Saturday Morning Reading #43

Here’s your Saturday morning reading (because you need to read something that isn’t about the election). This week’s edition features the future of (beyond) aid, the data revolution, an attack on advocacy, shock tactics in NGO messaging, how to make it easier to give effectively and some answers to why the number of poor people in Africa seems to be growing despite economic growth.

1. Aid 2030 | Owen Barder – Owen abroad

What is going to happen to development cooperation up to 2030?
Group members may be especially interested in the third implication on what new skills and mind-sets are going to be needed.

“There are three big global trends which will shape the future of international development cooperation:
1. The concentration of poverty in fragile states
2. Inequality in middle income countries
3. Global and transboundary problems

And there are four implications for development policy:
1. Aid still has an important role to play.
2. If we are to meet to SDGs, we need to focus much more on the beyond aid agenda, notably the question of how we bring about effective international action to tackle shared problems.
3. We are going to need new mind-sets, new institutions, new skills, and new approaches.
4. And we are going to have to build a consensus that sees this as a shared enterprise rather than a competition.”


2. Data for Development | Project Syndicate – Jeffrey D. Sachs

Even within a developing country government, it’s currently supper difficult to get any kind of reliable data (trust me, I’ve tried many times!). Therefore, while data availability can be transformative, it has to align with the domestic political economy; It’s important that the ‘data revolution’ is not just another agenda pushed by donors without enthusiasm from governments who would rather not measure how well (or not) they are doing. At the moment, we barely know the progress of many countries against the MDGs let alone have baselines for the 169 targets that could be part of the SDGs. [rant over]

In this article, Jeff Sachs points out four main purposes for data:
1. Data for service delivery
2. Data for public management
3. Data for accountability of governments and businesses.
4. The data revolution should enable the public to know whether or not a global goal or target has actually been achieved.


3. Book Review of ‘Advocacy in Conflict’ – a big attack on politics and impact of global campaigns | Duncan Green – From Poverty to Power

From Duncan: “Advocacy in Conflict brilliantly explores the contradictory pressures on transnational advocacy: northern campaigners’ need to simplify, grab headlines and declare victory v the messy reality of achieving long term structural change in the complex social and political environments of countries wracked by conflict.”

From the book: “Our central argument is that the development of these specific forms of activism, in which advocates have shaped strategies to fit the requirements of marketing their cause to Western publics, and adapted them to score tactical successes with Western governments (especially that of the USA) has led to the weakening or even abandonment of key principles, including receptivity to the perspectives of affected people and their diverse narratives and attention to deeper, underlying causes and therefore a focus on strategic change rather than superficial victories.”


4. Up yours! Why charities keep giving us the finger | Kirsty Marrins – Guardian Voluntary Sector Network

Poverty porn is being replaced by profanity. Is this the best way to get the public’s attention or does it oversimplify too much? Could it backfire? What is the logical end point? Will UNICEF end up plastering posters with the C-word all over billboards?

“Disruptive messages won’t be for everyone but in this ever competitive market charities need to take calculated risks in order to get cut through. And it certainly seems to be working.”


5. Proponents of strategic philanthropy should provide practical help for donors | Caroline Fiennes – Stanford Social Innovation Review

We have to make it easier to make good choices about where to give money. This means producing and sharing evidence in order to nudge foundations and wealthy donors to make better decisions. Should the same approach apply to fundraising more widely?

“Our fundamental challenge is this: that social change is hard and calls for slow thinking, but most donors will only think fast. It therefore falls to us to do the work that Thaler describes: get the evidence, and make it easy.”


6. Why is the number of poor people in Africa increasing when Africa’s economies are growing? | Laurence Chandy – Brookings Institution

In summary: 1) Rapid population growth; 2) depth of poverty; 3) inequality already high (absolute increases in income at the bottom are small); 4) a mismatch between where growth is happening and where the poor are; and 5) data quality is poor so we don’t have an accurate and put to date sense of progress.

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