GDNet Program Closure

Dear GDNet Members,

I am writing with important information about the closure of the GDNet program this week, (GDN’s knowledge service), and details of online resources which you may find useful.

Funding for the GDNet Program ends shortly and the GDNet website and online services are no longer accessible. GDN will be contacting GDNet members in due course to re-register for a new database of researcher profiles. We hope the following links will be of value to you in your research:

GDNet publications: GDNet’s toolkits, research communications handouts, learning publications and project documents (e.g. How To Guides on Policy Influence) are available from DFID’s Research For Development portal.

GDNet’s reflections on the achievements, outcomes and learning of the GDNet programme, 2010 to 2014, are captured in the GDNet Legacy Document.
GDNet’s June 2014 series of short ‘Lessons Learned’ publications comprise:

Free e-journals: INASP and the British Library for Development Studies (BLDS) provide access to several collections of free online journals including collections from Africa, Latin America and South Asia.

How to communicate research: INASP’s AuthorAid portal is a global network that offers support, mentoring, resources and training for researchers in developing countries.

Accessing development research:

Working papers and policy briefs from GDN-funded research are available from the GDN site.

The BLDS Digital Library is a free repository of digitised research papers from African and Asian research institutes.

Eldis is an online information service providing free access to relevant, up-to-date and diverse research on international development issues.

Finally, on behalf of my team, I would like to thank you for your membership of GDNet and to wish you every success in your future work. Many of you took part in our latest Members survey and we are disseminating the results widely. The analysis of the survey is included in our latest Monitoring & Evaluation report (see p.54 and p.84).

Best wishes

Sherine Ghoneim, GDNet Programme Director on behalf of the GDNet Team

Day III of ERF 20th Annual Conference: Emerging lessons from Arab countries in transition

The third and final day of the ERF 20th Annual Conference started with discussions around lessons emerging from the experience of Arab countries in transition. Chaired by Noha El-Mikawy (Ford Foundation), plenary session 3 gathered a number of distinguished economists: Gouda Abdel-Khalek (Cairo University); Georges Corm (Georges Corm Consulting Office); Paul Salem (Middle East Institute); and Zafiris Tzannatos (International Labor Organization).

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In his presentation on ‘Social Justice: lessons of experience for Egypt‘, Gouda Abdel-Khalek (Cairo University) examined the meaning behind ‘bread, freedom and social justice’, which became the main slogan of the uprising in Egypt. He discussed how tricky it is to establish social justice in times of political unrest. To support his argument, Abdel-Khalek referred to social injustice indicators that Egyptian society has been witnessing since January 25th, including decreasing wage share to GDP, rising unemployment (youth unemployment over 30%), rising poverty, increasing urban/rural divide, poor access to water and child undernutrition. It seems very little has been done to achieve the slogan of the revolution; therefore, Abdel-Khalek stressed on the need for reforms touching upon taxation systems and subsidizing agricultural producers.

Read more on ERF blog

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ERF 20th Annual Conference on “Social justice and economic development”

Economic Research Forum (ERF) kick-started its 20th Annual Conference in Cairo yesterday, March 22nd, featuring an impressive line-up of speakers. In light of the significant political transformations happening in the region, this year’s conference is devoted to the theme “Social Justice and Economic Development”. Social justice is widely considered to be one of the main factors behind popular uprisings in the MENA region; Arab societies witnessed an increasing concentration of wealth, unequal opportunities and rising corruption. The conference is addressing social justice with a special focus on what social justice might mean, how different societies were able to bring it about, and the lessons-learned from these experiences for Arab countries, particularly the ones in transition.

Speakers during ERF annual conference

Alternative perspectives on social justice

The opening and first plenary session discussed the alternative perspectives on social justice. Following the opening remarks of Ahmed Galal (ERF Managing Director), and Abdlatif Al-Hamad (Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development), François Bourguignon (Paris School of Economics) discussed the empirical and factual side of inequality in his presentation entitled ‘Inequality trends in the world: Common forces, idiosyncrasies and measurement errors’. When comparing the patterns of inequality in the developed world with that of the MENA region, Bourguignon shows that two thirds of developed countries witnessed an increasing inequality in the two decades between 1980 and 2000; including Sweden and the Netherlands, as do countries in Africa and Latin America. The striking intelligence he shared is that only the MENA region ‘shows surprising stability’.

Watch our interview with François Bourguignon

 

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Are online courses a learning opportunity?

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Like any other course, online courses indubitably offer a learning opportunity for those who decide to go for it; or those who are ‘lucky enough’ to experience it. However, some argue that the learning opportunity in online courses remains very limited as opposed to what offline ones can offer. This particularly because of the flexibility online trainees have in accommodating their participation to their own schedules, the length of online courses which may lead to some losing interest in the learning, as well as the absence of face to face interaction.

Joined HandsIn her post entitled “Online courses as a learning opportunity”, Clara Richards reflects on her experience with CIPPEC in conducting and facilitating online courses. She tells us her story and how the online course on research communications she co-facilitated provided a learning opportunity not only for her trainees, but also for herself. In fact, Clara argues that the richness of online courses lies in the opportunity they create to meet with “different kinds of people working in all sorts of development activities.” Although coming from different regional, cultural and professional backgrounds, trainees and trainers end up sharing their different experiences as they all are after one common objective “how to promote change in our contexts by communicating better what we do and the knowledge we produce.“; she argues.

Reading through Clara’s post on this online course we co-developed and co-facilitated last year, it was kind of an eye opener for me on a very interesting and insightful fact: the real added-value of online courses, in my opinion, lies in the freedom they provide both trainees and trainers with. Both end up having the space, time and courage to express their diverse opinions, share their respective experiences and comment on this simple and friendly forum the online course provide them with. Lots of barriers you face in offline courses are actually broken in the online ones. In this regard, I second what Clara says; “I found the course fruitful and it widened my knowledge not only on research communication, but also on other people’s actual realities, challenges and opportunities.

Under the “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” programme from GDNet and CIPPEC I recently co-facilitated an online course on Research Communications. The course lasted six weeks, with an additional week for introductions. Personally, the experience was really enriching, especially as I got to learn how communication works in other contexts. In this respect, I have to confirm and highlight what Vanesa Weyrauch posted in a recent blog on the advantages of online courses: i.e. the great benefits that they deliver in terms of reaching a wide scope of participants and sharing experiences across the globe easily. Furthermore, we can better empathise with those colleagues who, although located on the other side of the world, are having exactly the same difficulties that we are struggling with!

Read more of Clara Richards’ post

Online training is THE thing!

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This post was written by Ravi Murugesan, INASP, as a response to Vanesa Weyrauch’s post titled “Is online training THE thing?” published in Politics & Ideas on April 2013. In her post, Weyrauch refers to online courses as CIPPEC‘s golden star, and lists its different advantages based on CIPPEC’s experience. Among what she considers as strengths of online courses are their cost effectiveness and broad scope, length of the process incorporating knowledge, flexibility for trainees to accommodate participation to their own agendas, and above all the horizontal and co-production driven approach of online courses.

learn-moreIn his post, Murugesan seconds Weyrauch’s argument based on his experience with INASP in developing and conducting online courses, training thus about 150 researchers from over 30 developing countries. He also argues that online courses allow one to reach out to more women, as the latter may lack the flexibility to travel and attend workshops at the expense of their family commitments. Looking at our own experience with online courses, in fact we have seen a gender balance that we could not achieve with our offline courses (in the latest research communications online course, 19 southern researchers and communication practitioners participated, with a gender balance of 50/50). But as Murugesan stated, this opinion is based on our observation and experience with online courses.

I work in the AuthorAID project at INASP, an international development charity in the UK that is dedicated to putting research knowledge at the heart of development. AuthorAID’s mission is to support developing country researchers in publishing their work. Since 2007, when we started out, we have conducted numerous workshops on research writing in our partner countries in Africa, South Asia, and Latin America. In 2011, we initiated e-learning by installing Moodle and developing an online course in research writing. Following the success of the pilot course late that year, we have conducted 3 more courses.

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Is online training THE thing?

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Courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of renjith krishnan at freedigitalphotos.net

In her post, Vanesa Weyrauch refers to online courses as CIPPEC‘s golden star. She takes us through, what she considers are, its various advantages.

For the past five years under the “Spaces for engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” programme from GDNet and CIPPEC we have carried out different capacity building (CB) activities using a wide range of mechanisms. We were fortunate enough as to be able try out diverse CB strategies. Thus we have worked as a live lab where we could test different ways of developing capacity, ranging from regional face to face conferences and workshops to peer assistance, technical assistance and online courses.

Thinking about what has been most effective from our experience online courses quickly show up as our golden star. Through 13 courses we have been able to “train” 212 researchers and policy makers from 44 countries, including Latin America, Asia and Africa. After trying out other mechanisms, we have decided to strengthen online training due to its diverse advantages:

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SK for SFE – Sustaining Knowledge beyond a program’s lifetime

This is a cross-post of a piece written by Leandro Echt (CIPPEC), entitled “A researcher in search of a policy maker: reflections on the sustainability of a project aimed at linking policy and research in developing countries and published on Politics and Ideas

Running a multi-year development programme successfully is not an easy straightforward task; but rather a long journey characterized by its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges. The latter become even trickiest to overcome when this program is coming to an end.

In which case, the remaining challenge/question is how to sustain such program; in other words, how to make sure all programme products and learning material do not die away when programme closes. The programme “Spaces for Engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” (SFE) illustrates this situation. Not only the knowledge produced throughout the lifetime of the programme has been made available for public use, but also a reflective exercise on the programme resulted in a lessons learned paper which has also been made public with the aim to empower other intermediaries and knowledge brokers working in the same field.

The programme “Spaces for Engagement: using knowledge to improve public decisions” (SFE) is a six-year joint initiative by Global Development Network’s GDNet’s program and the CIPPECCenter for the Implementation of Public Polices promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC). Many of the lessons learned along these six years have been systematically reflected about in a Lessons learned paper, so as to improve our future work, as well as empower others who are walking or want to walk down the same path.

Started in 2008, the project encompasses six years of intense work aimed at creating diverse range of spaces of engagement with the participation of researchers from policy research institutions that conduct and use research to influence policy, policymakers, and/or decision making processes. For this purpose, SFE has deployed a va­riety of complementary methodologies to engage stakeholders in the field: an ef­fective combination of cutting edge research production, development of training materials, coordination of networks and debates and capacity building (both online and offline) allowed the programme to work with more than 300 researchers, prac­titioners and policy makers from more than 40 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

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Measuring HDI – the old, the new and the elegant

This is a cross-post of a piece written by Srijit Mishra (Indian Gandhi Institute of Development Research – IGIDR), one of the winners of the GDN Outstanding Research in Development Award in 2013, based on the working paper “Measuring Human Development Index: The old, the new and the elegant” co-authored with Hippu Salk Kristle Nathan

The Human Development Index (HDI), since its inception in 1990, has come up with an indicator for each country that aggregates the three dimensions of health (representing how long and fulfilled a life one lives), literacy (representing knowledge) and income (as a proxy for standard of living) into a single dimension. This was an important departure from income-based measures that focused on a single dimension. Before aggregating across dimensions, each indicator was normalized and took values between zero and unity.[1]

Prior to 2010, the approach followed to aggregate was a simple averaging across dimensions. A problem with this method was that a deficit in one dimension will perfectly substitute an equal attainment in another dimension. Income remaining same, this means that a country where both health and education attainments have the same value (say, 0.4 each) will have the same HDI as another country where health is 0.2 and education is 0.6 (a situation not quite uncommon in some of the Sub-Saharan countries reeling under a HIV/AIDS epidemic a few years ago).[2]

In 2010, to address perfect substitutability across dimensions, the calculation of HDI was aggregated by the geometric mean. Usage of the geometric mean also meant that the ordinal ranking across countries would not change if the maximum used for normalizing changed therefore the pegging of a maximum to a goalpost was done away with. Note that this was an advantage of the method, but not a requirement to begin with, definitely not when millennium development goals that can influence the various outcomes that are of relevance in the measure of HDI are themselves pegged to a goalpost.

We propose another alternative method of aggregation by taking the additive inverse of the distance from the ideal. This method also addresses the perfect substitutability across dimensions. In addition, this proposed method satisfies two other conditions. One is that the emphasis across dimensions should be based on their proportionate shortfall from the ideal (note that this ideal is a goalpost and not be understood as a transcendental ideal) or is shortfall sensitive. The other is that the same gap should be considered worse-off at higher levels of attainment. Or, simply put the gaps should decrease as attainment increases.

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Read “Inclusiveness and human development: The hidden linkage?” on Mishra and Nathan’s research proposal presented at the GDN 14th Annual Conference

Education in Egypt: A deep rooted problem

This post was written by Shahira Moneib (GDNet)

Higher education students of private institutions have shown to be more concerned about credentials than obtaining skills that would be beneficial to them in the labor market.

This is one of the findings of a paper entitled “Aligning Incentives to Reforming Higher Education in Egypt: The Role of Private Institutions” by Ghada Barsoum, professor at the American University in Cairo; which looks at the quality of education through the assessment and feedback of students based on their experiences. According to Barsoum, private institutions tend to be more lenient with students in terms of the amount of work and assignments given to them, which in turn affects their skills development.

Barsoum added that private institutions now compose one fifth of higher education institutions in Egypt. This is a phenomenon that has caught the attention of researchers in the field lately as the international trend is playing a strong role in several countries.

Discussed at the latest Economic Research Forum (ERF) workshop, “Incentives for Better Quality Higher Education in Egypt and Jordan”, the paper compares the learning experience between public and private higher education institutions in Egypt. In the light of her research work, Barsoum argues that rules aiming to control the quality of education in private institution have become necessary , towards a higher value of the  learning outcomes of education as opposed to credentials.

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“Financial inclusion and innovation in Africa” – AERC’s 39th Biannual Research Workshop

aaa-anniversaryThe African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)’s second Biannual Research Workshop of this year kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya, this morning. With a special focus on “Financial inclusion and innovation in Africa”, the 39th plenary session will be followed by concurrent sessions from December 2-5, 2013. Three papers are being discussed today, and followed by a policy round table discussion. The authors of the plenary papers are: Thorsten Beck (Tilburg University and Cass Business School); Laura Klapper (World Bank); Peter Ondiege (AfDB) and Lydia Ndirangu and Esman Nyamongo (Central Bank of Kenya).

Established in 1988 as a public not-for-profit organization devoted to the advancement of economic policy research and training in Africa, AERC celebrated yesterday its 25 years of excellence in capacity building in economic research and training, as well as service in economic policy research on November 30, 2013. This anniversary provides AERC with an opportunity not only to showcase its achievements over the years, but also to analyze the success factors for future research and training programs. Networking, collaboration and partnerships came up as main success factors which have been augmented by the synergy between research and the training programme.

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