Showing posts from August, 2011

John Marsh: Why Education Is Not an Economic Panacea-insights for development?

John Marsh just published an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on ' Why Education is not an Economic Panacea '. The article is long and a bit confusing to read. It is based on the author's experience in an education project for poor members of the community: The idea was simple. Faculty from the University of Illinois would offer night classes in their areas of expertise [...] for anyone in the community who was between the ages of 18 and 45 and lived at 150 percent of the poverty level of income or lower. [...] Students who completed the nine-month course would receive six hours of college credit, which they could then transfer to other institutions of higher learning. Everything would be free: tuition, books, even child care at a nearby community center. We named it after a similar program in Chicago, the Odyssey Project. In short, the programme was based on the well-known dicussion that  education pays, and pays more than ever. If so, it

New paper I like (02): Scholars Who Became Practitioners

At first sight and read, Nora Lustig's latest CGDev paper looks like an unspectatcular working paper with a long sub-title: 'Scholars Who Became Practitioners: The Influence of Research on the Design, Evaluation, and Political Survival of Mexico’s Antipoverty Program Progresa/Oportunidades' . The summary does not really tell you why I like this paper either: Celebrated by academics, multilateral organizations, policymakers and the media, Mexico’s Progresa/ Oportunidades conditional cash transfers program (CCT) is constantly used as a model of a successful antipoverty program. Here I argue that the transformation of well-trained scholars into influential practitioners played a fundamental role in promoting a new conceptual approach to poverty reduction, ensuring the technical soundness and effectiveness of the program, incorporating rigorous impact evaluation, and persuading politicians to implement and keep the program in place. The involvement of scholar-practitioners al

IDS/VSO action research PhD opportunities on 'Valuing Volunteering'

My colleague Joanna Wheeler from IDS sent me a message this morning about a fascinating action research-based project that the IDS Participation, Power and Social Change Team and VSO-UK are going to implement jointly as a series of PhD projects. There are more details below and an even more detailed research design outline is included as well. But before you get too excited, let me stress that this project does *not*, I repeat: NOT!, come with a scholarship to undertake a PhD at IDS / University of Sussex . VSO will cover the fieldwork under a normal volunteer contract but every candidate will have to secure funding for her/his PhD fees (approximately £3,500 for EU citizens and £9,000 per year for everybody else). If you are still interested I suggest that you get in touch with Joanna directly, ideally including your CV and a statement why you would be a good candidate for the project. But please read the complete information first: Valuing Volunteering Valuing Volunteering wil

Highly educated, poorly paid women in short-term jobs without career support – welcome to the world of NGOs!

This is a very blunt summary of interesting research on the non-profit sector in Nova Scotia, Canada. Granted, Nova Scotia may not be a hub for international development work and my assumption is that it is a relatively small part of the non-profit sector here, but nonetheless this is an interesting view from the ‘margins’ with some likely broader implications for other parts of the world and development work in particular. Recently, the lead researcher shared some of her key findings and they are definitely food for thought.  This is in a nutshell what the project has been about: In 2007, Phoenix partnered with the Federation of Community Organizations (FOCO) to undertake a labour market study of the NFP sector in Nova Scotia.   From January to June 2011, the labour market information was followed-up with an intensive six-month mapping of sector development strategies. Labour market information on the non-profit sector is especially valuable because it helps us understand: Who w

If Kittywood Studios produces all the cat videos then who is writing all these blogs?!

There's a nice new spoof video of Kittywood Studios, the entertainment empire that is responsible for all the cat videos on YouTube. As the Huffington Post writes : Meet Kittywood Studios, a hilarious (and fictional) company devoted entirely to creating cat videos. They meticulously plan cat clips down to the "prrr charts" and claim to be the creative geniuses behind "cat who likes to watch the toilet flush" and even the "kitten attacking the watermelon". If cat videos are manufactured by Kittywood Studios the obvious question is then who produces all the content for development-related blogs, which probably make up another 30-40% of Internet traffic ;))?! I have a few suspicions, because quite frankly, it's hard to believe that all this 'groundbreaking' research and 'eye-opening stories' from the field are really happening... 1. The IMF To distract from its tarnished image and play a practical joke on the colleagues from the

The London riots – a development review

Don’t worry, this is not another post about what has been happening in London and other parts of the UK over these past few days. Well, in some ways it is, because among many, many, many other things the riots and the immediate political reactions offer some interesting, humbling lessons for those who try to make sense of development and its challenges. Especially for those who may not be involved in development debates on a routine basis this could be a good opportunity to reflect on some broader issues. It could also be a great opportunity for those high-level policy-makers and strategists to question some well-known assumptions about development dynamics. For the sake of brevity, I will limit my comment to three areas: Complexity, uncertainty and democracy. Complexity: Believe it or not, there is no single story that can explain social problems As more and more commentators step forward, a highly complex picture emerges that includes historical, economic, social and cultural pro

Development evaluators, make blogging part of your workstyle!

I do not know whether this is really ‘an NGO trend’, as the GUARDIAN calls it, to send bloggers to the field to write on organisation’s projects ( ‘ Blogging from Bangladesh-more poverty tourism? ’ ), but Heather Armstrong’s reflections and Tom Murphy’s additional thoughts on the subject are interesting reads. But engaging with bloggers and social media more broadly should not just be seen as an exercise for fundraising and communication, but should also become part of ‘ real ’ evaluations of the big donor and implementing organisations outside the NGO sector. As it is often not paid, looks at bit as the blogger’s answer to some form of journalistic voluntourism. There may be benefits for NGOs, as Tom points out, but I’m more concerned about the (non-NGO) evaluation ‘industry’ and why most official evaluations are light-years away from being more transparent, participatory and accessible. Whereas the blogger can travel to the field on her own expenses, maybe in few months time