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

Researcher policymaker: A missing bridge?

Knowledge Café

Knowledge Café

It’s quite amazing the amount of time and effort that southern researchers invest to research their ideas and present them to the world, despite the numerous challenges they face throughout this path. And ohh the pride they take in that! The role of communication is to define how big that “world” is.. It could be anything from a desk drawer to an implemented policy.

In most developing countries, unfortunately, the odds are that most research ends up warm and cozy in an office desk drawer. Not to sound satirical, it’s no secret that developing countries are hardly “the place” for hearing out what the people have to say, let alone the researchers who go out of their way to not only add to their own knowledge but to contribute to bringing about change in their societies. With that said, it’s not quite safe to blame it all on bad communication now, is it?

This blog post is supposed to highlight some of the challenges that African researchers face in “doing” research and “communicating” it to inform and advice policy. Wrapping up our latest GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, we picked some of the participants’ brains regarding that particular topic.

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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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Media, an absolute core of equitable development

What is media? Why is it important? Can we live without it? What is its role in development?

In its simplest form, media is defined as the main means of mass communication (television, radio, and newspapers) regarded collectively; but I would say it is a functional organism that carries out specific roles in a society; the easiest and fastest way to get something done and without it, a nation can never survive!

No one can deny that media shapes our lives nowadays, since it spreads and disseminates information to a wider audience in no time. Egypt is undergoing a process of cautious transition in the media sector especially after the 25th of January revolution. The media, with specific reference to newspapers, radio, television, Internet (social media) and mobile platforms, play a crucial role in national development, which particularly aims at improving the political, economic and social lives of the people. These different forms of media have gained more popularity in the Egyptian market, but when referring to Upper Egypt, the case is not the same.

To elaborate more, the media depends on the societies in which they operate, and the audience they reach in order to have an impact and a role in development. However, none of these factors are the same everywhere, at all times, or under all conditions since every medium has a message and a target audience; aiming at influencing a change, attitudes, perceptions and decision-making.

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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

How can we make the Egyptian people employable?

Labor market is a valuable pillar to achieve economic and social progress and is key to alleviating poverty and promoting inclusion in Egypt. This is why labor market indicators are among the most timely and important measures of economic performance. The Economic Research Forum (ERF) recognizes the value and determines the need to comprehensively study the Egyptian Labor markets. Hence the ELMPS survey- The Egyptian Labor Market Panel Survey.

Timing of the survey results is key, after the January 25th revolution Egypt is no longer the same. Egyptians calling for their ‘right to information Access’, people need to know. ‘To complement two previous surveys of 1998 and 2006, ERF carried out a new round of the Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey (ELMPS) in 2012. It thus marks the third round of a longitudinal survey that tracks the labor market and demographic characteristics of households and individuals interviewed in the two previous rounds.’ (ERF website)

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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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From a craftsman to a well-rounded strategic decision maker

Today, women and youth are ruling over the world and making their mark in various fields with their dedication and hard work to excel in their area of expertise, especially that the youth are the future, and one day will control the nation, but is this the case in Egypt? Well, a major area of concern in Egypt is the youth representing about 20% of Egypt’s total population, whereas rural youth account for 59% of Egypt’s total youth and representing 85% of Egypt’s poor youth (2009 Survey of Young People in Egypt – SYPE).  Further, female participation in the Egyptian labor market is among the lowest in the world since it is a highly gender-discriminated market, in which young women (aged 18 – 29) represent only 18.5% of the Egyptian workforce.

ENID is implementing a set of four highly integrated programs, each of which has the potential to impact on job creation and poverty reduction in both the medium and longer term. The first group of beneficiaries targeted by ENID programs is the youth and women segments of Upper Egypt society. We had the chance to interview Engineer Ayat Abdel Mooty, who is the Manager of Program A “Empowerment of Women and Youth”, during ENID’s first annual conference.

But what does “women empowerment” really stand for?

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The policymakers’ take and advice on research communication challenges

Policy Panel

Policy Panel

Any story has two sides. Research communication is no different; there are researchers and there are decision makers.. In developing countries, however, there is more to the challenge than a bridge between researchers and policy makers. Following up on the GDNet-AERC Policy Brief Training Workshop, this blog takes to the policymaking side of the issue; specifically regarding the challenges in assessing research evidence and research uptake. Eric Aligula (Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis, KIPPRA) and Leonard Kimani (Director, Economic Sector, National Economic and Social Council) talk about the main gaps and opportunities for research uptake in Kenya.

Leonard Kimani first talks about the challenges of policymakers in assessing and utilizing research in policymaking. Regarding policy briefs, he argues that policymakers appreciate policy briefs as an effective research communication tool. Kimani discusses a number of “Dos & Don’ts” for researchers, to help them maximize the opportunity of their research reaching the right audience. These are:

Dos:

  • Researchers should be very familiar with the research agenda, and make sure that the agenda is relevant to the challenges that are specific to a certain organization; whether the organization is governmental, counter governmental… etc.
  • They must also make sure that the quality of the research that they do is comprehensive, having in depth, and offering alternative practical solutions to the decision maker.
  • Mechanisms of dissemination should be put in place so that the research results could be shared, which could be through conferences, workshops, retreats, web portals or blogs.

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Unemployment rate is a misleading indicator to the labor market, conventional or not?

As we know, the number of people at work is generally related to whether an economy is growing or not. In other words, unemployment can be thought of as a double-edged sword; when economic activity is high, more people are needed to produce the higher amount of goods and services. Thus, it is very important to measure different aspects of the labor market in order to get a better feel for the health of the economy. The unemployment rate is probably the best-known labor market measure and certainly one of the most widely quoted.

The last session of the ERF’s Conference “The Egyptian Labor Market in a Revolutionary Era: results from the 2012 survey (ELMPS)” was a panel discussion on the labor markets in Egypt; we had the chance to interview Ragui Assaad (University of Minnesota), who was one of the panelists.  He argues that the unemployment rate, while useful, does not take into account a number of important features of the labor market, for example, it doesn’t show how the economy is doing during economic crisis and its effect on the labor market.

But is the unemployment rate really the most accurate indicator to the health of the labor market?

While the unemployment rate may be considered as the most informative labor market indicator reflecting the general performance of the labor market and the economy as a whole, it does not say anything about the type of unemployment; whether it is cyclical; not having enough demand for labor to employ all those who are looking for work, or structural; a longer-lasting form of unemployment caused by fundamental shifts in an economy, such as workers’ lack of requisite job skills or inability to move out of their regions. Moreover, it does not take into consideration the informal sector which constitutes a large share of the Egyptian labor market.

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