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Aid Watch blog ends; New work on development begins

Today, after two years and four months, we end the experiment that was the Aid Watch blog.

We think the experiment was a success. We’ve had a great time blogging here. Thank you all for reading and writing back, and to our wonderful guest bloggers, for helping to make Aid Watch a source for way-outside-the-Beltway commentary on aid. Your response continues to exceed our expectations.

Some of you may be surprised. This was not a sudden decision; we have been talking it over with a few others for some time now.

The simple reason for ending the blog is that we want to free up our own time for writing longer and more substantive pieces, both academic and non-academic, on development.

The blog is a hungry mouth that always wants to be fed, and the longer projects we’d like to take on don’t fit in with those constraints.

Economists are professionally trained to be wary of diminishing returns to any one activity, and to be entrepreneurial about starting new activities. Although we’ll still write about aid, we plan to move away from aid criticism as our main focus, and put more emphasis on the high-stakes development debates going on now. We still believe that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid, but, as we’ve always known, there’s a lot more to development than aid.

Fortunately for us all, there are many other good blogs on aid and development that have sprung up since we started Aid Watch, from smart establishment blogs like Development Impact at the World Bank, to lonely aid workers blogging from Malawi (check the sidebar for our recommendations).

The blog will stay at its current web address, and all the archives will remain available and searchable. Check for updates on our work at the DRI web site.

Signing off for now,

Bill and Laura

 

| Posted in Meta | 83 Comments

Has NGO advertising gone too far?

by Alanna Shaikh. Alanna is a global health professional who blogs at UN Dispatch and Blood and Milk.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen a lot of criticism of how international NGOs advertise and fundraise. There’s a new term – “poverty porn” – and a new emphasis on thinking seriously about the true impact of advertising.

I’ve heard three main arguments against oversimplified NGO advertising…

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| Posted in Organizational behavior | 25 Comments

Nation not part of “Democratic Revolt” international media story presumptuously holds election

A nation that does not fit into the media narrative on the Worldwide or Arab-wide Democratic Revolution went ahead and held an election today.

Leading media representatives complained that there was no room for media attention to the historic, pivotal election in the nation of 74 million registered voters. “I mean there are no Arabs in Niger, are there?” said leading journalist Woodscott Tarleton. “We can barely keep up remembering the capitals of all those Arab countries like Iran.”

Voters…

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| Posted in In the news, Satire and parodies | 16 Comments

World Bank to Bloggers: Drop Dead

UPDATE: Bill receives WDR2011 in Sunday 12:30pm email from World Bank. Should we complain now that he is getting special treatment?

This morning we learned that the World Bank does not consider bloggers journalists. According to Bank policy, it won’t give press accreditation to bloggers, denying them access to the media briefing center where new reports are released under embargo before they are published for the public.

In this case, the report we won’t be…

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| Posted in Meta, Technology | Tagged | 27 Comments

Finally, the definitive guide to creatively manufacturing your own research result

From the brilliant xkcd (also the creator of this classic in statistics humor).

We couldn’t resist using this as a way to illustrate some of our early wonky posts complaining about the suspected practice of “data mining” in aid research.

In aid world, research looks for an association of some type between two factors, like economic growth and foreign aid. But since both growth and aid contain some random variation, there is…

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| Posted in Academic research, Data and statistics | 11 Comments

Aid Watch Government Shutdown Edition

UPDATE 12 noon: Comments show today we are in one of those dysfunctional audience relationship posts: we assume you can read our minds, and you assume we are idiots (see end of post).

Here at Aid Watch we are definitely NOT interested in contributing to the partisan diatribe gaining force on BOTH sides of the aisle.  We do wonder if the prospect of the US government shut down (still looming at time…

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| Posted in In the news | 16 Comments

Barefoot on Broadway (Warning: gross feet pics)

Vivek Nemana is an NYU graduate student and a student worker at DRI.

I’ve been working at DRI long enough to recognize bad aid, and yet my skin still tingles when I watch the TOMS Shoes’ One Day without Shoes video. I know, I KNOW…but I just can’t help being swept away by montages of beautiful young people “taking action” set to a backdrop of a dramatic Matisyahu song. So I bared…

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| Posted in Field notes | Tagged , , , , , | 31 Comments

Stories our data tells us: 3 Ways of Looking at a Dictator

Next installment in our popular (for wonks maybe?) series on the volatility of growth outcomes under autocracy:

What if we have it backward, and growth volatility causes autocracy?

The picture below shows the association between per capita growth outcomes and a measure of “individualist” values.

Once again the most striking thing is the high variance of growth outcomes under collectivist values, and a much lower variance under individualist values. Which causes which? One plausible story is that…

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| Posted in Academic research | 19 Comments

Are celebrities good for development aid?

by Lisa Ann Richey and Stefano Ponte

Recent New York Times coverage of Madonna’s “Raising Malawi” school project has once again drawn attention to the role celebrities play in raising awareness and funds for international aid. But at the same time, the report—which chronicled the collapse of Madonna’s poorly-managed venture—brings negative exposure to “good causes” for Africa.

There was a similar case in January, when an Associated Press story on corruption in The Global

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| Posted in Academic research, Aid policies and approaches, Badvocacy and celebs | 34 Comments

UN Revealed to be Gigantic 66-year-old Hoax

“I can’t believe it lasted this long,” said “US Ambassador to the UN” Susan Rice, laughing, “Who would really believe that there is this magical agency that would, like, be responsible for solving all the problems in the whole world?  That nobody else can solve? Or even wants to?”

“I really thought it would come out when that prankster Ban Ki Moon put Libya on the “reformed” Human Rights Council in 2010,” said Rice, “after…

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| Posted in Satire and parodies | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Does growth reflect good and bad dictators, or just good and bad statisticians?

As a previous post showed, autocracies have high variance of growth outcomes (also illustrated in the graph above). The usual interpretation is that benevolent autocrats cause good outcomes while malevolent autocrats cause bad growth outcomes.  Democracy has checks and balances that prevents malevolent people from having too much power to generate bad outcomes, but also restrains the good ones from doing what they want to achieve the great outcomes.

Unless this is completely wrong. Autocracy…

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| Posted in Academic research, Data and statistics | 23 Comments