If you only read one thing this week…

The hazards of working in Afghanistan by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 27, 2011, 2:59 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Over the past year, over 100 aid workers have been killed in Afghanistan. This NY Times article cracks open the debate about the impact that the US military and government contractors may have on the safety and security of humanitarian workers. Humanitarian aid agencies, such as Mercy Corps, mostly operate without the use of armed guards, whereas many government contractors work behind fortified compounds with armed guards. Despite the high number of deaths from aid workers, the number of injuries and deaths from contractors is almost four times as high, and the number of military casualties almost doubles that. Read the article to learn more about the intertwining of these ongoing initiatives in Afghanistan.

For Nick’s most recent literature review on incidents of violence against humanitarian workers see this post.


Re-Thinking NGO Performance: Is it all about impact? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 20, 2011, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

At the end of the day, do you ever find yourself thinking, what does my contribution really do? Frustrated with standard means to measure NGO performance by impact, Alex Jacobs designed a new blog and website that sets out to measure NGO performance in a slightly different way. The blog offers a wide range of resources from redefining performance specifically for NGOs, to management tips, and a lengthy list of helpful references for those who want to know more.  This site contains interesting information for all professionals working within the NGO sector, not just design, monitoring, and evaluation specialists.

USAID’s New Roadmap by Nick
January 7, 2011, 10:55 am
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins

Interaction has one of the best summaries of the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Seventeen months in the making, it is the new blueprint for US ‘civilian power’ in the world. Interaction calls it ‘the most comprehensive and thoughtful look at U.S. diplomacy and development efforts in half a century’, while the Heritage Foundation expresses concern at the apparent elevation of USAID as co-equal with State, and mourns what it sees as the marginalization of the MCC.

Read the Summary, or the whole document if you’re keen here.

Read Interaction’s take, and their summary of other responses here.

Read the Heritage Foundation’s critique here.

There are no technology shortcuts to education by Nick
January 6, 2011, 11:37 am
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Technology

Kentaro Toyama posted an interesting article on Educational Technology Debate in which he argues that technology is literally the last thing schools who have limited resources or are under-performing need. That is to say, it’s not bad, but it should be the last investment they make, not the first.

He makes four primary arguments:
1. The history of electronic technologies in schools is fraught with failures.

2. Computers are no exception, and rigorous studies show that it is incredibly difficult to have positive educational impact with computers. Technology at best only amplifies the pedagogical capacity of educational systems; it can make good schools better, but it makes bad schools worse.

3. Technology has a huge opportunity cost in the form of more effective non-technology interventions.

4. Many good school systems excel without much technology.

But you should read it yourself here.

The new population bomb – old people by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 3, 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have 30 mins

The United Nations Population Statistics state that the world population will rise by roughly one-third over the next 40 years, from 6.9 to 9.1 billion. Most policy makers focus on this startling statistic, working to create policies that will mitigate the population increase. A recent article from Foreign Policy points out the other, somewhat neglected side of this issue that in many areas of the world the population is shrinking, especially the population under five years old. The problem persists in unlikely areas, such as Iran and Brazil, where birth rates are dropping. Concurrently, a gender gap is widening in many areas, where boy children are preferred. But maybe this isn’t so bad, older people can just work longer to make up for the lack of younger generations entering the workforce? Maybe a world of older people would be more peaceful?  Unlikely, the article points out. So is the world graying a bad thing in general? Read the article to see Foreign Policy’s analysis and then come to your own conclusions.

How much would you give to charity? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
January 3, 2011, 11:49 am
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Philanthropy

For many people across the world it is the season for New Year’s resolutions, time to set a goal to improve yourself in some way. Toby Ord, a researcher at Oxford University earning an average salary has pledged to donate £1 million over his lifetime to fight global poverty. In this BBC article, Ord breaks down how he plans to scrimp and save in order to reach this admirable goal. He’s already recruiting some of his friends and family to join in and he’s hoping that his choices will inspire others to consider doing the same.