BBC Media Action’s governance research: emerging evidence and learning
BBC Media Action
Supported by a five-year grant from the UK Department for International Development to achieve governance outcomes in countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, this working paper shares the learning and insights our research generates as it progresses. The paper is designed to share some of the most interesting qualitative and quantitative data we have gathered at this relatively early stage in the research. It also explores the conclusions we are beginning to reach about the contexts in which we work and the impact of BBC Media Action’s programmes. Finally, it highlights what our research is, and is not, telling us.
The Bad News About the News
1998, Ralph Terkowitz, a vice president of The Washington Post Co., got to know Sergey Brin and Larry Page, two young Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who were looking for backers. Terkowitz remembers paying a visit to the garage where they were working and keeping his car and driver waiting outside while he had a meeting with them about the idea that eventually became Google. An early investment in Google might have transformed the Post's financial condition, which became dire a dozen years later, by which time Google was a multi-billion dollar company. But nothing happened. “We kicked it around,” Terkowitz recalled, but the then-fat Post Co. had other irons in other fires.
New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.
The increasing penetration of mobile services and mobile internet is opening up opportunities for innovation, especially in emerging markets. This can be seen in the health sector, financial services, and many other fields, where ICT start-ups and small and medium enterprise (SMEs) are working with mobile services to create business and jobs. The World Bank reports that "9 out of 10 jobs in developing economies" come from the private sector, and that "The main thrust of that comes from micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises, especially in technology sectors—a recent study argues that 3 jobs are created in a community for every new high-tech job."
The following graph shows the distribution of ICT start-ups and SMEs in relation to the number of mobile subscribers. In developed countries, technology firms and internet providers have been at the forefront of innovation, but in emerging markets mobile operators are increasingly leading the way.
Some more innovative work from the London School of Economics. This genuinely thought-provoking 8 minute video describes a collaboration between the LSE-hosted International Growth Centre and Zambia’s Ministry of Health. The background academic paper is here.
Researchers and officials worked together to answer an important question: to motivate people in rural villages to become rural community health workers (CHWs), is it best to appeal to their community spirit, or to their hopes for individual career development? If you do the latter, will people lose their link to the community, and replicate the problem with more standard professional health workers, many of whom hate working in rural areas, and head for the city?
To do that, they divided up 160 villages targeted for recruitment. In half they put up posters that stressed ‘come and serve your community’, in the rest they put the emphasis on careers (see above: figures 1a and 1b of the paper). Sure enough, the posters attracted different kinds of people to apply for CHW training.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Corruption 'impoverishes and kills millions'
An estimated $1tn (£600bn) a year is being taken out of poor countries and millions of lives are lost because of corruption, according to campaigners. A report by the anti-poverty organisation One says much of the progress made over the past two decades in tackling extreme poverty has been put at risk by corruption and crime. Corrupt activities include the use of phantom firms and money laundering. The report blames corruption for 3.6 million deaths every year. If action were taken to end secrecy that allows corruption to thrive - and if the recovered revenues were invested in health - the group calculates that many deaths could be prevented in low-income countries.
The Best and Worst Places to Build More Roads
Roads are taking over the planet. By the middle of this century, so many new roadways are expected to appear that their combined length would circle Earth more than 600 times. To build critical connections while preserving biodiversity, we need a global road map, scientists argue today in the journal Nature. And as a first step, the international team has identified areas where new roads would be most useful and those where such development would likely be in conflict with nature.
Social marketing asks questions like these to determine what types of media to use, how to allocate resources, and what the mix and schedule of marketing strategies should be in order to influence how individuals interact with and respond to products and services. It seeks to inform the delivery of competition-sensitive and segmented social change programs.
Rebecca Firestone, a social epidemiologist at PSI with area specialties in sexual and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases, speaks to us about the importance of designing programs that do not just operate in a market but which actively facilitate the market. Ultimately, she says, the goal is to ensure "equitable access to products and services that are going to help people lead healthier lives."
In Myanmar, where the economy is opening up, PSI is working to ensure that the commercial market for condoms is allowed to grow while also finding avenues to deliver condoms to those people who cannot afford them on their own.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Out in the Open: This Man Wants to Turn Data Into Free Food (And So Much More)
Let’s say your city releases a list of all trees planted on its public property. It would be a godsend—at least in theory. You could filter the data into a list of all the fruit and nut trees in the city, transfer it into an online database, and create a smartphone app that helps anyone find free food. Such is promise of “open data”—the massive troves of public information our governments now post to the net. The hope is that, if governments share enough of this data with the world at large, hackers and entrepreneurs will find a way of putting it to good use. But although so much of this government data is now available, the revolution hasn’t exactly happened.
Four mobile-based tools that can bring education to millions
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”, Nelson Mandela is famed for saying. Yet access to good quality learning is still denied to millions around the world, particularly in developing countries where teaching standards and education facilities are often poor. The ubiquity of mobile phones is presenting educators with a new, low-cost tool for teaching. Here we look at four mobile-based solutions delivering real results for low-income learners.
In our last two blogs, we spoke about why measurement is key for development professionals and what should we measure? and about some take-aways from the medical profession on the measurement of competencies and performance. In this blog, we discuss specific ways we can use those lessons and apply them to the development sector.
As we discussed, in the medical world, lessons learned in competency and performance measurement relate to:
The focus on competencies, performance, and the space in between
Competence being specific to situations and existing on a continuum
Assessment as a program of activity that uses multi-source qualitative and quantitative information
The importance of the reproducibility of assessments
Encouraging the use of a portfolio.
But how can the above be specifically applied to development? Development practitioners can certainly take a page from the medical profession, as the stakes for getting measurement right are no less than bettering the lives of those who live on less than a dollar a day.
In the wake of the current Ebola crisis, the 2011 movie Contagion (See the trailer here) directed by Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been cited as one of the best examples of a movie taking on the subject of pandemic disease and managing to educate while providing gripping entertainment. This is no coincidence. Contagion was produced with both A-list stars (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, and others) and support from leading public health experts such as Dr. Ian Lipkin who is the inspiration for one of the scientists portrayed in the film, and award-winning writer Laurie Garrett, author of several books including The Coming Plague. Participant Media, founded by Jeff Skoll to inspire social change through entertainment, was a producer, with the Skoll Global Threats Fund, World Health Organization (WHO), and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing input as well.
The tagline from the film is “No One is Immune…to Fear.” While one of the early scenes is of a woman dying of a flu-like illness (played by Paltrow) the movie elicits fear not from gruesome symptoms but instead from plot lines and messages that focus on how human responses to these types of public health crises make matters worse. It also showcases the valuable work done by epidemiologists and other public health workers who are the heroes of this film. Contagion communicates these and other lessons effectively using the power of story, a subject recently discussed on this blog.
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.
Ebola virus is experiencing a break out summer. The latest outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone is the worst ever, resulting in the death of almost 900 lives and infecting more than 1603 people across West Africa. The virus is also experiencing unexpected popularity on the dance floor.
A new song, "Ebola in Town," recorded by a trio of West African rappers, warns of the dangers of Ebola over a catchy electronic beat. Residents of Monrovia and Conakry, the capitals of Liberia and Guinea, and have created a dance to go along with the song. The lyrics warn "don't touch your friend" and "no eating something, it's dangerous," and the dance, fittingly, does not include any touching.
This advice is technically incorrect (you cannot contract Ebola virus from simply touching another person but rather through contact with bodily fluids) and may increase the social stigma that people recovering from Ebola face, an issue health workers are attempting to adress. While the song is off-message, it may nonetheless be helpful in raising awareness. Many people in West Africa are not sure of the actual danger level, which may be exacerbated by illiteracy- 43.3% of adults in Sierra Leon, 42.9% in Liberia and only 25.3% in Guinea's are literate. In these countries, music, theater, and radio are popular media to spread public information.
The excellently named Research Institute for Compassionate Economics (R.I.C.E) recently published an equally excellently named survey – the SQUAT (Sanitation Quality, Use, Access and Trends) survey. Based on the findings of this survey conducted in five north Indian states, R.I.C.E calls for a latrine use revolution - since the bottleneck is not the non-availability of a latrine (since even those with a government latrine are not using them), nor is it lack of funds (since far poorer countries and communities have built and used latrine). It is an issue of messaging around hygiene, towards which we need to set our firm focus.
My first job in the development sector was with an NGO, Gram Vikas in Odisha and my experience there has shaped many of my core beliefs about working in this sector. At the core of Gram Vikas' work was the conviction that the 'poor can and will pay for quality services'. So when I think toilets (not latrines – and there is a key difference in the definition), I often use the 'quality' lens and make the argument about how the usage of physical facilities installed by projects has a direct link with what community perception of what counts as good quality. This also has a strong link with the extent to which they feel a sense of ownership for the facility.