A Second Dip into the Reading Pile

Now this kid has got the right idea--have a dip, of ice cream that is, while in your reading pile.

If you’re like me, you have a pile of all the reports, articles, and publications that you’re aiming to get to. And from time to time, I take pleasure in dipping in to explore the new thinking or sound practices in international development and aid effectiveness.

So I’m sharing twelve papers from my virtual pile, featuring excerpts from the 7th page of text of each, first 3-4 sentences of the second paragraph. Hopefully the exercise will be a fun way to highlight these authors’ insights for how-matters.org readers and see which of these end up on my recommended reading list. (See Round 1 here.)

(1) Applications for official support an innovative way to promote grassroots initiatives. By Antal Miklós, The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, Vol. 15(2), article 6.

“Conclusion: In the present article I briefly outlined an innovative way to promote grassroots initiatives. Today, when basic power structures undergo massive changes that further alienate citizens from public affairs, it is increasingly important to let people have their say. Participatory democracy and the revival of regional politics, two cornerstones of the way out from the currently unfolding crisis of representative democracy (Castells, 2004) are inconceivable without the inclusion of grassroots actors. To achieve collective success in communities, the ambitions of engaged community members committed to constructive objectives have to be recognized and patronized.”

(2) Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction: Experiences from the horn of Africa, by Cordaid and the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (2011). Not available online – womanya@gmail.com to request a copy.

“Jerusalem Children and Community Development Organisation (JeCCDO) took advantage of the emergency response programme to introduce a long-term community managed programme to reduce the risk of future floods in Ada village.

“Mille is one of the districts in the drought and conflict prone Afar regional state in Ethiopia. Support for Sustainable Development (SSD), a local NGO and communities in Dyle and Geraro villages are working together on an integrated drought risk reduction programme through diversification into irrigation farming to address food insecurity and pasture shortage for livestock.

“In the Borena zone of Oromia regional state, Agency for Cooperation and Research in Development (ACORD) and SoS Sahel Ethiopia have been working with Borena pastoralists.”

(3) Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords, edited by Andrea Cornwall and Deborah Eade (2010) Published by Practical Action Publishing in association with Oxfam GB.

“Another facet of buzzwords emerges in Ben Fine’s account of social capital: their use as substitutes for terms that are far less easily assimilated into a consensual narrative. Of the buzzwords examined in this collection, social capital is one of the most accommodating: its uses span just about any and every kind of human relationship, lending it considerable discursive power as a feel-good catch-all Good Thing. Charting its rise within mainstream development, Fine shows how it came to be linked to a broader set of personal, institutional, and professional projects, including that of what he terms ‘economics imperialism’. Like civil society, the normative appeal of social capital sits uneasily with its ‘darker’ sides; the ‘wrong kind’ of social capital is, after all, corruption.”

(4) Evaluating Social Justice Advocacy: A Values Based Approach by Barbara Klugman, August 2010, Center for Evaluation Innovation

“Networks and coalitions should be assessed on whether collaborative strategizing trumps the desires of particular groups to push forward their individual agendas. This can be particularly vexing when questions of class or other power determinants are in play because some network members have more time, funds, or even arguments. In international advocacy, it talks to the power dynamics between international NGOs, usually based in the U.S. or Europe, and NGOs and community-based organizations in the global South. The extent to which advocacy values its diversity by enabling meaningful participation of less resourced groups and individuals is one of the core questions for social justice evaluation.”

(5) Intermediate Support Organizations (ISOs): Partners in Strengthening Local Civil Society, Management Systems International Discussion Paper by Darcy Ashman, Lynn Carter, Joan Goodin, David Timberman, July 2011. Not available online – email.howmatters@gmail.com to request a copy.

Flexibility to use appropriate methods and best practices: Often, individual and organizational capacity is not built through training alone. The professional best practices of OD, for example, include needs-based mentoring  to provide support for the change process that is inherent in capacity building, as in the Zambia Local Partner Capacity Building Program (LPCB). By establishing a relationship between the organization and a designated resource person from the outset of the task or project, the insights and advice provided can be the measure of difference in allowing an organization to tailor and absorb the assistance and see tangible institutional gains. A strong relationship between the capacity-builder (or consultant) and the organization is central to realizing successful capacity building results.”

What is hidden in your reading pile?

(6) Investing in the Immaterial: An Annual Digest for Development Practitioners, Community Development Resource Association 2010/2011

“Rubert Van Blerk & Undine Whande offer a finely observed and articulated portrayal of just how relationships in civil society and in the world of aid could be different. They show how much of the success of work done in the name of development is by its very nature obscured, sometimes even secret, and suggest that the initiative they are working in ‘may well be working at its best when nothing can be claimed on its behalf.’ Taken seriously, this suggestion has radical implications for how the work of development is resourced, accounted for and evaluated. In posing it, and in presenting their perspective in the form of an ongoing conversation, they showcase just how much that ‘difference’ demands of us as participants in the same system we seek to change.”

(7) Keystone Performance Surveys: NGO Partner Survey 2010 Public Report, in association with Bond, NIDOS and InterAction

“We believe this has the potential to contribute to a new standard for reporting the performance of NGOs that work in partnership with southern organisations. The standard could be:

Every year, NGOs publish systematic feedback from their southern partners that is independently collected on an anonymous basis and is structured and presented in comparison to similar feedback received by other NGOs.

“The feedback data could be integrated into NGOs’ existing annual public reports. It could provide powerful new data for funding decisions, creating the missing loop so funds are directed towards those NGOs that are seen by their southern partners as working most effectively with them and adding most value to them – or in other words, are doing their jobs best.”

(8) ‘Knowledge and Change: Theory and practice of development dilemmas’ dialogue booklet (The Hague, 29 September – 1 October 2010), by HIVOS

“Promoting Pluralism (PP): This programme is a collaboration of several academic institutions and civil society organisations which have joined forces out of a shared concern about increasing intolerance in various parts of the world. In several countries where Hivos works, such as India, Indonesia and Uganda, partners in civil society signal a rise of fundamentalisms of various sorts. But also in the Netherlands national identity and openness to non-Western foreigners are heavily debated. Fundamentalisms can be rooted in religion, ethnic affiliation, nationalism, social class or other value systems.”

(9) “Poverty: Rewriting our definitions of poverty” Global Perspectives: Handbooks for Global Educators, Issue 4 from Global Focus Aotearoa

“Answering questions around the causes of poverty turns out to be just as difficult as defining poverty itself. The causes of, and conditions that lead to, poverty are so intertwined that it is hard to separate one from another. The causes of poverty are also very political. Some, like the UK’s provider of development education (the DEA) argue that the global story of poverty starts in a deep and dark history.”

(10) Promoting transparency in the NGO sector: Examining the availability and reliability of self-reported data, by Ronelle Burger and Trudy Owens, CREDIT Research Paper No. 8/11

“HOW TRANSPARENT ARE UGANDAN NGOS? There appears to be little momentum towards greater transparency in the sector. Zadek and Gatward (1996) contend that the reluctance to be transparent is clear from the lack of resources devoted to such activities. According to Stiglitz (1999), this reluctance was not unexpected, as there were many incentives to conceal information. If organizations can choose when to disclose and when to conceal information, they can be praised for their accomplishments without being criticized for their failures, mistakes and shortcomings.”

(11) Reengineering Donor Support for NGOs: A Concept Paper for a Donor Initiative to Foster NGOs as Sustainable Quality Service Providers, by Kerry J. Byrnes © 2010

“Standards can be useful in weeding out organizations that are sub-par; however, the representative cautioned that benign reasons might also underlie why an organization would not meet particular standards or even participate in the process.  Given that NGOs are generally entrepreneurial in nature, set up perhaps to solve specific problems or crises, such NGOs may find it difficult to meet a set of sophisticated standards, which could actually stifle their innovation.  She questioned the value of creating a preference for more established groups and possibly missing the innovation that new people may bring to bear, as with the tsunami relief effort.  Perhaps standards could be used to improve or enhance their performance rather than exclude them from participation.”

(12) Reshaping Institutions: Evidence on External Aid and Local Collective Action by Katherine Casey, Rachel Glennerster, and Edward Miguel. April 2011

“We lay out a stylized local collective action framework that clarifies how an external community driven development intervention might change local decision making and institutions, and derive implications that then structure our empirical analysis.  In the model, a social planner determines the optimal investment in local public goods and sets a corresponding tax schedule, which is implemented with perfect compliance.  Individual residents then decide whether or not to voluntarily participate in the planning and implementation of the public goods projects, taking their individual tax burden as given. We feel this framework is a reasonable approximation to the context of rural Sierra Leone (and similar societies with strong headmen), where the traditional village chief has the authority to levy fines and collect taxes to provide basic public goods, but there is variation in how involved residents are in decision making and implementation.”

(13) And a quick (only 4 page) bonus paper for those brave and committed souls who made it to the bottom of the page! “Local Civil Society and U.S.-Sponsored Development” from 3P Human Security.

Happy reading!


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One Comment

  1. I love your sampling method Jennifer! Here is page 7, paragraph 2 of the “Real Book” for Storytelling:

    The story scribe would draw a
    circle in the dirt and place a doll or object in the center to represent the storyteller in
    his story. She could instruct him by saying, “Here are 10 marbles. Each one represents
    something that might be part of your story. Choose three of them and place them on
    the ground around yourself. Put the marbles that are the most important part of your
    story closest to yourself. Put the marbles that matter the least on the edge of the

    A typical response to the “Your story relates to…” question might look like this…


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