Thursday, 31 January 2013

Delivering Global Public Goods: A Snapshot of 3ie in 2012

3ie funds impact evaluations and systematic reviews that generate high quality evidence on what works in development and why. Evidence on development effectiveness can inform policy and improve the lives of poor people. At Wikichild we work closely with 3ie in developing our child well-being content.
Pre-schools in Mozambique boosted children’s social and cognitive development, and increased the likelihood that both they and their siblings will attend primary school. 
Photo sourced by 3ie
Independent audits of industrial plant emissions in Gujarat, India produced more accurate audits and also curtailed pollution.
Burdensome registration requirements and high cost of obtaining agricultural electricity connections in West Bengal, India, had unnecessarily restricted access to water for small farmers. 
A newly designed cookstove in northern Ghana failed to achieve the expected benefits in reduced exposure to smoke and more efficient use of fuel wood. 
Providing social recognition to hairdressers in Lusaka in Zambia proved more effective than cash incentives in encouraging them to sell female condoms, though no mechanism helped in achieving substantial sales.
These are not disparate statements but are lessons learned from 3ie-supported studies released in 2012. 3ie is now making an important contribution to filling the evidence gap of what works in development and why. And it is not that evidence is being produced for evidence’s sake. Pre-schools are being rolled out across Mozambique, independent audits are being adopted in Gujarat and discussed with other states, registration requirements for small farmers in West Bengal have been abolished, and the NGO in northern Ghana has gone back to the drawing board. These are just some of the examples of how evidence from 3ie-funded studies is being used to inform better policies. And better policies can improve lives.
During the course of 2012 3ie clearly started to deliver on its primary purpose of filling the evidence gap in development effectiveness. We have become recognised as an agency with robust, independent and credible review processes. Both governments and development agencies can turn to us for assistance in managing single studies, external peer review of those studies, or a whole programme of studies under our Thematic Windows. 
In 2012 we put together new Thematic Windows on the promotion of medical male circumcision and the use of self-testing kits for HIV/AIDS. We have also been working on an ambitious joint programme of agricultural impact evaluations in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia with AGRA and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Department For International Development. We are also exploring Thematic Windows on climate change and humanitarian assistance. The work done in 2012 will come to fruition in 2013, when all these Thematic Windows will be launched
Another major highlight for us last year was the increasing demand for impact evaluations through 3ie’s Policy Window. This is an innovative window through which implementing agencies can come to us to identify researchers for conducting impact evaluations of flagship programmes. We are currently processing grants for the Philippines Department of Education, NEPAD’s e-education programme in Africa, and the Magic Bus sports for girls programme in India, to name a few.
3ie not only funds studies, it also sets international standards for impact evaluation. For the studies we fund, we do this through our review process. For others, we offer quality assurance services and issue conceptual papers and guidelines. We have also launched a replication programme to test the robustness of study findings, and are preparing a registry of planned impact evaluations in low and middle income countries.
We have continued to set standards and push the frontiers of methods and knowledge with our systematic review programme. We made two further rounds of awards for systematic reviews and helped organize the first ever international event on Systematic Reviews in International Development in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We continued to focus on increasing the policy relevance of our studies and completed our first 3ie-style policy friendly systematic review reports which will be published in early 2013.
All in all, 2012 was a very good year for 3ie. Our committed staff in New Delhi, London and Washington DC plan to make 2013 even better. 
(Howard White is Executive Director, 3ie)

Visit Wikichild's Twitter for regular updates on Child well-being @Wiki_child

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

January 2013 in Review!

We are already deep into January and a lot has been going on in the world of Progress. This blog will provide you with a selection of headlines and highlights from the month. With the Post 2015 debate on what framework should follow the Millennium Development Goals underway, this blog focuses on Wikiprogress’s new interactive Post 2015 page and Save the Children’s recent report ‘Ending Poverty In Our Generation’. It also includes Wikigender’s synthesis of its online discussion ‘Engaging Men and Boys to Transform Discriminatory Social Norms’, The OECD’s latest issue of ‘Education Indicators in Focus’ and President Obama’s impassioned words on climate chance in his recent inaugural address.

Wikiprogress has created an interactive Post 2015 page for users to access articles, publications, discussion boards and news on upcoming events.  There are new meetings, reports and conferences on the subject occurring every day and this page is intended to bring together all the key information so that Wikiprogress followers can stay up to date on proceedings.  To visit the Post 2015 page, click here

In a bid to make an early footmark in the Post 2015 debate, Save the Children recently released ‘Ending Poverty in Our Generation’, a vision of their new development framework. The report, consisting of ten key goals, aims to support the creation of a world where all people realise their human rights within a generation. To access the ‘Ending Poverty’, visit Wikichild’s Spotlight section.

Following on from the online discussion ‘Engaging Men and Boys in Transforming Discriminatory Social Norms’ that ran from 22nd until 31st of October, Wikigender released a synthesis of the rich exchange of views, examples and recommendations. The key issues of the discussion included: the power of men to change; rethinking ideas of masculinity; and educating society (both women and men) about gender equality and its benefits. Click here to read the synthesis.

The OECD’s latest issue of Education Indicators in Focus seeks to answer the question of what are the social benefits of education. The link between education and social benefits has long been recognized and research recently revealed that education not only enables individuals to perform better in the labour market, but also helps to improve their overall health, promote active citizenship and contain violence. Read more.

Lastly, a newly invigorated President Obama yesterday addressed the issue of climate change head on in his inaugural address. The topic that was completely overshadowed by the stuttering economy in the lead up to the election was one of the main focal points of Obama’s speech. Watch the clip below.

Stay tuned for more Progress reviews in the coming weeks!

Robbie Lawrence
Wikichild Coordinator

Friday, 18 January 2013

Post-2015: Aim here

You’d be pretty foolish to propose a complete post-2015 development framework right now, wouldn’t you? What with the High Level Panel still to have their second substantive meeting (in Monrovia, following London last November and with the Indonesian fixture to follow), and the global consultations still running… You’d pretty much be putting up a target and inviting attack, wouldn’t you? Still, hard hats on, here goes!

Save the Children today publishes the modestly titled Ending Poverty in our Generation, which sets out a vision of how the successor to the Millennium Development Goals could look. Rather than try to summarise it here, I’ll suggest reading it instead – but you can get the gist of it from the contents page, which is reproduced at the bottom of this post. And Mark Tran at the Guardian has a very good (and kind!) piece up already.

The central points, to my mind at least, are these:
  • to continue the MDG structure of a limited number of goals with specific targets and indicators;
  • to address inequalities in various dimensions across every thematic area;
  • to prioritise the achievement of universal (or ‘zero’) goals, from e.g. universal healthcare to the eradication of hunger and absolute income poverty;
  • to ensure sustainability of development progress is given much greater priority; and
  • to radically improve accountability, including through prioritisation of domestic taxation as the source of finance, and with substantial investment in the availability of data

You could summarise this as ‘MDGs+ with our priorities rather than yours’, but I hope you won’t. The intention is not to make the case for this specific proposed framework, and we won’t be lobbying for this as a complete set against any other alternative.

Instead, we’re publishing this because we hope it can be useful, in two particular ways.

The first reflects that we’ve been a little worried about the need to bring the conversation on post-2015 around to specifics. For example, there is in the technical discussions, and increasingly in the political ones also, what feels like an overwhelming consensus on inequality. However, it’s much easier to have a consensus on the importance of an abstract concept than on the actual policy implications thereof. Does that consensus translate, for example, into support for a global goal on income inequality? Or for targets on the ratio of progress between the most and least favoured groups (say by gender, or ethnolinguistic group) in each and every goal? While we recognise there is a long way to go, and that many voices are still to be heard, we hope that putting up a specific proposal may help crystallise some views – even if it’s in fierce opposition to our suggestions!

The second way in which we hope this might be useful is from our own learning. Save The Children is a large and complex organisation, and the process of engaging all the internal stakeholders to reach agreement has been an eye-opening one.  We had (repeatedly!) the kinds of discussions you might expect about how progressive or conservative a position to take in particular areas, and about how much we should be setting a utopian goal, or a politically feasible one. We also had surprisingly creative and good-tempered discussions about the importance of different thematic areas, and how some could be combined rather than excluded, and on where draconian decisions were really needed in order to maintain the clarity and simplicity of the MDG structure.

Of course, that last point  is one that took a good deal of discussion: just how much should we see the MDGs’ simplicity and clarity as an ideal, or at least as necessary to their political traction? You might well take a different view, which could lead to a quiet different structure (or indeed to the absence of one; I confess I’m still attracted to the idea of much broader, and non-exclusive menus of targets and indicators from which nationally-representative processes could prioritise…).

There’s a long way to go. As the UN consultations begin to report back (you can comment on the inequalities draft report here – please do!), and the High Level Panel will start to crystallise some of their thinking, there is still prolonged technical and then political discussion to be had – not least bringing together more completely the thinking and the talking on post-2015 and Sustainable Development Goals.

With a bit of luck, Ending Poverty in our Generation can be of some use in moving these discussions along. Even if it’s just as a target for criticism. Please do share your responses with us, whether in comments below or directly etc. In the end it’s only useful if we learn more publishing it about where post-2015 is going.

Building on the strengths of the MDGs
Finishing the job
Addressing the MDGs’ limitations
Responding to changes and new challenges

1) Finishing the job: better outcomes, faster progress
1 Reducing inequalities
2 Increasing transparency and accountability
3 Synergies and systems
4 Ensuring access is not at the expense of outcomes
5 Environmental sustainability

2) Putting in place the foundations of human development
Goal 1: By 2030 we will eradicate extreme poverty and reduce relative poverty through inclusive growth and decent work
Goal 2: By 2030 we will eradicate hunger, halve stunting, and ensure universal access to sustainable food, water and sanitation
Goal 3: By 2030 we will end preventable child and maternal mortality and provide healthcare for all
Goal 4: By 2030 we will ensure all children receive a good-quality education and have good learning outcomes
Goal 5: By 2030 we will ensure all children live a life free from all forms of violence, are protected in conflict and thrive in a safe family environment
Goal 6: By 2030 governance will be more open, accountable and inclusive
3) Creating supportive and sustainable environments
Goal 7: By 2030 we will have robust global partnerships for more and effective use of financial resources
Goal 8: By 2030 we will build disaster-resilient societies
Goal 9: By 2030 we will have a sustainable, healthy and resilient environment for all
Goal 10: By 2030 we will deliver sustainable energy to all

4) Institutional support and enabling mechanisms
Financing and policy coherence for development
Data availability

5) Save the Children’s proposal for a post-2015 framework

 Alex Cobham, Uncounted Blog
This blog is about inequality and development and those who are uncounted. It is written and maintained by Alex Cobham, Save the Children's Head of Research. Uncounted aims to stimulate debate but is not a reflection of official Save the Children policy

Ending Poverty in Our Generation is Wikichild's most recent Spotlight.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

You spoke, we listened - Measures of Australia's Progress Consultation

Since the Australian Bureau of Statistics first published Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) in 2002, it has been bringing together a large range of statistics about Australia’s society, economy and environment to help give an insight into our national progress and ask the question - 'Is life in Australia getting better?'.
The statistics are put into social, economic and environmental domains to best display whether progress or regress is being made as a whole and allows for each domain to be considered side by side.
Given the explosion of interest in international and domestic activity occurring in measuring progress, the ABS considered it was timely to review whether MAP is still measuring the aspects of life that matter most to Australians. To do this, the ABS has undertaken the largest, broad-ranging consultation in the agency's history.  In a nut shell,  for the last two years the MAP Consultation has been asking Australians, 'What is important to you for your nation's progress?'

On November 20, 2012 Measures of Australia’s Progress - aspirations for our nation: a conversation with Australians about progress’ was released. This report provides a full and transparent account of the aspirations that Australians told us were important to them for progress.

What Australians want

From what people told us, we found that ideas of what progress is have changed since we first set out to measure it in 2002. We also found that there is a gap in the current picture of progress, particularly in the areas of the built environment and other aspects that enrich people's lives.  Many people strongly endorsed the area of Governance as a fourth MAP domain, which echoes the international trend to give greater focus to measuring progress in things such as human rights and having a political voice. People also wanted more statistics to be broken down by population groups and geographic areas.

The people we spoke to provided many new and interesting aspirations for Australia's progress. Many Australians feel that having equal opportunity or a fair go is an essential element for progress, as are other aspects that enrich people's lives such as recreation, sport, popular culture and the arts. The consultation also revealed that Australians think that having a say in the decision making that affects their lives, and having institutions that are accountable for their decisions, are crucial for progress.

This word cloud represents the range of ideas expressed during the MAP consultation.  The size of the words represent how often they were raised.

So, where to next?

We will be using the aspirations from the consultation to refresh the existing MAP indicators and release a new version of MAP in late 2013. We are also planning on giving the 2013 release a brand new look, ensuring it's easy to use and retaining MAP's 'at a glance' view of national progress. We also want to clearly communicate the stories behind the statistics, and allow users to directly access data they are interested in. Take a look at the mock-ups on BetaWorks and let us know if you like the new layout and functionality.

We'll also plan to include infographics and videos in MAP 2013, so you can easily get the top progress stories fast! Check out our example demo video to find out more!

Hannah Wetzler

Social Analyst

Social and Progress Reporting  |  Population Labour and Social Statistics  |  Australian Bureau of Statistics

Friday, 11 January 2013

Keep in mind the gender prism when shaping the post-2015 agenda!

Yesterday I took part in a meeting organised by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris, where were presented the main points of the evaluation of the French strategy regarding gender and development. The meeting was followed by a discussion on gender equality and the post-2015 agenda for development.

In the first part of the meeting we were given an overview of the evaluation (see the synthesis), which includes up to 40 recommendations with 4 main priorities:

  • Carry the political dialogue on gender at all level
  • Reinforce the human and financial resources
  • Create networks of gender focal points
  • Develop relevant indicators

Speakers recognised the important role of women as major economical actors and highlighted gender as a transversal objective, cutting across areas such as health or the environment. The need to focus on adolescent girls also came out strongly, as policies often target women or children but not so much on young girls, who can face risks such as early marriage, violence against women, or maternal mortality. Another key message was that current support for research on gender issues is insufficient.

In the second part of the meeting I listened to various presentations linking up gender issues to the post-2015 debate. Here are some of the key messages that I retain from the presentations and ensuing discussions.

First of all, while all participants agreed that gender should be a transversal issue across all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and at the same time be a standalone objective, it is important that:

  •  we keep the successes from the MDGs and learn from them;
  • we include in the post-2015 agenda issues that are missing from current MDGs (such as reproductive rights)
  • we include new focus areas, such as adolescent girls; and
  • we further develop our efforts in promising sectors, such as women’s access to productive assets, which is a key argument closely related to the new environmental challenges.

A number of issues were raised, for example one participant mentioned the lack of coordination between all actors on the ground, which could lead to confusion in terms of the different strategies and approaches, and the need for a bottom-up approach in the methodologies.

However many solutions were proposed in order to ensure that gender is sufficiently taken into account in the post-2015 agenda: one speaker said that we should put more emphasis on a dialogue with civil society representatives in the South; also, all development actors should receive gender training and we must involve men and boys to positively act towards women’s autonomy. In terms of linking gender equality to other areas, one speaker made clear the linkages between gender and climate change and suggested that we listen to both women’s and men’s voices when it comes to solutions, as men often look at technology as a solution while women tend to change their behaviour in order to reduce their ecological footprint, which forms part of the solution too. I was glad to see that some of these topics and solutions were actually addressed via Wikigender’s online discussions in 2012!

In the end, participants all agreed that the new objectives post 2015 should be global (not just focusing on developing countries), measurable and sustainable, given the new challenges we face. Adopting a gender approach in development is clearly the most efficient one (for example, development budgets should all be gendered, and all data should be sex-disaggregated whenever possible).

This meeting was certainly one step of many in the thought process towards including gender in the post-2015 agenda, but an important one, especially as I realised that participants are aware that looking at the drivers of gender inequality is necessary to better grasp the bigger development picture. Throughout the meeting I took note of some scattered, but significant words such as customary law,  social norms and traditions (including in Eastern Europe), female genital mutilation, women’s access to land, women’s access to public space and their political voice, religious fundamentalism, women’s civil status to enable them to vote or access property and early marriage – all of which point to the direction of social norms and traditions that prevent women from realising their full potential. I could not have left the meeting without gathering all these key words together and making this point clear: if we make sure those drivers of gender inequality are strongly present in the post 2015 agenda, we will have made a big step towards progress in development. 

Estelle Loiseau

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

In Support of the Whole Child

This is a joint posting by 13 Huffington Post Education, Parenting and Health bloggers: Martin J. Blank, Sam Chaltain, Peter DeWitt, John M. Eger, Larry Ferlazzo, Jenifer Fox, Shaun Johnson, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, Jennifer Peck, Kate Quarfordt, Sean Slade, Dr. Jim Taylor, & Jill Vialet.
In Support of the Whole Child
We are at a crossroads in this nation regarding the direction that public education will take in the coming decades. Do we focus on a curriculum that concentrates on a few core subjects or do we gain an appreciation for how public education can develop all aspects of the child to the benefit of each of them as well as society in general? Do we place test preparation ahead of actually educating our children and test scores ahead of broader and more holistic approaches to evaluating students' competencies? These questions lay at the heart of the current debate about the future of public education in America.
The recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, which placed American children far down the rankings compared to students from other developed nations, sparked a firestorm of debate over what we must do to our public education system. Some commentators declared the results to be our Sputnik moment, prompting others to demand that we double down on the testing philosophy and regimen that emerged out of the No Child Left Behind legislation. At the same time, the results of the PISA research have provoked in many commentators more innovative thinking about what a public education system in America that is designed for the 21st century should look like.
What was pervasive throughout this debate has been a faulty assumption that our current education crisis boils down to a black-and-white choice between academic achievement or a holistic approach to teaching and learning. However, the very meaning of the word 'holistic' defies this presumption by encompassing the whole child including the intellectual, artistic, physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and civic development of students. A holistic approach brings together elements that support the development of a child who is healthy, knowledgeable, motivated, and engaged, seeking to ensure all that is required for successful life and preparation for society.
Equally pervasive following the most recent PISA results were the questions around the mechanics of education, the length of the school day, the correct amount of seat time minutes, which curricula to adopt and which to discard, and the ideal education and qualifications for successful teachers. Though all these concerns may play a role in improving the quality of our public education system, they are all just parts of a larger enterprise -- they are all the process, the steps, to achieve the goal but can only have relevance and meaning once the goal has been decided.
And so the real debate should be: what do we want to achieve out of our public education system? Before we work out the how of public education reform, we must first figure out the what and why: what is our goal and why is that our goal? Ironically, the starting point for determining this goal -- whichever path we choose to follow -- should be the same question:
What do we want our children to be like when they are 25?
Think of that child, that teenager, that young adult and describe them. What words do we use?
Prepared, proficient, adequate, struggling or resilient?
Critical thinker, problem solver, collaborator or rote-learner?
Do we just cite their grade or do we describe them?
At the core of the question is what are they like? Happy, healthy, engaged, enthusiastic, passionate? An active citizen or a bystander? Are they an adult ready for the world or one who has been tracked out of a future? These words should inspire us to map backwards and create a design for our students and we need to work together to get there.
And as -- if not more -- important is the question: what do our children want to be like when they are 25? How would they describe themselves? Are they content with an education system which at times seems more designed to sort, test and label students than develop, educate or prepare them?
The authors of this article believe that answering this question results in one response -- someone who is knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling.
In short, a focus on the whole child -- not as proponents of one side of a polarized debate, but as champions of dissolving the false dichotomy on which the debate rests and ensuring our students get the future they deserve.
We believe that a whole child approach to education -- one that develops the child not just cognitively, but socially, emotionally, mentally, physically and civically -- is fundamental and essential to our nation and our future. It is an approach which cares as much about the health, safety, engagement and support of our students as the challenges we present to them. It is everything we need to prepare that individual of 25 and to expect, request or do anything less is a disservice to both them and our society at large.
And we are not alone in this goal:
Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking; learning naturally results. - John Dewey
I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive. - John W. Gardner
To be successful, one needs a threshold level of cognitive ability. But many other things are
just as important: creativity, personal discipline, the ability to relate to other people
 - James Comer
Surely, we should demand more from our schools than to educate people to be proficient in reading and mathematics. Too many highly proficient people commit fraud, pursue paths to success marked by greed, and care little about how their actions affect the lives of others. - Nel Noddings
Excellence in education is when we do everything that we can to make sure they become everything that they can. - Carol Tomlinson
To the doctor, the child is a typhoid patient; to the playground supervisor, a first baseman; to the teacher, a learner of arithmetic. At times, he may be different things to each of these specialists, but too rarely is he a whole child to any of them. --From the 1930 report of the White House Conference on Children and Youth
This isn't rocket science, it's just common sense.
Join us as we explore these issues of importance to public education reform. Join us in demanding real change to our public education system to ensure each child, in each school, in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.
Sean Slade, MEd., serves as the Director of Whole Child Programs at ASCD a global educational leadership organization. He has over 20 years of experience in education in a career that has encompassed 4 continents and 5 countries.

He writes regular blogs for Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet, as well as ASCD'sInservice and Whole Child blogs.

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post Education Blog