Monday, September 10, 2007

Project Brainstorming

In my Global Citizen course this semester, we're going to be working on a project that should hopefully make some kind of difference. I really want to use this opportunity to dig into something intensely, especially since my professor is a consultant as well. It should be a great opportunity to try to design a project and then get some feed back about where it will work and where it won't.

I went in to class last week knowing I wanted to work on poverty. I left with four questions: which resources do I need to read to really understand this issue? who are the key stakeholders in poverty and development? what's the best way to reach each set of stakeholders? and what is manageable in a semester and what should I work on later?

Resources are coming to me. I've found several online, and read about a few books. I purchased a copy of The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs.

My stakeholders list so far includes everybody, but I think its important to be more explicit. Here's my list so far:

1) Global Citizens
2) The Poor
3) NGOs that work to help the poor
4) Core Governments
5) Periphery Governments
6) People concerned about the environment - people in desperate
situations are forced to use resources immediately, instead of
7) People concerned about security/terrorism - people in desperate
situations are desperate...

I'm sure there are more, but I think it would be prudent to focus this semester on global citizens. There will be an audience at the end of the semester for my work; perhaps I can develop something to educate people about so that they can do right action.

I also think that given my difficulty understanding and researching the World Bank and the IMF, there may be other concerned, conscientious people out there who are having the same difficulty. So, I think there might be some value in creating a presentation designed for students and others about the issues surrounding the study of poverty and development. The goal would also be not just to educate about an issue I'm sure most global citizens are aware of, but also to create information literacy and to encourage right action.

I have three ideas for the media of my presentation. A blog (this one) would communicate a lot of my ideas, but I'm not sure that anybody would read it. A short film would be fun to make and watch, but that medium doesn't require audience participation and a lot of the information would have to be eliminated. The last idea I had was a power point presentation. That seems like the best choice as it both encourages participation and allows me to include as much information as necessary.


Peter said...


Good questions. I work with the World Bank in Asia, and I was impressed by the open and honest way you seem to be handling your project. Your approach is a sensible one. This whole area is one too often simplified, or one where people take positions and defend them against all logic, or where people offer simple solutions that look good on paper but don’t work in practice. We need more people asking questions, in part because the challenges we face are often either old and difficult, or new and incredibly complex. For example, two million people a month are moving to cities in Asia, and will keep on moving at that rate for another 20 or 25 years. What does that mean for those cities, for jobs there, for the water supply and air? Will these cities become so much sprawl, unsafe, unlivable? Or can ways be found to manage this huge influx of people? And what happens to the villages they leave, and to the quality of life in the rural areas if young people leave in search of jobs and a better life? In about five years, 95 per cent of people in East Asia will live in a middle income country ($1000 per capita a year or more). What can be done for the poor, those who are left behind? If they are indigenous (as is often the case) or in remote areas, will their lives and culture improve or suffer from economic progress, and who can make those decisions, except the people involved?

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciate the thoughtful way you are heading, and I’d be more than happy to help in any way if I can.

Liz said...

Peter, I'm honored that you took the time to post such a thoughtful response to my fledgling blog! I keep wondering how you even found me, but I suppose that's part of the good of globalization.

Your points about Asia were fascinating, especially your comment "who can make those decisions, except the people invovled?" That seems to me as a lender it might be an issue you face often: I know the Bank takes a lot of flak for restricting the way governments are allowed to use money lent them, but isn't there rhyme and reason for a lot of the Bank's methodology? I know the Bank has had to deal with corrupt governments in the past; shouldn't you have a role in protecting both 'your' money and the people of those countries from such abuse?

If it wouldn't be an imposition, I would love to interview you. I think my classmates and I, as well as the people I eventually hope to talk to, would really benefit from the perspective of someone inside the Bank.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Peter said...


I'd be delighted to talk about these issues any time. You are absolutely right -- the World Bank has received a good deal of criticism for conditions it places on loans, and at the same time we are often asked to be more rigorous in ensuring that all loan money is properly used. It is a balancing act, and there's no doubt we've made mistakes on both sides in the past: sometimes demanding too many conditions and intruding where we shouldn't, sometimes not scrutinizing loans closely enough. Increasingly we are finding that engaging people more broadly in each country (beyond governments) and releasing a lot more information reduce both the need for conditions and the risk that loan money will be misused. We have a large program in Indonesia, for example, which reaches about half of all villages, and supports local initiatives. It also makes sure local people have information they need about what the project is, how long it should take, who is responsible for building it and so on. We find this helps reduce opportunities for corruption and increases the effectiveness of the projects.

The challenges go much further, of course, and this is part of what makes your brainstorming exercise so interesting. Poverty is often defined (as you have noted) in terms of "a dollar a day" or some similar financial line. That is often modified to reflect local costs and purchasing power. Further, we and others have done studies which talk of poverty in terms of vulnerability, lack of access to basic services, and exclusion from economic opportunity – important of course, but hard to measure. And if you look beyond these specific sorts of issues to the global poicture, you find yourself asking why it is that Asia grows so consistently and reduces poverty so effectively, while other parts of the world, including many countries in Africa, seem to struggle with wars, skill shortages and preventable diseases?

Let me know when you’d like to catch up. My email is Hope to speak with you soon.

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