Hivos International

Food for Thought // Knowledge Lunchbox #1

This box will provide you find Food for Thought via links we have gathered for you in our first "Knowledge Lunchbox". The aim of the Lunchbox is to quickly inform you about the latest online discussions and publications related to the fields of civil society, theories of change and development effectiveness. Topics range from people to politics, and from power to.. poop. It is up to you what you would like to digest, dislike, or discuss. More to follow in the next Knowledge Lunchbox.

Complex stuff

Duncan Green (Blog: From Poverty to Power) writes on the implications of complexity theory for development, that were discussed on a seminar by UKCDS: "Rather it was about delving into the ’so what’: the journey of complexity theory. From a ‘Sunday morning’ idea that shapes the way you see the world, to something that makes you do things differently when you get to work on Monday morning.” Because: “Geeks revel in using the word ‘complexity’, but it’s toxic for politicians and normal people (not the same thing), who usually want simple messages and ‘what do I do’ checklists.”

More on how theories can help unlock the inner workings of policymaking processes to explain how and why a change may or may not occur via Aid on the Edge

Future of Aid in 2020/2025

Two reports on the future of international development were published. The first report '2020: Future Uncertainties' is written by Alex Evans for Action Aid. The core of the paper is a discussion of eight critical uncertainties that according to Evans will fundamentally shape the context for international development over the next decade. The second report is compiled by Trocaire, named 'Leading Edge 2020'. It focusses on directions for INGOs. It contains a questionable though thought-through '10 Things INGOs need to do list'. Or not to do? That is sure up for debate. You find a brief review of the reports here.

Beyond Good Intentions?

Read enough? Watch the ten-episode series "Beyond Good Intentions" by Tori Hogan. Via her videocam she investigates how international aid can be more effective by asking normal and odd questions to countless aid workers and 'recipients' to uncover more innovative approaches to helping communities in need. Tori writes: "For me,the goal of this series is to catalyze a much-needed dialogue about aid effectiveness, and to start a movement towards change." Whether the series really achieves its goal remains to be seen, but with its cheerful tune it definitely passes for the category "aid-tertainment".

Twitter # 'Yes, Kagame here?'

Who would have thought it would be possible to get in touch with a president via 140 digital characters? Here is the Presidential Twitter premiere: President Paul Kagame from Rwanda engages in long public conversation (or dispute?) with British critic/journalist Ian Birrell via Twitter. At a later point, even Rwanda's minister of Foreign Affairs joined. Amusing quarrel, which leaves you wondering who is the most powerful when it just comes down to weight of words. The journalist, or the president.. Later Ian Birrell was interviewed by Channel 4.

The Immaterial & the Snail

CDRA published their first 'Annual Digest', named 'Investing in the immaterial', . The focus of the Digest is on the resourcing of civil society, with contributions from a range of practitioners (incl. our own colleague R. Berkhout), whose voices, taken together, offer a -somewhat alarming – account of the current situation and challenges facing the sector. A must-read on your bedside table if you are a practitioner, who is either grappling or coping with the current health status of the development sector. And notice the snail? It is used as a metaphor throughout the publication. As CDRA puts it: "The snail’s slow and humble progress, utterly purposeful, yet without haste or fervour, is counsel for us all. It offers a counterbalance to the urgency and conviction of our context and times; to the mania of unrealistic deadlines and the hubris of randomly determined goals and deliverables. It reminds us of the need to keep going, even when things do not go ‘as planned’, or intended, or wished for. And it reminds us that our work is one small part of a much larger picture" (p.4).

Poor Economics

Done with the immaterial? Here's some die-hard economic 'proof for thought': 'Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of Fighting Global Poverty', by MIT Economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. The book is not yet available in NL, but their website is quite informative, and the content of the book is already being fiercely debated online. It revives the age-old debate over what should come first: the material, or the immaterial? Economic growth, or governance/rights/citizenship/empowerment? Bill Easterly, or Jeffrey Sachs? Their writing also questions methodologies to measure impact and effectiveness: by randomized control trials, or by the index of Happiness? Here you can read an interview with the authors. Chris Blattmann dissents from B&D's point of view, the Guardian critiques the book for the underestimation of power dynamics, while William Easterly himself wrote a mixed review.

Smelly Affairs

Yes, we know it. Maybe not the most tasty link to close this Lunchbox. Indeed, politics matter. Power does also. But poop matters foremost, states: 'Shit Matters: Addressing development's most compelling challenge". Refreshing publication by Practical Action. on the potential of community-led solutions to conquer smelly affairs.

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