Topic: how change happens

The Plundered Planet: review of Paul Collier's new book and impending personal crisis

A new Paul Collier book is always a good workout in the brain gym and his latest, The Plundered Planet: How to Reconcile Prosperity with Nature, is no exception. You can either be seduced by his writing, conceptual acrobatics, anecdotes and soundbites (who isn’t sick of hearing ‘Bottom Billion’ in every seminar?) or you can […]

Read More »

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 […]

Read More »

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 […]

Read More »

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 – […]

Read More »

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 […]

Read More »

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 […]

Read More »

Who's better at preparing tomorrow's campaigners: LSE or Harvard?

Enough about aid, let’s talk about campaigning. By pure coincidence, I’ve been spending time with a bunch of Master in Public Adminstration (MPA) students recently – fascinating, not least because of the different approaches taken by their courses. Last week, the winning team from this year’s crop at the London School of Economics came in […]

Read More »

Are aid workers living a lie? And does it matter?

These are the questions posed by Rosalind Eyben in an intriguing new paper in the European Journal of Development Research (no ungated version, sorry). Ros, formerly of DFID and now attached to the Institute of Development Studies, knows the aid industry backwards and is struck by “the dissonance between what [aid workers] do and what they report […]

Read More »

'Just Give Money to the Poor: the Development Revolution from the Global South', an excellent overview of cash transfers

Cash transfers (CTs – regular payments by the state directly to poor people) are all the rage at the moment, prompting heated debates across the development sector. As its title suggests, a new book, ‘Just Give Money to the Poor’ has no doubts about their merits. But Joseph Hanlon, Armando Barrientos (see his blog on […]

Read More »

Cash on Delivery – worth a try?

You’ve got to hand it to the policy entrepreneurs at the Center for Global Development – they sure know how to get new ideas onto the tables and into the minds of decision makers. One of their biggest and most interesting new(ish) ideas is ‘Cash on Delivery’ (CoD), and I’ve just been reading their new […]

Read More »

Helping small farmers get a better deal in Colombia

I’m on a panel at the Harvard Kennedy School tomorrow, pulling together some of the lessons from on the ground success in development programming. I’ve already posted on some of the stories, but here’s an interesting one from Colombia, where small scale farmers find it hard to sell into urban areas at a decent price. […]

Read More »

Alcohol in Africa – more illegal, but not more deadly

Today is election day in the UK, so there’s a fair chance that politically active people of all stripes will be hitting the bottle in celebration or regret this evening – or just drowning their sorrows at the prospect of weeks of haggling/constitutional crisis over a hung parliament. So spare a thought for the boozers […]

Read More »