If you only read one thing this week…

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.


Food System in Crisis – Hunger and the Pursuit of Profit by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
July 18, 2008, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Development theory, If you have time for longer reading!

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (a member of Caritas) has just published a new report on the effects of the global food system on smallholders, communities and farmers in the global south. The 22-page report, prepared with input and reflections from Development and Peace partners in the countries where it works in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, provides a Christian reflection on food and hunger, highlighting catholic social teaching on the issue. The report calls for a serious overhaul of the system that has led to the current global food crisis.

You can download the English version here, and read the synopsis here.

Our increasingly fragile global food system is in major trouble. Decades of inappropriate economic and agricultural policies have finally become too much for farmers and people around the world to withstand. Decision-making power over one of the most primary elements of life – food – has been wrenched from the people who produce and need food, and placed in the hands of people who profit from its trade. The policies of the international financial institutions, and the World Trade Organization (WTO), shaped by the governments of the North, have systematically undermined the capacity of individuals and communities to access food, and the resources to grow their own.

This report explores the long-term causes of the global food emergency, as well as the specific current day factors that are converging to increase global hunger. It is based on the experience of Development and Peace’s partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.  As Milo Tanchuling, of the Freedom from Debt Coalition in the Philippines notes, ‘[t]oday’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions’”.

It is imperative to bring agriculture back to its primary and basic function: to nourish local and national communities.
– The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops  May 1, 2008

by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

As part of a larger article on philanthro-capitalism Galés Gabirondo of Global Policy Forum reviews Michael Edwards new book “Just Another Emperor” (you can buy the book, or download it for free here).

It’s a fascinating read – here is Galés’ summary “philanthro-capitalism is the term given to the movement taking hold that “promises to save the world by revolutionizing philanthropy, making non-profit organizations operate like business, and creating new markets for goods and services that benefit society.” This neo-liberal brand of philanthropy distinguishes itself from charity and progressive philanthropy by insisting not only on market-based results, but on business-based procedures for grant giving. Philanthro-capitalists seek business efficiencies and a financial “bottom line” from their “investments” and concentrate on making global markets work better. A logical extension of current of neo-liberal hegemony, philanthro-capitalism sees unregulated markets not only as engines for creating wealth, but as the ultimate drivers of social change. In this view, governments are too bureaucratic and corrupt, and social movements too unruly and inefficient. Only the market can save us from… well, the market.” (read the whole article here).

UN launches a huge new database by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 5, 2008, 5:49 pm
Filed under: If you have time for longer reading!, Web sites

We’re a huge fan of GapMinder, and it seems that they have made a step forward in their quest to get the UN’s databases online and accessible.

UNData “has just launched a new internet-based data service for the global user community. It brings UN statistical databases within easy reach of users through a single entry point. Users can search and down load a variety of statistical resources of the UN system.”

“The UN-system has accumulated over the past 60 years an impressive amount of information. UNdata, developed by the Statistics Division of DESA, is a new powerful tool, which will bring this unique and authoritative set of data not only to the desks of decision makers and analysts, but also to journalists, to students and to all citizens of the world, ” says Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The project has been developed in partnership with Statistics Sweden, the Gapminder Foundation and with partial financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. This is huge – it puts an enormous quantity of great information out there – go explore, and post back with the highlights that you find!

Cash-for-Work: when do we do it by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
June 28, 2007, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Articles, Development theory, If you have time for longer reading!

‘Cash-for-Work’ always seems to me like one of those really bad euphemisms. Doesn’t it just mean getting paid to do something – what most of us call ‘jobs’? We ran into problems with this in New Orleans when we were told that it looked like a way to avoid paying people the minimum wage! Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, the term seems to have stuck.

Cash-for-Work is a rapid post-emergency methodology that enables agencies to get cash into the hands of those affected by the disasters, conflict or development challenges and can serve as a first step back to self reliance and independence. At the same time it can provide human resource injection to rapidly repair or rehabilitate community infrastructures. Mercy Corps has just produced a set of guidelines for how they do their CfW programming. Continue reading

Putting Assessments in their Place by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek

The Assessment Tools Resource Base, put together by Mercy Corps, is a web page that pulls assessment tools from numerous organizations together into a convenient, searchable location and is available to practitioners anywhere. The tools are grouped into categories of: food security; market analysis; agricultural livelihoods; conflict; health and general tip sheets. Some can be downloaded directly from the site, others link to the sites of other organizations. All are open source. This is a quick, easy to search site that could save a lot of time and resources as we seek to avoid reinventing the wheel. Take a look and then let other people know that it exists.

Are the ‘Supertexts’ in the Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership relevant? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
March 14, 2007, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book reviews, If you have time for longer reading!

In ‘The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership‘, Steven Sample makes the case that effective leaders should be reading the things that others are not – the books that have been continually read for at least 400 years, and have influenced society and thinking to an extraordinary degree. Sample calls these ‘the supertexts’. Is he right, or is this simply a pretentious way to raise eyebrows by carrying around a copy of The Agamemnon of Aeschylus? Continue reading