If you only read one thing this week…

The future. Again. by Nick
January 10, 2012, 10:57 am
Filed under: governance, If you only have 15 mins

I know, I know, I’m tired of people trying to predict the future as well. We all know how that game inevitably turns out, bu Peter Konjin is actually pretty interesting. He spells out two big issues that are playing out right now (the increasing presence of poverty in middle income countries and the more multi-polar world) and anticipates that the role of INGOs largely depends on what happens to the big western powers (the current funders of the lion’s share of international humanitarianism).

Well thank you Captain Obvious, but the interesting issue is what INGOs will do with the questions of: Whether to follow the poor into middle income countries, or follow Collier’s advice and stick to the Bottom Billion in the world’s poorest countries. Western donors appear more political in their donations to middle income countries (thanks Cap!) and donor publics more difficult to convince, but the moral imperative to work with the poor and marginalized demands a principled examination of this issue.

Konjan forsees a re-thinking of the idea of civil-society as we understand it, and a need to form alliances with domestic advocacy groups in emerging countries to work out a genuinely collaborative understanding of governance that does not feel like an imposed western model.

Take a look here.

Mobilizing for peaceful change in the US by Nick
October 10, 2011, 11:33 am
Filed under: accountability, Articles, governance, If you only have 15 mins

The New York Times is running an interesting piece of commentary by Paul Krugman on the wave of demonstrations and protests currently taking place in the US. Read it here. The comparisons to the ‘Arab Spring’ are fascinating (although that is not the point of this article).

What’s going on in Egypt? by Anna
February 10, 2011, 2:00 pm
Filed under: governance

Why Egypt? Why now? Thomas Friedman explains that the circumstances were ripe for a growing number of youth who were living with one of the poorest education systems, biggest income gaps, and highest unemployment rates to take to the streets.  What Friedman finds so interesting in this uprising, is that these protests are not ideologically motivated. It’s not about Allah or Palestine this time, he says, these protests are asking simply for the democratic right to move the country forward. Read Friedman’s opinion article about the protests in Egypt for the NY Times here.

Theocracy or Democracy – by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
February 3, 2011, 11:50 am
Filed under: governance

BBC’s Radio 4 has a regular program called the Moral Maze where they look at one of the top moral dilemmas of the week in the news and debate it with leading thinkers on the topic.

This week they look at the events taking place in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and ask,

“is democracy a morally unambiguous value? Should we always be on the sides of the masses regardless of the consequences to them and our national interests? Or is preserving life a greater moral imperative than promoting freedom – even if that means in the short term backing the stability of authoritarian rulers? Is democracy only ever the means to an end and should the only moral imperative for those in the West be to always safeguard our interests?”

This podcast will probably only be available for the next two weeks or so so catch it now – it’s thought provoking and raises many questions.

Transparency International’s 2010 report published by Nick
October 26, 2010, 8:33 am
Filed under: Articles, conflict, governance, If you only have 15 mins, Web sites

Check where your country falls on the perception of corruption by taking a look at the map, and reading the report here.

If you’re really pressed for time the BBC summarizes the results here with the headline numbers being a high correlation between war and corruption. Somalia tops the leader board for most corrupt, followed by Burma, Afghanistan then Iraq. Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore tie for least corrupt.

Can social media really change the world? by Nick
October 1, 2010, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Articles, governance, If you only have 15 mins

Malcolm Gladwell writes an interesting article for the New Yorker comparing the civil rights movement of the 1960s with the recent high profile claims of Twitter-Fed revolutions around the world. It’s worth stepping back and asking the question about the long-term, sustainable impact that devolved, spontaneously organized, on-line movements will have. Read the article here.

Why budgeting fails, and what we can do about it. by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 27, 2008, 6:11 pm
Filed under: accountability, Articles, governance, If you have 30 mins, Management

Our own Tori Gilbert summarizes Harvard Business School’s paper by By Prof. Peter Horvath and Dr. Ralf Sauter.


The traditional budgeting process is counterproductive. It is inefficient, rapidly becomes obsolete, doesn’t motivate the right behaviors and is out of sync with strategy. Traditional budgeting is especially not suited to the realities of dynamic markets, making it difficult to implement budget adjustments called for throughout the year.

To be most useful in a dynamic marketplace, budgeting must integrate with and support strategy. The authors propose six guiding principles for an advanced budgeting system that optimizes the roles of budgeting while supporting strategy execution:

1. Align budgeting to strategy.
2. Link relevant nonfinancial performance measures to budgeting.
3. Reduce detail through the use of aggregated budgets.
4. Use rolling budgets instead of fixed budgets—a continual planning process, frequently updated and adaptable to changing conditions.
5. Use relative targets instead of fixed budgets to reward people–measuring success by comparing performance against relative, self-adjusting performance measures. Relative targets can motivate the right behavior, guiding people to act in an organization’s best interest.
6. Increase the focus on cross-functional core processes instead of departmental and organizational unit performance. This leads managers to be more attentive to organizational strategy and goals, and fosters collective effort and teamwork instead of internal competition for resources.

The Balanced Scorecard (see links below) is described as a helpful alignment mechanism. The Balanced Scorecard can supply the coordinating functions for budgets by communicating strategy to managers and give them direction; it can help managers oversee strategic initiatives and link them to financial activities. The BSC’s clear depiction of strategic priorities helps to set firm guidelines for budget planning. When implementing the BSC, it is crucial to de-emphasize the importance of budget-related objectives to the benefit of BSC-related objectives, while reducing the level of detail in the budget—otherwise you’ll only double the work and increase the frustration level.”

Read the article here.

Read the Wikipedia article on the Balanced Scorecard approach here.