"Many impact evaluations fail to provide rigorous evidence because, even when they measure changes among beneficiaries, they often cannot demonstrate that the changes were due to the program in question. One of the most common ways to estimate the impact of a program is to compare outcomes before and after a program is implemented. Yet many things change at the same time that a project is implemented, so without further information, it is not correct to assume that observed outcomes are due to the project. For example, population health status may improve after a reform of health service delivery in a particular region, but unless other competing explanations—such as changes in income, agricultural productivity, or infectious disease vectors—are ruled out, evidence of impact itself is lacking.

Improperly conducted evaluations are misleading. They present conclusions that are unsubstantiated. This means that the risk of wasting public resources or even harming participants is real. This is why clinical trials of medications have become a standard and integral part of medical care. No physician would consider prescribing strong medications whose impact and potential side-effects have not been properly evaluated. Yet in social development programs, where huge sums can be spent to modify population behaviors, change economic livelihoods, and potentially alter cultures or family structure, no such standard has been adopted. While it is widely recognized that withholding programs that are known to be beneficial would be unethical, the implicit corollary—that programs of unknown impact should not be widely replicated without proper evaluation—is frequently dismissed.”

-From “When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives through Impact Evaluation


Perhaps most worrying of all is the unwillingness of Obama and other Western leaders to say or do anything to support the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Ethiopians who have been demonstrating peacefully against government interference in their religious affairs for more than a year. (The Ethiopian government claims the country has a Christian majority, but Muslims may account for up to one half of the population.) You’d think a nonviolent Islamic movement would be just the kind of thing the Obama administration would want to showcase to the world. It has no hint of terrorist influence, and its leaders are calling for a secular government under the slogan “We have a cause worth dying for, but not worth killing for.” Indeed, the Ethiopian protesters may be leading Africa’s most promising and important nonviolent human rights campaign since the anti-apartheid struggle.

Source: New York Times Book Review Blog, “Obama: Failing the African Spring?”

Perhaps most worrying of all is the unwillingness of Obama and other Western leaders to say or do anything to support the hundreds of thousands of Muslim Ethiopians who have been demonstrating peacefully against government interference in their religious affairs for more than a year. (The Ethiopian government claims the country has a Christian majority, but Muslims may account for up to one half of the population.) You’d think a nonviolent Islamic movement would be just the kind of thing the Obama administration would want to showcase to the world. It has no hint of terrorist influence, and its leaders are calling for a secular government under the slogan “We have a cause worth dying for, but not worth killing for.” Indeed, the Ethiopian protesters may be leading Africa’s most promising and important nonviolent human rights campaign since the anti-apartheid struggle.

Source: New York Times Book Review Blog, “Obama: Failing the African Spring?”

The United Nations says access to contraception is a universal human right that could significantly improve the lives of women and children in poor countries. The United Nations Population Fund’s annual report effectively declares that legal, cultural and financial barriers to contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights. The United Nations does not count abortion among the measures.

It’s amazing that these things can seem so obvious yet strongly progressive at the same time.

Source: NY Times

"Mind the Gap" by Zadie Smith →

The other thing that seems, to me, useful about Writers Bloc, is its tone of subjectivity, of passion. It is natural that development organizations should attempt a “neutral” voice, express little outrage, and try not to offend the governments with whom they work. But it is also natural, upon entering the gap between first world and the third, to feel something, to be moved, and to have opinions, to express anger. The correspondents for Writers Bloc express their feelings not in the flat blandness of the TV camera nor the news-hungry enquiry of the press reporter but as human citizens rather than professional advocates in prose that hopes to cut through that most depressing first world malady: “Charity fatigue.”

Writing is often called “news from elsewhere,” and speaking about one world to another has always been one of the many aims of the writer. A writer hopes to make connections where the lazy eye sees only a chasm of difference. Judging from these pieces, some of the differences that in recent years, public policy makers have taken as “self-evident” are not so obvious. What is ethnic difference, really? Should borders really be drawn between ethnic groups? Is foreign investment always more important than government regulation? What is a nation anyway? Can people really be “separate but equal?” These questions may seem naive but if they don’t get asked, or even posed, government policy marches on without them relying on that dangerous quality “common sense.” All of us who write—whether our documents are full of statistics, analysis, number crunching, anecdotes, or plain old story-telling—know that writing is as indirect as it can be powerful. It takes millions of words written by thousands of people in hundreds of disciplines to affect the gaps in the world even a little. In its own small way Writers Bloc hopes to join its words to all those others.

"Bangladeshi Rickshaw Driver Builds Clinic"

At the age of 61, Joynal Abedin is still pedaling his rickshaw. It’s hard work—he carries people, heavy goods, even animals. On a good day he earns $6. Joynal has been at it for 30 years, saving literaly every penny he can. He may not know how to read or write, but he certainly knows the value of a dime. Over the years, he savedhalfof his income. By the time he was 60, he put aside $3000, just enough to open a small village hospital.

Joynal: “My dad died because we could not afford to get him to a doctor and the nearest hospital is a two day’s walk. I wassoangry.”

"People here think that because we are poor we are helpless. I wanted to prove them wrong."

Hell, fucking,yes, Joynal. Thank you for your display of that proud, self-reliant attitude that is so often snuffed out by the current foreign aid system.

Rickshaw drivers are the poorest of the poor, often not even owning the rickshaws they pedal, but rent them daily, handing over most of their profits to the owner. Meaning the fact that Mr. Abedin was able to put asidehalfof his income is an incredible feat.

I’ve been in Bangladesh since June interviewing rural Bangladeshis about their savings activities and often, the sentiment I’ve been met with from respondents is that they don’t make enough income to save. I wish I had this video of Mr. Abedin’s achievement to show those who said it wasn’t possible just what really can be possible when one fully recognizes her/his own capacity to change one’s situation.

You betta PREACH, Joynal.

(Source: Al Jazeera English)

Source: Al Jazeera English - “World Bank Cancels Loan for Bangladesh Bridge” (Click photo to access article).

The World Bank has cancelled a $1.2bn loan for Bangladesh’s Padma bridge project, saying the government had not co-operated in investigating “high level” corruption in the project.
"The World Bank cannot, should not, and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption," it said on Friday about the loan being cancelled immediately.
"We only finance a project when we have adequate assurances that we can do so in a clean and transparent way," the bank said.

Seems like a new policy for the World Bank, but one that should be heartily supported.

Source: Al Jazeera English - “World Bank Cancels Loan for Bangladesh Bridge” (Click photo to access article).

The World Bank has cancelled a $1.2bn loan for Bangladesh’s Padma bridge project, saying the government had not co-operated in investigating “high level” corruption in the project.

"The World Bank cannot, should not, and will not turn a blind eye to evidence of corruption," it said on Friday about the loan being cancelled immediately.

"We only finance a project when we have adequate assurances that we can do so in a clean and transparent way," the bank said.

Seems like a new policy for the World Bank, but one that should be heartily supported.

"The White Savior Industrial Complex" by Teju Cole →

Source: Matador Network (Click photo to access article) - “Seven Worst International Aid Ideas”

Source: Matador Network (Click photo to access article) - “Seven Worst International Aid Ideas”

"Typically, in the societies of the bottom billion the civil service has lost whatever skills it once possessed. Once over dinner the former head of the civil service in one of the big bottom-billion societies described what had happened to the civil service that he had helped to build. He asked me to imagine being a schoolboy in his country on the eve of independence. The bight boys in the class aspired to join the civil service to help build the country. At the other end of the class, what were the aspirations for the dumb class bully? Forget the civil service with its tough exam. So the class bully set his sights on the army. Fast-forward two decades and a coup d’état. The army was now running the government. Between the class bullies, now the generals, and their objective of looting the public sector stood the class stars now running the civil service. The generals didn’t like it. Gradually they replaced the clever boys with people more like themselves. And as they promoted the dumb and corrupt over the bight and the honest, the good chose to leave. Economists have a term for it: “selection by intrinsic motivation.” So by the time the military ceded power back to civilian politicians, the civil service was broken: far from being the vehicle for developing the country, it was a vehicle for looting it."
Paul Collier - The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
Today I make the move from Mbale, Uganda to Arusha, Tanzania. I have learned a lot during my 6 months stint with the NGO world—most importantly that I don’t want to have to work in English. Therefore, the next three months will find me in daily Swahili lessons and life in a homestay. Wish me luck! [Sema, “Bahati njema!”].

Today I make the move from Mbale, Uganda to Arusha, Tanzania. I have learned a lot during my 6 months stint with the NGO world—most importantly that I don’t want to have to work in English. Therefore, the next three months will find me in daily Swahili lessons and life in a homestay. Wish me luck! [Sema, “Bahati njema!”].

"To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say."
~ Descartes (Via)
Life Without Lights is a documentary photography and multimedia project that explores the causes and effects of energy poverty, as well as potential solutions. By award-winning photojournalist Peter DiCampo.

Above: A woman sells food by the roadside in Fulfusu Junction, Ghana. The town is located at a major junction on northern Ghana’s main road, between several large cities and the north’s most popular tourist destination. Residents argue that electricity would allow them to capitalize on the tourism and service industries and cater to passing truck drivers crossing from north to south.

Thanks to Simone Rutkowitz for sending this my way. I suggest you to start enjoying life just a little bit more by checking out her own talent for the medium—here for photographing beautiful people and here for beautiful food.

Life Without Lights is a documentary photography and multimedia project that explores the causes and effects of energy poverty, as well as potential solutions. By award-winning photojournalist Peter DiCampo.

Above: A woman sells food by the roadside in Fulfusu Junction, Ghana. The town is located at a major junction on northern Ghana’s main road, between several large cities and the north’s most popular tourist destination. Residents argue that electricity would allow them to capitalize on the tourism and service industries and cater to passing truck drivers crossing from north to south.

Thanks to Simone Rutkowitz for sending this my way. I suggest you to start enjoying life just a little bit more by checking out her own talent for the medium—here for photographing beautiful people and here for beautiful food.

A still shot from the first of [hopefully] many oral histories I will  be collecting during my time in East Africa. The still shot made, at  least in my mind, a beautiful photograph. Maybe it’s just because I have  so much love and respect for the person in the frame.
I’m collecting both video and  voice recordings of each participant. I hope to one day use them to  create a play to be performed for an audience. I wrote my senior thesis  about such a practice. Any reader out there who knows me will attest to  how fanatical I am about the idea.
But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll just have the benefit of possessing these recordings for the rest of my life.
[Partially]  pictured above is Kiseka Samson—a young man with a fascinating story  to tell and an even more outstanding personality to animate it. In his  oral history, he tells of his experience being born in the war-torn north,  losing his father to the conflict, then being abandoned by his mother,  and of his decade-long struggle to survive as a street child. We are  both happy to report that he is currently attending university and performing exceptionally well.
I wish I could share his story with anyone out  there using his own words, but both time and bandwidth limit me. This may turn out to be my life’s work though, so if you’re intrigued, stay tuned  [or fund me!].

A still shot from the first of [hopefully] many oral histories I will be collecting during my time in East Africa. The still shot made, at least in my mind, a beautiful photograph. Maybe it’s just because I have so much love and respect for the person in the frame.

I’m collecting both video and voice recordings of each participant. I hope to one day use them to create a play to be performed for an audience. I wrote my senior thesis about such a practice. Any reader out there who knows me will attest to how fanatical I am about the idea.

But if that doesn’t work out, I’ll just have the benefit of possessing these recordings for the rest of my life.

[Partially] pictured above is Kiseka Samson—a young man with a fascinating story to tell and an even more outstanding personality to animate it. In his oral history, he tells of his experience being born in the war-torn north, losing his father to the conflict, then being abandoned by his mother, and of his decade-long struggle to survive as a street child. We are both happy to report that he is currently attending university and performing exceptionally well.

I wish I could share his story with anyone out there using his own words, but both time and bandwidth limit me. This may turn out to be my life’s work though, so if you’re intrigued, stay tuned [or fund me!].