How will development be financed? The eclipse of aid, and what it means for post-2015

August 6, 2013

Whatever happened to the Academic Spring? (Or the irony of hiding papers on transparency and accountability behind a paywall)

August 6, 2013

Panels of the Poor: What would poor people do if they were in charge of the post-2015 process?

August 6, 2013
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Many of the attempts to introduce an element of consultation/participation into the post-2015 discussion have been pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’. So thanks to Liz Stuart, another Exfamer-gone-to-Save-the-Kids, for sending me something a bit more substantial: 5 day in-depth participatory discussions with small (10-14 people) ‘ground level panels’ in Egypt, Brazil, Uganda and India, culminating in a communiqué to compareEgypt GLP with that of the great and good on the ‘High Level Panel’.

Here’s a summary from a post by Catherine Setchell on the Participate website (which links to the four country communiqués, also worth a skim):

The GLP in Egypt (right) proposes a vision of “self-sufficiency” at the country and community level, where Egyptians own the resources needed for development and can secure enough local production of food and other basic items such as water and fuel. They also highlight the importance of “paying more attention to having a high caliber of leaders who can effectively implement our Vision on the ground, which requires good governance.”

The GLP in Brazil wants a “plan for global life” which recognizes the interconnectedness of citizens, the environment and government bodies, where dignity is key. They stress that the current development model is outdated, driven by political and economic interests and puts humanity on a “plan of death.” They recommend seven proposals to achieve the “plan for global life” that include amongst others: “popular education; fair, egalitarian and sustainable forms of production, job creation, and income distribution; building of new alliances; and forms of government and organization that come from the processes and the real necessities of the people.”

The GLP in Uganda called for a vision that “respects the rule of law, human rights and transparency to ensure that services are delivered to everyone equally without any segregation or misappropriation of the national resources.” The panelists reinforced the UN High Level Panel’s “five transformative shifts,” with further recommendations. For instance, panelists agree to putting ‘sustainable development at the core’ but emphasise that “peace and security are critical for achieving sustainable development, and that people should have the opportunity to determine their own development with the necessary capacity and economic resources.”

GLP India panelThe GLP in India recommended fifteen goals (see left – keep clicking to expand), including “establish a corruption-free society and state; promote equity; establish robust accountability mechanisms; create institutional spaces to promote people’s participation in local governance and policy-making process; protect the environment; enforce mechanisms to prevent tax evasion by corporates; and end discrimination and stigma.

How do these statements compare with the High Level Panel report’s 12 goals?

  • Lots of agreement on equality, justice and inclusion and the HLP’s “leave no one behind” message.
  • The other theme that seems common is better governance and people looking to the state for services. But there’s also a difference – while you don’t hear poor people saying how the private sector should do more to improve their health or education, you do hear that from governments and international institutions.
  • Overall the ground level panels seemed to give more weight to issues of inclusion, identity and rights.
  • The HLP was stronger than these ground level reports on gender, water & sanitation, energy and aid (‘sanitation’, ‘energy’ and ‘aid’ don’t warrant a single mention in any of the country communiqués).
  • Uganda’s communiqué, with its focus on inclusion, sustainable development, jobs, governance and global partnerships was probably the closest to the HLP.
  • Egypt’s call for self sufficiency didn’t appear anywhere in the HLP deliberations, nor (as far as I’m aware) did India’s concern on alcohol addiction. Or Brazil’s focus on love and connections between people as what makes life worth living. Shame.

I’m not sure what you can read into this exercise. It’s not a revelatory game changer like the World Bank’s fantastic Voices of the Poor project, because it limits the discussion to post-2015 style global commitments, rather than the realities of people’s lives (which is what made VoP so amazing). But for my money it is at least as interesting as opinion polling or all that superficial online ‘tell us what kind of world you want’ nonsense. In contrast, this feels like an honest attempt to have a serious conversation with those who, after all, are supposed to benefit from all this post-2015 talk.

With apologies to the tender sensitivities of Chris Blattman, who after yesterday’s post was moved to tweet ‘I cry on the inside when I read someone write “post 2015″ in an article title. What a narrow, self important idea of devt’. That feels just a bit unfair given my remorseless slagging off of the whole post-2015 process, but hey, free speech and all that.

7 comments

  1. This is really interesting stuff, and it’s great that people are doing this kind of detailed, qualitative research. But let’s remember that this research, for all it’s depth and richness, tells us what 50 people think. Their views are interesting and important. But we shouldn’t base a new set of global commitments on the views of just 50 people, whoever they are. It would be crazy to elevate this above properly representative opinion polling, or (and you know I have an interest here), something like the MY World survey, which now has over 800,000 responses, most of them collected through offline surveys with people who don’t have internet access.
    Rather than setting up some frankly pointless competition between this kind of qualitative work and the quantitative data from surveys and opinion polling, a much better way to look at it is to think about how the one can inform the other. Education, for example, features as a high priority in most surveys and in these groups – what the focus groups can do is get underneath the aspiration for ‘education’ and establish a bit more clearly how people in different countries would define a good education and what they think the barriers are.
    We are planning some research at ODI to use qualitative information like this to understand a bit more what people in different countries might mean by ‘an honest and responsive government’ and other priorities that come out highly in the MY World survey. It seems to me this is a more productive way forward than setting the two things up in opposition to each other.

    1. Agree, I guess the obvious source of synergy is to use the deep dive qual to design a more interesting set of survey questions. That or try and raise the cash to try and take the deep dive to Voices of the Poor type scale (still the best effort to truly understand the lives of poor people, in my view)

  2. Well I’m not sure that the point of survey questions is to be ‘interesting’ (unfortunately) but rather to provide information that is relevant to the decisions politicians are actually making, in a way that’s understandable and persuasive. That’s why MY World is designed around choosing priorities, which is the job that politicians are confronted with in trying to agree a new set of goals.

    But the list of choices in the MY World survey was very much influenced by Voices of the Poor and other qualitative research – freedom from crime and violence, for example, which is a high priority in many countries, features highly in poor people’s accounts of poverty but much less in the current MDGs or in official or NGO programmes or analysis.

  3. Dear Duncan and Claire,
    It was good to see efforts to bring the perspectives of the poorest into the Post 2015 debate highlighted on the blog. The Ground Level Panels are one of the many activities promoted by the Participate initiative which provides high quality evidence on the reality of poverty at ground level to those making decisions on the framework we will have after 2015. The Ground Level Panels were conceived as a way to provide a reality check for the High Level Panel of Eminent People’s proposals for post 2015 and create a space for people living in poverty to engage in-depth with the HLP report. However, Participate also brings together 18 participatory research projects in more than 30 countries and it is now working towards a global synthesis of the findings.

    Last week, CAFOD, who is leading one of these projects, launched the report “Setting the post-2015 development compass: voices from the ground” ( http://www.cafod.org.uk/content/download/11319/89078/file/CF-Compass_report.pdf ). The research involved 1,420 people in 56 communities across Bolivia, Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We have tried to combine a genuine participatory process that starts with the concerns of people living in poverty and explore the realities of their lives with addressing key issues in the post-2015 policy discussion.

    We think that the participatory research that we have carried out complements the type of knowledge generated by a global survey such as MyWorld. The report not only identifies the priorities for some of the very poorest people, but it also explores the connections between these different issues and their manifestation in people’s daily lives. The unfiltered voices of people living in poverty offer unexpected insights and challenge assumptions about what policies work, and for whom.
    Looking forward to hearing your comments to our report.
    Andrea Rigon, CAFOD Research Coordinator and Participate Policy and Advocacy Convenor.

    Last week, CAFOD, who is leading one of these projects, launched the report “Setting the post-2015 development compass: voices from the ground” (http://www.cafod.org.uk/content/download/11319/89078/file/CF-Compass_report.pdf ). The research involved 1,420 people in 56 communities across Bolivia, Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe. We have tried to combine a genuine participatory process that starts with the concerns of people living in poverty and explore the realities of their lives with addressing key issues in the post-2015 policy discussion.

    We think that the participatory research that we have carried out complements the type of knowledge generated by a global survey such as MyWorld. The report not only identified the priorities for some of the very poorest people, but it also explores the connections between these different issues and their manifestation in people’s daily lives. The unfiltered voices of people living in poverty offer unexpected insights and challenge assumptions about what policies work, and for whom.
    Looking forward to hearing your comments to our report.
    Andrea Rigon, CAFOD Research Coordinator and Participate Policy and Advocacy Convenor.

  4. Duncan and Claire (and Andrea, and anybody else who cares about citizen voice and development) — A method exists for squaring the circle between thoughtful responses and those that are representative: It’s called Deliberative Polling http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deliberative_opinion_poll and it combines the initial selection of a randomized, representative sample; collection of baseline opinion data; followed by structured deliberations with all sides of an issue fairly represented; and finally a follow-up survey of opinion. It all seems a bit labor intensive, to be sure, but it has been shown in some 70 cases in a wide range of countries to be an effective means of discovering what people think about an issue when given the opportunity to learn, deliberate and, in fact, think. Moreover, in many cases (and in places as far-flung as China, Japan, Mongolia, California, the EU, and Bulgaria) the results of Deliberative Polls have provided the basis for improved policies. I learned about all of this recently in writing a paper for the new, Geneva-based Global Citizens Foundation (see http://www.gcf.ch/?page_id=5948 ) called Citizen Voice in a Globalized World. But the real guru in the field is Jim Fishkin as Stanford’s Center for Deliberative Democracy ( http://cdd.stanford.edu/ ) and the best description of the technique is his terrific book, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation.

    The most surprising thing about all of this to me is how slow the development community has been in discovering this. I think it has huge potential for bringing popular voice to bear on key policy decisions. The trick, of course, is picking the right question for deliberation. “What should the post-2015 development goals be?”
    would not be anywhere near the top of my list! The technique works best when asking people to pick between alternative policy paths and likely resulting scenarios.

  5. There’s a video (http://togetherindignity.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/awere-para-kisile/) which shows something of the methodology used in the Brazil ‘Ground Level Panel’.

    As Andrea says, this work, and other participatory research facilitated by ATD Fourth World (http://www.atd-fourthworld.org/Towards-Sustainable-Development.html) is designed to complement other research pieces, and carries the added weight of having genuinely engaged people in extreme poverty at all stages of the research.

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