If you only read one thing this week…


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).



Getting in to sticky situations by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The book, Made to Stick: Why some ideas thrive and others die by Dan Heath and Chip Heath isn’t directly about the world of humanitarianism but the issues it looks at are fully relevant to us as we strive for both scale and sustainability in our programs. If we could really understand what makes ideas live on (and/or what kills them) and then apply it to our programs we would really be on our way to making a difference. The book outlines six principles for successfully getting an idea to take hold – summarized in the link below.

To read more about the book and decide whether you want a copy yourself read either this review from Time magazine or this summary.



Counterpoint on the food-crisis by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
May 13, 2008, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Book reviews, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

Thanks to our illustrious Tom Ewert, who writes to take issue with the analysis of the food crisis presented here, and wants to recommend an alternative view: He reading list includes ‘Starved for Science: How biotechnology is being kept out of Africa‘ by Robert Paarlberg – a Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Read the press release from Wellesley College here



The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly – reviews by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 20, 2008, 4:31 pm
Filed under: Book reviews, If you only have 15 mins

William Easterly’s book explores “Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good”  – Easterly is contributing to a long genre of literature that complains about the failings of development aid, and, unlike some, has some proposals for fixing it.

Critical of traditional aid efforts and charity, and with special vitriol for Jeffrey Sachs and The End of Poverty, Easterly’s thesis is that modern aid efforts are largely the descendants of colonial efforts to ‘civilize’ their native charges (hence the Kipling reference in the title). He draws out two types of development approaches – top down ‘planners’ and bottom up ‘searchers’. The approach he favors will come as no surprise, but his specifc remedies are controversial.
Monday Developments February 2008 issue carries a review by Nancy Birdsall (founding president of the Center for Global Development). Read the review here (unfortunately you’ll have to download the pdf of the entire issue, the review is on page 16, fortunately, it’s a good read). You can also read the Washington Post’s review of the book here, and order the book here.



What makes nonprofits successful? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The book Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits feels like the nonprofit equivalent of From Good to Great by Jim Collins that has so influenced the private sector in recent years.

For those of you who don’t have the time to read the book, Fast Company’s review provides a succinct summary of the six key findings that Leslie Crutchfield and Heather McLeod Grant discovered as they studied the 12 most successful nonprofits over a three-year time period.

In brief (but the article is worth reading as it fleshes the six points out a little more), successful nonprofits:

1. Don’t just implement great programs, they connect it with advocacy.

2. Connect in with market forces (don’t just rely on trying to ignite altruism!).

3. Engage others outside the agency to be passionate champions of their work.

4. Work collaboratively through networks with other nonprofits.

5. Learn to adapt (this seems the most obvious of the findings to me!)

6. Ensure that leadership doesn’t just reside with one person in the agency.

It is interesting to look at where (and where not) the intersection exists with this and the Good to Great approach. The book makes reference to the fact that management structures did not appear to be a critical success factor for these 12 NGOs. Also something which feels a little counter intuitive.



Powering down for the future by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

Jerry Mander of the International Forum on Globalization is the editor of the new Manifesto on Global Economic Transitions, subtitled ‘Powering down for the future – towards a global movement for systemic change, economics of ecological sustainability, equity, sufficiency and peace’. This 30 page document distills much of the thinking from the IFG on the three core threats to development and sustainability:

1. Catastrophic Climate Chaos

2. The end of the era of cheap energy – peak oil and gas

3. Global resource depletion – Fresh water, forests, oceans, soil and wildlife extinctions.

IFG’s thesis is that the solution to each of these threats is the same: technological ‘solutions’ to these problems are not working – we must live within our ecological means, and we must re-localize, and return local democratic control to economic systems.

If you can’t get enough, check out “Alternatives to Economic Globalization – A Better World is Possible” where you can download the ‘what you can do’ section of the book free.



The Next 4 Billion at the Bottom of the Pyriamid – what happens next? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
May 31, 2007, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book reviews, Development theory, If you have 30 mins

The base of the economic pyramid (BOP) refers to the four billion people—more than two-thirds the world’s population—who live on annual incomes of less than $3000. A newly released study by the International Finance Corporation and the World Resources Institute entitled The Next 4 Billion: Market Size and Business Strategy at the Base of the Pyramid makes a compelling case that this large segment is full of untapped potential for both companies and low-income consumers. Increasingly, these organizations say, market-driven approaches offer the best opportunity to provide services to the poor that are both scalable and sustainable.

With a global consumer market estimated at five trillion dollars, a growing number of companies are taking notice and exploring new strategies for reaching bottom of the pyramid consumers. Continue reading