Ford v Toyota – is it time to change the way we do research for development?

I took part in a conference on fragile states last week. Because it was held under Chatham House rules, I can’t say much about it, (except for the excellent on-the-record presentation by Tom Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which I blogged on at the time), but it got me thinking about a […]

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An effective public campaign (on palm oil)

You know you’ve had an impact when the Economist devotes three pages to your campaign, so hats off to Greenpeace and the other organizations featured in this week’s spread on palm oil. Here are some excerpts: “Palm oil is a popular, cheap commodity, which green activists are doing their best to turn into a commercial […]

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Urban Vodou; climate change technology; the meaning of McChrystal; big bad (and good) pharma; blogs and Facebook and marshmallow-induced agony: links I liked

Urban Vodou: Politics and Popular Street Art in Haiti, a book of photographs by Pablo Butcher, published today, reveals the beauty that lies behind the earthquake imagery Political Climate provides some lessons on technological innovation to combat climate change (and they apply to development too) McChrystal-izing a Problem: The Militarization of American Statecraft [h/t Paul […]

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How important is growth to improvements in health and education? Not at all, says a new UN paper

The first batch of background papers to this year’s big Human Development Report has just been published. The one that caught my eye is by George Gray Molina and Mark Purser. “Human Development Trends since 1970: A Social Convergence Story” crunches a big dataset of Human Development Indicator (HDI) numbers and comes up with some […]

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Social protection – have aid agencies got it wrong?

‘Has social protection in sub-Saharan Africa lost its way?’ asks a brilliant new paper from a consortium of thinktanks, including IDS and ODI. Their overall finding is that donors’ preference for evidence and pilots, and lack of engagement with national political realities, have undermined their impact. Hard to summarize – it’s a treasure trove – […]

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What distinguishes a nice technology from a nasty one?

Gave a short presentation to the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum last week on the thorny topic of food security, innovation and safety. The speakers and audience were mainly on the science/policy interface, (a very different epistemic community from last week’s EU aid gabfest, but the powerpoints were just as bad). Most of the discussion […]

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Where have we got to on fragile states and what comes next?

Another week, another conference. This time it’s hosted by the UK development ministry, DFID, which among other things, has an impressive track record of funding research on development issues (declaration of interest – I worked for DFID for a year in 2004, and sometimes advise them on research issues). This week’s gabfest is called ‘The […]

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Climate change – where next? + some good news; the dismal consensus; everyone hates charter cities; modern and mobile; losing leaders and the fear of Jolie: links I liked

A long, but thought-provoking post from Alex Evans on the state of the response to climate change And some good climate news (for a change)? New Scientist reports that low lying Pacific islands seem to be responding to rising sea levels by growing Dani Rodrik finds some new data showing just how bad the Washington […]

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How can a whole developing country switch to renewables? The example of Tonga

Continuing the theme of renewables, here’s a (small) developing country which has decided to pursue an energy transformation. I bumped into a Chatham House researcher called Cleo Paskal the other day, who was singing the praises of the Pacific island of Tonga. She wrote a piece for the Toronto Star on this – here’s a […]

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Are renewables the answer to Africa's energy deficit?

Thanks for the feedback on yesterday’s post – let’s continue this mini-series of posts on energy. A new paper from the energy wonks at the World Bank. ‘The Economics of Renewable Energy Expansion in rural Sub-Saharan Africa‘ asks whether renewables (solar, hydro, wind and so on) are mainly an issue for the rich north, or a […]

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What should Oxfam be doing on renewables? Your advice, please

Wisdom of crowds time. We’re doing some thinking on renewable energy and energy poverty (which affects about 1.5-2bn people), and thought we’d pick your brains. My colleague John Magrath has written this guest blog as an opener, and I’ll run a few posts on energy-related issues over the next few days. Over to John: As […]

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What is the point of conferences?

Last week I sat dazed through an EU conference on aid, grappling with presentations in Spanish, English and Portuguese and fending off powerpoint poisoning (the acute version produced by academics putting up page after page crammed with tiny text and saying ‘you probably can’t read it, but what the table says is…..’). During brief periods […]

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