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 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.,8599,1731718,00.html

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?,,2273114,00.html

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.

Resources for "Poverty and the Environment"

Here are many articles pertaining to sustainable development, particularly slash-and-burn agriculture and deforestation.

"Finding Balance: Forests and Family Planning in Madagascar"


Poverty, Environment, and Sustainable Development: A Thematic Bibliography

Excerpt from Conway's article "The doubly green revolution: balancing food, poverty and environmental needs in the 21st century",M1

Food for All in the 21st Century, Gordon Conway

Poverty, policies, and deforestation: The case of Mexico

Effects of Poverty on Deforestation: Distinguishing Behavior from Location

Rethinking the causes of deforestation: Lessons from Economic Models

Deforestation in Cameroon, and Poverty in the Rural Zone

Land use intensification potential in slash-and-burn farming through improvements in technical efficiency

Minutes for 4.14.08

Hey poverty fighters,

Here's what we talked about today, and information about what we'll be doing in the future!

There will Free Chairs given out next meeting (including Outreach, Meeting Facilitation, Research, Publicity, Women's Issues, and Communications).

We learned from Megan, the VP of SHH, that Siete de Abril is 15 minutes away from the nearest big city (and market), El Progreso. This limits the options for microfinance projects. SHH also has an entire class at UMW led by a Professor of Economics who specializes in microfinance, and the class is about how to set up a microfinance institution in a setting like Siete de Abril. So they have their microfinance research pretty well-covered. Currently, they are looking at either busing the villagers to the nearest market, or setting up a cooperative similar to the way Impact and Hatemalo are partnered.
In light of this, we decided that we should broaden our research to include other methods of poverty alleviation that can work in the absence of nearby markets. Clare suggested a "village or village leader loan" that can be used to decrease the cost of purchasing transportation.

There is a program called "Hadetha" started by a W&M alum where organizations can adopt a businesswoman in Iraq. Katie is on this and will contact the head about taking part in this next year. We will also look into Avalon and the way they help women in need.

On Poverty and the Environment, it is such a complex issue, and is better known as "Sustainable Development" (thanks Clare). Case studies in particular include the Three Gorges Dam and slash-and-burn agriculture in general. We will post many resources on our website, , for those interested in pursuing this issue further.

See you next week!

Bird's Eye View of Poverty and Development (History, Successes, Failures, and the Future)

This is a video covering the subjects mentioned in the title. It is the Michael Woolcock video I had previously sent out on the William and Mary impacthumanity listserv.

Below are the notes I took while I watched the video. I hope this clears up any confusion, and allows you to make your way through the swamp of development literature. While this is by no means a comprehensive introduction to development, I believe it to be a great (and correct) start to looking at these issues. Enjoy!

Global poverty is not a problem that can be addressed immediately and without humility. Many great minds have attempted to tackle the problem, and have not solved the problem. However, humility is not meant to be a ceiling for uncreative, un-striving thought.—

Every place in the world has a local culture, therefore, while there are common strategies globally, these must respect and merge with contextual circumstance.—

1. what is all this divergence?
2. what is poverty?
3. how important is growth in addressing poverty?
4. what can we learn from success stories? (South Korea, Botswana…)

1. Global Disparities: pretty recent phenomenon in human history.
2. National Level Poverty: it is not a permanent condition (Korea, Japan, Botswana, etc…have had upward national mobility). Also downward mobility (Argentina)
3. Good Governance helps development. (Africa)
4. Location Matters: Geography is not destiny, but bad locales can influence development.
5. Poverty: Poverty is not simply low income or unfair suffering. However, it is, according to Ray Offenheiser, Janis Pearlman, a lack of opportunity and socio/economic/political agency. The poor must be seen as economic agents, not simply recipients.
6. Economic Growth and Poverty Alleviation: Usually a strong correlation between average GDP per capita and GDP per capita of lowest quintile of population. However, correlation is not causation…?
7. Inequality and Distribution: presents hurdle to growth. Better distribution, access to services, education, etc…Davesh Kapoor.
8. Borders: Pritchard. Labor mobility is essential as well. Freer movement of the poor.
9. Development assistance (foreign aid): not traditionally the big driver of development.
What can google people do to make a constructive effort to alleviating poverty?? The point of the video-

Michael Woolcock of the Brooks World Poverty Institute (BWPI) of Manchester (chaired by Joseph Stiglitz) discusses the comparative advantage of google to approaching poverty alleviation.
Though Manchester is the origin of global industrialization, it still contains many poor people.
Woolcock wants to approach the issue from an interdisciplinary angle, and bridge the north-south gap.

Slide 1: Development’s Greatest Hits (DGH): Top 10 interventions that ‘really work’: (Tina Rosenburg)
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]

Slide 2: How do we know DGH ‘works’?
Because, in most cases, rigorous evaluation says it does…
And because these types of projects lend themselves to such an evaluation
Because a charismatic figure has been a persuasive advocate (e.g., Yunus, de Soto)
Great, BUT…
These ‘successes’ are small islands in a large sea of mediocrity and failure
A good Development theory must account for both
Even so…
Slide 3: Shouldn’t we just replicate and expand DGH?
After all,
Problems are urgent
Time is short
Resources are finite
Voters, politicians are skeptical (even hostile)
Just doing DGH effectively is hard enough
Why waste money ‘reinventing the wheel’?
Maybe…but maybe not…

Slide 4: DGH revisited
Most of these projects…
Began as local experiments
Not initially successful; only became so over time
Initial costs heavily subsidized (esp. microfinance)
Still have high variance (work great in some places, and not in other places)
Have core standardized (context invariant) components, which…
facilitates ‘gold standard’ (randomized) evaluation
enables high returns to diligent-but-low-skill field staff
still rely heavily on local intermediaries (the meat in the sandwich, between “The project” and “The community”)
Don’t automatically make people “not poor”

Slide 5: More fundamental concerns
Focus should be on finding solutions to prevailing problems, not re-working problems to fit the solutions we happen to have
Big danger: Have hammer, see nails
Huge bureaucratic imperatives to do just this
You’re a star-a bona fide development expert-if you can provide a universal ‘tool kit’ based on global development
Deep, pervasive, ‘binding constraint’ poverty problems may or may not map onto a known project or policy instrument
Inflation does, but what about ethnic violence
What if it’s not even clear what ‘the problem’ is? The essence of many problems do not have, ex ante, known solutions.

Slide 6: Solutions when pushing for the solution is itself the problem
Consistent failure in even mainstream interventions (e.g., health, irrigation) often a product of ignoring:
1. Local Knowledge (‘metis’-Jim Scott)
2. Core aspects of provision entailing decisions that are
i.e., require lots of ‘professional’ choice, hard judgement calls
and Transaction intensive
i.e., require numerous face-to-face interactions (e.g. teacher-student, doctor-patient, therapist-client, school lunches)
Consider HIV/AIDS…

Slide 7: What if there is no knowable solution?
What if the core problem doesn’t have a known or knowable (ex ante) ‘policy’/project solution?
ethnic grievances
rampant injustice
high corruption
religious strife
qualitatively different understandings of how the world works (“clash of ontologies”)
e.g. ‘science’ versus ‘witchcraft’ to explain illness

Slide 8: A basic typology of decision-making
Transaction Intensive?
Example of Low: Algorithms (“Better Machines” e.g., cells phones, ATMs…person plus money equals withdrawal)
Example of High: Policies (technocratic) (the power of policy makers, Ben Bernanke and the Fed, the stew over numbers and problems, and then divine a solution which then affects the market noticeably…this type of decision-making is not necessarily applicable to non-macroeconomic, policy issues)

Discretionary? (across)

Transaction Intensive? (down) Low High
Low Algorithms
“Better Machines”
e.g. ATMs, cell phones Policies
“10 smart people”
e.g., Interest rates
High Programs
“10,000 faithful functionaries”
e.g., Vaccines Practices
“100 teams”

Slide 9: What to do? 21st Century Development (21CD)
1.Deploy the ‘wisdom of crowds’
Development marketplace
Delimit technocrats; harness local knowledge; empower entrepreneurs
2. Recognize that big and small is beautiful
Kecamatan Development Project (Indonesia)
Scale+context specificity+conflict management (airing grievances)=the holy grail of development (taking place with Kecamatan)
3. Promote “social will be everywhere” (Google) Decentralizing decision-making, and putting them into the hands of more affected people
Participatory budgeting (Brazil),
PETS (Uganda)
Enhancing relationships of accountability
Reducing information asymmetries
4. See development as ‘good struggles’
Cambodia Arbitration Council
Establishing forums for more equitable contests
Focus on institutional ‘functions’ more than ‘form’
Slide 10: DGH 2.0
Short term
DGH 2.0
Refine, adapt, expand access, lower costs
Worthy and noble, but…

Medium term
Upgrade to 21CD
Develop new ‘learning to learn’ technologies
Getting there…

Slide 11: Implications, challenges for Google
Long Term
Chang the whole operating system!

Sponsor ‘New Bretton Woods’ conferences
Mountain View consensus?
Build broad constituencies for change
Educate, mobilize, coordinate
Need entirely new complementary architecture for managing aid, trade, labor, migration, finance, and dispute resolution
i.e. how we conceive and respond to problems (especially of production, interaction, exchange, and difference)
Development is not some simple Manhattan Project, or even a Marshall Plan
History can’t be “engineered”

love, Devin.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

How to Email Directly to the Blog

I just discovered a useful feature whereby we can send emails to both the listserve and the blog simultaneously. This can be particularly convenient if, say, you just discovered an article or video that you'd like to share with the organization, but would also like to post on the blog for further discussion.

First, from your dashboard, click on "Settings."
Then, click on "Email" from the links at the top.
Next, enter something for your "Mail-to-Blogger Address." For me, I use shadowzero359.impact[at] .

After that, any time you want to both inform the group about a great article AND post it on the blog for future reference, send your email to both impacthumanity[at] and your mail-to-blogger address.

Yay technology!

Meeting Monday at 8pm in Tucker 131! (Details inside..)

Hey all,

We have a meeting tomorrow at 8pm in Tucker 131.  We'll be talking about three main topics:

(1) The current situation in Siete de Abril and the prospects for microfinance, with information we've just acquired from the VP of SHH,

(2) If and/or how we want to structure our leadership positions, and

(3) "Poverty and the environment," the scheduled discussion topic for next week (however, if you've been doing research in other areas, feel free to share).

Also, we now have a website(!!), which can be accessed by visiting .  Please bear in mind that it's still in its testing stages.  If you'd like to be added as a contributing author, please email me, Clare, or Devin.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

First Post

This will be a place where we can combine all of our research and information-gathering. I'm hoping to have it hosted on William and Mary webspace as Impact Humanity's official website soon.

Where to start? I suppose we begin with the basics.