Tuesday, December 23, 2008

City of Williamsburg, by the numbers

http://www.city-data.com/ has more numbers than you'll ever need for any city you could ever want to know about. There's data for both the City of Williamsburg and Williamsburg the county.

Some interesting/relevant tidbits:

(Williamsburg city)

Population in July 2007: 12,434. Population change since 2000: +1.7%

Estimated median household income in 2007: $46,254 (it was $37,093 in 2000)
Williamsburg: $46,254
Virginia: $59,562

Estimated median house or condo value in 2007: $427,735 (it was $182,000 in 2000)
Williamsburg: $427,735
Virginia: $262,100

Mean prices in 2007: All housing units: $500,825

2008 cost of living index in Williamsburg: 104.6 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

According to our research there were 64 registered sex offenders living in Williamsburg, Virginia in early 2007.
The ratio of number of residents in Williamsburg to the number of sex offenders is 194 to 1.

Daytime population change due to commuting: +9,499 (+79.2%)
Workers who live and work in this city: 2,212 (52.2%)

Williamsburg household income distribution Williamsburg home values distribution

Unemployment in September 2007:
Here: 4.1%
Virginia: 2.8%

Residents with income below the poverty level in 2007:
This city: 18.3%
Whole state: 9.6%

Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2007:
This city: 9.3%
Whole state: 4.3%

There's a whole page with numbers on the poverty levels in Williamsburg:

(We will definitely talk about this on the first morning).

Next, if you type in "poverty in Williamsburg virginia" in Google, this memo will show up:

One little bit from there caught my eye:

Income and Poverty

  • The Census Bureau¹s model-based estimates for income and poverty should be used with caution. Still, they reflect the existence of a relatively intractable segment of the population in poverty in both James City County and Williamsburg.
  • Poverty is more prevalent in Williamsburg than in James City County. Part, but not all, of this trend can be attributed to William and Mary students.
  • Black youths are especially likely to live in poverty. This trend is most noticeable in Williamsburg where 49% of black youths were in poverty in 2000.

If you're very interested in the issue of affordable housing, here's a site that might be worth a look. Every year they have the "Va Governor's Housing Conference," a major gathering of everyone involved in the area. The presentation powerpoints can be found here (most are very technical):

Out of all the presentations, those of you living in NoVA will find this one particularly relevant, as it details the unusually high number of foreclosures in the NoVA area:

Food crises and US policy

This article explains how subsidized US rice, sold to Haiti, undercut the local Haitian farmers and precipitated a food crisis. Shows how good intentions can sometimes go awry.

This article, "Manufacturing a Food Crisis," details the role that the WTO, IMF, and US played in exacerbating hunger abroad, with particular emphasis on Mexico and the Philippines.

POSTnotes on Global Health

Apparently the UK Parliament keeps a gaggle of PhDs on-hand to write 4-page briefs for them about the latest trends in science and technology. There's also a fair amount relevant to both national and global health. Since there are so many, I'd suggest reading the ones on topics in which you are interested-- although since they're only four pages, they tend to go by fairly quickly.

POSTs related to national health (in the UK)

Health Behaviour

Ethnicity and Health

POSTs related to developing countries

HIV/AIDS in developing countries

Fighting Diseases of Developing Countries

Access to Medicines in the Developing World

Tackling Malaria in Developing Countries

Food Security in Developing Countries

Adapting to Climate Change in Developing Countries


Full List of publications on "Science, Technology, and the Developing World"

Full List of publications on biological sciences and health

Obesity and Global Health

Newsweek interviews Barry Popkin, author of "The World is Fat," who offers some suggestions on why obesity is on the rise globally. His main argument seems to be the growth of an "obesogenic environment," i.e a surplus of food plus a culture of inactivity.

Some interesting points at the end, too, on the subject of intervention:

Some people are going to respond to all this by saying it should be a matter of individual responsibility that diet and weight are a matter of choice and the government shouldn't meddle.
That's OK if those people want to pay for the extra health-care costs that come with obesity. But right now this is affecting everyone in America, because we all pay those costs. It's the same issue we had with seatbelts. People who didn't use them were only hurting themselves, physically, but in the process, they were raising insurance costs for everyone. Now we are at a point where people can't even walk and they need scooters to get around, where we have to build special beds and chairs in hospitals, where we're taking toes and feet off people that have diabetes. If the government is going to pay for all of this, that affects everyone, and we need to do something about it. But America is a society that prefers to break things and then pay to fix them.


Brief article on the state of joblessness in America right now.


The Labor Department said that initial filings for state jobless benefits fell to 554,000 for the week ended Dec. 13. That was a decline of 21,000 from the 26-year high of a revised 575,000 claims a week earlier.

A week ago, the government reported the highest number of jobless claims since Nov. 27, 1982 when initial filings hit 612,000.

Moral Obligation

Peter Singer argues that the affluent have a moral obligation to help the poor in his extremely influential article Famine, Affluence, and Morality. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his position, this is definitely worth a look.


My next point is this: if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By "without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance" I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent. This principle seems almost as uncontroversial as the last one. It requires us only to prevent what is bad, and to promote what is good, and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important. I could even, as far as the application of my argument to the Bengal emergency is concerned, qualify the point so as to make it: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it. An application of this principle would be as follows: if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.

More from Peter Singer and the morality of consumption:

Found via MetaFilter.

Poverty and the Youth

A poverty-related article from ESPN? Believe it: they compare the football careers of two high school students from the same area, one a rich school and the other.. well.. read on!

Hard times have fallen on even the upper-middle class. Falling allowances? Kids getting jobs? Tragedy in suburbia.

Girl receives a $2 unemployment check:

Compare our youth situation with that of those in Greece. (Spoiler: they were selling rocks for throwing in protest. Yes, that's right, selling rocks.)

Cost Calculators and Financial Success

Mint.com is a lovely site that offers an incredibly useful tool for personal finance management, and also some general advice on how to manage your money:

Pulled from the above article, a series of "cost calculators" for just about everything you can imagine...

What's the cost of raising a child? Find out here:

What about the cost of moving to a new city?

The "real cost" of a car?

Finally, how long will it take you to pay off that credit card debt?

Tackling the doctor shortage

What do you do when there aren't enough doctors to meet the primary care needs of a community? Rosenberg profiles one relatively successful answer in India: train community health workers from among the laypeople. Whom do you pick from, considering everyone probably has a busy life and won't want to work for free? Try a historically disadvantaged population, thereby giving them a chance at higher social status (the Untouchables, in this case)!

[ Special note here: I actually really want to start a similar program like the one detailed in the article in the future. So the article has a little extra meaning, at least for me. ]

There's a problem of "medical migration" out of developing nations for better-paid jobs elsewhere. This colorful diagram depicts it quite artistically:

Found via Metafilter.

Help for the Homeless

Today, some facts and figures about homelessness in the US from PBS:

A neat LA Times article about a new technology designed to improve upon the living conditions of the homeless.. kind of.

Visit the Home of the EDAR for more info on that.

In other news, Dr. Helene Gayle offers Obama some advice: Fight Extreme Poverty!
Yet women and girls are disproportionately marginalized. Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours and produce half its food, yet earn only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of its property. Approximately 500,000 women die each year in childbirth—a number unchanged in more than 20 years—and almost all those deaths are due to preventable causes.

Found via MetaFilter.

Healthy Eating vs. Thrifty Eating

There's tension between how healthy you can eat and how much you can spend on food, as many low-cost foods tend to be junk foods. Can you eat healthy while on a strict budget? This NYT article examines that question:


The blog of the two Social Justice teachers who lived on a dollar a day can be found here (links to the Food Cost Index, something neat to look at):

Paternalistic Aid

On the global front, you have to be careful about how you deliver foreign aid-- the relentless desire to help can sometimes cause charitable organizations to neglect simple human dignity, resulting in reactions like this one, by Binyavanga Wainaina:

His website, link below, features additional perspectives on that theme:

Finally, an earlier article from Wainaina, expressing the same tone:

Mental Illness and America's Prisons

This is.. troubling, to put it lightly. America's prisons have become the de facto mental health institutions as actual mental institutions lose funding. Documentary and article by Jenn Ackerman.


Related, another video piece about prisons, called, appropriately enough, "Getting Out of Prison":


Laura Ling follows several young inmates out of prison and into the often losing battle to keep from going back in. With a record two million Americans behind bars, hundreds of thousands of inmates are released on parole every year, and most of them end up going back to prison. Laura takes us through the entire system, from the moment of release, to the first days out of freedom, to the struggle parolees have to resist going back to the lifestyles that originally put them behind bars.

A guide for the newly poor (in LA)

Today features a pair of articles from the West Coast, plus a bonus (fun?) article at the end.

The LA Times publishes "A guide for the newly poor"... in Los Angeles. Goes through many of the social services available there.

"10% of U.S. homeowners in arrears or foreclosure." Pretty much says it all, things are not looking good for homeowners trying to make it right now.

Finally, some unexpected/unintentional/unusual consequences of the recent downturn in the economy (selling hair?):

Global Issues

First up, an extremely compelling narrative about the consequences of foreign aid and foreign development in Kabul. One of the most interesting questions: Can architecture actually affect the level of violence in an area?

Next, a companion to the above, an opinion piece essentially making explicit the policy changes hinted at in the above article..

Third, women in the Congo testify about an onslaught of rape:

Fourth, Pakistan prepares for a water shortage:

Income vs. Brain Development

Here's the headline, and you'll see immediately why this is relevant, and why it ruffled a few feathers:

Cal Study: Poor Kids Lack Brain Development



"This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."

Related: Kirstof argues that the world's IQ could be raised simply by introducing iodine into the diet..

What is the connection between Poverty and Health?

"Poverty and Health: Asking the Right Questions" by Victor Fuchs

Hint: It's not completely intuitive. This is a definitive article, a must-read.


Article highlights:
1) Low income is probably not the cause of poor health, at least in developed nations.
2) Low income is still correlated with higher mortality, even in countries with universal health care.
3) Education may be the "third variable" that explains the relationship between income and health.


Here, you'll find the highlights of the WHO's "Global Burden of Disease" report, which essentially predicts how we will die in the next few decades. Some of the numbers may surprise you..

I suppose this is health-related too; a map of the world disaster hotspots!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Re: Why is there poverty? - Two Interviews

From: PW
Date: Wed, Nov 12, 2008 at 12:54 PM
Subject: Re: Why is there poverty? - Two Interviews
To: The Amazing Long


You seem to have captured most of what I said. Either you had a recorder or you're an incredible note taker!
A few corrections, though, for the record:

1) A number of transient homeless individuals feel safer in smaller towns, rather than large cities. Williamsburg has a bus/train station where individuals get off, and it is a "microcosm" of what is happening nationally.

2) On the example of the homeless man in Connecticut, I let him stay on the couch at the halfway house/aftercare program that I ran (since we were full), not in my home. I was also the VP for the local homelessness coalition that started a shelter, etc.

3) Tioga Motel was here in Williamsburg, not Connecticut. It's been torn down as of this past year. Until recently, $39.99 + tax was about the cheapest price for one night's stay in a motel in this area.

4) I'm not sure how much of the "poverty' discourse was mine, but the root causes are complex and varied:
individual circumstances health issues: mental & physical; addiction; (old) age or disability; (lack of) education, training, or other skills; high cost of living; lack of jobs, health care, affordable housing; no family or community support, supply-demand economy, etc, etc.

Viable solutions are costly, labor intensive, and require a tremendous amount of collaboration & cooperation across the board. They require public and prviate partnerships on local, state, and federal levels, as well as goernmental, business, education, organizational, and faith-based cooperation within geographic areas. In history the "poor" have always been there. Their numbers and degrees of poverty vary by all these factors in a given region, and, to a great degree, are driven by societal factors. It's when people, despite their hard work and efforts, cannot advance and improve their lives, that creates a permanent underclass in any society.

Hope some of these clarifications were helpful.


Poverty Resources from the UNC Poverty Center

Val also sent along a link to the UNC Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity, where Gene Nichol is now the Director.

Two parts of the site immediately present themselves as a great wealth of information:

*Poverty Resources - with Quick Facts, statistics, and links to other reliable sources. Example:

Rising Costs

The rising cost of food and fuel are frequently the two major reasons cited for the growing reliance on food stamps and/or food pantries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks the Consumer Price Index, reports that nationally the cost of "food at home" went up an average of 5.8% between May 2007 and May 2008. However, the price of some essential grocery items has skyrocketed well beyond that rate.

  • Cereal and bakery items are up 10.5%
  • Bread is up 15.9%
  • Eggs are up 18.2%
  • Milk is up 10.2%
  • Rice is up 19.9%
Moreover the cost of household energy has risen 11.9% (with states that depend on oil and kerosene for heating especially hard-hit). And no one needs to be told that the cost of regular unleaded gas has jumped--20.5% on average.

*Publications and Video - with links to many "policy briefs" written by the faculty.

Community Organizing

Valerie shared this article with me, written by Obama back in 1990:



In my view, however, neither approach offers lasting hope of real change for the inner city unless undergirded by a systematic approach to community organization. This is because the issues of the inner city are more complex and deeply rooted than ever before. Blatant discrimination has been replaced by institutional racism; problems like teen pregnancy, gang involvement and drug abuse cannot be solved by money alone. At the same time, as Professor William Julius Wilson of the University of Chicago has pointed out, the inner city's economy and its government support have declined, and middle-class blacks are leaving the neighbor­hoods they once helped to sustain.

Neither electoral politics nor a strategy of economic self-help and internal development can by themselves respond to these new challenges. The election of Harold Washington in Chicago or of Richard Hatcher in Gary were not enough to bring jobs to inner-city neighborhoods or cut a 50 percent drop-out rate in the schools, although they did achieve an important symbolic effect. In fact, much-needed black achievement in prominent city positions has put us in the awkward position of administer­ing underfunded systems neither equipped nor eager to address the needs of the urban poor and being forced to compromise their interests to more powerful demands from other sectors.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria

So I was looking through news articles awhile back and found this and meant to post it but never did...it's an interesting article.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Woolcock lectures on poverty - The Flat Hat

Great job Impact! We're in the Flat Hat:


The article actually contains a great summary of his lecture by Jessica Kahlenberg. Check it out, especially if you weren't there or if you want a refresher on what he said.

Video of the full lecture can be found here:


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Re: Why is there poverty? - Two Interviews

On Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 1:11 AM, The Amazing Long <ljvinh@wm.edu> wrote:
Hi everyone,

Recently we had a chance to meet with Peter Walentisch, the person who is basically in charge of all social services in Williamsburg, to ask him about, among other things, the causes of homelessness and poverty in Williamsburg.  This is part of our greater effort to conduct research on both local and global poverty.  I'm writing to share my notes from the meeting with you.  A caveat: they are as accurate as possible, but may contain misprints from the process of transcribing.

If you're interested in learning more about local and global poverty, considering coming to our regular meetings: 8:00pm on Mondays in Tucker 114.


P.S. The notes are reprinted below, for your convenience.  Also included is a short interview with Prof. Bisconer, an Adjunct Professor of Psychology who also supervises the Colonial Services Board Emergency Department.

Notes from Meeting with Peter Walentisch, Director of Human and Social Services for the City of Williamsburg

First Question:  Why isn't there a homeless shelter in Williamsburg?

Mr. Walentisch emphasized the point that just because we don't see homeless people often and just because we don't have a big obvious building to put them all in, it doesn't mean that people aren't doing everything they can to help.
Williamsburg uses what he called a "scattered-site sheltering" approach.  Because the City is a tourist town, we have plenty of motels, many of which have plenty of empty rooms, especially in the winter when the tourist season dies down (which, conveniently enough, is also when the need for shelter is often at its highest).  So the City has contracts with many of the local motels, which allows them to offer rooms at discounted rates.

When someone comes to social services for help, the social worker first tries to address their immediate needs: putting a roof over their head, and getting them vouchers for food.  Once that is taken care of, they move on to develop a longer-range plan.  An important question they ask at this point is, "What's realistic?"  This also allows social services to address individual needs-- for instance, if the client is homeless due to domestic violence, then they can be referred to Avalon for appropriate assistance.  Another resource available to clients is the Colonial Services Board's shared housing program.  Oxford House and the Substance Abuse Coalition are examples of other organizations that sponsor apartments for the purpose of helping those in need.

Mr. Walentisch discussed the importance of "community wraparound services" which allow better targeting, more individual attention, and greater community contribution.  This is exemplified by groups like the Homelessness Task Force.  They have determined that the need in the community is not for a building, but rather for services.  To build a homeless shelter, you'd have to spend about $300,000 to hold about ten beds, and the shelter would also require round-the-clock staff.

The "scattered site approach," on the other hand, utilizes a network of organizations to more effectively deliver services.  Contributing organizations include the United Way, local churches, social services, and various service organizations (such as "Vibrant Life Ministries"-- CK).  We also have links to groups all over the Peninsula.

Williamsburg is actually participating in the National Alliance to End Homeless' "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness."  The plans are still in draft, but show great promise.

Second Question:  What are the main causes of homelessness?

Williamsburg is a microcosm of the nation as a whole.  Consider DC and other urban areas, where you routinely see people on the street.  Relatively speaking, we are doing okay in Williamsburg because we are able to put people up quickly.  The homeless population is fluid. 

Who is homeless?  There are three major types:
1) Local residents who are struggling to make ends meet (they often have health issues or job issues and if they can't make rent due to these or other factors, they will lose their apartment).
2) People who are discharged from jails or mental institutions and suffer from a lack of support during the transition back to working life.
3) "Transients," many of whom travel up and down the East Coast seeking shelter.  They end up here because Williamsburg has a bus system.  Note that many homeless people would rather be here than, say DC.

Third Question: What are the main causes of poverty?

-Not having skilled work
-Williamsburg's tourist economy is dominated by unskilled labor jobs
-The cost of living has increased and is still increasing, as is the cost of housing.  Can you make it on $9 an hour?  (There's an incentive to share rooms in apartments, which is fine if you're single, but what if you have a family?).

Try to add up the costs.  For a family of four, how much does it cost to eat?  What is your grocery bill every week?  ($150?).  Day care is also extremely expensive, about $150 a week even, which adds up to $7500 a year (as much as in-state tuition!).

The cost of everything has gone up, and wages don't meet the cost of living.  That is why people are poor.

Even in the middle class, some are living paycheck to paycheck and straddled in debt (when things don't add up, forced to take a loan).  People in this situation are at high risk of sinking into real poverty, because in a family of four, a lost job or a medical emergency essentially halves your family income.

In Williamsburg, we have a seasonal economy.  So someone might work 60 hours per week during the "on-season" and make it okay, but during the off season, they might work, say 20 hours per week and take odd jobs on the side and still not make it. 

In the nation at large, we have a recession-- these are cyclical, in Mr. Walentisch's view, which puts even more people at risk for homelessness.

Mr. Walentisch told the story of a time when he worked at a homeless shelter in Connecticut.  Out in the northeast, homeless shelters tend to fill up quickly, especially during the winter.  So many people are turned away.  One client who had tried pratically every other shelter in the area came to Mr. Walentisch's shelter for help.  Mr. Walentisch had to turn him down as well, which prompted much fuming and uttering of expletives from the client.  So Mr. Walentisch decided to make a bet with him, thinking that his networking abilities and social status could get him a place in a shelter easily.  He bet the client that he would live three days as a homeless person and that he could find shelter for them both in those three days. 
Mr. Walentisch soon found out that for the poor and the homeless, there is often no starting point.  They went to the welfare office, but how could they verify your information and how could they send you checks without an address?  How could they contact you without a phone number?  To rent an apartment, you had to put up $2,000 as a down payment, upfront.  And if you're homeless, looking ragged, wearing the same clothes for days on end, and frustrated from being turned down again and again, how would you look to an employer?  Mr. Walentisch concluded the system simply didn't work.
Eventually, Mr. Walentisch pulled out a couch in his own home for his client.  They helped him shape up, getting him clean-shaven and sending him for some job interviews.  The client needed major, personal intervention.  They eventually got him a place to stay, but all in all it cost them $3,000-$5,000 personally.  Another problem was that even if you get a job, there's still a one month delay before you receive your first paycheck.
"I did not know," Mr. Walentisch confessed.  When you're not eating, you go into survival mode.  You're probably not all that presentable to an employer.  And even if you somehow miraculously get cleaned up, what if you feel miserable?

The Tioga Motel was the cheapest one in Connecticut, at $40 per night.  That's $280 per week, and $1120 per month.  At that rate, how do you save money to get out of the motel?  It's a Catch-22, Mr. Walentisch explained.

People would act crazier just to get into the state hospital.

There is a long process of stabilization for a family, even after all services have been delivered, that takes about 1-2 years.

Additional Questions:
1) How is the system accessed?
2) What are the statistics for this area?  How many are homeless and how many are in poverty?  Where do we find them?

(1) Poverty is a systems-level property.  It is not accountable in terms of individual, business, or group decisions.  In a way, "the system makes the decision for you."  So to answer the question, "Why is there poverty?" one might say, "Because people make low wages compared to the cost of living?"  This prompts the question, "Why do businesses pay low wages?"  One answer to this might be, "Because the cost of their supplies and the delivery of their services leaves them that much room in their budget for wages."  This then prompts the question, "Why are the costs of services and supplies so high?"  And so on.  There seems to be an infinite regression of questions here, which does not point to any one group or individual decision as the root "cause" of poverty which, if eliminated, would subsequently eliminate poverty itself.  To say poverty is irreducible is not to say that one couldn't explain it in terms of its parts (many decisions of many parties), but even in that case, something would be missing.
(2) Even if all social services were operating at full capacity-- say, with infinite volunteer manpower and infinite budgets-- poverty would not be eradicated.  This is because social services are a response to poverty, not a cure for it.
(3) Perhaps poverty should be viewed metaphorically as a disease.  You cannot completely eradicate it from a population (can't stop people from getting sick), but you can minimize suffering and quickly deliver treatment.  So the ideal solution to poverty does not involve identifying the "root cause" (because there is none; it is systemic), but rather it means creating a robust network of social services to quickly lift people up when they fall down.

Brief Interview with Prof. Bisconer (Dept. of Psychology at W&M, Emergency Services at CSB)

What is a Colonial Services Board? 

They provide many services:
1) Emergency Services (usually the first stop)
2) Outpatient care
-Substance Abuse
-Individual therapy (depression, anxiety, family loss)
-Case Management (major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder)
3) Psychiatric services
-Geriatrics (Alzheimer's)

There are 44 CSBs statewide.  The one where Prof. Bisconer works has jurisdiction over Poquoson, Yorktown, JCC, and Williamsburg

Their fees are on a "sliding scale" based on the patient's income.  They don't turn anyone down, and the fee is $1 if the patient cannot afford the services.

I asked her to estimate the volume of services they provide.  She said on a typical week, she will receive about 75 calls in the Emergency department.  About 40 out of those 75 will be for detox, either from the patient themselves or the patient's family.  About 25 of those 75 will be for major mental illness, which often results from noncompliance and decompensating.  Approximately 35 of those 75 lead to evaluations, of which around 8-10 will be hospitalized.

She mentioned an issue dubbed the "criminalization of mental illness," whereby many of the CSB's patients arrive because the police pick them up off of the streets.  So for instance, someone who is chronically schizophrenic, or a homeless person who is mentally ill, might find themselves at the CSB only after being found by the police.  She suggested that there needs to be a better way to shift from the legal system to the treatment system.

(Consumers by Special Population)
At-risk for Emotional Disturbance   29
Serious Emotional Disturbance   123
Serious Mental Illness   559

Website: http://www.colonialcsb.org/

Monday, November 3, 2008

IMPACT minutes 11.3.08


Grove Food Bank
Wednesday, November 5 from 11am-1pm
e-mail Long (ljvinh@wm.edu) if interested

Housing Partnerships
THIS FRIDAY, meet outside PBK at 2:50
e-mail Kate (klchelak@wm.edu) if you can come


Wallentisch Meeting
notes forthcoming

Colonial Services Board
notes forthcoming

Next Speaker -- Paul Farmer???
He was at UVA a few years ago...if you have friends at UVA ask them if they know how UVA got Paul Farmer to come.


Local Poverty Group

Global Poverty Group

*if you were not at the meeting, please choose a group and do the appropriate research for next week*

What We Will Be Researching
  • causes of poverty
  • effects of poverty
  • why it's an issue not being resolved
  • what to do about it ideally
  • what to do about it realistically
Possible Methods of Distribution
  • paper
  • powerpoint
  • website
  • pamphlet
  • information sheet
  • Flat Hat article
Goals for Next Week
Local --> 1 or 2 reliable resources/data for the area
Global --> statistics on the national level

Monday, October 27, 2008

IMPACT minutes 10.27.08


Beyond Confusion Corner: Service and Civic Engagement in the City of Williamsburg
Wednesday, October 29th at 7pm in Morton 20
to quote from Long's e-mail..."Mayor Jeanne Zeidler, SA President Valerie Hopkins, and Social Services Director Pete Walentisch will engage students in a presentation entitled "Beyond Confusion Corner: Service and Civic Engagement in the City of Williamsburg". This is the city we live in for most of the year, and we all have a responsibility to be informed and active in our political decisions. A question and answer period will follow the presentation.

Food-Preparation Shift at the DC Central Kitchen
Friday, November 21 from 1:30pm-midnight at DC Central Kitchen
Organized by OSVS/Commuity Service Leaders...this is the blurb from the OSVS listserv:
*new* Nov 21:  Interested in learning about alleviating hunger sustainably in the DC Metro Area?  Volunteer for a food-preparation shift at the DC Central Kitchen (http://www.dccentralkitchen.org/) on Friday, November 21.  A van will depart from campus at about 1:30pm and will return to campus around midnight of the same day.  For more information and/or to sign up, email rdwils@wm.edu!  Join the Community Service Leaders for a great service opportunity!Housing Partnerships Update

Housing Partnerships Update:
have not heard back from Brandie Wieler (volunteer coordinator) about Fridays; Kate will send her an e-mail


Our Mission(?)
  • What are the causes of poverty in Williamsburg?
  • Are they being addressed?
  • If not, what can we do to address them?
Areas of Focus for the Rest of the Semester:
  • local poverty and its characteristics (ie: Housing Partnerships and FISH)
  • local poverty research
  • global poverty research
*note -- next meeting we will divide into research groups for local and global poverty*

Goals for the End of the Semester:
  • have research that can be put in a report or perhaps even more condensed format
  • connect local poverty issues and research with what we discover about global poverty and solutions to global poverty
  • come up with ideas about the causes of poverty in Williamsburg, and perhaps direct the group to influencing Williamsburg practices regarding poverty (end of year)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Update on the UN's Millenium Development Goals

Someone in my epidemiology class posted this link on our class blog, and I found it very interesting...lots of nice graphs. :-)


Monday, October 6, 2008

Minutes 9.24.08

Sorry I took so long to get the minutes from last week posted...

9.24.08 MINUTES

Peter Wallentisch—Director of Williamsburg Human Services

· Friday afternoon meeting? ~3:30, 4 October 24

· Thursday afternoon?

Campus Garden

· Tuesdays, 4pm-6pm


Housing Partnerships

· **Training Thursday at 7

· Weekends still on

Long’s Winter Break Service Trip

· In Williamsburg…stay at CCM Catacombs (just behind Alumni House on campus)

· January 18th – January 23rd

· Work with: Housing Partnerships, Head Start

· LET HIM KNOW AT MEETING NEXT WEEK if you are interested

Woolcock Publicity

**Clare Will Write Form Letter this Weekend

2.5-3 weeks prior: Contacting Department—Government (Katie), Econ (Jeewon), Soc (Lisa), Women’s Studies (Lisa), IR (Devin), Global Studies (KB or Clare), Anthro? (Kat), History (Katie), Hispanic Studies? (Kat), ENSP (Clare)

3 weeks: Facebook!!! Clare—event and event summary

2 weeks: Professors—contact anyone who might be interested! Let everyone know once you have contacted one professor

2 weeks: **OSVS—Melody Porter (Emily)

2 weeks: *Ginger Ambler and Taylor Reveley

Flat Hat (Katie)

SA (Clare)

1.5-2 weeks: Other student organizations—SEAC (KB and Clare), SSDP (KB), APO (Long), Wesley (Emily), TLSC (KB), CKI (Kat), Vox (Lisa), Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (Lisa), Student Organization for Animal Protection (Lisa), HOPE (Long), CCM (Kate), Lutheran Students Organization (Lisa), CPALs (Clare), IR club (Katie), Sharpe (Clare), Young Democrats (KB), Monroe Listserv (Lisa Grimes—Long), Obama Students (Clare)

2 weeks (consistently): Student Happenings, at or near top of e-mails (Long)

1.5 weeks: Flyers—Grace

SC Banner and feltboard—Kate and Grace

In-class announcements—Civic Engagement

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IMPACT minutes 9.22.08

Ok. Here it goes:

First, turns out the Housing Partnerships training for this week was Tuesday at 7pm...sorry I didn't get that out earlier. I'm going to send the volunteer coordinator an e-mail letting her know there are three or four people who weren't at either training session but are interested in volunteering and were wondering if they could come this Saturday anyway. I'll let you all know what she says.

Now for the actual minutes:

James City County Social Services -- Jeewon got in touch with them, but no one who knew the demographics was in. She'll call again when they are there.
Housings Partnerships -- THIS SATURDAY from 8:30am-1pm. Meet in the PBK parking lot. Need to be trained first (see note above).
Make A Difference Day -- Probably not going to do this, because work isn't exactly what we though it would be.
Community Action Agency -- Emily still working on getting in touch with them.
Human Services -- Long still trying to get in touch.
Hospice -- Once again, not quite what was imagined at first (paid service, not free we believe). BUT Lisa mentioned Edmarck, a non-profit organization that does hospice care in the Hampton Roads area. So we will look into that?

Youth Service America
Grace mentioned it. We would develop a project and then submit it to the above organization for a grant to do the project. Potential???

Woolcock Funding/Advertising
Clare will contact Devin about what we currently have, but we still need some as-of-right-now undetermined amount of money.
[note: I cannot find the advertising minutes right now, but I'll send them out as soon as I get my hands on them.]

And that is all!

- Kate

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Re: [ihuman] Important Information and Minutes from 9.9.08

So I hope this works...

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get in touch with Sarah, but I still plan on heading over to the Food Bank tomorrow...and I realize this is pretty short notice but if anyone would like to join me please give me a call! My number's 610 308 7161, and I only have one class tomorrow from 2-3:20 so I'm free the rest of the day to go.

Hope everyone's having a fabulous week!


Minutes from 9.9.08

So apparently attachments don't post when e-mailed to the blog...anyway, here are the minutes:

Monday, 8 September 2008 – General Meeting

Kate and Clare started with the Introduction/Framework of IMPACT humanity

  • IMPACT humanity’s primary mission is to help mitigate poverty in our (the
    Williamsburg) community
    - Our focus, at least for this semester, is on local poverty issues, though we will
    address some principles of global poverty and efforts against it later in the year
  • In order to be able to address local poverty, we will be learning about poverty in the
    area through working with local organizations that serve the poor and the
    economically disadvantaged in Williamsburg and James City County
  • Three general things will come out of these service experiences:
    · We will become more educated about poverty in Williamsburg
    · We can then act on this knowledge against poverty in the Williamsburg
    · We will then be able to teach the greater William and Mary community what we
    have learned

Jeewon and Grace continued by talking about the Research/Reasons Behind Service with Pre-existing Organizations

  • Research will be done by teams who will focus on work with a particular organization
  • These teams will then teach the rest of the group what they learned through the
    service education experience
  • Reasons for Working with Other Organizations
    - To learn about what is already being done about poverty in Williamsburg
    - To better understand the causes of poverty in Williamsburg
    - To understand better what we can do to contribute to the efforts already being
    carried out by other organizations

Katie and Karen then discussed Organizations We Will Work With

  • Housing Partnerships
  • Avalon
  • Head Start
  • Food Bank
  • Dream Catchers
  • Tutoring at local churches hosting programs for elementary school children in need of
    tutoring (branching off of a Sharpe scholars program from last year)

Long and John presented an Example of What We Mean (Lackey Free Clinic) – see Long’s e-mail/post for more information

Important Information and Minutes from 9.9.08

Hello to everyone!

Thanks to all who came out this Monday! For those of you unable to make it, you missed out on a very informative meeting (and some really good cookies), but I wrote it all down in the minutes just for you.

- Our website (all minutes will be posted here, as well as relevant articles/"reports") --> www.wm.edu/so/impacthumanity
- If anyone is interested in going to the Food Bank, contact KB (kebrower@wm.edu).
- High Impact Ultimate Frisbee – THIS Thursday (9/11) at 10pm in the Sunken Gardens

NEXT WEEK's General Meeting
- When: Monday, 15 September 2008; 8pm
- Where: Tucker 114
- We will have a comprehensive list of organizations and will continue to split into groups.
- KB and Sarah will speak about the Food Bank OR Grace and Jeewon and Kat will speak about Dream Catchers.

Have a wonderful week!

Kate Chelak
Chair of Communications

The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit. [nelson henderson]

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lessons from Lackey Clinic

Attention Poverty Fighters,

The test of the Impact Humanity listserv is now complete. We apologize for the previous message, and assure you that the individual who did not understand the listserv has now been vanquished.

Today, during the meeting, we discussed our recent expedition to Lackey Free Clinic, a nonprofit health care facility that serves the underprivileged of Williamsburg and Yorktown. Beginning as a one-room clinic in a local church in 1995, Lackey Clinic now serves 5,400 patients throughout the region, filling 28,394 prescriptions and providing over $5 million worth of health care services to the area per year. Given the high cost of providing emergency care, the Lackey staff estimates a total savings of $4 million to area urgent care facilities.

We asked Mrs. Olivette Burroughs, the chief TPC (The Pharmacy Connection) staff member, "What situations or circumstances cause patients to turn to Lackey for care?" She cited numerous factors, including:
-Marital status (often, spouses who are dependents are stranded after a divorce)
-Education (many patients have less than a high school diploma, which makes it difficult to find employment)
-Language barriers (often further exacerbating the job search; many seek shelter with friends or live in homeless shelters)
-Being undocumented (also makes it difficult to find work)
-Mental illness and mental health
-Being formerly incarcerated (makes it hard to find a job-- a common theme here)
-Many work, but their employers do not provide insurance

As you can see, many of the factors that cause patients to come to Lackey for medical services also contribute to poverty in general. Although Lackey caters primarily to the "working poor," many of its patients do not work, often because they cannot find a job. We were told one story of a patient who had eight people in her family, went to Social Services for food stamps, and was turned down because her income was $2 over the limit.

We also asked, "What are the five most common diseases, illnesses, and conditions reported by patients at the clinic?" They are:
1) Acute injury
2) Asthma / COPD
3) Autoimmune disorders
4) Cardiovascular disease
5) High cholesterol

In addition, to get a sense of the epidemiological profile of Lackey's patients, we inquired, "What are the five most-commonly prescribed drugs at Lackey?" They are:
1) Protonix (ulcers, GERD)
2) Cymbalta (depression)
3) Norvasc (hyptertension)
4) Nexium (depression)
5) Lipitor (cholesterol)

Relating this local data to global health, it is evident in both cases that poverty renders people more vulnerable to health emergencies, and poor health contributes to poverty. Circumstances that hinder the flourishing health of the underpriviledged include lack of access to health care, antibiotic resistance, overcrowded living conditions, and poor nutrition (which leads to compromised immune systems). Especially damaging to underdeveloped countries is the rise of urban air pollution from economic development and a curious rise in tobacco use (smoking in general, by comparison, has tended to decrease in developed countries).

The underprivileged of developing nations face different challenges. While Lackey's patients report primarily chronic conditions (diabetes, hypertension, CVD, depression), much of the developing world confronts the threat of many infectious diseases. These include:
-Lower respiratory inflections, especially pneumonia
-Diarrhea (cholera, rotovirus, e. coli) - exacerbated by poor sanitation and contaminated drinking water
-TB (90% of cases occuring in the developing world, risk exacerbated by HIV/AIDS)
-Malaria and measles (partly responsible for high rates of infant and child mortality)
-HIV/AIDS (almost a subject unto itself)

Thus, while poverty impedes access to health care and lack of health care contributes to poverty both locally and globally, the epidemiological profile-- that is, the various diseases and conditions faced by the underprivileged, varies.

That's all for now,


UPDATE: "Two other prominent diseases are Diabetes and Hypertension. A medication associated with Diabetes is Novolin."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

human development, so-called cultural steamrolling globalization, "frontier colonialism", and mash-up cultural creation-A Letter From Guizhou

Hello Family and Friends (Profs count),

So I won't be too specific in this post, for cautionary reasons, but I've just a few ideas of many lately that I'd like to share with you. They may be redundant to your knowledge, or they may be strangely foreign. Hopefully they're complementary and clarifying, or at least eye-opening. I recommend you go out and search on the foreign, as I am not making a huge effort to explain a bunch of currently swirling and mixed ideas. (that would frankly take up more time than I currently have!)So I would just like to talk about a few development perspectives and concepts of human development.

Actually, so I just decided I'll list some names for you all to check out, since I have even less time than I originally thought I did...my apologies...the following are a few thinkers who have influence on my current honor thesis research here in Guizhou, China.
In no particular order:

Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Dan Klein, Paul Bauer--and Classical Liberal Economic Theory in general
Amartya Sen and fellow Human Development promoters (which take much from Classical Liberal perspectives)
Modernist and Postmodernist perspectives on political economy and development schemes in a "globalocal" context, namely Tim Oakes (and some others I currently forget...)
Development Skeptics and Economic Rebels--William Easterly (Paul Bauer is really his precursor)
Critical Poverty/Development/Methodology Scholars--Michael Woolcock, Christopher Gibson, Deepa Narayan.
Mash-Up Culture/Remix Culture--www.remixtheory.com--Eduardo Navas, Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault (and power theory, as far as Foucalt goes)

So I am currently navigating my way through Chinese bureaucratic waters, fraught with snakes and crocodiles of potential research impediment, but I will hopefully be village-side by this weekend, and will then be out of reliable contact for about 2 months.

Well, those are the only ones I can recall without my computer here, and I apologise for the frustrated brevity of the lot.

Off to take care of some things!
peace, love,

(and I leave with the nagging feeling that I've forgetten some important stuff...curse my crappy memory)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My occular consumption

Howdy folks, and greetings from Guiyang, Guizhou, China. Been here for about 3 weeksish now, and i've been living for relatively free (connections, connections, connections), with limited internet (as in, i go to cafes to steal signals...and buy drinks every once and again). I've been doing much research, swimming in paper, as i would describe it. I just wanted to share some reading material with you great people, and hopefully expand your horizons on some subjects that perhaps you're not so familiar with. I certainly have much material to get up to snuff with. Well, here's just a quick list, as i fear the imminent crash of my internet access:

  • The Elusive Quest for Growth, by William Easterly
  • The White Man's Burden, by William Easterly
  • Development As Freedom, by Amartya Sen
  • "The Fiction of Development," by Michael Woolcock
  • Several other BWPI working papers by Woolcock and colleagues (#12 on Mixed Methods for Assessing Social Capital in Low Income Countries, #8 on Empowerment, Deliberative Development and Local Level Politics in Indonesia) (BWPI=British World Poverty Institute)
  • Some P-A Theory (Principal-Agent), International Relations whatnot
  • "Human Rights as Cultural Practice: An Anthropological Critique," by Ann-Belinda S. Preis
  • "What's Tourism Got to Do With It?: The Yaa Asantewa Legacy and Development in Asanteman," by Lynda Rose Day
  • Various papers and angles on tourism policy development in China
  • Primary sources on Guizhou's tourism development and character
  • "Bathing in the Far Village: Transnational Capital, and the Cultural Politics of Modernity in China," by Tim Oakes (Tim Oakes is a great source on so-called 'frontier colonialism,' in historical Guizhou, and the social position of ethnic minority groups in relation to the nation and majority Han populations...and he relates this historical, cultural topography to the way development schemes and fdi then map onto such predetermined social conditions...)
Well, there's just a few things of late. Hope you enjoy! Have a stimulating summer my friends. I'll be gone for about 2 months in 2 weeks or so.
paz, amor,


Monday, April 28, 2008

Rethinking Poverty: Videos from TED

For all you video-watchers like me out there, I just found out that TED has a whole section dedicated to speakers on poverty. You can view them all here:

TED Theme: Rethinking Poverty

From the site, a description to give you an idea of what you're in for:

The catchphrase goes, "Make poverty history." But how? These speakers' innovative ideas may convince you to forget the traditional models -- grants, aid, charity -- and consider business, technology and trade instead.

Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, argues for a combination of philanthropy and investment -- highlighting personal dignity and choice as the path to progress. Academic and policymaker Ashraf Ghani, meanwhile, urges us to rethink capital in terms of security, social connectivity and education. And Hans Rosling's dazzling, animated statistics reveal the true discrepancies between emerging and developed economies.

Iqbal Quadir explains how he improved a Bangladeshi business model -- by replacing cows with a new component: mobile phones. Majora Carter details her efforts to bring green space to the blighted South Bronx, offering an eye-opening look at how flawed urban policy allows ghettos to exist. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, meanwhile, lets us in on a secret: business in impoverished countries is viable, and a "few smart people" have already made millions of dollars.

Two of the videos that I've seen and liked so far are Hans Rosling on world poverty statistics, [in fact there are two-- here is the follow-up], and Bjorn Lomborg on priorities (he answers the question, "If we had $50 billion to allocate into one issue, which would be the most cost-effective?"

Miniature Earth

This is a breathtaking video that really drives home many of the common statistics we normally hear about poverty and the general composition of the world's population.

Miniature Earth Home

And for people who really love looking at numbers, World-o-Meters is a site that displays various world statistics in real-time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Food Crisis 粮食危机

Ok folks, so I found the Economist's latest briefing on the Food Crisis, dubbed the "silent tsunami," wholly illuminating. I will just proceed to summarise its points and observations:
  • The End of the Era of Cheap Food--Subsidies in rich countries and heavy distortions in the international food market will be leveled by the recent outburst of the slow but sure suckerpunch the world just received. It's odd, I remember reading about so-called "peak grain" in an article in a Chinese magazine (粮食危机 or something to that effect) last November, and reading about the Scandinavian Seed Bank construction, and I am ashamed to say that the component that then grabbed my attention was the Seed Bank. It appears that the root problems should have been what was on my mind, but more importantly, on the minds of those responsible for addressing policies geared towards mitigating the global expression of such a structurally massive humanitarian crisis. We are now at a point higher than our past equilibrium, and while the market will (hopefully) level out at a new equilibrium, with farmers producing higher yields to respond to the current high prices, the transition will be very painful (it already is. see Haiti, just one example of the extremeness of this current debacle).
  • Retroactive Effects on Poverty Reduction--According to Bobby Z at the World Bank (President, and former U.S. WTO representative), the current "food inflation" has the potential to send 100 million back where they came from-poverty. This would wipe out "all the gains the poorest billion have made during almost a decade of economic growth" (2008. 5. 19. p.33).
  • Response from "Smallholder" Farmers Needed--The world is home to some 450 million so-called "smallholders," farmers in developing countries, who, individually, due not farm much in terms of acreage, only a few a piece. Supposedly a supply-side response from these small-scale farmers is desirable, and for three reasons: 1. It would serve to reduce poverty. 3/4 of them live on $1/day, live in the remote countryside, and are heavily reliant on the health of their plots and yields of their crops. 2. Environmentally speaking, this makes sense. These smallholders manage a "disproportionate share" of global water and vegetation resources. Therefore, improving their productivity and efficiency presents a better alternative to cutting down more rainforest and creating new farmlands. Invest in existing ones, improving their outputs. 3. Supporting these smallholders is more efficient. For example, the Economist cites African grain output v European grain output as an example. "In terms of returns to investment, it would be easier to boost grain yields in Africa from two tonnes per hectare to four than it would be to raise yields in Europe from eight tonnes to ten. The opportunities are greater and the law of diminishing returns has not set in." (33) There is a helpful chart in the article that I am sorry I can not include here. Just go find the issue. It's a good one.
  • Input Costs Present Barrier to Scaling Up--Unfortunately, there is not a "smallholder bonanza" as of yet. Apparently, in East Africa, farmers are actually scaling down their operations because of the rising costs of fertilizers (cost rise due to oil price escalations). India, however, is not a member of this trend. Neither is South Africa. Both have had boosts in output over the past year.
  • Sticky Prices--A greater trend is that of the inelastic response of supply to rise in cost of their produced goods. Farmers are not, and currently can not, respond perfectly and in a timely fashion to the spike in food prices, a phenomenon that expresses increased global demand. Agriculture is special in this way. At the very quickest, response time from farmers takes a season (several months), and in reality, crop yields and increases are contingent on multivariate factors including, technology investment (e.g. irrigation and seed engineering). These are long-run trends, and rely on persistent research and development from both private and public sectors.
  • Green Complacency--Following the "Green Revolution" of the 1960s, many governments, assuming that the food crisis had been successfully hedged against and invested in, actually cut back spending on farming by half (from 1980-2004). These cut-backs set in during the 1980s/90s. This neglect has had a gradual, yet terrible effect on seed strength, infrastructure, etc...and had contributed to the lag in supply and its subsequent sluggish response to the rapidly increasing global demand for grains, rice, and meat (wheat is a value-added component of meat, as cows are grain-guzzling machines, resembling developed-world nations' automobiles).
  • Shrinking Farmlands--Another crucial factor at play here is the global trend of decreasing farmland acreage. This phenomenon is taking place quite clearly in the People's Republic (of China), with strictly agricultural-use land dipping below the supposed "red line" (the base line for self-sustaining national grain production) of 120 million hectares. Grain security has clearly been compromised, as more farmlands are razed for apartment complexes.
And these are the main issues covered, the main questions begging for answers, solutions. Try to meditate on these issues, and remind yourself every time you at a good meal, instead of a mud sandwich (no hyperbole). Just more food for thought folks.
peace, love,

I love the Economist.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Global Food Prices and Hunger Pt. 4

great (general) article summing up recent events and trends in what seems to be a tragic coalescing of many disparate forces. what really interested me and was news to this kid was the bit about the raised food tariffs and export bans (e.g. India), and how such actions actually exacerbate the current crisis. also, i'll add some more based on the recent Economist's briefing on the "silent tsunami," as they term it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Global Food Prices and Hunger, Pt. 3

Some interesting news articles that I found...

  • Asian countries are limiting rice exports
  • G8 summit has put the food crisis at the top of their agenda

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hunger and Biotechnology

Apparently, with the rise in global food prices, companies are becoming less reluctant to buy genetically modified crops. Read about it here:

In Lean Times, Biotech Grains are Less Taboo

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Global Food Prices and Hunger, pt. 2

A recent story in the Economist affirmed Devin's earlier post regarding the connection between rising food prices and growing world hunger.


Quote from the article:
"Roughly a billion people live on $1 a day. If, on a conservative estimate, the cost of their food rises 20% (and in some places, it has risen a lot more), 100m people could be forced back to this level, the common measure of absolute poverty. In some countries, that would undo all the gains in poverty reduction they have made during the past decade of growth."

A related article, specific to Bangledesh.

"The new face of hunger," a longer article about the economics of the situation.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Development's Greatest Hits (DGH)

Just thought I'd put this up in a more focused way than my jumbled copy of a document several posts below. Taken directly from my notes on the Woolcock Google.org speech, here is what he identifies as the successes of development efforts aimed at alleviating poverty and solving pressing world issues. One will notice the inclusion of "Basic Information Technology." This would include cellular phone ownership and network access, things we perhaps take for granted. Though the failures are many in development's history, here are 10 things to learn from. I'll post more parts of my notes from the below document (which I apologise for) in due time.

Also, of important note, Professor Woolcock is down for coming to W&M in the fall! We've got to really get things moving as far as funding and scheduling goes. I'd like to work this out if not by this upcoming Monday (April 21st) then during our meeting. We'll go over costs and the like at the meeting. I've got an estimate, and a tentative date, assuming we can confirm with SA.
peace, love,

1. Universal vaccination (prevention)
2. Community Health (cure)
3. Property Rights (Hernando de Soto!) “Nobody washes a rental car”
4. Microfinance
5. Conditional Cash Transfers (Latin America--paying mothers to keep their kids in school)
6. Rural Roads (making accessible routes between rural areas and markets all times during all seasons)
7. Girls’ Education
8. Green Revolution (India—Getting basic seeds, tech, etc…to rural farmers) (Need a GR for Africa) (First step to industrializing is strong investment in agricultural productivity)
9. Basic Information Technology
10. [Economic growth, migration]

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"--French Electronic Artists Understand

So it is occurring to me (sometimes it's a slow burn) how important technology's role is in transforming peoples' lives, anywhere from providing added convenience to opening up previously unimaginable doors for the dispossesed and disadvantaged. This great article about the role of a psuedo-anthropologist ("user anthropologist") demonstrates the powerful (and positive) effects simply gaining access to a cellular phone can provide someone in trying to provide medical attention for his/her child or secure an order for his/her produce. Page two of this article has a couple of insightful points on this issue. check it out y'all. good reading.

Also, William Easterly (the man) describes how technology and technological progress can provide a deal of the impetus for the gradual improvement of peoples' lives and the opportunities available to them. Of course, technology is not the holy grail to reducing poverty (one might not be surprised to discover that nothing presenting itself as THE solution to any problem is such, let alone a problem as multifaceted, interlocked, and complex as global poverty and equality divergence). However, it can help raise the level of flexibility and efficiency in the life of someone unaccustomed to such historically upper-crust accoutrement. This gets at the heart of the technological leapfrogging trend of the past decade--providing a means to make life more egalitarian on a global scale. In the words of Daft Punk "Technologic, technologic..."

Friday, April 18, 2008

NGOs vs. Institutions...again

Not to beat this topic into the ground with a stick, but this article (which provides a summary of a report released by Women's World Banking on the differences between NGO-based and institutional-based microfinance organizations) struck me as extremely relevant to the discussion we had two weeks ago on the pros and cons of both NGO-based microfinance and institutionalized (if that's the right word) microfinance.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Global Food Prices and Hunger

A critical issue that has arisen recently around the world (and in the United States, with some 35 million Americans going hungry--for information on this listen to Bill Moyer's PBS report on 4/11/08 Hunger in America). As Australia's rice production comes to a grinding halt, the effects are being felt around the world, most potently in Haiti. In Dakar, Senegal, the government dispersed rioters protesting skyrocketed food prices in the street, angry at their government's seeming inability to deal with pressing issues, distracted by the development of five star hotels and other such gentrifying processes. People are hungry, and subsequently angry around globe, in every continent. Despite all of this chaos and riotous outrage, Mark Lacey states that "most of the poorest of the poor suffer silently, too weak for activism or too busy raising the next generation of hungry."
So IMPACTers, what's to be done? Is it aid, investment and growth? Is it proactive NGO involvement and investment in human capital? Is it a concerted international effort to promote "stability" in the political realms of such conflict-embroiled nations as Haiti or Sudan?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Running for Water

Six Maasai leave Tanzania for the first time in their lives and run a marathon in England to raise money for their village's water fund. Innovative, but simple approach to development. If you can run, why not get paid to do it, and turn that extra income into prosperity?

Money that Impoverishes

The Consequences of Traditional Lending: Some Reasons for the Failure of Global Development Efforts

Severe poverty continues to be endemic to many developing nations despite numerous efforts at its eradication. The current economic practice of offering large-scale loans to nations dealing with poverty perpetuates rather than mitigates economic inequality. The administration of such ineffective or detrimental “aid” is often external to the location of the problem and is globally instead of locally controlled. Because this control is exercised by nations that do not experience such problems and often, nations that potentially stand to benefit from acting as lenders, the root causes of and local issues surrounding severe poverty are not effectively addressed. Since offering loans to nations struggling with poverty fails to be a sustainable solution to poverty, its widespread use must be called into question.

Internationally organized loans such as those provided by individual nations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are commonly marketed as effective strategies for reducing poverty in developing nations. These loans are large-scale loans given by such organizations to the governments of developing nations. Theoretically, they are intended to mitigate poverty by providing governments with the capital to foster national economic growth, in the hope that this will “trickle down” to those experiencing poverty. However, very little money loaned to developing nations actually benefits those in severe poverty. Large portions of the funding officially reported as loan money is actually spent on costs for implementing programs in recipient nations. In addition, those funds that are actually spent in recipient nations usually go to projects such as building infrastructure that rarely benefits those who are truly poor. Between 1977 and 2003, Bangladesh received $30 billion in aid, but only 25% of this was spent in Bangladesh itself (Yunus, 145-146). That so little funding reaches borrowing nations themselves indicates serious structural flaws in this economic practice.

The tremendous scale of these loans themselves also creates a positive feedback cycle wherein nations borrow more money to pay off the original loans. This spiraling indebtedness leaves little to no ability for debtor nations to invest in national programs that would benefit the citizens for whom the loan was originally intended. Additionally, frequent debt crises resulting from the practice of large scale lending has led to the necessity of restructuring loans, consuming monetary resources and energy that could have been put towards sustainable development (Ocampo, 117-119). Fluctuations in amounts of aid given to developing nations also cause periodic economic crises and instability. Thus, poverty in debtor nations is actually exacerbated by this practice, as such circular debt structures burden all citizens with the resulting economic depression and instability (Ocampo, 10-11,19).

Additionally, the lending organizations tend to place severe restrictions on the economic activity of borrowing nations, including restricting social programs. For the most part, lenders to developing nations are strongly capitalistic and attempt to promote free market economies through their international policies. Economic problems are seen as stemming from improper economic structure within a country. Therefore, lenders often place restrictions on nations benefitting from loan money that include privatization of national industries and most strikingly, limits on social programs such as pensions. In nations that already struggle with large sectors of impoverished, underprivileged citizens, strict restrictions on spending that could directly benefit these groups of individuals seems to directly contradict with the claimed purpose of these loans. Not only does limiting this type of aid limit the access of the poor to necessary services, it also limits opportunities for economic advancement, because those who are severely impoverished generally have few means with which to enter an economy that is rapidly growing in its upper sectors (Vreeland, 23-25). In the case of the IMF, this practice is known as conditionality, and claims to help nations stabilize their economies through sound policy. However, these conditions tend to restructure economies so that the burden of debt payment shifts away from the richest members of society. By restricting the use of borrowed monies to only select economic sectors, very little loan money reaches the people for whom poverty is a daily reality. With IMF conditionality, this has been shown to actually be detrimental to national economies in addition to failing to help impoverished members of borrower nations (Vreeland, 2-3).

The practice of international lending also suffers from the fatal flaw of attempting global solutions for largely national and regional issues. Most lenders and aid donors to developing nations are based in locations far removed from the poverty they seek to mitigate. In the case of global lending organizations such as development banks, they are rarely (if ever) located in developing nations. For example, the World Bank and the IMF are both headquartered in Washington, D.C. Thus, they have less sensitivity to the effects of their actions on regional and national circumstances (Yunus, 147). Despite the existence of chains of command, citizens of receiving nations have little to no effect on policies set by these organizations (Vreeland, 38), leading to very little accountability. Both global organizations and lending nations also stand to benefit from offering such loans due to the profit received from the interest on these loans. Therefore, they have tremendous incentive to offer large-scale loans, with very little incentive to act in the best interest of the citizens of borrowing nations.

In addition, because most members of aid-providing institutions do not live in the areas receiving the aid, their perceptions of the results of aid are reduced to numerical measurements that may not accurately reflect actual conditions. Economic progress in debtor nations is generally measured by indicators such as the increase in the Gross National Product , which indicates very little about the actual standard of living of individual citizens (Yunus, 146). Instead of a hierarchical model of institutions and other nations effectively mandating policy and aid methods in other nations as well as how they measure the progress of their programs, global anti-poverty efforts should have a much more egalitarian structure. The input of developing nations should be given considerable weight in aid type, allocation, and the determination of effectiveness of programs. Nationalities and localities should have the greatest amount of control over the allocation of funding, provided that the funding does go to programs that effectively combat poverty. Through such a structure, the problem of nations abandoning possibly beneficial social programs in favor of receiving more aid could be mitigated.

Underlying all of these issues is a refusal to focus on sustainability in seeking solutions to chronic problems. In many situations, the solution applied is not chosen for its ability to actually cure the problem nor for its long-term advantages. Rather, “solutions” seem to be derived from an overwhelming desire for expediency and by the desire of those driving the decision making process to experience a short term gain. In establishing this system of international indebtedness and lending in the years shortly after World War II (Vreeland, opening page), the political victors who now dominate the process (such as the United States) saw not simply an opportunity to encourage development in a capitalistic model, but an opportunity for their own economic benefit in functioning as lenders. Instead of choosing this expedient but temporary method of mitigating poverty a more careful, cautious process, had been employed, sustainable methods of combating poverty, or at least less detrimental ones, could have been arrived at.
Thus, large scale loans from externally focused and located sources offer few workable solutions for poverty and often exacerbate the problem, due to their limited exposure to the actual effects of their actions and their self-interest in offering such loans. Hence, what was meant to be a solution to a problem has become, instead, a significant cause of that problem due to carelessness in the original planning of its structure and implementation. In the future, much more carefully guided and monitored solutions must be sought so as to eliminate this particular cause of poverty if there is to be a chance of mitigating it and its effects.
Works Cited

Ocampo, José Antonio et. al., ed. International Finance and Development. Zed Books Ltd., London: 2007.

Vreeland, James Raymond. The International Monetary Fund: Politics of Conditional Lending. Global Institutions Ser. Ed. Weiss, Thomas G., Wilkinson, Rorden. Routledge, New York: 2007.

Yunus, Muhammad. Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty. Public Affairs: New York: 2003.