31 December 2010

Cote D’Ivoire, Celebrities and Aid

Recently, The Guardian Development did a podcast where they discussed the role of celebrities and aid.
Madeleine Bunting is joined by the executive director of the advocacy organisation ONE, Jamie Drummond, assistant head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, Tom Cargill, and professor of economics at New York University and co-director of its development institute, William Easterly, to debate the issue.
Continue reading the rest of the post at the Huffington Post.

*I am trying something new in that I am debuting posts on the Huff Po and using this as a space to link over there.  It is really more of an experiment, but I want to see if I can drive my readership.  Comments are always encouraged.

29 December 2010

Quote of the Day

When villagers spend the productive part of their day filling forms instead of tilling their fields something has gone badly wrong. We need to relook at what we mean by ‘development’

Via Africa on the Blog

HT How Matters

27 December 2010

Kick The Can(ned Food)

[D]onors could bring 20 times more food to needy families by ‘canning’ the canned food drive. A far more effective way to get food to needy families is to take the money you’d spend on the canned food donations and make a financial contribution to a food pantry that lets clients choose which food they take.  Watch Can the Canned Food Drive or this Fox News segment to learn exactly why. Then go to Feeding America to find your local food bank who can help you locate the food pantries in your area that are using this high-impact model.

Read more great advice like that from the UPenn Center for High Impact Philanthropy.

26 December 2010

Top 10 Christmas Movies

I am not a fan of Christmas music.  Frankly, there is not a lot of it that I like save the classics.  However, Christmas movies are a different story.  I have not seen them all, but I think that I can rank my top ten. So I will do it because I can.  Also, since I am a small movie fan, you can see my personal ranking of the AFI top 100 (100-51, 50-1).

  1. It’s A Wonderful Life
  2. Home Alone
  3. A Christmas Story
  4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  5. A Muppet Christmas Carol
  6. Scrooged
  7. Bad Santa
  8. White Christmas
  9. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

24 December 2010

A Break and Some Hopkins

One of my favorite Hopkins poems seems appropriate:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

The ABBAs Wrap Up

Best Picture - Duncan McNicholl
Best Debate - 1 Million Shirts
Best News Article - Bill Easterly
Best in Snark - Aid Watch
Best Twitter - Owen Barder
Best Series - Texas in Africa
Best New Blog - Shotgun Shack AND Find What Works
Post of the Year - Owen Barder
Blogger of the Year - Chris Blattman

Thanks for everyone who voted. In my opinion, the results turned out to be a pretty good reflection of what was done well in aid blogging. Everyone did a good enough job to bring in voters, but did not turn it into popularity contest. There are some great bloggers who just lost out that should also be celebrated.

I encourage everyone to read check my reading list to really get a sense of the fullness of the aid blogging community. To finish, I want to second what Prof Easterly wrote earlier today "special recognition for the Gloom of the Unknown Blogger, who is writing great stuff but nobody has realized it yet." Here is to hoping that we have some new winners in the 2011 ABBAs.

Finally, as a way to keep this going, please use the #ABBAs tag to nominate posts/tweets throughout the year. This way we can remember all of the great posts and discussions throughout the year and possibly help to streamline the process next year. Be on a look out for a lessons learned post that will ask for your suggestions.

Happy Friday!

The ABBAs: Mama Mia! Blogger of the Year

In a true horse race, Tales From the Hood took an early lead to only be passed at the midway point by Aid Watch as a mention saw a traffic spike from his readers, but it was the late and now historic "Blattman Bump" that catapulted Chris Blattman as he made the turn five wide and out sprinted Aid Watch. In the end, the academics cleaned up at the ABBAs. While they might feel like Rodney Dangerfield from time to time, there is a lot of respect for the PhDs who blog about development.

Congratulations to all the researchers who write blogs. Maybe you can convince some more of your colleagues to join the aid blogosphere. However, we should not forget the anonymous aid bloggers, like J, who provide vital reflections from the implementation and field side. We could use a few more of you as well.

23 December 2010

The ABBAs: When All is Said and Done The Post of the Year

The single closest vote of all categories shows the strength of the posts by two aid researchers and two aid workers. Owen Barder, taking his second ABBA, edges out Texas in Africa, Good Intents and Tales From the Hood. Take a few minutes to re-read the four best posts this past year and take the 10 minutes to watch/listen to Owen's slides.

What Can Development Policy Learn from Evolution? (Owen Barder) 22.7%
What's missing (Texas in Africa) 17.8%
Whites in Shining Armor (Good Intents) 17.2%
Best of #SWEDOW (Tales From The Hood) 10.4%

Gates Foundation Grants 5 Years Later

The New York Times featured an article a few days ago on the assessments made by the Gates Foundation after its ambitious start of giving out $450 million in 5 year grants. Now, five years later, it is time to see what has been learned.
Five years ago, Bill Gates made an extraordinary offer: he invited the world’s scientists to submit ideas for tackling the biggest problems in global health, including the lack of vaccines for AIDS and malaria, the fact that most vaccines must be kept refrigerated and be delivered by needles, the fact that many tropical crops like cassavas and bananas had little nutrition, and so on. 
In an interview, Mr. Gates sounded somewhat chastened, saying several times, “We were naïve when we began.”

The ABBAs: As Good as New The Best New Blog

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
All-Star Game Recap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Close enough to be a tie and I am using my American Idol rights to declare two winners for the Best New Blog: Find What Works and Shotgun Shack. The truth is that there were a lot of great new aid blogs this year and all the nominees could be potential winners of best aid blog in the future. Consider the variety and quality of this year's crop, I am looking forward to the new blogs to emerge this year.

22 December 2010

The ABBAs: Best Series (Two For The Price of One)

Whenever an aid blogger writes a great series of posts, it can feel like getting two for the price of one. This year's best series was not a debate or on an issue which directly addresses aid. No, it was a series on "How Social Scientists Think" that took a resounding victory with 41% of the vote. Written by Prof Laura Seay aka Texas in Africa, the series focused on how evidence based research is conducted and conclusions made.

The ABBAs: S.O.S. Twitter of the Year

A three way race for the first week saw everyone's favorite Ethiopian based economist with a blog and podcast run away with the honors for the best twitter of the year. Congratulations to Owen Barder.

Has AGOA Failed?

Bob Davis writes 'Trade Not Aid' Not Enough for Africa for the Wall Street Journal about the lack of success of Africa Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA):

Except it wasn’t such a great deal, according to a paper by economists Lawrence Edwards of the University of Cape Town and Robert Lawrence of Harvard University published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. While the trade deal did boost jobs for poor, landlocked Lesotho, for instance, it didn’t spur broader development. Ironically, the fabric provision — meant to give an extra boost to impoverished African nations — actually hindered them from building a domestic industry. Generosity backfired.

“The slogan of ‘trade not aid,’ can be misleading,” the economists conclude. “Trade preferences may help create the conditions for growth, but they are not sufficient.”

On the positive side, the trade deal provided about 50,000 jobs, mostly for Lesotho women. But the fabric provision meant that the largely Asian manufacturers imported relatively costly material from Asia and used Lesotho simply for cheap labor — and tariff-free entry into the U.S.

I am expecting some thoughts on the paper by Edwards and Lawrence from Bill Easterly and Chris Blattman.

HT @endeavoringE

21 December 2010

The ABBAs: The Name of the Game is Snark

"It's a Snark!" was the sound that first came to their ears,
And seemed almost too good to be true.
Then followed a torrent of laughter and cheers:
Then the ominous words "It's a Boo-"
Then, silence.
In a tight race, the first ever ABBAs brace has been scored by Bill Easterly as Aid Watch takes 37% of the vote to take the "Name of the Game" Snark of the Year award over the very worth Tales From the Hood, Wronging Rights, Laurenist and Hand Relief International. No, snark is not the Lewis Carroll character but a form of sarcasm that comes from the combination of 'snide remark.'

The ABBAs: Just Like That, The Best News Article

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, center, with his wife Chantal Biya at a Bastille Day parade on the Champs Elysées, Paris, July 14, 2010
The winner is often accused of wanting to end aid all together. It might be because of his sometimes snarky blog posts, but articles like "Foreign Aid for Scoundrels" are where NYU Professor Bill Easterly's skepticism exposes the pitfalls of some aid programs. This is best seen in the following paragraph from the article:

20 December 2010

The ABBAs: Best Aid Debate for going "on and on and on"

When Jason Sadler of I Wear Your Shirt launched his initiative called 1 Million Shirts, a swift response by the aid blogging community sparked a debate over gift-in-kind donations that lead to snarky blog posts, accusations of drinking 'Haterade,' a conference call and a year long discussion over what was later dubbed SWEDOW. Although Voluntourism was a spirited discussion at certain points, the MGDs got everyone going in September and professionalism debates over DIY aid and the usefulness (or lack there of) for amateurs in aid saw some fun had at the expense of everyone's favorite NYT journalist; it was the 1 million shirts debate that stood out above all others this year.

The Final Results:
1 Million Shirts 26.4%
Poverty tourism/Voluntourism 14.7%
The Millennium Development Goals 14.7%
Professionals versus amateurs in aid 11.7%
DIY aid 10.4%
What constitutes "evidence"? 10.4%

The ABBAs: Best Picture "Under My Sun"

In a tight race between The Scarlet Lion (aka Glenna Gordon) and Duncan McNicholl saw Duncan edge out the Lion 41% to 34%. So, I am proud to bestow the first ever "Under My Sun" ABBA for Best Picture to Duncan McNicholl for his series of photos entitled "Perspectives on Poverty."  Duncan decided to photograph people twice; onc in the fashion of a typical poverty photo and the other showing the other side of the coin.

18 December 2010

It's All About Me (when it's not)

To kick off the weekend, we can look at a little charity satire. This episode of King of Queens gets right at the heart of selfish giving. Watch the five minutes to see the reactions for not being recognized amongst the other $500 donors.

Note: Not everyone does this when they give. I would venture to say that most people do not even act this way, but this highlights that there is a selfish side to giving which can ignore the actual needs of the recipients of the charity.

17 December 2010

On Giving…

This was posted yesterday on the Huffington Post.
My friend has been running a toy drive at her office for the past few years.  Each time it leads to excessive stress as she has to meet the needs and questions of her co-workers.  This year a particularly strong response grew out of disappointment when some people did not get what they wanted. 

See, some people had planned to get gifts for a specific child.  When they went to sign up for the eight year-old-girl who wanted a doll they found that she was taken and there were only teenage boys in want of the newest X-Box game.  Dismayed, the would be donors demanded that they be provided the ability to give to the child which they wanted.  The attempt to explain that every child has an equal desire to be fulfilled went ignored.

Ngrams of Africa 1880-2008

Dave posted about this yesterday.  Ngrams is a beta tool from Google that lets you search a word or group of words in 15 million (12% of all published) books.  Read this really detailed account of the project (HT Chris Blattman).

I figured I would plug in all the current African countries to see what comes up.  1880 was picked as a starting point since it was roughly when the upwards ticks in mentions of countries began.  Sadly, I cannot do all of them on one graph. So, be aware that the %s are relative to those in each group.  The first graph has an upwards of .001% while the next one is .005%. (Click on the images to see them a bit bigger)

For fun, does anyone want to draw some conclusions?

Ngrams 1A

16 December 2010

Tracking That US Foreign Aid Money

Raj Shah mentioned the transparency tool coming out for USAID when he was at the UN Week Digital Media Lounge. I was quite skeptical (still am a bit), but ForeignAssistance.gov is now up and running.
The Foreign Assistance Dashboard was created in response to the principles of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and President Obama’s Open Government Initiative. The goal of the Foreign Assistance Dashboard is to enable a wide variety of stakeholders, including U.S. citizens, civil society organizations, the Congress, U.S. Government (USG) agencies, donors, and partner country governments, to examine, research, and track USG foreign assistance investments in an accessible and easy-to-understand format.

15 December 2010

Save the...Soda?

Save the Children hates loves soda. The New York Times reports that the former advocate for the 'soda tax' has had a change of heart.  In fact, Save the Children has accepted grant money from Pepsi and is in the process of applying for funds via coke.

Granted, it is a bit strange that Save the Children was involved with this from the start.
Save the Children’s involvement in the issue began in late 2009, when it got a $3.5 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight childhood obesity through a program it called the Campaign for Healthy Kids. Save the Children initially financed the work of local groups, some of which focused on improving school lunches and requiring health education in schools. But local activists in Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington State used the grants to push for a soda tax.

When politicians in Philadelphia and Washington proposed soda taxes this year, the Campaign for Healthy Kids got more directly involved, paying for lobbyists and polling. “We really took the lead on those and were publicly identified with those,” said Andrew Hysell, an associate vice president for Save the Children and the director of the obesity campaign.
Either way, Save the Children did take the lead and now has dropped out.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt because they should have been focused on programs, rather than advocacy in this case.  Save the Children is effective in the implementation of its programs and sadly has now wasted money chasing a project that they never should have started.

However, the fact is that they did go down the path of supporting the soda tax and it is hard to ignore the ties between Save the Children and the soda companies who oppose the tax.  Maybe the decision was not made because of Coke and Pepsi, but Save the Children has left itself with a sizable PR mess.

From Newsy, a compilation video on the soda tax discussion:

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

HT @IdealistNYC

14 December 2010

Libertarians Attack Individual Decisions

The Ayn Rand Center features the following criticism of Mark Zuckerberg and others joining the Gates/Buffett “Giving Pledge” for being pressured into joining the pledge and it is too good not to reproduce in full:
You may have heard of the trend of businessmen “Going Galt,” i.e., self-confidently declaring that until the government loosens the burdens of backbreaking taxes and onerous regulations, they will scale back their productive efforts rather than work as virtual serfs. (The phrase “Going Galt” is a reference to Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged.) Other businessmen, however, have decided to “Go Guilt,” i.e., to sign Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s “Giving Pledge,” vowing to give away most of the wealth they have earned. The recent news that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has signed the Pledge is making headlines.

Bed Nets For and By Africans?

A new paper by Hassan Masum, Ronak Shah, Karl Schroeder, Abdallah S Daar, and Peter A Singer takes a look at Africa's largest producer of long-lasting insecticide-treated bed nets: A to Z Textiles.
With a production capacity of 30 million LLINs per year, and full WHOPES (WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme) certification, A to Z Textiles demonstrates how key health goods can be successfully produced in the low-income countries that use them. Its example may be instructive and of high interest to readers in the malaria community, especially in developing countries, and to those who wish to support or partner with efforts by developing countries to build their health innovation capacity.

13 December 2010

Is Palin Essential to Haiti?

Mark Goldberg of UN Dispatch reports:
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued an extensive travel warning that advised U.S. Citizens against non-essential travel to Haiti.  Political unrest stemming from the recent disputed election, cholera, violent crime, and lack of access to medical care were all cited as reasons.
So I take it that Sarah Palin is essential?

So long as she brings the cameras: Sarah Palin has her hair fixed during a visit to a cholera treatment center set up by the NGO Samaritan's Purse in Cabaret, Haiti, on Saturday
Clean-up time: The former Alaskan governor washes her hands on her visit to the treatment centre. Other American and Haitian journalists were ordering to leave the compound as part of a 'security lockdown'
Captions and photos are from the snary Daily Mail
Credit AP

The Children that Fortune Forget

UNICEF released a report titled The Children Left Behind: A League Table of Inequality in Child Well-Being in the World's Richest Countries that is summed up in the graph below.  It is not too shocking to see that the United States sits right at the bottom of the OECD nations.  I wish that there was an additional column in health well-being that addressed mental health (aka happiness).

Every Journey Began in Africa (or how Bono sells bags)

The following is a crosspost from Africa Works blog. Blog editor and writer G. Pascal Zachary is a journalist, author and teacher. He is a professor of practice at Arizona State University and a former Senior Writer at the Wall Street Journal. You can read the original post by going here, read his blog here, and visit his personal website here. I highly suggest taking the time to click around this very interesting blog. (Note: I have added the picture to the post)

The luxury brand, Louis Vuitton, has a new advertising campaign, promoting its line of travels bags in a print ads starring Bono and his wife Ali, who are both seen departing a small plane in the African savannah, an LV bag slung over their shoulders. The slogan of LV the campaign, “Every journey began in Africa,” echoes both a travel-writing cliche and the hoary truth that human beings did make their first journeys in Africa (home of the original humans). But the image of Bono and wife in the bush is contested. As my own wife, Chizo, from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, noticed immediately on examining the advert, Bono and wife are in the middle of nowhere, and yet there’s no one to greet them. “Why can’t there be some Africans in the picture?” Chizo asks. “Isn’t this someone’s land? Shouldn’t someone be there to say hello. At least, the people who take care of this land?”

12 December 2010

Simply Bono. Simply (Red). Simply Blindfolded.

Caption: "U2 front man, Bono, middle, poses with fellow band member, The Edge, left, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard, right, and New South Wales state Premier Kristina Keneally at an event to launch World Aids Day in Sydney."

HT Africa is a Country.

I think he really likes the whole blindfold thing (skip to 2:30, but don't because Bullet the Blue Sky is too good not to enjoy):

Graph of the Day: Living w/ Parents vs. Homeownership

Via Calculated Risk

11 December 2010

Stop the Presses: Palin In Haiti

Sarah Palin has arrived in Haiti with Rev Billy Graham's son Rev Franklin Graham to spread some Christmas cheer and check on the whole cholera situation.

Look out for pictures, like this one, with cute children rather than cute dogs.  Also, since Samaritan's Purse, Graham's organization, is a GIK machine; be sure to watch out for copious SWEDOW violations as SP (both) will be likely giving away their boxes of Christmas toys.

Photo credit.

10 December 2010

Bizarre Marketing: Invisible Children

I don’t really get this new ad by Invisible Children:
That is not to say I do not understand what they are trying to do.  IC wants people to buy goods from the organizations they support so that the money can support “Africa.” I don’t get why they have gone in this direction.  Why be confrontational with Christmas?  Really, IC, a woman beating an elf at the end? Is it supposed to be funny?

Better yet, they take it a next step with this:

09 December 2010

Best Intervention = Immigration?

I was feeling a little left out and don't want to be the only person who has not posted this graph (Alanna Shaikh, Chris Blattman, World Bank (original post), IPA).

Researcher David McKenzie writes in the World Bank post,
I bet that facilitating international migration is not very high up the list of interventions people think of. But it should be. In a new working paper, John Gibson and I evaluate the development impacts of New Zealand’s new seasonal worker program, the RSE. The figure below compares the per-capita income gain we estimate to those from microfinance, CCTs, and from my previous research giving grants of $100-200 to microenterprises. It is simply no contest!
Double blogger (Roving Bandit and IPA) Lee notes,
The migration study wasn't randomized, but was based on 4 surveys and the next-best statistical methodology. And with impacts that big, you have quite a lot of room for bias.

08 December 2010

ViewChange We Can Believe In? A (Video) Tool With Great Potential

I was contacted by ViewChange to discuss the release of their new website and tool for sharing videos amongst the aid/development community.  A partnership between LinkTV and the Gates Foundation, ViewChange,
brings together powerful, evidence-based videos that demonstrate progress in global development. Working with non-profit organizations, film distributors, and individual filmmakers, we combine at one site documentaries, news reports, and viewer-generated films of varying length and style.
The following post is based on my discussions with ViewChange and are my own thoughts and observations about the site.
ViewChange presents a tool which is aimed at people who are within the NGO and nonprofit circles.  By bringing together videos onto a single site, ViewChange people the opportunity to more easily access what has already been published and use the available resources when communicating in the capacity of outreach, marketing and advocacy.  The site has a lot of potential, but could use some minor tweaking in order to meet the needs of its intended audience.
VC Front
The front page (left) is simple and intuitive.  A user can select a video based on topic and has the ability to see what videos are featured in the prominent center icon. However, from here it begins to get a little tricky as there are few labels and instructions on the site.  I was fortunate enough to have someone guide me through the site, but found it to be useful to have the explanation.  This means that I would have likely missed out on some features if it were not for the help.

07 December 2010

The United States of Auto Complete (Map)

Very Small Array put the name of each state into Google and came back with the above as the first choice for auto complete.

In Praise of Mobile Banking

Nick Kristof wrote this weekend in the New York Times about the "Future" of development; mobile banking saying,
That’s why the most powerful idea in microfinance isn’t microloans, but microsavings — helping the poor safely store their money. And mobile phones offer a low-cost way to make microsavings feasible and extend financial services to the poor. About three-fourths of Haitians have access to a mobile phone, and similar numbers are found in many poor parts of the world.

06 December 2010

South Sudan and Clooney

My critical self worries that this over-simplifies what is going on in Sudan, but I will let it be for a little while and allow you to jump in and add your thoughts.

Can a war in Sudan be averted through diplomatic means?  What role should the US/UN/EU/AU play in this?

HT Nick Kristof

Under Pressure

...to have a vote.

Some (aka @DaveAlgoso and @ShotgunShack) want to have a vote for the ABBAs.  I am rethinking the idea of a vote American Idol style.  Which means people can vote, but the producers (aka me) can make changes.  Of course, I would share the results and possibly declare my own winner because it would not be appropriate pass on the opportunity to have fake elections (re: Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Cote D'ivoire).

Tweet/comment your thoughts.  

Note: This is the only version of "Under Pressure" that I could find without an advertisement.  Love the original video, but I am too impatient to wait 30 seconds.

Update: Dave pointed out a better video. So enjoy the Kermits.

The (Aid Blog’s Best Awards) ABBAs

It was brought to my attention that some people thought the nominations were the vote. My bad.  Having reflected on the fact that it would be a lot to get people back on voting and consider how poorly the Mashable awards have been at producing anything meaningful, I have decided to do the exact opposite of the great and powerful Oz.  Rather than begin behind the curtain, pulling levers to only be revealed by Toto.  I am asking the assistance of my canine friend to kindly pull the open curtain closed.

Would like to have embeded the clip from the Wizard of Oz here, but it seems that it is not possible.  This link will have to do.

Starting Wednesday, I will pick the winners for each of the categories based on what was nominated, who was nominated most frequently and my personal thoughts.  This largely puts the decisions on myself.  In the end, I wanted to do this for fun and with a large amount of self awareness and a pinch of irony ( Come on, I named them the ABBAs).  It is my hope that people can offer their dissent in the comment section.  I hope that not everyone agrees with my choices and are willing to jump in and tell me why.

05 December 2010

Quote of the Weekend

“How the funds are raised matters. If aid marketing builds the wrong expectations inside the minds of donors, then implementing good aid in the field becomes practically impossible.”

– J. at Tales From the Hood in his recent post “Viral” an absolute must read.

03 December 2010

International Day for Persons with Disabilities

This is a day that has a special place in my heart as I have worked with children with disabilities in Kenya and the US.  This is for the people who know that disability does not mean inability and fight forward. The slogan for this year is: 

"Keeping the promise: Mainstreaming disability in the Millennium Development Goals towards 2015 and beyond"

Why Do We Need Better Aid/Development Education?

This is why:
Via Ezra Klein
HT Laurenist

Original Study

Write Here!

Are you interested learning and writing about aid, development, volunteering, international issues, foreign policy or another topic I cant think of but is related to this blog?

I am looking for potential contributors, guest posts, and cross posts.  In order to expand the discussion, there is a need to engage with more people.  I can't offer you anything other than some space here (since I don't make any money off of this) and the opportunity to join the conversation by sharing your thoughts.

Email me if you are interested at all.  I am quite open to fielding your questions/ideas.

02 December 2010

The Nominations…So Far (Updated)

After a day, this is what the nominations look like for Aid Blog Awards 2010.  I am happy with the returns right now because there are some posts and bloggers that I have never read before.  Please keep making nominations, this can be a good way to find some of the work that might have slipped through the cracks.

You can add your nominations by commenting below or you can go here to do it anonymously.

Updated: 12/2
1. Best New Blog: The best aid blog that started in 2010.
Shotgun Shack, How Matters, Architecture for Development, Bottom Up Thinking
Water Wellness Laurenist, Staying for TeaCan?We?Save?Africa?, Going With the Wind Find What WorksWhyDev?, Kiwanja, Global Health Hub

2. Blog of the Year: What do you think are the best aid blogs out there?
Wait... What?, Aid Thoughts, David Roodman's Open Book Blog, Good Intentions are Not Enough, AidWatch, Texas in Africa, Chris Blattman's Blog, Aid on the Edge, Development Horizons, Find What Works, Humanitarian and Development NGOs Domain of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard, Pulling for the Underdog, A View from the Cave, Guardian UK Development; Poverty Matters blog (Guardian), Water Wellness, Jock Noble, Owen Barder, Tales from the HoodBlack Looks, Blood and Milk, Can?We?Save?Africa?, On Motherhood and SanityWhyDev?Global Health Hub,

Update: Digital Death Campaign

After a day and a half, the campaign has raised $162,599.50.  Maybe some people had the same concerns that I shared below about KCA.  Keep an eye out to see how it goes.  I am betting on them falling short of the number but calling it a success for raising a large sum of money.

I will admit, that I did think the KCA campaign would meet its' goal within a matter of days.  I was pessimistic about the naivete of the followers of  the celebrities and it seems like they might be smarter than I thought.  Maybe they shared my concerns about the campaign and decided not to give.

Oh, and what is up with this picture?  Can my death be as glamorous as Kim's?

01 December 2010

Save The Children’s Lottery of Life Campaign

A discussion over the new campaign by Save The Children called The Lottery of Life took place on twitter today with some people showing strong support and others a bit skeptical.  Shockingly, I fell along the lines of the skeptics.
Lee (aka Roving Bandit) wrote in support:

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day.  I have already written a more critical piece on Keep a Child Alive earlier this week and want to be sure to include a post today that is free of snark and crit (minus the link). 

While some aid projects and initiatives do a poor job, there is a significant need to find solutions to problems like HIV/AIDS.  Let's take a moment to salute the efforts of people like Dr. Suniti Solomon who recognize a need in their community and have dedicated their lives to the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Barney On WikiLeaks

Great catch by @kalsoom82 of sage advice from Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother that can be directly applied to the recent WikiLeaks:

Ted: "Barney, people don’t like being lied to."

Barney: "Wrong. They don’t like finding out they've been lied to. Because a lie is just a great story that someone ruined with the truth."

28 November 2010

Buying Life? Heaven? A T-Shirt?

Alicia KeysWednesday, December 1 is World AIDS Day and Alisha Keys, Usher, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Seacrest and Kim Kardashian will all die…..or so they are saying for the Keep a Child Alive campaign. 

By death, they mean that they will all bless us by refraining from using social media until they have been brought back to life by a donation of $1 million from their fans.  So, they will be sending out their farewell videos this week and remaining silent until the goal is met.
This has been picked up by the New York Times today as it discusses the effort saying:
It’s all part of the latest gambit by the singer-songwriterAlicia Keys to raise money for her charity, Keep a Child Alive (KCA), which finances medical care and support services for children and families affected by H.I.V. and AIDS in Africa and India.

22 November 2010

Call for Nominations: 2010 Aid Blog Awards

I thought of coming up with a clever name, but felt that it would be too trite to have some small name, so I am just going to call them my 1st Annual Aid Blog Awards.  What I want to do is to recognize some of the great work that aid bloggers have done this year.  I do not see it as a contest as much as it is a way to recognize this community.  I am taking open nominations first and then will produce a listing where people can vote in a few weeks.  From there I will announce the winners and provide the results from the voting (gotta be transparent right?).

Please take a few moments to go to a short Survey Monkey I have set up to make your nominations.  I will accept nominations until Friday December 3rd and then post the finalists on the following Monday.  Nominate away!

Development Economics 101

Dani Rodrik, Rafiq Hariri Professor of IPE at the Kennedy School of Government of Harvard and super blogger gave the talk "Diagnostics before Prescription" at the 50th anniversary of the Center for Development Economics at Williams College.  

Basically, it is a great introduction to development economics.  

Take a look, it is well worth the hour.

20 November 2010

A Chat With ViewChange

I had the opportunity to speak with people from ViewChange on Friday morning.  I will be posting on the discussion as well as some thoughts on the initiative.  In the mean time, check out the video below which was selected as their contest winner at their launch Thursday night.

Also, go to the site, click around and share your thoughts on it here.  I am interested in know what you think about the new space for development videos.  Also, take a look at this critical post from Future:Media:Change as it points out some shortcomings and some possible benifits of ViewChange (HT Lina).

17 November 2010

Volunteering Elitism

When you are a long term volunteer (one year) and have hung out with former and/or current long term volunteers, conversations will often devolve into two arms.  One conversation is about the materialism of everyone else and how people fall into the run-around life of chasing the American Dream and the next expensive car/house/country club/knife set/etc. which will lead to an emptiness in life, lesser meaning and it cycles ‘round and ‘round.  The second conversation is really just a bitching session about how hard it is/was to ‘live like the poor.’ It has a follow up that leads to comparing who had it harder and scoffing at those who chose to apply for food stamps or had a phone in Darfur.

Not every conversation follows the two directions, but they occur at a high rate (in my experience).  What strikes me about these conversations is that they become a sort of competition as to who is the bigger martyr.  In doing so, the members of the conversation do not realize that their attempts to ‘relate’ to the poor place them on a self constructed pedestal.  Yes, there is a level of elitism amongst volunteers and it is not a good thing.

15 November 2010

The First E-Reader?

cyber reader

I might be one of only a few people who loved the Upright Citizens Brigade when it first aired, but they seemed to have been on top of “cyber readers” well before Amazon.  Season 2 aired in 1999, just a few years before the Kindle release in November of 2007. 

What is next? Ass pennies?

NBC Is Killing it! (in a good way)

Elmira Bayrasli*, super author and Wonderment Woman, just pointed out a clip from this weekend's SNL that tackles idealism. She says:
This clip from last night’s Saturday Night Live captures what’s wrong with the rampant idealism put forward in D.I.Y. foreign aid. 
I’m all for idealism, within reason. Can we make the world a better place? Absolutely. But only when we start recognizing realities. One reality is that aid and development are more than one person’s good intentions or just positive thinking.
It can be summed up by the exchange at the end:
“What do you think on Mr. Conkland’s lecture: ‘The Sky’s The Limit?’”
“I thought it was reckless. Yea, reckless and irresponsible.”

* I don’t think I have mentioned Elmira here before, but definitely check her out.  She is in the process of writing a book on based on her vast knowledge of international development and aid. So, keep an eye out for it.

11 November 2010

Quote of the Day

Tom (Aziz Ansari), giving Mark advice on what to get Ann for Christmas in Parks and Recreation last year:

“Women love diamonds, even the super left-wing chicks who saw Blood Diamond and cried. When they get one, they’re like ‘Yea! Give me more blood diamonds. Make them extra bloody.”

Countries Resized According to GDP

"What the world would look like if countries’ geographic size corresponded to their economic size (GDP)"

"The True Size of Africa"

HT Nancy Birdsall at The Center for Global Development

10 November 2010

Green Books Campaign: Inside, Outside, Morningside

Today, November 10, at 1 p.m., 200 bloggers will simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on environmentally-friendly paper. By turning a spotlight on books printed using greener methods, Eco-Libris aims to raise consumer awareness about considering the environment when making book purchases.

The 200 books to be reviewed are in a variety of subjects including cooking, poetry, travel, green living, and history, and come from 56 publishers from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the U.K. that are participating in the Green Books Campaign.

Full list of participating books and bloggers - be sure to check out this review by Penelope of Sunray – The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard.

iomfrontsmI am reviewing Inside, Outside, Morningside by Alaskan poet Majorie Kowalski Cole.  Published posthumously after he untimely death this past December, the collection is divided into three sections: ‘Desire’, ‘Travel’ and ‘The Work of Our Hands.’

This was my first time hearing of Cole and reading her work, so I can only fairly discuss what I read here.  I want to re-emphasize that this was published after her death.  I want to do so because, while an overall good collection of poems, there were a few curious editing decisions that I feel should be forgiven being that Cole was unable to work through the final edits.  For example, in ‘Fire Filled Summer’ the poem begins: “Ignited by thousands of lightning strikes / fires roared to life in the black of spruce.”  To me, this is a significant error by omitting the comma after the word ‘strikes.’  While the hope is that the reader will see the separation between the two lines, the lack of punctuation asks for the sentence to be read straight through.  This causes a clunky turn. 

09 November 2010

Lesson Learned About International Volunteering from The Office

The most recent episode of The Office features a group of young people going to build a school in a Mexican village.  While probably not the intent of the writers, the parody of international volunteering provides some useful tips for those who are considering going on similar trips and development in general.

Though highly snarky, it is a win when a show like The Office can provide some lessons about aid, development and voluntourism. You can go to this post to watch the episode for yourself, I highly suggest it. The lessons:

Lesson 1: Life is far more complex than a single story.
Girl Leader: “Right now, Jessica’s children have to walk 12 miles to a school with dirt floors”
Michael: “Nooooo”
Girl Leader: “It’s gonna be three months of hard work.  And when we’re done we will practically be Kimishtanos”

Lesson 2: Simple morality is not sufficient.
Girl Leader: “My parents explained it to me this way: You wouldn’t hesitate to save a baby from a burning building, but what if the earth was your burning building and all the people on it were your family?”
Andy: “What if the moon was your car and Jupiter was your hairbrush?”

08 November 2010

The Office Does Aid

Ever clever, NBC’s The Office starts off as an episode about the christening of Pam and Jim's daughter but ends up with Michael and Andy going on a mission trip to Mexico. There are some great lines/digs that Aid and Development people will find to be pretty accurate.

Favorite Line:

Andy: "We'll probably screw up everything anyway."
Michael: "Would you want that for little Jessica?"

This one I have been told will work internationally. The embedded version is hit or miss. If all else fails, you can go here:

07 November 2010

A Voice of the Voiceless – Villages in Action

September in New York saw all the pomp and circumstance befitting of a meeting of the world’s leaders.  The irony was that the week of TED, UN, Clinton (x2), Obama, Gates and co. was set aside to discuss the poor.  More specifically, the Millennium Development Goals were to be discussed and money promised to support them.

The missing population (aka the poor, or the underdeveloped, or the needy, or the people everyone was talking about) was not missed by some.  Teddy Ruge of Project Diaspora was one such person and tweeted:

in response to the reflection by Professor Laura Seay that noted:
While there is a lot of discussion of the need to capture human capital in developing countries, we didn’t hear from anyone who had actually lived the experience of escaping poverty. We didn’t learn how families survive on $1 a day from people who have no choice but to make it work.
So, Teddy has followed through and come up with Villages in Action sponsored by BusinessFightsPoverty.org.  Please read his announcement below, go to the website and learn more about what I believe to be an important beginning to bring the voice of the voiceless into the conversation.
We are excited to announce that on November 27, 2010, the first Villages in Action (VIA) conference will be held in Kikuube in Uganda; a small village with just over 260 homesteads and a population just over 1000. My mother, one of our speakers, serves as the local chairperson, as well as pastor. I was surprised that she— a village leader—had never heard of the MDGs. She is, however, very excited that she will have a turn at the microphone to represent her village.   
We are humbled by the interest for this conference we have received and by the organizations that have already offered to help. We have just 23 days left, and every little bit counts. If you would like to help in or outside Uganda, please get in touch with us. Everyone is welcome at no charge, but if you would like to offer financial support just click here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010 from 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Kikuube Village
Masindi, UGANDA

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03 November 2010

Digital Media Lounge 2010: Blogs and Video

The collection of media from UN Week has been amassed.  Scroll through and see what was written. 
A Thirst For Clean Water, October 12, 2010.  http://blog.globalfundforchildren.org/index.php?option=com_mojo&p=602

Who’s Digital Power is it? September 30, 2010 http://blog.globalfundforchildren.org/index.php?option=com_mojo&p=599

Film for Social Good, Sep 29, 2010 by RealLifeArtist http://reallifeartist.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/film‐for‐social‐good/

02 November 2010

What Can Development Learn From The Election?

Election day will bring the United States a certain change to the House of Representatives and Senate.  The House will seemingly tip to the Republicans and I believe that the Democrats will hold onto the Senate with 51 or 52 senators.  The cause of this change is most evident in the growth of the Tea Party.  Conservatism was announced dead the day after President Obama was elected; two years later they are poised to take back control of the house.  The underlying cause for this shift is one which I believe speaks directly to the way that development is viewed in America and gives me worry for what might be slashed in the next budget.

29 October 2010

The Psychology of Savings

Dean Yang (University of Michigan) presented a study he conducted on farmers in Malawi to the Microfinance Innovation and Impact Conference last week. He divided the groups into a control group, a group with savings accounts and a final group with a savings and commitment account. The goal was to track the rate of savings against the farm seasons to see of the trend of more frugal spending prior to the next harvest would continue. In other words, the aim was to see if access to savings would iron out the volatility of income for farmers.

26 October 2010

Practitioners and Researchers: Missing The Middle

On the second day of the Microfinance Impact and Innovation Conference (#MFImpact), Abhijit Banerjee discussed the idea of the ‘missing middle’ in the opening panel hosted by David Roodman titled “What Don’t We Know That We Ought to?”  Banerjee highlighted a business growth phenomenon that has yet to be explained.  In short, there is an inability for small businesses to continue growing into reasonably larger businesses.  The small ones will see some growth (measured by employees) when they have access to capital and fall off after adding a few.  Businesses that are already medium sized, will see much more significant growth.  Banerjee labeled this gap the ‘missing middle.’  While this is a fascinating topics that definitely needs to be further researched, I will leave it to Rohit over at IDP to fill the missing middle I am about to create (Update: Rohit delivers his post on the "missing middle." Go read it after you read this of course).