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Archive for February 2013

A few thoughts about country knowledge management strategies

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I was recently invited to participate (virtually of course) in a discussion of the UN country team in Mozambique on developing a UN Knowledge Management Strategy/Plan for the country.

They had already done a good bit of preparatory work in looking at how to develop a strategy and how others had done it, and they look to already be on a good path (with I hope more that can be shared soon). I was asked to give a few general pointers and thoughts to help them in their discussions. These are fairly generic so I’m also sharing an abbreviated version of them here in case they are of use to anyone else. There are many other sources of good information on developing KM strategies in general so these are just a few specific thoughts on doing this in a country context:

My tips:

  • Lots of KM strategies start out with a discussion around the correct definition of knowledge management. My tip – don’t worry about definitions – there are many out there and many discussions about them, and this discussion can be very distracting and it’s unlikely you will get all the different partners to agree as they may already have their own definitions and approaches.
  • There is no “best practice” or agreed UN-wide approach to country level KM – just some good examples to look at and consider/adapt IF they fit your own circumstances – especially but not only from “Delivering as One” countries. Also depending on the priority topics you choose to work on, it’s useful to  look at and build on existing agency initiatives (e.g. FAO agriculture, UNDP poverty, UNICEF social protection etc.) rather than creating something separate.
  • Ask yourselves – what are the key areas in the UNDAF or National Development plan that need knowledge – focusing on knowledge as a means to achieve your programmatic goals rather than as an end in itself. Pick a few priority areas to work on rather than trying to do everything. Pick those topics that you need to work on as a team across UN agencies or with other partners. (Knowledge management is a team sport).
  • Look at what knowledge is needed and by whom. Is it UN staff, government, civil society etc., who need access to knowledge. Look at what assets are already in place and what gaps are there – how can you mobilize knowledge to fill the gaps? Only then look at KM tools and approaches, picking the ones that best suit the needs and the main partners you are trying to serve.
  • Remember that there are many different types of knowledge/information/data that you might want to use – not just formal reports and research. Consider which of them are most important and which are in short supply. A non-exhaustive list of knowledge “assets” includes statistical data, monitoring data and project reports, evaluations, research (quantitative and qualitative), case studies, personal reflections (from experience), expertise both from individuals and networks, beneficiary or partner feedback.
  • Make use of existing systems and tools where possible (including agency specific tools – trying to open then up to broader participation) and build on them, only developing new ones if nothing else exists. Remember to include national systems in this.
  • Remember that KM involves three main aspects people, processes and technology – you need to consider and invest in all of them together. In particular don’t over-focus on technology without considering the human aspects of getting people to use it effectively.
  • Remember to focus on the use and end-users of knowledge, what they need, what format they need it in and what are their challenges in using it, not only on how knowledge is created and shared internally. Knowledge isn’t useful if it isn’t used.
  • Integrate knowledge management into your programmes as a key part of the programme rather than as a stand alone activity. The means in particular building KM into project design by thinking about how knowledge is used to achieve programme goals, but also on including feedback loops from programme beneficiaries, and in ensuring that the programme includes a learning element to capture and share whatever is learned from its implementation, both within the programme, but also for the benefit of the wider organization(s) involved.
  • If you are faced with “information/knowledge” overload” focus on those things which are most practical and actionable for the work you are trying to achieve.
  • Remember to develop capacity of staff and partners to manage knowledge effectively in addition to developing the strategy itself. Just helping your team and partners to have better skills in capturing, sharing and using knowledge can produce important gains and create goodwill.
  • Identify a few “quick wins” that everyone can agree on and that can show quick progress while you are working on your longer term perfect master plan. If you wait until everyone agrees on the broader strategy and plan you might wait a long time. Better to build some momentum and get something done.
  • Similarly don’t be afraid to try something, find it doesn’t work and drop it, change it or take a different tack altogether. It pays to be a little flexible in implementing knowledge management in a complex multi-stakeholder environment unless there is a clear consensus among all on what is needed.
  • Remember that in terms of external knowledge management work there are several roles an organization such as the UN can play i) a knowledge provider, bringing in the right expertise and research from the UN system ii) a knowledge broker helping connect partners with the best knowledge globally, not only from the UN but also others such as through south-south cooperation iii) developing the capacity of partners to be able to generate, access, manage and use knowledge themselves. It’s important to think about which role you seek to play based on your own priorities and capacities and also those of your partners.
  • Think about what is the UN’s added value in knowledge vis-a-vis other partners. For me some of the unique characteristics of the UN are i) the normative role i.e. as the guardian of universal standards whether on human rights, health or even issues such as maritime law  ii) universal presence – because we are everywhere we also have access to expertise from everywhere iii) convening role: the UN is often seen as a neutral convening power that can bring together different parts of society including government, civil society, private sector, academia and others in a way that is often difficult for governments or bilateral partners such as donors to do.
  • Effective knowledge management work requires leadership and incentives. Leaders set the tone for how an office functions and their interest and their example shows whether this area is considered important for the office and what the expectations of staff are. All projects need leadership of course, but in knowledge management the attitudes and behaviours of staff are particularly important and this is very responsive to the attitudes and behaviour of management and how they hold their teams accountable for this area of work.  Similarly, to get results then it is important to include monitoring of those results in office plans, regular reporting and in job descriptions and performance appraisals.

I hope these are helpful, and welcome feedback or additional tips.

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Written by Ian Thorpe

February 27, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Personal professional blogging – what I’ve learned

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shakespeareblog

Last week I was invited to share my experience with personal/professional bogging to a group of knowledge management focal points in UNDP who had expressed an interest in learning more, and I hope putting it into practice.

I’ve only been blogging publicly since 2010, but have been blogging inside the  “inside the firewall” since 2006. I’m far from being an expert – but I probably do have more experience in blogging than most other UN staff and so I’m sharing here some of the tips and issues that I presented last week.

First of all it’s good to think distinguish a few different types of professional blogging:

1. Official corporate blogging – such as on UNDP’s “Our Perspective”. Many organizations have this type of blog which is essentially part of an organizations communication or public relations set up – but allows corporate communication to be bit more personal and also in timely bite sized chunks. But it is usually polished and “on message”. Many organizations have guidelines on this, and a lot has been written about how to do this well – so I’m not going to say much about this type of blog.

2. Internal personal/professional blogging – this is what a lot of organizations start out with and what we had in UNICEF and what UNDP has with UN Teamworks. It’s a good introduction to get staff to share their experiences with each other, and doesn’t require editing or training. It’s a good “safe” starting place to get people comfortable with blogging – but it isn’t as good as blogging to the outside world  – here’s why.

3. External personal/professional blogging – writing a blog about your work, your expertise and your experiences – but in a personal capacity and with your own point of view. Like this blog, and many other aid bloggers.

4. Organizational personal/professional blogs. These are real blog posts of opinions and experiences written by professionals, but written on behalf of, or at least under the banner of the organization where they work. Examples include World Bank blogs, DFID bloggers and UNDP’s Voices of Eurasia. Perhaps a bit more cautious and on message than personal blogs – but still a lot more “real” than a public relations blog with a more critical take on what the aid world is doing and the challenges faced. A gold standard for these might be Duncan Green’s From Poverty to Power blog.

So why blog in the first place?

1. Finding your network – blogging can be a great way to connect with other professionals working in your field. It’s a way of finding people on similar journeys tackling similar issues that you don’t yet know. It’s a way of getting feedback and expert commentary on your ideas, and possibly making longer standing professional relationships which might benefit your work.

2. Testing your ideas – in addition to the feedback on your ideas you might get from commenters, the act of writing a blog is a great way to help clarify and test your thoughts. Writing itself is a great discipline in that it requires you to think through your ideas and figure out how to explain them simply to others. Because blogging is immediate and continuous you can also test incomplete ideas and evolve them over time rather than trying to develop a definitive thesis all by yourself.

3. Self-promotion – Let’s face it we all want recognition. If your blog is interesting and useful it can be a great way to build your professional reputation and give people a sense of who you are, and whether they might want to work with you or even hire you.

4. Promoting your work and your organization – even if you are not explicitly trying to market your organization or work, your blogging can help explain and communicate your work and build the brand of your organization, and in a more authentic way than official marketing.

5. Sharing your knowledge and making a difference – assuming that you know what you are taking about, blogging can help inform others and share ideas and knowledge with them, and might help them do their work o influence how they do something in the future.

6. Keeping a record – blogging is also kind of like a diary. Looking back it can be a great way to view your professional and intellectual progression – or even remind you of the ideas and ideals you once had and help you reevaluate or rekindle them.

A few random blogging tips based on my own experience:

  • Read a lot of blogs. Reading is good both to get topic ideas and to start a  conversation, but also to see what good, engaging blogging looks like. Keep a note of the other blogs you like and why you like them  – they can be a great inspiration for your own blogging.
  • Have a point of view – blogs are best when they express the personality and view of the writer. It doesn’t mean you need to be an opinionated jerk – but a blog is a means of self-expression and your perspective is unique whereas “balanced reporting” is not.
  • Write in a personal chatty style, in short simple sentences avoiding too much jargon and detachment. But stay professional. Also remember that metaphors, humour and pop culture references can spice up your writing, but they also don’t travel well, especially if you are aiming at an international audience, so use them judiciously.
  • Write about what you know and what you care about. Passion and expertise will show in your writing, as will its absence.
  • Keep posts short – usually less than 1000 words (some even say 500). Attention spans are short.
  • Have a good title – either something informative that lets the reader know exactly what they are getting, or something catchy or funny that will catch the attention.
  • Include keywords (for better search) and/or a summary in your first paragraph so your blogs will be more easily found and so those that find a post can quickly decide if it’s worth reading.
  • Use images, videos, embedded presentations etc. to make posts more visually appealing – but only if they are relevant. I usually try to put something on 50% of my posts.
  • Link generously, especially to other blogs and give credit/cite sources or inspirations for your writing. Bloggers are a community so cross linking helps make connections and might also get people to link back to you. Also link back to your own earlier posts if that helps improve your argument. It also gives readers a chance to discover your earlier posts.
  • Engage constructively and civilly with commenters. Admit if you make a mistake and correct it (same if you cause offense), respond to criticisms and disagreements even if you agree to differ. But at the same time you should not feed the trolls – i.e. those people who are deliberately spoiling for an online fight without tending to move the discussion forward. How do you know which is which? – experience, especially getting it wrong a few times Smile
  • Remember to stay professional no matter how strongly you feel about something. Use facts to back up your arguments. Include a disclaimer that protects your employer and you. If you are in the UN (or a similar organization) remember your official code of conduct and don’t compromise it – that generally means no flame wars, no overt politics, avoid causing offence or even something that might be interpreted negatively even if you don’t mean it that way.
  • Try to blog regularly   – both to develop the discipline of writing and also to maintain an audience. I aim to blog every week or so. If you do short updates then you might blog more frequently.
  • Jot down ideas for blog posts  then flesh them out when you have time or are inspired. I usually am writing several posts at one time – that way I have a pipeline of things to write and don’t get stuck for ideas or feel I’m blocked by needing to finish one thing before starting another.
  • Step back – reread – spell check before you make your post live (yes, I’m bad at this one).
  • Promote your posts – I share everything to twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google plus. You can also create a Facebook page for your blog once you have been going for a while. Also make sure that you have share widgets enabled on your blog so people can easily share posts on their favourite networks or by e-mail. You should also post links to your blog or cross-post it on internal networks or communities you are a member of.
  • Comment on other people’s blogs – and if appropriate include a link back to your own blog. Commenting can be a good introduction to blogging as well as a way to make connections with other bloggers.
  • To paraphrase George Orwell’s 5 rules of writing “Break any of these rules sooner than blogging anything outright barbarous.” His other writing tips are pretty good for blogging too.

In terms of tools for blogging – there are many out there, but I’d strongly recommend WordPress as the best option to start your own blog that is easy to use, reliable, but with some flexibility to manage the blog the way you want. This can be hosted for free on WordPress.com like mine is, or you can pay extra to get your own domain name, or you can install the WordPress software (it’s open source) on your own server if you have one, which gives you many more options and add-ons to customize your blog (but for advanced users only).

And what can you blog about? How can you find ideas? Here are a few different types of blog post you might try:

1. News update – write about something topical generally, or in your field of work.

2. Meeting report – Write your personal impressions from a meeting or conference – here your own point of view is what makes it interesting rather than just a factual accounting of the event.

3. Reviews –  Write a review of a book, article or research paper you read recently.

4. Working out loud – Narrating your work as you go (but only the interesting bits please). Write updates on interesting developments in your work as they happen rather than waiting until the end of a project to write it up. That way it will also make a good record of how the project evolved when you look back.

5. Tell a story about something that happened to you. Make your work personal.

6. Opinion piece – write what you are thinking about. What bugs you about the aid world and how you would fix it. You might also write a response blog to someone else’s blog post.

7. Educational piece – share and explain something you know. Share your tips and experience (kind of like this post)

And to finish, here are a few great links from other aid bloggers with their blogging tips – check them out – they’re probably more useful than mine!

1. Wayan Vota – How to blog for professional success

2. Dave Algoso – I’m an international development blogger and you can be too

3. Marc Bellemare – What I’ve learned from a year of blogging

Written by Ian Thorpe

February 13, 2013 at 8:34 am

In measurement we trust?

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I’ve been reading with interest Bill Gates “Annual letter” on why measurement matters in aid and development – and finding myself both nodding and shaking my head at the same time.

Of course there is a lot to be said for better measurement in development work. A few of the important reasons why we should care more about measurement include:

1. Accountability – donors, (and beneficiaries) are increasingly demanding to know where the aid money is going and what is being achieved with it – and greater transparency and accountability makes it easier to see how aid agencies are doing, to compare them and to invest wisely. It also creates powerful disincentives against poor management and corruption (hey you! – you know we can see what you are doing – right?)

2. Knowing how you are doing – If you have a clear plan in place with identified outcomes and a good monitoring/ measurement system to support it then you can keep tabs on your programmes and see how well they are progressing, quickly identify problems and take steps to get back on course. You know where you are going – and how far along the way you are. While it seems obvious that every programme should have this in practice too many programmes have unclear objectives and poorly formulated monitoring indicators – often because there isn’t sufficient thought and resources put into ensuring the indicators can be collected and analyzed regularly and in a timely manner.

3. Testing hypotheses – if you want to know whether a particular intervention will work, or how impactful it will be under what circumstances, or if you just want to understand how different aspects of development are interrelated – then to do this “scientifically” you will most likely need to use research methodologies that are heavy on data collection (such as randomized control trials).

4. Learning – and if you are running a project you can also use measurement to learn from your programme as you go. Not only to identify small course corrections on your plan – but also to adjust your plans based on actual experience and to identify positive and negative spillovers from your project which you might not have anticipated.

5. Bottleneck analysis – this involves looking at each element of a system and monitoring to see which elements of the chain are most responsible for failing to reach development goals (kind of a six-sigma or quality circle approach to aid) and thus help decide where to focus your attention to get the best results. An example would be for primary education you might look at i) education budgets ii) school construction iii) teacher training iv) curriculum development v) cost barriers and incentives such as school fees, uniforms etc. vi) culture and attitudes (e.g. on girls’ rights to education). Looking at each aspect of the system you can see which of these are the most critical barriers (or bottlenecks) to achieving greater coverage and focus on addressing those first.

Most of these issues are not new, but the possibilities to do measurement have never been better what with big data, real-time monitoring, SMS reporting, opinion polls, really simple reporting, beneficiary storytelling, satellite imagery, RFID tracking etc. in addition to better traditional data as statistical capacity and evaluation methodologies continue to improve.

So why the head shakes? For me the Gates letter while advocating measurement and science seems a little “faith based” in its level of belief in what better measurement can achieve – as if better measurement alone would be enough to change the world. But there are a few pretty strong reasons why that’s not the case:

1. Not everything worth doing can be easily measured. In fact there is a danger of focusing on what can be relatively easily measured (e.g. vaccination rates) while not focusing on things which are important but hard to measure (like human rights). There are already some calls in the post-2015 discussions to stick with the MDGs because we already more or less know how to measure them. (For more on what can be measured and what can’t see one of my first and most popular blog posts “The truth is out there”)

2. Complexity – Measurement is often used in too much of a linear or reductive way looking at each step in a programme as an independent issue to model, manage and benchmark. But in reality different elements of an environment are interrelated in unseen ways and these also might vary between different contexts that on the surface appear similar. Taking the issue of education – increasing the number of schools and teachers might for example also decrease the quality of teaching and thus have a negative impact on enrollment and even outcomes.

3. Having the data is not a guarantee of acting on it – failure – a strong focus on measurement and accountability in a difficult funding environment means that there is little willingness to admit and learn from failure in the fear that this will mean that organizations and programmes that are unsuccessful – but are learning from those mistakes and providing valuable lessons for others will be defunded. Ed Carr has an excellent analysis of this issue in his blog on the Gates letter.

4. Political will – knowing is a first step, but without a will to address the issues identified it won’t take you far. Too much monitoring, evaluation and research goes unread since it isn’t in a language or format decision makers can understand and use.  Communication of results is one part of this. Mobilization is another. Sometimes more anecdotal evidence is better for persuading decision makers and the public – or at least hard data  – but backed up by real life examples. Sometimes despite the data being clear, there just isn’t the political will to address the difficult issues raised or the leverage to put pressure on decision makers to take the hard choices they need to. Looking at evidence without looking at power and politics and who is influenced by what and why won’t take you very far. Unfortunately just because you can create or access knowledge isn’t any guarantee it will be used (See creating a demand for knowledge for more on this)

5. Evidence isn’t neutral – a follow on point to the last one is that the use of data and knowledge or even its creation is very political. Deciding what is important to collect, who will use it and how – or deciding as a funder or senior aid agency manager which data “matter” or what evaluations really mean about the success of a project are highly subjective and often depend on other information than what appears to be being discussed objectively (such as who is involved with the project as funder, manager, evaluator and beneficiary and the relationships between those actors).

So measurement is important and its good that Gates raises it and promotes it. But while it may be necessary to improve measurement to improve aid, and while we may have unprecedented opportunities, it’s far from sufficient – and without thought to the limitations of measurement – and the necessary complementary actions in the area of people, politics and power it may not achieve very much.

Written by Ian Thorpe

February 5, 2013 at 8:45 am

Posted in rants

Guest post: The World in 2013 and Beyond – selected predictions relevant for the well-being of children

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Continuing the tradition from 2012  – this guest post is a fabulous overview of 2013 forecasts and predictions from the world of development and aid from former colleagues in UNICEF, who have kindly agreed to allow me to share it with all of you. Thanks to Björn Gillsater, Katell Legoulven  and Yulia Oleinik  who pulled together and synthesized this great reading list!

Dear friends and colleagues,

Inspired by your feedback on last January’s Suggested Readings issue on predictions for 2012, we are determined to keep the tradition going.

But before we jump into the predictions for 2013, how did we fare 2012? Well, for the most part, they withstood the reality test. With the global economy still faltering, concerns about national welfare and inequality have persisted; politics have been focused largely on domestic issues; and new hotspots did come up, though not necessarily where expected (Syria, Mali). Many of last year’s predictions remain relevant for the coming year.

And now over to 2013:

1.      Uncertainty still rules supreme over the global economic outlook… The IMF forecasts a sluggish global growth of 3.6% for 2013, saying that the prospects have deteriorated further and risks increased. The Eurozone crisis persists. The US – steering away from the fiscal cliff – is expected to grow by a mere 2%. Emerging economies, while expected to do better than that, will chart a slower growth trajectory – China with 8.2%, India with 6% and Brazil with 4% growth rates for 2013. …yet, some observers are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and new frontiers are emerging.The latest World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects came out with a cautiously optimistic forecast that the worst appears to be over for the global economy. The Economist, among others, is betting on Indonesia, Philippines, and Mongolia as the bright economic growth stories of 2013. Sub-Saharan Africa is also expected to continue growing strongly, averaging above 5.7%, according to the IMF. Mark Malloch-Brown, however, warns that the story disguises some of the challenges ahead: “At least a quarter of Africa’s growth will come directly from energy and minerals and a lot more still from their impact on other sectors. […] This resource boom could make, or unmake, the continent.” A related challenge is to overcome a jobless growth phenomenon, as African Economic Outlook highlighted earlier in 2012.

2.      The fiscal worries continue weighing down on donor governments’ ability to live up to their aid commitments. Major donors’ aid to developing countries fell by nearly 3% in 2011, for the first time since 1997.  While we are yet to see the global aid figures for 2012, the OECD forecasts that “[c]ontinuing tight budgets in OECD countries will put pressure on aid levels in coming years.” This brings a degree of uncertainty to the multibillion aid replenishments of World Bank’s IDA, the African Development Bank and Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria, scheduled for this year.  The G8, under the UK presidency in 2013, is expected to make strong push for transparency, hunger and food security, most likely without new financing commitments.

3.      Global governance – be it in promoting trade, slowing climate change or regulating cyberspace – will remain challenging. Richard N. Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, reckons “Large-scale multilateralism, in which most of the world’s 193 United Nations-recognized countries meet to negotiate accords, has become too unwieldy. Instead, the most we can hope for are small accords among select governments or accords that tackle only a part of much larger problems.” From business experts’ perspective, Thomas W. Malnight and Tracey S. Keys predict “[t]he great global redistribution of economic and social power will continue over the next 12 months. Power will flow away from traditional institutions that have failed to deliver progress – especially governments and banks. It will flow towards communities and individuals, and also to businesses whose leaders understand and act on the big trends shaping our future.” Of particular relevance, the post-2015 agenda debates will put to the test the global governance of development in 2013. A special event on the MDGs in the margins of the General Assembly in September 2013 will be an important forum to watch.

4.      Equity and inequalities continue to be prominent in political discourse both at the global and national level. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 Report (again) identified severe income inequalities as the top global risk most likely to manifest itself over the next 10 years.  Meanwhile, experts and academics are building an ever stronger evidence base that reducing inequalities is good not only for societal cohesion, but also for economic growth and development. For examples, Ezequiel Molina, Jaime Saavedra and Ambar Narayan argue in their forthcoming paper that inequality of opportunity, measured by the Human Opportunity Index (HOI), affects development outcomes negatively. While most research on the link between inequality and growth focuses on inequality of outcomes, the authors stress what really matters is inequality of opportunity: “once we account for the effect of unequal opportunity, inequality of outcomes does not appear to play any role in hindering economic development”. They also show that increases in HOI are correlated with lower infant mortality rates and malnutrition as well as better institutional quality. We dare to predict (hope?) that 2013 will be the year when the equity argument moves from experts/academics to decision-makers and practitioners. The 2015-agenda is promising to become one such example, as there is a formidable consensus around equity as a priority issue to address.

5.      Climate change, resource scarcity, energy and sustainability are expected to dominate the development debate in 2013. The WEF’s Global Risks 2013 Report predicts that leaders will continue neglecting the increasing stress of the Earth’s environmental system, as global economic woes absorb their attention for the foreseeable future. At the same time, Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, insists that the latest predictions on climate change should shock us into action: “A world four degrees warmer could be too hot to handle, but the exciting prospect of low-carbon living could stop it happening.”  Simon Zadek of the Centre for International Governance Innovation calls 2013 a year to fight for scale in advancing sustainability and offers practical considerations on how to achieve it. Furthermore, Alison Evans of ODIsuggests that, while many risks and uncertainties remain the same, 2013 will test our capacity to adapt and innovate our way around uncertainty.

6.      Old conflicts endure, while new tensions simmer. The International Crisis Group’s list of 10 conflicts to watch 2013 is heavily focused on Africa, Middle East and Asia, highlighting Sudan, Kenya, DRC, Sahel, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. At the same time,there is a palpable optimism about Colombia, Philippines and Myanmar where recent developments suggest that the coming year could bring peace. For more on these and other hot spots, we suggest the Council of Foreign Relations’ What to Worry About in 2013 podcast discussion with experts.

7.      UNICEF’s own innovation gurus Chris Fabian and Erica Kochi predict that 2013 will be another big year for innovation and technology for developmentBig data and real-time data will increasingly be seen and used as drivers of programme and policy decision-making. The development sector will introduce metrics to measure innovation. Open-source technology will increasingly become a driver of south-south collaboration with technologies created in one region, adapted and scaled in others (including south to north transfer). Open platforms and challenges for generating and surfacing solutions will increasingly be used for addressing development challenges. Moreover, 2013 be the year of scaled commitment from governments and donors to go beyond pilots to invest in real-time information systems in logistics and mobile health. The private sector – particularly mobile and internet service providers – will engage in the area of identity and registration, which will create immense opportunity for accelerating birth registration globally. Last, but not least, 2013 will see scaled, open education innovations provide solutions for even the most difficult to reach children.

8.      The private sector is becoming an invested development partner, more than ever. As consumer preferences shift, so do business models – the private sector is increasingly getting involved in tackling social and economic challenges and placing sustainability at the core of business practices. From social-impact bonds (which encourage for-profit investment in schemes that promise to save the government money in the long run but tend to involve too much risk for cautious politicians to embrace) to the CEO of Unilever on the High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda – it is an exciting trend to watch and take advantage for the benefit of children.

9.      Infectiously ambitious optimism of the new generation of philanthropists is redefining the future of philanthropy. The co-author of Philanthrocapitalism, Matthew Bishop observes: “The next ten years or so will be particularly important in shaping the future of philanthropy. Just as Rockefeller pursued what he called ‘scientific philanthropy’, gathering together experts to find answers to big problems, today the Gateses and others expect their giving to overcome some of the world’s most formidable challenges. If this is seen to work, many more successful businesspeople will give do-gooding a try, thinking they can make a difference, too. […] Completing the eradication of polio in the three countries where it remains and continuing the recent dramatic decline in deaths from malaria will be closely watched litmus tests.” Bishop also foresees that “giving will also grow increasingly global, as more countries become wealthy and produce more super-rich people. These countries may not copy exactly the sort of philanthropy practised in America, but will instead find ways that fit their own culture.”

10.   Finally and of more immediate relevance to children, a prominent philanthropist and child well-being advocate, Melinda Gates, makes a bold prediction (bordering with a call for action) that in 2013 child-mortality will fall again and serious progress will be made on saving neonatal lives. It is encouraging to see such a prediction, particularly as UNICEF colleagues around the world and partners are working hard to make that happen, including through A Promise Renewed.

If 2013 feels a bit too short of a horizon, consider the latest Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds. While prepared from the US perspective (by the National Intelligence Council), it offers a thorough analysis of global trends and a number of thought-provoking scenarios. A similar report was produced by the European Agency for Strategic Studies Global Trends 2030 – Citizens in an Interconnected and Polycentric World, which you may find of interest as well.

What are your predictions for 2013? We certainly look forward to staying in touch and collaborating with you in the coming year!

Happy 2013!

Yulia (the holder of the pen this time), Katell and Björn

Written by Ian Thorpe

February 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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