The best cat video ever (hey, it's Sunday – I'm allowed…..)

September 3, 2012

Provocations for Development: Superb new collection of Robert Chambers’ Greatest Hits

September 3, 2012

Red to Green; 2011 arms bonanza; songs for husbands; a wonk breakthrough; what are RCTs good for?; China's future and romance: links I liked

September 3, 2012
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[Update: if you’re having trouble with the new format, see comment from me below for a guide to how to sort it]

Eagle eyed readers will notice that at some point today, the blog changes colour from red to green. It’s the first step in a makeover to coincide with the launch of the second edition of From Poverty to Power (the book) next month. More substantial changes to come to correct some of the glitches identified in the reader survey and elsewhere and to ‘improve functionality’ (whatever that means). Is the change of colour significant? Choosing environment over social progress? Being dragged into remorseless Oxfam brand-building? Moving from ‘stop’ to ‘go’? Nah, we just like the colour.

DC arms salesArms sales to the developing world in 2011 came to $28bn, the highest since 2004. 2/3 came from the US and Russia. Saudi Arabia and India were the biggest buyers

‘When a woman had complaints about her husband she sought out friends to whom she could tell her discontents and they created a song about them. Later, when the village met, the friends would sing the song, with a message for the husband’. Fascinating account of the ‘mandjuandades’ – women’s collective action groups of Guinea Bissau

I can report a wonky breakthrough. FRACAS (Fragile and Conflict Affected States, my best acronym in ages) has made it into the Economist, in a good summary of the Sumner v Rogerson and Kharas debate previously covered on this blog.  Yessssss.

The debate on randomized controlled trials grinds on. RCTs establish causality, but need to be accompanied by other methods to understand the ‘why’ behind the causal link, argues evaluation guru Howard White [h/t Tom Murphy]. New RCT-based research from IDS on the impact of the ever-proliferating ‘policy briefs’ shows that they don’t change existing opinions, but do inform those without previous views on an issue; the perceived ‘authority’ of the author also matters a lot. No surprises there, so do we really need RCTs to prove the blindingly obvious, asks Enrique Mendizabal?

And finally, to China. First, Andrew Sheng and Geng Xiao on the next stage of China’s development ‘China requires nothing less than another radical re-engineering to become a more balanced, socially equitable, and sustainable economy. That process has already begun with another round of experimentation through three new Special Economic Zones in Hengqin, Qianhai, and Nansha to pilot the emergence of a creative, knowledge-based services economy. Of course, such an economy relies crucially on the quality of governance. The real challenge for Chinese officials is how to balance creativity and institutional innovation with order, thereby ensuring the integrity of all four of its economy’s pillars.’

Romance, Chinese style: an insanely frenetic video on the inflationary price of marriage in China. Free love suddenly takes on a whole new meaning [h/t global voices]


  1. Oh dear…I agree with others: slightly fuzzy and harder to read for those of us with declining eyesight….it’s not even a proper green, it’s kind of inspid….do these kind of changes get tested beforehand on actual real readers? John (also a friend)

  2. I actually like the new colors, but there are couple of easy CSS tweaks you could make to make the text *much* more readable:

    – drop the letter-spacing from the body

    – change the font size to .9em (which is more accessible than specifying pixel size.)

    – increase the line-height to 150%

  3. And here’s a note from blogmeisterin Helen to those who are having trouble with the new format:

    The problems some of you are experiencing may be due to your web browser storing old versions of the blog pages. To solve this problem, you need to clear your browser’s cache and refresh the page. Follow the guide below to clear your browser’s cache.

    Microsoft Internet Explorer
    Use the following keyboard shortcuts to clear the browser’s cache.

    Use the following keyboard shortcuts to clear the browser’s cache.
    Windows: Ctrl +Shift+R
    MacOS: Cmd+Shift+R

    Use the following keyboard shortcut to clear the browser’s cache.

    Click the wrench icon on the browser toolbar.
    Select Tools.
    Select Clear browsing data.
    In the window that appears, select the ’empty the cache’
    Use the menu at the top to select the amount of data that you want to delete. Select beginning of time to delete everything.
    Click Clear browsing data.

    Let me know if this doesn’t do the job
    Duncan and Helen

  4. perfectly legible but it’s a very harsh shade of green.contrast of text/white field seems harsh too. I can’t explain why, but this is a very uncomfortable read. and nothing to do with my cache.

  5. The bold green is fine, but as a hyper link in the text, I agree with others that the contrast is not sufficient. At least, not ideal. I can read it – and don’t see the red-green hybrid.

    But intended or not, surely it’s hard to deny the further Oxfam branding? Though why not? You work for Oxfam! But otherwise, in case you need ideas, I’m partial to purple myself. I realize, shades of the imperial. But still. Dark (for contrast); cheerful (to counter the news of increased arms sales); and appeals to children (our next best hope).


  6. Hello

    I work for The Department for International Development (DFID) and I am also a postgraduate student at Birkbeck, University of London, where I am completing a MSc. in International Business and Development. I am currently writing my dissertation on the socio-economic impact of mobile phones on smallholder farmers.

    I am seeking to discover how mobile technology such as SMS, helplines, information services ant the internet have made a difference in the following areas:

    – Increasing access to financial services (mobile banking)
    – Supplying agricultural information
    – Increasing data visibility for supply chain efficiency
    – Improving access to markets

    To this end I have completed the following survey which I would like to ask if you could please take the time to complete by 19 Sept and share as widely as possible:

    Thank you

    Kind regards,


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