Photos: Articles of Interest – 9 November 2012

The great thing about working as a Communication specialist for UNICEF is that I get exposed to all facets of development. I get to see our research, advocacy and programmes at work in the fields of health, child protection, education or HIV. I also get to spend part of my day staying on top of the latest news and thinking in the world of international development. And the field is changing rapidly. So I thought I’d share some of the more interesting articles, reports and analysis I come across each week. Read, comment, share or ignore as you see fit!
A very well argued stance against the branding of aid by governments. Will we see more countries asking for their contributions to be branded as they struggle to convince their domestic population that their tax-funded aid is hard at work or to have a more visible foreign policy presence?


Stop Branding Aid
Passing through the small rural village of Yarpa Town in River Cess County, Liberia, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the whole town owed its existence to the altruism of sponsors from overseas. The dilapidated clinic announces itself as a gift ‘From the American People’, the hand-pump well around which children clamour was ‘Funded by the EU, in partnership with UNDP’ and the community hall is blazoned with the Stars and Stripes. In a country such as Liberia, where the US and China lead international donors in financing a high proportion of government funding and public services, it’s impossible to miss their slogans, logos and flags, plastered on buildings, along the sides of cars and on peeling signs spread out along every roadway approaching a village anywhere in the country. Everything is branded.

Want your data mined? 

Data huggers
Businesses avidly mine data to improve their efficiency. Non-profit groups have plenty of information, too, but they can rarely afford to hire number-crunchers. Now a bunch of philanthropic geeks at DataKind, a New York-based charity, are helping other do-gooders work more productively and quantify their achievements for donors, who like to see that their money is well spent.

A very interesting piece on the effectiveness – or lack of – of evidence-based research (ERB) on policy decisions. The discussion revolves around how ERB fails to affect policy because it does not take account of societal values and the political nature of policy development. 

The politics of the evidence based policy mantra
This paper argues that while the desire to ensure that policy making is informed by social science may be laudable, the assumptions underlying these assertions about the role of evidence and science turn out to be dubious, and provide a poor guide to the challenges involved.

A very cool project from some very smart people. An opportunity for anyone to gain more insight into economics and its roll in development.

An Education Revolution Starts with Economic Development
The George Mason University economics duo of Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok may be best known for their economics blog, Marginal Revolution. The duo recently launched Marginal Revolution University. The aim of MRU is to make education better, cheap and accessible. The online platform is intended to reach a large audience and is low-bandwidth optimized. The first course focuses on Economic Development. “We’re asking what is perhaps the most important question in all of economics. Why are some countries rich while other countries are poor?” states Tabarrok. “For billions of people that is a life and death question, and we think that economics has something to add to that question.”

Democracy in action? Social experiment? 

Icelanders approve their crowd-sourced constitution
A constitution is a deeply serious thing: the bedrock of a country’s identity. So Iceland’s decision to let the general populace participate in the drafting of its new constitution – via social media such as Facebook and Twitter – was a bold move.

This is an interesting article looking at John Maynard Keynes’ concept that leisure, combined with secure income, is a critical element of wellbeing & how technology can provide it

The Golden Age
The 15-hour working week predicted by Keynes may soon be within our grasp – but are we ready for freedom from toil?
Like the rest of John Maynard Keynes’s work, his essay ‘Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,’ written in 1930, ceased to be discussed very much during the decades of free-market liberalism that led up to the global financial crisis of 2007, through which most of the developed world is still struggling. But the essay has enjoyed a revival of interest.

The rise of think tanks in China. 

Bigger roles for Chinese think tanks
The period of transition that the Chinese government is currently undergoing has expanded Chinese think tanks’ role, by being more frequently consulted by government officials and agencies. Think tanks offer advice on their specialty subject to the National People’s Congress, and they also propose innovative ideas for local governments to implement policies and to apply said policies to other parts of the country if possible.


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  1. Nice one, Geoff! I totally agree. We will work fewer hours by crowd-sourcing our jobs (which will not contribute to policy-making anyway) to data geeks and the public at large, so that we have time for free higher education and branding spree. And if these plans fail, we can always apply to think tanks in China! Brilliant!