If you only read one thing this week…

Why we have to look outwards by Anna
November 7, 2011, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The McKinsey Quarterly has just published an excerpt from Daniel Kahneman’s new book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. The excerpt gives a really good example of what happens when we plan using only our own internal knowledge as estimates. It’s a really good reminder of the need to bring external perspectives in during our planning processes. Read the article here. (Note: you have to sign up to get access to the full excerpt but it is free and totally worth it).


What difference can 100 days make? by Anna
November 1, 2011, 10:06 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Review of “Local Empowerment Through Rapid Results”, by N. Matta and P. Morgan in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.  Summer 2011.

The Rapid Results methodology invites groups to take a complex project from identification to achieved goals in 60-120 days.  While the approach is applicable to diverse groups, the authors focus on the public sector since, despite plenty of capacity in government agencies, systemic barriers too often prevent their potential to become results.  They convincingly argue that the Rapid Results methodology can help create “energy, momentum and confidence” for agencies to tackle issues such as increasing use of family planning services that have been illusive or stalled, sometimes for years.

Rapid Results shares a number of similarities with the Community Mobilization approach used by organizations such as Mercy Corps, which gives localized groups a way to identify needs, then prioritize, plan, implement and maintain projects.  Both approaches aim to increase ownership, commitment and leverage local knowledge of what motivates people for change.  Some differences are that while community mobilization intends to be multi-staged in which community members work together to build process skills through increasingly complex projects, Rapid Results starts with an intentionally ambitious goal and manufactured timeframe that a designated leader is accountable for and is supported by coaches trained in the methodology.

An exciting potential application of Rapid Results is refocusing an agency or other group after a set-back in order to rebuild confidence and legitimacy with constituents.  There is more to learn, as the authors readily admit, about scaling-up and sustaining Rapid Results initiatives, but some cases of replication and policy integration are cited from Madagascar and Eritrea.  So, not a magic solution, but Rapid Results is another important approach to have in your program design and implementation toolbox.

Read more about the Rapid Results Institute at http://www.rapidresults.org.

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).

Steve Jobs by Nick
October 5, 2011, 5:34 pm
Filed under: If you only have 15 mins, Management

The tragic death of Steve Jobs today made me think about some of the things he said about the work of transforming Apple from a good to a great company. I think this video from 1997 is pretty interesting, Jobs talks about focus, and how, without it, Apple had been less than the sum of its parts. “Focusing is about saying no,” says Jobs. Watch the video here.

Results of 30 year organic vs non-organic farming trial by Nick

Started in 1981, the Farming Systems Trial (FST) at Rodale Institute is America’s longest running, side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. The results of their 30 year trial were published this week (get the full pdf here).

The short story is that they claim that, on real farm size trials, over 30 years:

  • Organic yields match conventional yields.
  • Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
  • Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter, making it a more sustainable system.
  • Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
  • Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
  • Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

What is “Good is?” by Anna
September 13, 2011, 1:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Good.is is an online media platform that promotes, connects, and reports on individuals, businesses, and non-profit organizations working for social causes around the globe. The publication covers a variety of topics including the environment, education, urban planning and health.

They also have wonderfully illustrated info-graphics about key issues in the world today.

This week, check out the graphic entitled “Picture a Lifetime of Clean Drinking Water.”

The introduction states:

Currently 884 million people in the world lack access to safe, clean water, which means that approximately one in eight people are at risk from disease and economic hardship from an entirely preventable cause. What would the world look like if these people had access to clean water everyday?”

 The reader is then guided on an illustrated tour of how the lack of clean water affects much of the planet. It includes statistics about those most at risk, including children, young women, and the elderly.

To see the link, click here:

The online magazine is known for its illustrated representations of all kinds of data, including AIDs statistics, energy consumption, and the education system. And while all the graphics don’t generally offer a solution to fix the problem, their easy-to-understand and visually pleasing style does a good job of raising awareness.

The Changing Landscape of Local Development by Anna
August 30, 2011, 3:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

If you read one thing this week, make it this story entitled “Beyond Beneficiaries.”

It discusses the growing number of civil-society organizations (CSOs) that have organized them selves to develop their own communities. The author, Lisa Schirch, believes that while large NGOs and government organizations praise the idea of local leadership, they often complain of the lack of it.


“The landscape of ‘locally-led development’ is more varied and rich than many in the international development community acknowledge,” writes author Lisa Schirch. “[It] needs a more robust understanding of local civic society.”


The entire article is available to read in the July Issue of Monday Developments Magazine. The entire issue can be downloaded here and the article begins on page eight.