasis on ongoing learning and reflection.


These techniques are gaining increased acceptance because of their unique ability to “tell the story” of how change really happens on the ground while emerging with a robust mix of quantitative and qualitative data.

For a more complete view on complexity theory and its application to M&E the following report by Wageningen International.  For additional background and presentations on suggested tools and approaches, you may also check out:  http://www.odi.org.uk/RAPID/events/Complexity/.

US Foreign Assistance – better or worse? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
November 5, 2009, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Interaction has just published a progress report on their perceptions of the state of foreign assistance, almost one year into the Obama administration.  Even if you don’t have time for the full report – take a look at the cover sheet which divides areas into ‘improved’ ‘stagnant’ and ‘deteriorated’ in terms of progress on the particular issue and allows you to then read in more detail on each section – from Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment to Sudan to NGO and military relations. The report points out that the biggest obstacle to significant progress being made is the fact that as yet, no administrator for USAID has been appointed.