Book Review: The Aid Lab: Understanding Bangladesh’s Unexpected Success, by Naomi Hossain

Duncan Green - September 19, 2017

Over the summer I read a few absolutely brilliant books – hence the spate of book reviews. This week I will cover two new studies on development’s biggest recent success stories – China, but first Bangladesh. How did Bangladesh go from being a ‘basket case’ (though ‘not necessarily our basket case’ – Henry Kissinger, 1971) to a development success story, claimed by numerous would-be fathers …

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Links I Liked

Duncan Green - September 18, 2017

Handy acronyms for online reviews (h/t Shit Academics Say)  The awesome Gates Foundation lobby machine went into overdrive to defend aid budgets last week, with a report on past progress in 18 areas now in peril, Bill in the Guardian saying they are lobbying Congress rather than wasting breath on the President and Melinda talking to the FT (video) Owen Barder kept us up to …

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Can the UK become a Human Economy?

Duncan Green - September 15, 2017

Rising inequality is a global problem. Oxfam inequality guru Deborah Hardoon appraises a new report on its manifestations in the UK. Last week the IPPR, a progressive policy think tank, published a new report, ‘A time for change: A new vision for the British Economy’, which argues that “the economy we have today is creating neither prosperity nor justice. This is not inevitable, but the …

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Complexity v Simplicity: the challenge for Campaigners and Reformers

Duncan Green - September 14, 2017

Had a few thought-provoking conversations on this last week. I increasingly see most problems (social, political, economic) as complex, i.e. arising from multiple causes in interconnected systems, often highly dependent on the specific context and history of any given place/population. My campaigner friends generally hate such talk, because their gut feeling is that it makes taking action to change the world much more difficult. We …

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Book Review: The Road to Somewhere, by David Goodhart

Duncan Green - September 13, 2017

There was a moment a few years ago when I was walking through Brixton with my son, Calum. I was tediously droning on about how much I loved the cultural and ethnic kaleidoscope, compared to the plain vanilla places where I grew up. Calum suddenly turned on me – ‘you’re just a tourist; you visit on Saturdays. It’s different growing up here’ and proceeded to …

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DFID is 20 years old: has its results agenda gone too far?

Duncan Green - September 12, 2017

DFID just turned 20 and Craig Valters (right) and Brendan Whitty (left) have a new paper charting its changing relationship to results  Focusing on results in international development is crucial. At this level of abstraction, how could one argue otherwise? Yet it matters how development agencies are managed for these results. We know that with proper management systems, aid interventions can be very effective; but if poorly managed, …

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Links I Liked

Duncan Green - September 11, 2017

Shock revelation – our kids are ‘Anarcho-Communists’ ‘We need no more marchers. We need more mayors’. Great reflection/book review by Nathan Heller on modern protest Bollywood’s hot new topics: open toilets, menstrual hygiene and erectile dysfunction What Guatemala’s political crisis means for anti-corruption efforts everywhere. Backgrounder on UN’s ground-breaking work in Central America Oh dear. Giving Danish politicians more evidence makes their decision-making worse, not …

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Living in interesting times: one year in the life of Oxfam’s Women’s Rights Director

Duncan Green - September 8, 2017

Nikki van der Gaag looks back on her first year as Oxfam’s Gender Justice and Women’s Rights Director. ‘May you live in interesting times’ is a Chinese saying that could equally be a promise or a curse. In the past decade, there can’t have been many more interesting times to be working on women’s rights and gender justice. I began my new post three months …

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Book Review: Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms, by Cristina Bicchieri

Duncan Green - September 7, 2017

Alice Evans was raving about this book on twitter, so I scrounged a review copy and read it on holiday (that’s just how I roll). Verdict? A useful resource on an incredibly important topic (see my previous blogs), but sorry Alice, no cigar. Why important? Because norms are the neglected heart of development and social change – how people see themselves and their neighbours, what …

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From Starving Greece in 1942 to Yemen and Nigeria in 2017: Why Total War is still Wrong

Duncan Green - September 6, 2017

Ed Cairns worries that, 75 years since Oxfam was founded, we have returned to an era of heartless total war When a group of people met in Oxford’s University Church on 5 October 1942, they talked about the dire shortage of food in Nazi-occupied countries, and how to raise money and get relief through the Allies’ blockade. They agreed to set up something called the …

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