Recent Readings: “How to Change the World,” by David Bornstein

How to Change the World

David Bornstein chronicles social entrepreneurs around the world in efforts to capture the spirit of Ashoka’s galvanizing Innovators for the Public

“Changing a system means changing attitudes, expectations, and behaviors. It means overcoming disbelief, prejudice, and fear. Old systems do not readily embrace new ideas or information; defenders of the status quo can be stubbornly impervious to common sense.” (47) “There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things.” (Niccoló Machiavelli as quoted in Bornstein, 47) “An idea will not move from the fringes to the mainstream simply because it is good; it must be skillfully marketed before it will actually shift people’s perceptions and behavior.” (93)

According to Ashoka, social entrepreneurs assume the same ambition, tenacity and a for-profit “regular” entrepreneur, but work toward within the citizen sector. Social entrepreneurs work to improve an entire system. So, what makes someone a social entrepreneur by Ashoka standards? The person’s visions, determination, and ethics. The candidate must also successfully address the “how-tos.” How to use local pressures to solve a problem? How to overcome cultural obstacles? How to train others to do work? (122). The key is that this all takes time, experience, and relentlessness. Some other considerations include:

  1. Creativity – does this person have a history of creatively setting goals and creatively problem solving?
  2. Entrepreneurial Quality – does this person have an obsession to understand and solve the problem?
  3. Social Impact of the Idea – how many people will this idea affect?
  4. Ethical Fiber – do you intrinsically trust the person?

Best Practices of a Social Entrepreneur

  1. Putting the Children in Charge. Just like teaching children is different than teaching children, it is important to understand the fundamental differences of the beneficiary. “Like so many other social entrepreneurs, [Tateni] found that youth tended to be overlooked when problems needed to be solved. [The NPO] found them to be competent, less judgmental than adults, and always eager to help.” (200)
  2. Enlisting “Barefoot” Professionals. Favor flexible models and commonsense citizens to reach the target under-served market and put knowledge immediately where it needs to be. An example of this: Grameen Bank.
  3. Designing New Legal Frameworks for Environmental Reform. A highlighted example from the book was Bill Drayton’s work with the EPA. Instead of forcing corporations to succumb to EPA regulations, he chose to “make it more attractive for business to fight pollution than to fight the EPA.” (56)
  4. Helping Small Producers Capture Greater Profits. The target group may not always be factory laborers, but rather rural farmers. This “informal” economy can be helped by changing the “value-added chain” through changes in capital or market relations. (156) An additional example of this: Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA).
  5. Linking Economic Development and Environmental Reform. “Social entrepreneurs typically find that they cannot address one problem without addressing the other.” Focusing on organic produce, for those that cannot afford high cost, chemically intensive competitors, farmers can take advantage of environmental and economic benefit. (158) An example of this: European Centre for Ecological Agriculture and Tourism (ECEAT).
  6. Unleashing Resources in the Community You Are Serving. An example of thisComitê para Democratização of Information Technology (CID), founded by Rodrigo Baggio in Brazil.
  7. Linking the Citizen, Government, and Business Sectors for Comprehensive Solutions. Cross-sectoral strategy can work wonders – just consider International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) that works like a nonprofit venture capital firm, investing in labs and providing scientific support but also requiring the vaccines created are made available at low cost in developing countries. 

Best Practices of Innovative Organizations

  1. Institutionalize Listening – make it mutually exclusive. Sharing the Things We Have (Poland) highlights how exchanging a farmer’s experience with an urban buyer can be mutually exclusive (farmers want a new market and urbanites are interested in a reprieve). (205)
  2. Pay Attention to the Exceptional – listen to unexpected information.
  3. Design Real Solutions for Real People – get people to actually use the product.
  4. Focus on the Human Qualities – hire the right people and manage them well. Grameen Bank does not screen based on academic majors or previous bank experience. In fact, the Bank looks for people without banking experience because it allows the new hires to see faults and improve systems based on functionality and rationality. (212)

Qualities of Successful Social Entrepreneurs

“The most successful entrepreneurs were not necessarily more confident, persistent, or knowledgeable. The key differences had more to do with the quality of their motivation. The most successful entrepreneurs were the ones most determined to achieve a long-term goal that was deeply meaningful to them. Accordingly, they tended to be more systematic in the way they searched for opportunities, anticipated obstacles, monitored results, and planned ahead. They were more concerned with quality and efficiency and more committed to the people they employed and engaged with in business or as partners. Finally, they valued long-term considerations over short-term gain.” (238) “[Bornstein] assumed that social entrepreneurs would be motivated by altruism. But social entrepreneurs are not selfless. If anything, they are self-more in the sense that they heed their instincts, follow their desires, and aggressively pursue their ambitions.” (287)

  1. Willingness to Self-Correct. “The inclination to self-correct stems from the attachment to a goal rather than to a particular approach or plan.” (238)
  2. Willingness to Share Credit.
  3. Willingness to Break Free of Established Structures.
  4. Willingness to Cross Disciplinary Boundaries. Breaking free of limiting structures and assumptions, social entrepreneurs can be flexible in order to maximize options and influence.
  5. Willingness to Work Quietly. Building baseline support and a grassroots network outside the realms of inherited or purchased influence yields a strong foundation.
  6. Strong Ethical Impetus. The “why” provides the motivation based on ethics.

Harnessing the Power and Keen Intellect of Social Entrepreneurs through Blueprint Copying and Ashoka’s Mosaic Initiatives

  1. Identify General Patterns that Explains Social Entrepreneurial Success
  2. Focus on Patterns that Open Doors for Worker in Similar Fields
  3. Spread Principles Across Field’s Practitioners via the Diamond Strategy

“The test in each case is: Do we have universally empowering principles that would open major new advances to all practitioners? Do we see the jujitsu point [the point of maximum leverage]?” (Bill Drayton as quoted in Bornstein, 265). “Social entrepreneurs who are obsessed with spreading their ideas are obliged over time to eliminate aspects of their work that depend on their personal involvement or are designed only for particular locations or situations. If an approach is too complicated to teach, too expensive to disseminate, too politically contentious, or too context-sensitive, it must be made simpler, cheaper, less partisan, and more generally applicable. Otherwise it will not change society. It is the entrepreneur’s need to achieve major impact that leads to the years of experimentation and adjustments that culminate in a blueprint.” (266)

Why the need for social entrepreneurs? “The social arena does not enjoy the easy market signals that a business does. Unlike businesses, unproductive citizen organizations don’t get forced into bankruptcy. If they continue to raise funds, they can plod along ineffectually for decades. [However,] because it is inherently difficult to measure social value creation, funders and practitioners in the citizen sector historically have shied away from any attempt to compare the performance of organizations. As a result… the sector suffers from a serious ‘capital allocation’ problem.” (277) Metrics should play a role, but we cannot forget that numbers can give inaccurate illusions of truth. Analysts must provide in-depth, qualitative assessment of the organization.

Here are the nonprofit organizations (NPOs) featured in this book:

  • Pro Lu (Rural Electrification in Brazil), Fábio Rosa

“‘Installment buying literally transforms economies,’ notes Peter Drucker. ‘Wherever introduced, it changes the economy of supply-driven to demand-driven, regardless of the productive level of the economy.’ Consider that 2 billion people… are currently without electricity and half of them could afford solar power at commercial prices today if they had the opportunity to rent it or pay it off in installments. Bringing electricity to remote rural areas around the globe would not only transform economies, it would transform education and healthcare. It would transform agriculture. Access to electricity is often a precondition for farmers… Global rural electrification also would relieve the population stress on the world’s megacities, reducing the urban discontent that is so easily exploited by advocates of violence.” (39)

  • Childline (Child Protection in India), Jeroo Billimoria

“The best thing is not to have a picture of what you want, but to have basic principles.” (39)

  • Alliance Industrial Union (Assisted Living for the Disabled in Hungary), Erzsébet Szekeres
  • Associação Saúde Criança Renascer (Reforming Healthcare in Brazil), Vera Cordeiro
  • College Summit (College Access in the United States), J.B. Schramm

“Teenagers are the single most influential group in a low-income community… if teens are well engaged, it shifts the dynamic neighborhood.” (Schramm as quoted in Bornstein, 181)

  • Tateni (Care for AIDS Patients in South Africa), Veronica Khosa

“Tateni’s strategy was grounded in four principles: (1) complement the formal healthcare system; (2) seek parternships with all organizations in the community; (3) enhance the home care skills of family members and neighbors, including schoolchildren; and (4) involve the community in all major decisions concerning Tateni’s activities.” (197) “After studying Tateni’s systems, provincial health officials identified four components to successful home care: 1. The work had to be run by people from the community to be both cost-effective and locally accepted; 2. It had to be professional; 3. Training had to be practice-based; 4. The program had to demonstrate that it could bring in young, unskilled people and turn out graduates with the ability and credentials to pursue careers in healthcare.” (200)

  • National Center for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (Disability Rights in India), Javed Abidi

Bornstein, David. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.

Culture-Specific Words!

18 Beautiful Words The English Language Really Needs To Steal

As it relates to my love for language, I wanted to share this list of uniquely cultural words in various languages. Here are a few others that are unique to Southern Spain (Andalucia):

¡Qué guay! / Súper guay  – Cool

 ¡Venga! /  ¡Anda! – “C’mon” (disbelief) / No way

Vale Okay

Echar de menos – to miss someone

 ¡Ojalá – I hope!

Tía – chick

Wain, Alex. “18 Beautiful Words the English Language Really Needs to Steal.” So Bad So Good RSS. So Bad So Good, Mar. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2014.

Stratfor: Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War

This article details not just the current situation, but chronicles the history of this fragile state. I recommend reading it now and keeping it as a refresher for later.

Syria has a torrid history of a fragmented, often volatile, state. Only twice in Syria’s history has this fragile state been a nation-state:

Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty, based out of Antioch (the city of Antakya in modern-day Turkey) from 301 to 141 B.C.

Umayyad Caliphate, based out of Damascus, from A.D. 661 to 749

The demographics of this land have fluctuated greatly, depending on the prevailing power of the time. Christians, mostly Eastern Orthodox, formed the majority in Byzantine Syria. The Muslim conquests that followed led to a more diverse blend of religious sects, including a substantial Shiite population. Over time, a series of Sunni dynasties emanating from Mesopotamia, the Nile Valley and Asia Minor made Syria the Sunni-majority region that it is today.

The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement (a British, French, and Russian agreement of influence and power in the Middle East after WWI). France was given control over Syria.

When the French mandate ended in 1943, the ingredients were already in place for major demographic and sectarian upheaval, culminating in the bloodless coup by Hafiz al Assad in 1970 that began the highly irregular Alawite reign over Syria. With the sectarian balance now tilting toward Iran and its sectarian allies, France’s current policy of supporting the Sunnis alongside Saudi Arabia against the mostly Alawite regime that the French helped create has a tinge of irony to it, but it fits within a classic balance-of-power mentality toward the region.

This history is crucial for understanding the turmoil in the region and for trying to establish security in the future.

The Syrian state will neither fragment and formalize into sectarian statelets nor reunify into a single nation under a political settlement imposed by a conference in Geneva. A mosaic of clan loyalties and the imperative to keep Damascus linked to its coastline and economic heartland — no matter what type of regime is in power in Syria — will hold this seething borderland together, however tenuously.

The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War is republished with permission of Stratfor.”
Read more: The Geopolitics of the Syrian Civil War | Stratfor
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D-Rev, NPO, Highlighted in NYT: Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit

New York Times

Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit

By Christine Larson

This article is particularly interesting to me because it provides an example of a form of a “social business” (Muhammad Yunus’ type 1 organization that focuses on maximizing social benefit). As a nonprofit organization, D-REV‘s mission is to, “improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4 per day.” It seems like a broad mission, but they do so by designing and implementing various products that will provide high impact opportunities to those most in need. First, D-REV identifies a project that will improve the lives of 1 million +.  The NPO then designs and delivers the product, tailoring scaling, and adapting to local needs. Serious studies of both the users and local context plays a big role. The products range from light therapy, as mentioned int he NYT article, to solar panels, to the pasteurization of milk.

 So, after seven years of operations, what are the obstacles of this “social business?”

“D-Rev has had to become far more involved than it expected in financial models, licensing deals, consulting services and manufacturing arrangements. In essence, it is redesigning not only high-tech products but also supply chains and procurement systems.”

“To make sure that end prices remain low, D-Rev has needed to find manufacturing and distribution partners willing to cap prices and forgo substantial markups.”

“While the organization has learned much about [one product] in developing countries, specific experience with one condition may not apply to another.”

Regardless of persistent, complex problems, D-Rev is making serious strides in the nonprofit/social business sector. It has provided current donors with the education necessary to make the products successful; influenced and encouraged other NPO/social businesses; and emphasized collaboration between NPOs. Much will need to be done, but it appears that D-Rev is asking the right questions in the right context. I look forward to following D-Rev’s impact.

 

Larson, Christine. “Light-Bulb Moments for a Nonprofit.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/12/business/international/light-bulb-moments-for-a-nonprofit.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140112&_r=0&gt;.

 

 

Foreign Affairs article on NPO Mission Creep

Foreign Affairs, published by Council on Foreign Relations, is a nonpartisan membership organization
Foreign Affairs, published by Council on Foreign Relations, is a nonpartisan membership organization

Development Bloat: How Mission Creep Harms the Poor

Marc F. Bellemare

It is always important to view supporters and pundits of various pro-poor programs. In this article, Marc Bellemare outlines why a rich country’s lack of focus is actually harming poverty alleviation. Here are is main points:

1. Between multinational, national, and nongovernmental agencies, and enormous philanthropies, the development space creates a scattered, ineffective approach. Further, these large, bureaucratic machines are slow and (usually) have conflicting priorities and incentives.

“When development agencies and nongovernmental organizations try to do too many different things, not only do they suffer from the policy equivalent of attention deficit disorder; they also spread their already scarce resources ever more thinly.”

2. Top priorities are vague across almost all large agencies  Poverty is a complicated, arduous system; an interrelated approach is necessary for success. Widespread, “silver bullets,” do not exist.

3. We must define what is and who are the poor (extreme poor versus merely poor across all countries) and make those in the very lowest bracket our top priority.

4. We must focus on programs that actually help people to achieve basic needs and services. We must refine our policy to be narrower.

“Mission creep ends up materially harming the very people it is intended to help: the extreme poor, or the roughly 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 a day.”

“Even from such a realpolitik perspective, development policy can become a much more effective instrument of foreign policy if it can focus once again on what really matters to the poor and deliver results.”

Bellemare, Marc F. “Development Bloat.” Foreign Affairs. Council on Foreign Relations, 05 Jan. 2014. Web. 09 Jan. 2014. <http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/140624/marc-f-bellemare/development-bloat&gt;.

Recent Readings: “Creating a World Without Poverty,” Muhammad Yunus

Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism

This has to be one of my favorite books of all time. Not only an easy read, but educational, thought-provoking and, above all, inspiring. Regardless of profession or passion, I encourage you to read this book and expand your scope of thinking.

Noble Peace Prize laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus believes that there is an inherent problem with the capitalist system and profit-maximizing businesses (PMBs): “unfettered markets in their current form are not meant to solve social problems and instead may actually exacerbates poverty, disease, pollution, corruption, crime, and inequality” (5). Not to say that he does not agree with open markets, trade and globalization, but rather that these markets require “proper oversight and guidelines” (5).

Yunus explores several potential avenues for solutions:

1. Government (pages 6-9)

PROS – Governments can provide programs that private organizations cannot, including rule of law, central banks, and national health services. Governments can also enforce taxes and mobilize resources that can be redistributed among of its citizens.

CONS – Governments can only do so much and not all governments operate altruistically (especially fragile states). Also, governments can be large, bureaucratic, and sometime ineffective.

2. Nonprofit Organizations (NPOs) (pages 9-11)

PROS – Charities have an inherent need to achieve a social objective and their generous work saves tens of thousands of lives around the world.

CONS – NPOs typically require a steady influx of funds that are determined by the generosity of donations. Furthermore, poorer countries have a much more difficult time getting attention from rich donors in other countries (personal note: US donors have to abide by strict IRS giving regulations in order to receive a tax benefit). Handouts can encourage corruption, relief persons of responsibility, and creates a one-sided power relationship (115-116).

3. Multilateral Institutions (sponsored and funded by governments, including the World Bank) (pages 11-15)

PROS – Bring together several nations to achieve economic growth, which is incredibly important to reducing poverty.

CONS – Chronically underfunded, bureaucratic, and slow-moving, these institutions focus on gross domestic product (GDP) rather than local, tailored growth. Even with “pro-poor growth policies,” Yunus finds issue with the idea that those in poverty are marginalized and viewed as objects. Furthermore, “policymakers are focused on efforts to energize well-established institutions” and “donors work almost exclusively through the government machine”  (12).

4. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (Yunus names two types: “weak CSR” (do no harm to people or the planet (unless that means sacrificing profit)) and “strong CSR” (do good for people and the plant (as long as you can do so without sacrificing profit)). 

PROS – CSR has informed millions of consumers and given legitimacy to thousands  of charities around the world.

CONS – According to Yunus, CSRs can misuse well-intended foundations and grants towards selfish endeavors. “The same company that devotes a penny to CSR  spends 99 cents on moneymaking projects that make social problems worse” (16). Profit-maximization is their “legal obligation to their shareholders unless the shareholders mandate otherwise” (17). At the end of the day, the objective of business is to maximize profit.

So, after all of the downfalls of these organizations, alliances, corporations — then what we can do to move towards the eradication of poverty? We must re-configure our idea of business. Mr. Yunus changed the playing field with his concept of a social business.

Without NPOs becoming irrelevant and insignificant, social businesses can play a very important role in eliminating poverty. Social businesses are structured just like any operational, for-profit business – innovative, efficient, and self-sustaining. Instead of pursuing profits, social businesses pursue a social objective (22). So, how is this different than a charity? Well, it takes investors, just like a business, and works to fully recover its costs (no endowments, no dissolution clauses). There are no fundraisers, donations, or grants. It operates as a fully-functional, sustainable organization. Investors will recoup their original investment. Their payments are in social objectives. There are two types of social business: companies that focus on maximizing social benefit and profit-maximizing businesses that are owned by the poor.

In the first type, the “nature of the products, services, or operating system of the business… creates the social benefit. This kind of social business might provide food, housing, health care, education… it might clean up the environment, reduce social inequalities…[essentially this type achieves] objectives like these while covering its costs through the sales of goods or services and that pays no financial dividend to its investors” (28-29).

In the second type, like Grameen Bank, “goods or services produced might or might not create a social benefit. The social benefit created by this kind of company comes from ownership. Because the ownership of shares of the business belongs to the poor or disadvantaged (as defined by specific criteria)… any financial benefit generated by the company’s operations will go to help those in need” (29).

“Social businesses will take their place along with profit-maximizing businesses as basic fixtures in the world of business. Social businesses will operate in the same market spaces as PMBs, competing with them and with one another for market share. Consumers will become accustomed to choosing between social businesses and PMBs when buying goods and services. In many cases, they will choose based on traditional criteria – price, quality, availability, brand appeal.” (174)

“Social businesses will either bring ownership to poor people, or keep the profit within poor countries, since taking dividends will not be [the] objective.” (246)

Example of profit-maximizing business that is owned by the poor:

“Social investors can raise the money with the explicit understanding that, once the investment money has been recovered from initial profits, the investors will sell the company at a negotiated price to a trust… The trust will be owned by poor people, at least 50 percent of them women.” (126)

“Shadow shares of this company will be sold by the trust to the poor people… Of the total sold, at least fifty percent will go to women. [This] share will not give any legal ownership of the company to the shareholder, but it will create an entitlement to a dividend of the company as determined by the board.”  (127)

Another example of a successful venture was Grameen Danone. This social business provides healthful yogurt to children in rural Bangladesh. From the construction of the production facilities to local suppliers to the distribution, every aspect of the model was built around employing local, poverty-stricken individuals. Even the factory is owned by the people. Despite large innovation costs, the program is successful because there is no need for expensive marketing or fancy packaging — the reality is that the products could be made cheaply by the local communities. After all, the “goal is not only financial efficiency, but also maximum social benefit” (139).

So, who will invest in social businesses? Well, to those that give your money away to charities every day, week or year, this is an ideal project because you get your money back!

Favorite quotes:

“If the poor are to get a chance to lift themselves out of poverty, it’s up to us to remove the institutional barriers we’ve created around them.” (49)

“Effective anti-poverty programs must start with a clear operational definition of poverty. In order to recognize those whom the program is designed to help, they must be defined by clear decision rules that will exclude the non-poor and keep them from siphoning off resources that the poor desperately need.” (110)

“There will not be sustainable economic value creation if there is no personal development and human value creation at the same time.” (Antoine Riboud, 170)

“A new breed of business people, empowered for the first time to express humanistic values through the companies they found, will demand new institutional structures to support the new kinds of ventures that will emerge.” (174)

Yunus’ has issues with the idea of ‘social responsibility:’ “the lack of any recognized system for evaluating, testing, or enforcing claims of socially responsible products…how can a consumer know for sure that the chicken she buys has been produced using methods that are humane and enviormentally sound?” (175)

“Poverty exists because we’ve built our philosophical framework on assumptions that underestimate human capacities. We’ve designed concepts that are too narrow – our concept of business, our concept of credit-worthiness, our concept of entrepreneurship, and our concept of employment. And we’ve developed institutions that are half-complete at best – like our banking and economic systems, which ignore half the world. Poverty exists because of these intellectual failures rather than because of any lack of capability on the part of people.” (232)

Yunus, Muhammad, and Karl Weber. Creating a World without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism. New York: PublicAffairs, 2007. Print.

Recent Readings: “More Than Good Intentions,” Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel

More Than Good Intentions
“More Than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy”

Dean Karlan is also the Founder and President of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and co-founder of stickK.com.

This book, which Karlan and Appel serve up in an incredibly approachable and readable manner, is all about the innovation and evaluation of global poverty alleviation strategies. How can we creatively, yet methodically, reduce global poverty? The answer is one randomized control trial at a time.

When looking at successful and unsuccessful poverty alleviation strategies, we must constantly adapt to local context. What works in one country may not work in another. Therefore, “it is important to know when and where the different solutions work so that we can apply them when the conditions are right” (252). There are several factors to consider: Why is this solution is effective over another? How does local behavior behavior play a role? What are the intangible qualities that we must consider? These questions help to guide and structure a comprehensive program that may one day be replicated in another community. While it may seem tedious, frustrating or slow, changing behavior and adapting to local context is incredibly important.

Karlan and Appel conclude the book with seven programs that may help to alleviate poverty. For each of the solution, the authors urge donors and development workers to consider the root cause of poverty when attempting to mitigate or eradicate an issue.

– Microsavings
– Reminders to Save
– Prepaid Fertilizer Savings
– Deworming
– Remedial Education in Small Groups
– Chlorine Dispensers for Clean Water
– Commitment Devices (SEED commitment savings)

I found the solution of deworming particularly intriguing because it is a great example of how attacking the root of the issue will have profound benefits across the board. Parasites are an ostensible health issue and deworming will break the chain of transmission (the more protected, the less likely the carriers, and less likely a rampant disease). But, not only does it mitigate health concerns and reduce the need for costly medicine, it also increases school attendance, the ability to save, and allows families to be in an over-all better situation.

To the point above, that programs must be adapted to local context, Karlan and Appel referenced a program that pays patients to see doctors. Two similar programs with radically different results. The program in India did not work because there was a larger issue with corruption; however, paying instructors in Mexico to show up to class did work. Why? The Mexican program managers hired a policymaker unrelated and therefore incapable of foul-play

 

Karlan, Dean S., and Jacob Appel. More than Good Intentions: Improving the Ways the World’s Poor Borrow, Save, Farm, Learn, and Stay Healthy. New York: Plume, 2012. Print.

Recent Readings: “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder

“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”
“Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World”

An easy yet thought-provoking read for all those interested in seeing the world through a different lens. As told by Tracy Kidder, Dr. Paul Farmer incessantly travels around the world treating patients in all forms in order to create Options for the Poor (“O for the P”). This book will make you think differently about not only doctor-patient relationships or general health care, but about the unwavering spirit of a group of people trying to enhance lives of the poor. For more information, look into his nonprofit Partners In Health (PIH).

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“We are talking about wealth that we’ve never seen before. And the only time that I hear talk of shrinking resources among people like us, among academics, is when we talk about things that have to do with poor people ” (Jim Kim as quoted in Tracy Kidder 164).

“Margaret Mead once said, Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world… Indeed they are the only ones who have” (Kim as quoted in Kidder .

“The goal was to improve the lives of others, not oneself… ‘Paul is a model of what should be done. He’s not a model for how it has to be done'” (Kidder 244).

“All too often international aid organizations weaken the societies they are supposed to help. Often they rely almost entirely on professionals from the world’s wealthy countries, and they fail to make their projects indigenous. This all but guarantees that their projects will neither grow nor last. PIH is different. The organization now has on the order of 6,500 employees. The overwhelming majority come from the impoverished countries where PIH is working. Fewer than one hundred of the employees come from the United States” (Kidder 07).

 

Kidder, Tracy, and Michael French. Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World. New York: Delacorte, 2013. Print.

Stratfor Article: “Beyond the Post-Cold War World”

Interesting article by George Friedman, Founder and Chairman of Stratfor, which highlights the importance, and feebleness, of the balance of power:

“The greatest military power in the world has the ability to defeat armies. But it is far more difficult to reshape societies in America’s image. A Great Power manages the routine matters of the world not through military intervention, but through manipulating the balance of power. The issue is not that America is in decline. Rather, it is that even with the power the United States had in 2001, it could not impose its political will — even though it had the power to disrupt and destroy regimes — unless it was prepared to commit all of its power and treasure to transforming a country like Afghanistan. And that is a high price to pay for Afghan democracy.”

“There are new phases in history, but not new world orders. Economies rise and fall, there are limits to the greatest military power and a Great Power needs prudence in both lending and invading.”

Friedman, George. “Beyond the Post-Cold War World.” Stratfor. Stratfor.com, 02 Apr. 2013. Web. 02 Apr. 2013. <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/beyond-post-cold-war-world&gt;.
Read more: Beyond the Post-Cold War World | Stratfor Beyond the Post-Cold War World is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Fragile and Functioning States

UPDATED 9 SEPT 2013

Upon recently completing a class at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) (“Promoting Development in Fragile States,” as taught by Professor Seth Kaplan), I highly recommend using Kaplan’s work (The Fragile States Resource Center and “Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development”) as a basis of understanding.

He believes that there are “two factors [that] decide how a country’s political, economic, and societal life evolves: a population’s capacity to cooperated ([social cohesion]) and its ability to take advantage of a set of shared, production institutions (especially informal institutions at the crucial early stages of development)” (Seth Kaplan 17). These two factors explain how and why nation-states are more developed than fragile states. The divided natures of fragile states have left the with no unifying identities, no unifying institutions, and no unifying governance systems with which to bind their peoples together” (Kaplan 35).

According to his book, “Fixing Fragile States,” fragile states are “plagued by two structural problems – political identity fragmentation and weak national institutions” (Kaplan 36).

For more info, get his book or check out his website. Both are great resources for topical discussions and current events. Highly recommended to anyone.

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Interesting article posted 29 MAR 2013 from the IMF on the stability and development of fragile states: http://bit.ly/ZSPEl3.

What exactly is a fragile state? As stated by the IMF, “a country suffering any or all of the following adverse conditions—political and economic instability, poverty, civil disorder, terrorism, human trafficking, or disease—can be labeled a fragile state. These fragile situations are not limited to low-income countries. The issue of governance is a concern for countries around the world.”

So, then, what characteristics must a state possess to be considered “functioning?” According to Clare Lockhart, a functioning state is capable of the following: “managing the public finances in a sound way; investment in human capital; managing infrastructure services; how the state approaches the rule of law; whether the rulers themselves are subject to the rule of law; and how they manage the assets of the state.”

“IMF Survey : Security, Stability Measures Needed to Fix Fragile States.” IMF Survey : Security, Stability Measures Needed to Fix Fragile States. International Monetary Fund, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2013/int032913a.htm?goback=.gde_4523817_member_227617646&gt;.

Kaplan, Seth D. Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development. Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008. Print.