Episode 44: The Data Revolution

Everyone seems to be talking about the data revolution these days.

In this episode of Development Drums, I speak with two people who have thought more about what it is, how to make it happen, and what it means for development than just about anyone else.

Claire Melamed is the Director of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at ODI. She was previously the Head of Policy at ActionAid UK. Her work focuses on measurement of poverty and inequality and on how to use the insights from measurement to improve policy and outcomes. She heads ODI’s work on the post-2015 agenda, including the data revolution. My colleague Amanda Glassman is the director of global health policy and a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, leading work on priority-setting, resource allocation and value for money in global health, with a particular interest in vaccination. She is the author, together with Research Fellow Justin Sandefur, of the report Delivering on the Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa.Amanda and Claire

Amanda and Claire talk about where the idea of a data revolution came from and how we can make sure it’s more than just “business as usual (with more money)”. We talk about the weaknesses in the current data collection systems and institutions, including perverse incentives for providers like national statistics offices, duplication of effort, and counter-productive competition between donors. We dig into how policymakers can invest in the capacity that developing countries need and wrap up with a discussion of how better information might deliver better development outcomes.

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Episode 43: Complexity

In this episode of Development Drums, I speak with Ben Ramalingam and Stefan Dercon about whether complexity and systems thinking offers actionable insights for better development interventions.

Ben Ramalingam is an independent researcher who has worked with development and humanitarian organisations including UN bodies, NGOs, the Red Cross movement, and government agencies. He is affiliated with the London School of Economics and the Overseas Development Institute, amongst other institutions and is the author of Aid on the Edge of Chaos: Rethinking International Cooperation in a Complex World. Stefan Dercon is a Professor of Development Economics at the University of Oxford and the Chief Economist at the Department for International Development, the UK government’s aid agency.Photo of Stefan Dercon and Ben Ramalingam.

In the podcast, I ask Ben to pin down what we’re talking about when we talk about complexity and complex systems, and ask Stefan whether any of this is actually new to development economics research or policy, which has long incorporated elements of complexity thinking. We debate whether systems thinking gives donors and governments new and useful tools, including for humanitarian intervention.

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Episode 35: Migration and Development

In this episode, Owen talks to fellow CGD Senior Fellow Michael Clemens about the relationship between migration and development.

In the first section Michael talks about the impact of migration on migrants themselves, and how micro-data has been used to expose a significant inequality of opportunity based on location, explaining more about a person’s income than everything else put together. Michael discusses the role of movement of people in within the development process, highlighting the limitations of using place as the main indicator of poverty reduction, given the wider global system and international labour market in which migrants participate.
In the second part Michael responds to various criticisms of migration from a receiving country perspective, focusing on the costs and benefits of the economic, communal and cultural effects of migration, and the need for a managed transition to minimise costs and maximise benefits.
In the third part  Michael talks about the impact of migration from the perspective of the migrants’ countries of origin. Michael emphasises that while the reasons behind migration may be harmful, migration itself is not, and argues that fostering educational flexibility works better to maximise benefits from migration, than preventing educated migrants from leaving their countries. The final part of the episode Michael explains incorporating migration into development policy can be politically viable, citing his part in a change to US migration policy to allow Haitians to move to America, and offers his thoughts on why policy must and will adapt to foster inevitable global movement rather than inhibit it.


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Running time 1 hour and 14 minutes; size 53.7 Mb


Episode 34: The Economics Of Enough

In this episode, Owen talks with author and economist Diane Coyle about her latest book ‘The Economics Of Enough, How To Run The Economy As If The Future Matters’.

In the first section, Diane shares her thoughts on economic growth as a satisfactory goal for economic and social policy, and discusses the measure of Gross Domestic Product in relation to indicators of happiness and welfare.

Diane Coyle

In addressing the challenges of economic growth, Diane highlights the need for a measure of wealth that transcends money and natural infrastructure to factor in human capital, environmental capital and natural resources.  Diane argues for going ‘back to basics’ on GDP, and introducing systematic asset measurement to monitor and control long-term change and assess how much is taken from future generations.

Diane explains the implications of, and offers solutions to, the ‘crisis of capitalism’: the financial crisis; the underlying problem of public debt and the structure of the welfare system; inequality and the loss of trust and social capital; and the lack of customer-focused financial innovation. Diane explains these challenges in relation to the related ‘crisis of governance’ that enables them to persist.

In the last section Diane discusses her ‘manifesto for enough’ in relation to how it addresses the challenges discussed earlier, along with how much it leaves unresolved.

Running time 1 hour and 7 minutes; size 44.5 Mb.

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Episode 33: Complexity and Development

This is a special edition of Development Drums. Instead of interviewing a guest, as normal, we bring you a presentation on Complexity and Development by Owen Barder.

This is the audio-only version of an online presentation with slides, which is available from the Center for Global Development.

You can also download the slides and full transcript.

In this presentation, adapted from his Kapuściński Lecture of May 2012, Owen Barder explores the implications of complexity theory for development policy. He explains how traditional economic models have tried and failed to understand why some countries have managed to improve living standards while other countries have not. Drawing on ideas about complex adaptive systems developed in in physics and biology, he argues that development is a property of a system, not the sum of what happen   s to the people within it.

This view of development has important policy implications for policy-makers who want to bring about faster development in their own country, or to help other countries to make faster progress.  The presentation finishes with seven implications for development policy.

This Development Drums podcast is just the audio, for those who want to listen to the presentation in the gym or during their commute. If you would rather see the full presentation including slides, you can do so on the CGD website.



Size: 41.5 Mb

Episode 32: Gender and Development

Gender permeates all development issues, and there is growing debate surrounding how best to implement and promote gender balance and equality throughout the development agenda.

This episode broadly focuses on two different views of why we might be interested in women in development: the first based on instrumental reasons (what can women and girls do for development) and the second on more structural and contextual reasons (what development can do for women and girls).

Our guests are Andrea Cornwall of the Institute of Development Studies and Prue Clarke of New Narratives.

Andrea Cornwall talks of ’empowerment-lite’: the view that small-scale interventions often provide a palliative without addressing the structural causes of inequitable power relations; that they often tackle symptoms but not underlying causes of power imbalance.  She argues that a focus on ‘results’ tends to emphasize instrumental interventions and does not give
enough priority to interventions which help bring about changes in power dynamics.

Prue draws on her experience in working with women journalists in Africa to give examples of how the right small-scale instrumental interventions can change the political context and tackle causes of imbalance, focusing on stories that relate to women and children such as high teen pregnancy, unsafe abortion and female genital cutting.

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Running time 1 hour and 1 minute; size 39.9 Mb

Episode 31: David Roodman on Microfinance

Center for Global Development Senior Fellow David Roodman talks about his latest book ‘Due Diligence, An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance’.

David discusses the evidence surrounding the effects of microfinance on the lives of the world’s poor and its implications on aid donors, within the context of his book’s key findings. David then goes on to speak about what he himself has learned about the roles of different kinds of evidence, along with the unusual way in which he used open blogs to guide and inform the writing of his book.
Running time 44 minutes; size 34.5 Mb

Episode 30: Interviews with EBRD Candidates


On Friday the Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will decide who will be the Bank’s next President.

Today we are publishing interviews with four of the candidates. In September 2009, the leaders of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh called for the “the heads and senior leadership of all international institutions [to] be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based process.” Despite this commitment, over last few months European Ministers have been horse-trading behind closed doors to try to get one of their nationals into a number of jobs which are up for grabs: as well as the Presidency of the EBRD, Ministers have to find a new Chair of the Eurogroup, someone to head the Eurozone’s permanent bail-out fund, and a new member of the board of the European Central Bank. But European Ministers have not been able to reach agreement, so for the first time ever the EBRD Governors have not been presented with a fait accompli. Five candidates will be in London this Thursday to be interviewed for the role, and the Governors are expected to make a decision by the end of the week. At the Center for Global Development we believe this appointment should not be based on nationality, in some gigantic trade-off between unrelated institutions, but on the basis of merit and substance.  We hope to make our own modest contribution to this by offering a public forum for the candidates to discuss their vision for the future of the EBRD. Over the last couple of days I interviewed the four candidates who accepted our offer. We’ve put the interviews together in a Development Drums podcast. You can listen to this online, or download the podcast to your MP3 player, either from the Development Drums website or free in iTunes.  We will also be publishing a transcript of the interviews.

The four candidates who agreed to be interviewed are:  Thomas Mirow (at 03:58), the incumbent who has completed one four year term as President and is seeking re-election for the second term; Jan Krzysztof Bielecki (at 17:40), former prime minister of Poland; Suma Chakrabarti (35:45), a senior British civil servant;   and Bozidar Djelic (at 47:43), the former deputy Prime Minister of Serbia.  The fifth candidate, Philippe de Fontaine Vive Curtaz, is vice president of the European Investment Bank and did not choose to participate in this process. In the interviews, the candidates talk about the implications for the EBRD of the planned expansion to the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean. They respond to criticisms of the EBRD for not doing enough on gender.  And they talk about how their own professional background equips them to be an effective leader of the institution. The interviews reveal some striking differences of view between the candidates. For example, the candidates offer quite different opinions about the extent of change that will be needed in the organisation to fulfil its new mandate in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.  Candidates also had quite different views about how they would respond to the criticism of the EBRD’s approach to women.  Given the differences in substance between the candidates revealed by these interviews, nobody should be in any doubt that the choice of the next president of the EBRD will have important real world consequences. Running time 56 minutes; size: 33.2 Mb.

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Episode 29: Toby Ord on Giving What We Can

Toby Ord is a moral philosopher at Balliol College, Oxford and the president of Giving What We Can, an international society dedicated to eliminating poverty in the developing world.

In this interview, Toby firstly talks about consequentialism and the implications for development, with particular focus on cost-effectiveness. Secondly, Toby explains his personal decision to donate a substantial proportion of his income to the developing world, and shares with us the factors that guide his choice of recipients.

Development Drums is hosted by Owen Barder and produced by Anna Scott at the Center for Global Development.

Running time  1 hour and 8 minutes; size 25.8Mb.


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