Haiti Reconstruction: Two cheers (and one big boo) for Paul Collier’s plan

February 1, 2010

Some things governments can do to support development even without spending more money

February 1, 2010

Twitter, haiku and the unveiling of the wonku

February 1, 2010
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Sharp eyed readers will have noticed that you can now sign up for twitter feeds of new posts from this blog (under my mug shot to the right of this).

I have no intention of tweeting separately for the moment, partly because my son informed me,

grave of haiku master Yosa Buson

grave of haiku master Yosa Buson

in a voice dripping with scorn, that twitter is ‘just for old people pretending to be young’. Ouch. Also I don’t think I could cope with a 140 character limit. With one exception – why don’t we start a line in development wonk haiku (the 17 syllable Japanese poems – just the right length for a tweet). Added complication is they have to be three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables

We could call them wonku. You know, something like:

‘Conditional cash
transfers. A panacea?
Can’t be that easy.’


‘the Copenhagen
Action Plan: suicide note
from humanity?’

Wonku would provide us with ready-made responses to the dreaded ‘lift question’ (what would you say about your latest report to Ban Ki-moon/Barrack Obama etc if you found yourself in a lift with them?). And they could provide a great alternative to executive summaries. In fact, some of the clunkier titles of Oxfam policy papers are probably already wonku without us even realizing it (must check that sometime). Reckon they could catch on? If so, send me some. Copy of From Poverty to Power to the best (yes, yes, I know, two copies to the worst…..)

For the real thing, see here or this example from Ezra Pound, which has stuck in my head since I read it as a kid.


  1. If you really want to be true to the haiku style, you also need to include a word or expression that (preferably implicitly) shows which season of the year you are in, which is causing you the emotion that you are putting in the haiku about. Now this makes it even harder to squeeze all of your development theory in!

  2. I LOVE this idea. Here’s a few attempts:

    River blindness and
    Trachoma. Neglected but
    easily treated.

    MDG review
    Think of equity and rights
    Of those who miss out

    Research partnerships
    North and South work as equals?
    Some try, not there yet
    (ooh, controversial one)

    Better stop before I get a reputation as the Adrian Mole of policy wonkdom.

    Sorry, didn’t manage the seasonal overtones.

  3. If it can’t be said
    in seventeen syllables,
    it’s not worth saying

    In our NGO, a few of us have been haiku-ing sporadically to each other for a few months, as an antidote to thick development-speak documents. Glad to hear there may be a movement afoot!

  4. Be the change you want
    to see in the world, said a
    wise man. We’re trying.

    or, a bit geekier (Geeku?):

    When we assume that
    “ceteris paribus” holds
    true, we’re in trouble.

  5. This from Alex Evans, in response to my post on his paper (10 Feb)

    ‘Waves buffet the boat;
    Rocks in the water ahead.
    But who’s at the helm?’

    Has to be a strong contender….

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