[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.
Arms 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]