Economic Development

  • Looking to nature to forge a new path in development

    Paul BundickOur thinking about development has been dominated by the metaphor of the machine. But, as deterministic systems, machines must be predictable to run smoothly, and their behavior is dictated by their structure and parts, along with the instructions of an external operator. The smallest change or variation can bring a machine crashing to a stop.

    Using the same mechanistic model, project managers apply multiple controls to reduce variety in the system, with the goal of trying to make input-output relations more predictable and efficient.

    When this approach is applied to complex development problems, it falls woefully short. It can even be dangerous. The realities we try to change — the big questions of development — are not machinelike at all. They involve exceedingly complex systems of interaction, coevolution and emergence, which are more like ecologies than machines. In ecosystems, as well as economies, variation or innovation provide the very possibility for change.

    Read the remainder of the blog here.

  • A warm welcome in Mumbai

    It was 100 degrees outside when we pulled up in front a school in Mumbai last month. We were greeted by the sounds of booming drums, singing voices and ringing tambourines. The children were assembled outside of the school to welcome us. Before arriving, I was curious about how these children would receive us, but all doubts slipped away as they met us with open arms. The memory of that welcome continues to humble and inspire me in my travels to similar schools around the globe. Fifty students from two Mumbai schools were selected to participate in the three-year Johnson & Johnson Bridge to Employment (BTE) program designed to provide academic support, encourage lifelong learning and build awareness of careers in health care. BTE also works with parents, teachers and employees to support and guide students to new opportunities.

    According to 2012 data, only 58 percent of students from municipal areas graduate, leaving 42 out of every 100 young people without a high school diploma. For more than 20 years, BTE has been focusing on impacting communities all around the world with similar statistics.

    We’ve trained over 20 Johnson & Johnson employees, who serve as volunteers to mentor these 50 children, ages 13–16. BTE volunteers here in India and in all programs around the globe talk to their mentees about life and what it took to reach their own career goals and why civic engagement matters. Mentors teach students time management as well as resume writing, interviewing, teamwork and communication skills.

    Continue reading

  • SWOP2014The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) recently launched the 2014 State of World Population report, which focuses on the vital role of adolescents and youth in the economic and social progress of developing countries. The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future makes the point that young people matter.

    According to the report, nine in 10 of the world’s 1.8 billion young people live in less developed countries, where the young encounter obstacles to education, health and a life free from violence. Without intervention, many of these young people may never realize their full potential.

    Follow #SWOP2014 to join in the conversation.

    Learn more about The State of World Population 2014.

  • Moving forward in Asia through mobile financial services

    Josh WoodardThe World Bank estimates that about 2.5 billion people worldwide lack a formal bank account at a financial institution. In most of the countries where development organizations operate, the need for safe and affordable financial services is quite high. At the same time, mobile phone ownership continues to expand rapidly: Recent estimates by GSMA Intelligence put unique mobile phone subscriptions at more than 3.6 billion people globally. It is no wonder that articles in The Wall Street Journal and The Economist have recently proclaimed that mobiles offer a promising path for the world’s unbanked to gain financial inclusion.

    More than 100 experts gathered at the Mondato Asia Summit last week in Singapore to discuss mobile financial services in emerging Asia. Participants heard from big names like Google, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, Amazon, MetLife, Uber, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor, as well as from several companies that you may not have heard of yet but will likely soon, such as mHITS, a global mobile money remittance service, and Gatecoin, the first global digital currency exchange.

    Speaker after speaker at the summit emphasized the importance of putting the customer first — commonly referred to as human-centered or user-centered design — in the development of any mobile financial service. It seems fairly self-evident that products should be designed based on what users want. Apple was touted as the gold standard for designing products based on an acute understanding of their customers’ wants, needs and aspirations. Yet, as anyone who has ever found themselves desperately trying to speak to a live person on a bank’s automated phone system knows, this is not always the case.

    Continue reading

  • Multiple pathways to women’s economic empowerment

    Andrea BertoneAt FHI 360, we take a 360-degree perspective to addressing the most complex human development needs. We envision many pathways to girls’ and women’s economic empowerment — through education; training; access to resources; and the elimination of social, political and gender-related barriers.

    To increase equality between girls, boys, women and men, we believe that a gender perspective has to be integrated into every aspect of all development programs.

    FHI 360 supports women and girls living in poverty, through cutting-edge interventions in health, nutrition, education and economic development interventions. Not only are we implementing some of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) flagship projects on HIV care, prevention and support — we are also working with multiple donors implementing girls’ education projects as a pathway out of poverty.

    We are addressing women’s poverty in value chains, small and medium businesses, and micro-lending and savings and loan activities. Equally important, we work to engage men and boys as partners and agents of positive social change.

    Why prioritize attention on women and girls? For FHI 360, it comes down to three simple reasons:

    • It is the right thing to do.
    • It improves project outcomes.
    • FHI 360 has strong political will to do so at all levels of the organization.

    We aim to impact in the short, medium and long term the lives of women and girls in many countries. We want to improve women’s and girls’ current access to resources, their economic empowerment, their levels of education and their resiliency in the face of hardship.

    Continue reading

  • Technology alone is not enough

    In 1879, Thomas Edison unveiled his incandescent light bulb. Within six years, electric power had spread across the nation and ignited an explosion of invention that created new industries and thousands of jobs and transformed every aspect of society. A century later, in 1978, Steve Jobs introduced the Apple personal computer and unleashed another wave of innovation that reaffirmed our faith in the power and potential of technology to drive human progress.

    I was reminded just how high our expectations are for technology at two events in September: the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Frontiers of Development conference and the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting, each of which showcased inventions, tools and concepts to improve public health and raise living standards. A few of the breakthrough innovations highlighted at these events or in recently announced grants include:

    Continue reading

  • Advancing economic development: Meeting systems challenges in a complex world

    PaulBundick_2014_200x220The term “results oriented” has become a new buzzword in international development. Its near-universal usage among funders and practitioners suggests our industry has failed to give sufficient attention to measuring meaningful outcomes along with associated costs.

    The drive to do more with less has given rise to the measurement imperative — the use of rigorous quantitative methods to establish fundamental relationships between a few variables with the aim of identifying simple causal pathways to pre-established indicators of success. As a corollary, we find an increasing emphasis on accountability to better control the production of intended results as cost-effectively as possible.

    Who can argue with the need for doing more with less? As serious practitioners of social and economic change, we accept this moral imperative of being held accountable — to our fellow citizens, to our funders, to our clients and to ourselves. Yet, there is something missing. It is as if we have reduced our understanding of reality and all of its complexity to fit the limitations of our methods. This view feels incomplete and needs some major re-envisioning.

    Anyone who has ever implemented a project will agree that many results are neither intended nor direct. The causal pathways that underlie our work are usually far from simple. Reality often diverges significantly from the results framework to which we are held accountable. Effects are often subtle, indirect, mediated or delayed. It is difficult to know what will actually happen in a system unless the parameters are highly constrained and the all-important context is artificially removed. How do we reconcile the need for achieving results and accountability within a more complex, interrelated yet unpredictable understanding of reality?

    Continue reading

  • The future of Myanmar is online

    Today, Myanmar has similar mobile phone usage rates to North Korea, Eritrea and Cuba – less than 10 percent of the population. At the same time, technology restrictions in the country are easing. Three mobile operators are racing to roll out services, which will rapidly bring the 60 million people who live in Myanmar into a digital reality, practically overnight.

    On August 6, 2014, FHI 360 convened a workshop in Yangon to explore the role of information and communications technology and development in Myanmar, attended by leading technologists and development experts from Myanmar and across the Asia Pacific region. The workshop centered on three questions that address technology’s impact on government, civil society, business and most importantly, people’s lives:

    1. What are the social and cultural impacts when a country goes online virtually overnight?
    2. What will the people of Myanmar find on the Internet of today? Or tomorrow?
    3. Who will benefit when all of the citizens of Myanmar have a digital voice?

    While attendees touched on many points throughout the discussion, and did not always agree on the answers to our questions, we did find general consensus that by 2018, Myanmar will have a very different technology landscape.

    Continue reading

  • UNDP reportThe United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s 2014 Human Development Report, entitled Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, calls attention to the persistent vulnerability that threatens human development. According to the recently released report, 2.2 billion people are poor or near-poor, and unless policies and social norms systematically address their vulnerabilities, development will fail to be equitable or sustainable.

    The report proposes multiple ways to strengthen resilience, such as the provision of basic social services and stronger policies for social protection and full employment.

    “By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. Read the report.

  • Naomi

    What prevents girls in Nigeria from receiving a quality education?

    Girls in Nigeria face many obstacles. These include high school fees, gender inequality and other social pressures that cause them to drop out. Security is a big risk for many girls, especially since the recent kidnappings. Some girls are just too afraid to go to class. The conditions at school can also be a challenge. My class has 50 students and no fan. Some classrooms have no ceiling, no fan and even more students. At certain times of the day, like when the sun is directly overhead, it is too hot for students to even sit in the classroom and impossible for them to concentrate and learn.

    Some policies also limit girls. If a girl is pregnant, she cannot return to school after she has her baby. One mistake should not be the end of a girl’s education.

    Continue reading