Showing posts from 2011

Social media for activism – Driver for societal change or overhyped myth?

For a while now I am following what seems to be a trench battle between the so-called “cyber-utopians”, who see social media as the guarantor of a new age of equality, democracy and civil rights, and the critical skeptics who point out that they’ve seen it all before and who see social media as an overstretched hype with no real impact on the real world. The Arab Spring and the related media coverage regarding the role of social media have surely added a new quality to the conversation and seems to have sharpened the above cleavage even more. The debate gained such prominence, that entire training courses are now dedicated on social media activism, like the TechChange course on “ Global Innovations for Digital Organizing ” which I just participated in during the last three weeks. A key point of this discussion is the question whether or whether not social media actually helps spurring and supporting social activism, or whether all the protests that occurred lately would have happen

What does it take to make a ShareFair happen? Don’t ask ‘what’, ask ‘who’!

When walking through the IFAD corridors this warm Italian September week one cannot help but be amazed by the buzzing, vibrant energy that is felt in every part of the building. People chat in corners, engage in up to 15 parallel group sessions, share their thoughts with someone with a video camera or sit in the hallway with their laptop on their lap, communicating one of their many impressions through email, Twitter or a blog. Over 600 participants, 160 projects, 200+ scheduled group or plenary sessions, and one is left with an immediate question: How on earth did they pull this off? After all, there is no professional event management company involved here that pulls the strings. This event is done by the sponsoring organizations themselves, with a surprisingly low budget and mostly with staff who – if they are not helping plan and implement knowledge fairs – have other jobs to do. I talked to some of the organizers to get a small glimpse of the machinery that made this event happe

The Need to Fail Safely - Reflections on Principles of Evolution in Development

Last week, I participated in an extremely interesting webinar by Owen Barder, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development. His key message was that development problems are complex and cannot be solved with linear thinking. In his presentation, Owen shared his perspective and research findings on “the role that knowledge can play in tackling ‘wicked’ problems such as poverty reduction, illustrating how concepts derived from evolution theory like variation and selection are a useful framework to think about the way ideas and knowledge are applied in development projects”. (You can click on the presentation above, or you can download the presentation as a pdf file here . ) In general, Owen ran in open doors with me with the concept of diversity & selection, as am trying to advocate for more open, crowed-sourced innovation approaches within development already. However, the webinar also made me thinking, and I had a good follow up discussion wi

Development 2.0 is not ICT for Development. In fact, it is something entirely different!

The other day, I had a conversation about emerging development topics. In this instance, I was referring to a discusson on “Development 2.0 - using social media for development projects” among colleagues of mine which in a very short period of time got quite an active following. And the question is raised whether “Development 2.0” should be an actual service line in an organization's portfolio of advisory service topics. One response I got was that this is not a new topic at all, but that “ICT for Development” has been around as a service line in the development community for a long time. I startled for a moment, as it never occurred to me that someone could use these two terms as interchangeable synonyms. Only then I realized why we sometimes struggle to get the message about the potential of social media in development work across: It might be indeed because so many people equate social media with ICT4D. From a purely bureaucratic perspective, this might not even be entirely wr

How we deal with what we know - or don't know

Through the network , I came across this interesting article in the New Yorker: "The Truth Wears Off" . It elaborates in the "Decline Effect"or empirical science, which is the phenomenon that the more scientists try to replicate previous empirical results, the more the statistic effects of these results wear off. "Such anomalies demonstrate the slipperiness of empiricism. Although many scientific ideas generate conflicting results and suffer from falling effect sizes, they continue to get cited in the textbooks and drive standard medical practice. Why? Because these ideas seem true. Because they make sense. Because we can't bear to let them go. And this is why the decline effect is so troubling. Not because it reveals the human fallibility of science, in which data are tweaked and beliefs shape perceptions. (Such shortcomings aren't surprising, at least for scientists.) And not because it reveals that many of our most exciting theories are