If you only read one thing this week…

UN official warns that climate change threatens peace and development by Nick
July 20, 2011, 11:45 pm
Filed under: Environment

The BBC is covering the speech by Achim Steiner (UN Environment Program) to the UN Security Council in which he said that climate change will increase the rate and impact of natural disasters, threaten food security, and raise the risk of violent conflict over dwindling ecological resources and systems. He called for “a proactive strategy of evolved and perhaps new international platforms, mechanisms and institutional responses”.

Read the full speech here.


NGOs and corporations – what’s wrong with CSR? by Nick
July 18, 2011, 7:55 am
Filed under: Articles, Environment, If you only have 15 mins

Andrew Pendleton’s 2004 report (Institute for Public Policy Research) for Christian Aid on the issues and perils of NGO engagement with corporate power is a sobering read that looks at some of the trends, what has been achieved, and some learning about what can and cannot be reasonably expected from dialogue and engagement.

Pendleton concludes that a shift from self governed Corporate Social Responsibility to legal structures that produce Corporate Social Accountability by allowing those harmed by corporate action to seek redress through national and international law is a major avenue that does not receive enough attention.

Read the report “Behind the Mark – the real face of corporate social responsibility” (surprisingly digestible) here, or read the rather more forceful one pager from CorporateWatch here.

Proponents of dialogue see it as the best chance we have, faced with the reality of corporate dominance. But this is only true if other realities cannot be conceived of and brought into being …

Many NGOs are choosing what is essentially a palliative campaign strategy, one that tries to make conditions more bearable rather than solving the problem. As the world’s ecological crisis worsens, many of the organisations we’ve trusted to fight the destruction are effectively reinforcing the power of the destructive corporations. As our need for change becomes ever more urgent, and the solutions needed ever more drastic, some NGOs find themselves actually asking for less and less change.” – Corporate Watch.

Political Anthropology vs Developmental Economics by Nick
July 13, 2011, 4:28 pm
Filed under: Book reviews, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

This is a genuinely interesting critique of Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion and others) by Yale political anthropologist Mike McGovern. On one level, it is an attack on what McGovern sees as sloppy methodology and misleading storytelling by Collier, but on another level it is an examination of the different ways that economics and anthropology see the world, and the implications of adopting one school or another as your primary analytical tool.

Take a read here (pdf).

Putting our Partnership Principles into Practice by Anna
July 5, 2011, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the 50th edition of Humanitarian Exchange, 18 articles take on the challenge of investigating partnerships in humanitarian action from a number of angles – UN agencies, INGOs, research institutes and others.  Among them is “Partnership in principle, partnership in practice”, by Christine Knudsen of UNICEF’s Office of Emergency Programmes, examining how the cluster system has embraced partnership principles and where operational challenges remain.  The case study of Northern Uganda shows the many instances when having principles of partnership provided a guide for more inclusive coordination and basis for reviewing cluster functions, such as transparent engagement.  The case also highlights limitations of partnership within clusters, including unequal funding relationships, not committing to opportunities for complementarity and lack of shared ownership or accountability for results.  The need for more predictable collaboration that communities can expect is specifically identified as a major area for further work among international actors.  To that point, Knudsen’s article concludes with a call for new partnership models “to respond to the crises of the next decade, with a focus on the front-line capacities of communities, authorities and civil society” and reflection on making partnership approaches more than just an efficient way to leverage resources.

Full article can be found at: http://www.odihpn.org/report.asp?id=3201


Telling Tales (a good thing) by Anna
July 5, 2011, 9:59 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The use of story-telling techniques for M&E has gained momentum as in recent years, as organizations and programs seek to gauge program outcomes and impact in complex environments with diverse stakeholders and influences.  The following article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Storytelling Project Turns Anecdotes Into Useful Data, tells of Global Giving’s mainstreaming of story-telling techniques for M&E and the use of Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker software to provide a user-friendly tool to categorize and analyze the stories in a systematic manner.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out their Website, http://www.globalgiving.org/story-tools/, for a very compelling overview of these tools and methods in action.