Kristen Wayne's Weblog

 

Jun 09 2009

Qatar – The Rising Tide of Oil & Natural Gas Lifts Most

Qatar is a successful version of a city-state that has been able to make use of its natural resources and is trying to diversify its economy.  Thus Jacobs would probably support many of Qatar’s efforts, although she might think that the state remains too dependent on natural resources.  [It is also worth noting that Jacobs does not see nations as the best unit of analysis, so she might not speak about Qatar as a whole.]  Qatar is located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf.  Jane Jacobs, in her book Cities and the Wealth of Nations, notes that countries generally have one main city – in the case of Qatar this is Doha.  A US State Department web page on Qatar states that the majority of people in Qatar live in Doha.  (US Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Background Note: Qatar, January 2009, www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5437.htm)  Thus Qatar is defined by this one huge urban area.
Qatar is an extractive region that is largely dependent on natural resources for its wealth and makes extensive use of foreign laborers.  The country has large amounts of natural gas and oil and 60% of its GDP comes from those commodities (State).  Other industries include manufacturing, mining, power, and construction.  However, its exports remain 36% natural gas and 47% oil (State).  These exports only began in 1949, but increased dramatically in 1973 (State).  Qatar seems to have successfully accomplished the sequence Jacobs writes about “markets, jobs, transplants, technology, capital.” (p. 44)  Clearly, dramatic price decreases in oil and natural gas would have significant negative effects on Qatar’s economy, so it is important for Qatar to save for hard times and to try to diversify its economy.
As a result of its natural resource wealth, Qatar has created a prosperous life for most of its citizens.  The people of Qatar are generally very well off – in 2007 their per capita income was $67,000—fifth in the world—according to the State web page.  They are also well educated, with 98% of the population attending school through the age of 16 and an 89% literacy rate in 2004 (State).
The Qatari government has been seeking to diversify and innovate in other areas of its economy. (State)  Jacobs would approve, as she writes “economic life develops by grace of innovating.” (Jacobs, p. 39)  Through the Qatar Foundation, created by the Emir of Qatar in 1995, (Qatar Foundation web page, http://www.qf.org.qa/output/page10.asp) Qatar is promoting economic growth in the areas of education and research.  The Foundation built and runs Education City, which is a large campus containing six university campus branches, such as those belonging to Georgetown, Northwestern, Carnegie Melon, Texas A&M, and others. (Qatar Foundation web page)  Sponsoring higher education and research is certainly a useful way in which Qatar promotes innovation and this future economic diversity.  Furthermore, although not sponsored by the state, Al Jazeera has also developed into a media industry in Qatar and achieved worldwide fame as the first relatively free 24 hour news Arab international media station.  The fact that the Amir has allowed this innovation is certainly positive.  Qatar also seems to be moving to diversify into the large conference-hosting industry.  One high profile example was that they hosted the Doha round of the WTO talks.  I think that Jacobs would support these many efforts at innovation and economic diversification with the aim of growth.
The Qatari state also pursues ‘Qatarization,’ of which Jacobs would probably approve.  Qatarization aims to move Qatari citizens into important positions in joint ventures, etc., which would previously have been occupied by foreign intelligentsia. (State)   Jacobs promotes the use of local people, so that they are able to run operations without foreigners, if needed.  Thus she would likely approve of this nationalistic program.
Qatar is creating its own change, rather than being a passive source of natural resources.  Thus it is a positive example of which Jacobs would likely approve.

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Jun 08 2009

The US Economic Grief and Greif

US government and financial organizations will certainly change as a result of the financial crisis, but also as a part of their ongoing historic evolution.  As Avner Greif explains in his article Commitment, Coercion, and Markets the Nature and Dynamics of Institutions Supporting Exchange, “markets and political institutions co-evolve.” (Greif, p.3)  The US financial crisis happened as the result of a failure of what Greif calls contract-enforcement institutions (CEIs).  CEIs “determine the transactions in which one can credibly commit to fulfill contractual obligations and therefore the exchange relationships into which economic agents will enter.” (Greif, p. 4)  CEIs clearly failed in the case of the recent US economic crisis.
The current crisis will almost certainly lead to significant change in public sector CEIs, because it was failures in those CEIs that contributed to the crisis.  These CEIs were ‘designed,’ not organic, because government regulatory organizations are created by government officials and their scope is determined by regulations or laws.  These CEIs are also ‘public-order’ because the institutions’ penalties for rule-breakers are government-imposed.
The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) is a designed public order-CEI that played an important role in this crisis and will be affected by the post-crisis backlash.  OTS was responsible for monitoring many of the companies that failed, according to an NPR story by Chana Joffee-Walt from 5 June 2009 entitled “Regulating AIG: Who Fell Asleep On The Job?” (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104979546&ft=1&f=1006).  The insufficient regulation led to, among other things, a $170 billion federal bailout of AIG.  The NPR story, however, makes clear that OTS could never have stood up to AIG, because the small government agency was significantly less powerful than the insurance giant.  Thus OTS was an insufficient CEI.  The regulatory system itself was flawed, because it allowed banks to choose their own regulators and the regulators were paid by the banks they regulated, according to the NPR story.  This corresponds with what Greif says about corruption-constraining institutions (CCIs), which deter abuse of power with the threat of retaliation. (Greif, p.21)  Greif notes that when “CCIs exist, market expansion will lead, ceteris paribus, to further strengthening the economic and coercive power of the commercial sector, and the development of political institutions in which the commercial sector has voice and influence.” (Greif p.40)  In this case, during the years of market expansion, the business sector did develop a great deal of influence in the political and regulatory sectors.  CEIs are influenced by CCIs and preliminary organic CEIs within societies and must be compatible with organic traditions. (Greif, p. 50)  In the case of the US and the West, this is an individualistic tradition which has built up a highly regulated governing structure over time.  This structure will continue to evolve, especially as a result of the recent crisis.  The same NPR story indicated OTS may now become another victim of the economic crisis and be dismantled by the government, illustrating an organizational change resulting from the crisis.
The discovery Bernard Madoff’s $65 billion pyramid scheme during this financial crisis shattered the circle of trust in Jewish investment circles, devastating many Jewish individuals and charities.  A CNN Money article from 30 April 2009 entitled “How Bernie did it” says Madoff’s investment company was “run by a tight clan” (http://money.cnn.com/2009/04/24/news/newsmakers/madoff.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2009042412).  Madoff succeeded partially through what Greif refers to as a multilateral reputation mechanism (Greif, pp. 8-9) among largely Jewish investors.  He gathered investors through “word of mouth”, according to the CNN article.  Madoff is now being punished by the designed public-order judicial system, but if that CEI did not exist, he would otherwise have been punished by the multilateral reputation mechanism that helped him rise.  To be effective, Greif notes that courts have to be able to prove that companies or people did certain things that were illegal, and in this day and age they often can.
The government bailout response to the economic crisis has already changed government CEIs and the atmosphere for large companies.  The bailout has created new positions to hand out and regulate federal money as it is distributed. During this crisis companies such as AIG, GM, and Chrysler that were financially reckless got bailed out by the government because they were considered too big to fail. As a result, large companies may feel too secure in expecting a government bailout in the case of future problems.
Thus Greif shows us that CEIs help determine the success or failure of an economy.  In our individualist society, strong and effective regulatory structures are essential to the successful functioning of an economy.

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Jun 04 2009

Aiding the Mapuche through Technology

In designing my technology-based development project, I would have a two-pronged strategy.  I would be focused on the rural indigenous Mapuche in southern Chile, a country that overall is very developed and technologically savvy.  One part of my project would be focused on raising awareness, support, and money through technology.  The other part of the project would be focused on increasing the density of Mapuche social networks and the ability of the Mapuche to interact with the rest of the world, probably with the aims of trade, education, or advocacy.  Technology matters in this situation in part because it is a way of both publicizing and fundraising for the Mapuche, and in part because it is a way of connecting the Mapuche with the outside world, building social capital through increased interactions, and allowing the Mapuche to pursue their own goals, which may be increased trade, education, or advocacy.  Both parts of my project would involve getting participation and input from the Mapuche themselves, as well as any interested outside parties, as we learned was important through reading Joseph E. Stiglitz’s Globalization and its Discontents.
The first part of my project would focus on using the internet to provide information about the Mapuche and raise fund for Mapuche causes.  I would first need to meet with Mapuche communities in southern Chile, and get their participation in deciding what kind of information about their ethnic group they would like in a web site, such as history, culture, and present day situations.  They would provide content input, and some of them could also be trained in maintaining the web site, so that they would be able to originate new content and update the site themselves.  A barrier to this part of the project would be if the Mapuche were not interested in having this web site.
Part of the Mapuche web site could provide the opportunity for web site visitors to donate money.  One option, which could be used simultaneously with traditional donations, would be for the Mapuche to get some advertisers to advertise on part of their web site, and to donate money to Mapuche causes based on the number of daily clicks by visitors on a button on the web site (similar to the hunger site/rainforest site/animal rescue site/child health site/literacy site).  The Mapuche themselves would decide on the types of Mapuche causes for which they would like to raise money, such as development projects, scholarships, etc.  Another potential way of raising awareness and funding on the internet would be to create and promote a Mapuche application on Facebook, in which playing donated money to a cause, as can be seen in many other applications such as African Safari, which raises money towards mosquito nets to prevent malaria.  The internet action discussed in this and the previous paragraph begins to build weak links (Mark Buchanan, Nexus) or bridges (Deepa Narayan, Bonds and Bridges Social Capital and Poverty) between the Mapuche and web site visitors throughout the world. A further barrier to this aspect of part one of the project would be if not enough advertisers were interested in donating based on web site clicks or application play.
The second part of the project would focus on using technology to increase both social capital and opportunities for the Mapuche.  This could be accomplished in a number of ways, but it would be important to get the input of Mapuche communities into whether or not they wanted to pursue certain types of projects.  Possible projects could include cell phone and pre-paid phone card distribution, or computer and internet provision. The latter would be accompanied by more widespread computer and internet training within the communities, which would allow community members to pursue both education and e-commerce.  This could be in the form of distance learning classes or trade with other parts of Chile, the region, or the world.  Of course, improving Spanish reading and writing might be an important aspect of enabling Mapuche to learn to use computers and the internet, if their Spanish was tentative. However, if such programs worked, they would enable community members or communities collectively to build increasing ties to other networks for their own benefit.  Increased ties and interactions should increase trust and social capital between the Mapuche and other communities. Members of the community could also be trained to lead future computer or internet trainings, so that the projects were sustainable.  Barriers to this project would be if the Mapuche did not want to increase their interactions with the outside world, or if their new interactions were negative.
Overall, this technology-based development project would aim to allow the Mapuche to achieve their goals through different uses of technology.  This would allow them to distribute information about themselves on the internet, raise awareness and money for their own causes, and empower themselves through increased communication and technology education to interact with more groups of people.

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Jun 02 2009

Gradually Changing National and Global Institutions

US national and global formal and informal institutions today are somewhat adaptive, and are usually changing gradually.  National institutions especially have the potential for radical change in formal institutions, precipitated by certain events.
As Douglass C. North points out in his book, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, “formal rules can complement and increase the effectiveness of informal constraints.” (p. 46)  North explains that, as societies become more complex over time, they develop more formal institutions that are increasingly complex.  North says that formal institutions are “political (and judicial) rules, economic rules, and contracts” (p. 47) and that these institutions shape the kind of organizations that develop within them.  This has certainly been the case in recent decades, as more and more formal rules have sprung up in the US national and international system.  Informal institutions are societal and behavioral norms which are influenced social networks and societies, as seen in Robert Putnam and Deepa Narayan’s writings.  These norms have evolved a great deal over the past decades in the US and internationally (to a lesser degree in some areas) to include less discrimination on the basis of race, sex, disability, religion, ethnicity, etc.
Formal national institutions in the US were not designed to be efficient; they were designed to be fair and just.  These institutions include the US Constitution.  As North points out, Madison noted that the Constitution was created to increase the costs associated with factionalism.  Laws that evolve and build on each other over time are not incredibly efficient, but they are supposed to promote justice.
US formal national institutions are certainly adaptable to sudden change.  One recent example is the legal creation of the Department of Homeland Security as a result of the attacks on September 11.  A department might be thought of as an organization, but I am calling federal government organizations institutions, because they are created and governed by law and federal regulations.  More recent examples are the legal creation of government oversight over the US automakers who took taxpayer dollars as a result of the recent global economic crisis, and the creation of government bureaucracy to oversee and administer the Obama stimulus money.  However, when new institutions in the US government are created and given a mandate, they often do not have much informal power to enforce their role.  It takes time, usually many years, to become a key national institutional player or drop out of existence (which has happened to various government agencies).
Informal US institutions are unlikely to undergo sudden radical change, but they have changed a great deal gradually in recent decades.  One can see them changing even now, as more and more people across the country become accepting of people being openly gay, having equal partnership rights, and even marrying.  New England, for example, seems to have undergone a change in informal norms, as a majority of the populace there seems to support gay marriage, as we can now see in formal laws springing up all over the region.  This has become an accepted norm, probably as openly gay individuals have increasingly built social capital in these communities.
Formal national institutions are more likely than international institutions to adapt and make sudden changes.  This is because national institutions are directed by one government, whereas international institutions and laws are influenced or decided by numerous governments, often with opposing interests.  One can see the incredibly slow pace of change at the UN, which helps create international norms, both formal and informal.  The Security Council, for example, has not been expanded since 1965.  Even the creation of formal international institutions does not guarantee that they will be used or effective.  For example, the US and other nations have not signed on to the International Criminal Court.  The US has generally, however, subscribed to the informal ideals on which the Court is based.  Over recent decades international human rights law and other generally accepted norms have evolved a great deal.  It seems that informal norms are likely to have somewhat more of a widespread impact in the international system, whereas formal institutions’ effectiveness is limited by which countries hold more power and which of those countries support the formal institution.
Overall, formal and informal institutions are gradually changing and thus changing the way the US and the world function.

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Jun 01 2009

Theory-Based Development Policy

Development policies have typically failed to take theory into account when designing development policies.  Building on theory could create improved strategies for development.  Therefore when creating a development policy for a country focusing on economic production, I would draw from several of the authors we have read in formulating a policy.  This policy would include: providing aid money; attempts to gradually change the institutional framework of a society to be more development-friendly; fostering civil society; independent oversight and aid conditionality with the aim of effectiveness; export diversification; widespread inclusive consultations; and global production networks related to poverty reduction.  The group I will theoretically apply at least part of ‘my policy’ to in this paper are poor indigenous in Mexico City, Mexico, but the policy is broad and includes different types of situations – it could be applied in different ways in any number of large or small groups, scenarios, and geographic locations.
As Douglass C. North points out in his book, Institutions, Institutional Change, and Economic Performance, institutions shape economies, organizations, and incentives.  North points out that there are often high transaction and transformation costs in the economies of third world countries, which are shaped by their institutions.  In these countries, “incentives, “overwhelmingly favor activities that promote redistributive rather than productive activity, that create monopolies rather than competitive conditions, and that restrict opportunities rather than expand them.” (North, p. 9)  Incentives drive gradual institutional change and in those societies North explains that transaction costs move the society towards a less, not a more, efficient future.  Therefore my development policy would need to aim to gradually change the institutional framework of a society.  For example, increasing emphasis on education would be one positive change, because more education might hopefully lead to more people learning about other ways and norms and perhaps encourage them to develop more efficient norms.  This has happened in the US and the Western world in recent decades, as the educational norm shifted from a high school diploma to a college degree, and seems to be moving in the direction of a higher degree being the norm.  For impoverished urban indigenous in Mexico City, one minor step towards changing one kind of norm might include providing free computer classes for adults and youth to participate in, with the aim of making them more digitally savvy and therefore more competitive in the marketplace.  Over time, if the additional knowledge proved an aid to at least minor success for some class participants, this might begin to change norms regarding computer use and encourage more people in the population to increase their tech savvy.
Mark Buchanan, in his book Nexus, makes points that compliment North’s arguments, but in the context of networks.  Buchanan notes that “relationships established over time can also be the source of behavior with economic consequences […]  And many of the goals or constraints have little to do with economic ends, but more to do with conforming to a set of shared norms.” (p. 199)  In other words, Buchanan is also asserting that institutions within a society drive economics.  Buchanan, however, is adding value by talking about the structure of those relationships and the effects of that structure (people being likely to obey authority as in Stanley Milgram’s experiment, etc.).  Social capital and clustering, which are linked with increased societal trust, can have positive results for development, and should be fostered.  For example, increased trust would make trade easier, as trust is essential to economic relationships.  My development policy would include fostering civil society through local organizations, in order to increase ties and trust between people.  This might include cooperatives to help raise livestock for food security and for market, or revolving credit funds for micro-finance.  In the case of indigenous in Mexico City this might include revolving credit funds that participants could use to make investments such as starting small businesses.
David Collier, The Bottom Billion, writes about the traps (being landlocked, conflict, bad governance, and natural resources) poor nations can fall into, the negative consequences of those situations, and potential ways to help break the nation out of the trap.  The solutions Collier talks about include trade, aid, security and international laws.  My development policy would consist of aid, which might include aid aimed at stimulating trade or increasing security, depending on the scenario, and would certainly include an section about abiding by international law.  Collier writes that it would be easier to impose an international norm on a post-conflict situation rather than impose something new, so his recommendation seems to be to create a charter for such situations that would be an international norm.  Likewise, his recommendation for a country dependent on natural resources is international norms and a charter on natural resources.  For those nations with bad governance, he also recommends the use of international norms to pressure leaders to adopt reforms.  I am not sure that international charters would actually be part of my development policy (it seems to be a very high-level goal), but Collier’s suggestion clearly correlates with North’s explanation of the importance of institutions.  Certainly my development policy would be supportive of the establishment of well thought-out and useful international charters for post-conflict situations and natural resource wealth.  As for landlocked countries, Collier advocates for more efficient use of aid, an argument with which I would certainly agree.  The idea of independent service authorities and conditions placed on aid to governments whose governance is questionable makes sense as an attempt to avoid corrupt or very inefficient use of funds.  Aid to neighbors of landlocked countries aimed specifically at improving transportation infrastructure also makes a great deal of sense for helping that country.  I think that moving towards e-commerce would also be a useful way for nations to provide a service that is not limited by lack of access to a body of water.  As for countries with bad governance, Collier suggests that export diversification could help sustain any reforms being made.  This could be encouraged by trade policy that favored those nations just breaking into the global market   I agree that export diversification is a very useful development goal, and encouraging such diversification would be part of my development policy.  These policies are more related to nations, so I will not relate them to indigenous in Mexico City.
It is important to get outside input, as we learned from discussing Joseph E. Stiglitz’s Globalization and its Discontents.  The Washington Consensus was sustained by an inward-looking group of policy-makers who did not seek outside input as to whether their policies were right or wrong.  They had one overall policy prescription, and believed it should be applied everywhere, regardless of local circumstances.  My development policy would therefore contain requirements for various types of consultations.  These would include consultations with outside development experts, with the general populace, and with the groups that will be affected by a development project.  If necessary, the groups that will be affected by the development project can be divided into sub-groups for consultations.  For example, in certain societies women might feel freer to speak their minds in a meeting made up of only women.  Consultations should include input from all demographics in groups that will be affected by development projects (young, old, male, female, minorities, etc.).  This inclusive consultation process should help prevent any obvious, direct harm to a specific group.  Therefore in Mexico City this would involve meeting with indigenous women separately, but having numerous meetings open to all indigenous to provide input as to what kinds of development projects would be most useful to them.
Jeffrey Henderson, in his paper, ‘Global Production Networks, Competition, Regulation and Poverty Reduction: Policy Implications,’ writes about global production networks (GPNs) and their effects on development.  GPN theory writes about relationships between networks, adding a more development-oriented focus to the topic of Buchanan’s research.  Henderson notes the importance of giving attention to the “meso (sectors and industries or ‘branches’) and micro (firms, workers and households)” (p. 3) levels of organization structure.  Similarly to Stiglitz, Henderson is suggesting that it is important to look at a specific situation, and not apply a generic solution to all developing areas.  Henderson notes that different countries’ economies may need more or less regulation to develop successfully, depending on their situation.  My policy would definitely incorporate this concept.  Henderson also explains that GPN and global value chain (GVC) analysis can be used to determine groups of poor workers that would be especially affected by changes in their organization or network, such as policy or regulatory changes. This could be useful in determining what groups to focus on in a development project, because those groups are at risk.  This type of analysis might be useful in determining which indigenous workers in which industries in Mexico City were particularly vulnerable.
In conclusion, the authors we have read provide a strong theoretical base on which to build a multi-faceted development policy. This policy can be applied to many different scenarios around the world, and parts of it can be used or adjusted as the case requires.

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May 28 2009

Less Plastic a Day Keeps the Global Doom Away

The issue that I would like to promote is having the people that I interact with use less non-reusable plastic, because it is an important environmental step that people can choose to take in their daily lives.  The key actors in determining the outcome are the people I know and me.  The structure of our relationships differs depending on if they are a friend, family member, co-worker or acquaintance, and I would fine tune what I said depending on the relationship I had with the particular person.  In general, I would tell them a few negative facts about plastic and its effects on the environment, how much we use one-use plastic in our daily lives that they might not even realize, and some steps they can take to minimize that use.
First, I would talk about why it is good to use less plastic.  One issue is that plastic does not disappear, like paper might, and will be taking up space on our Earth for the foreseeable future.  Another is that plastic is bad for the environment.   For example, there is a mass of swirling plastic in the Pacific Ocean that about the size of Texas.  A third reason to use less plastic is that it is bad for animals, especially wild animals.  For example, sea birds can die from eating too much plastic, which they think is food, animals can get caught in plastic waste and drown, and birds and animals can get their heads stuck in six-pack soda can plastic holders.  Plastic also may have negative effects on our own health, such as plastic containers leaching chemicals into food or drink.
Second, I would talk about how much all of us use one-time-use plastic in our daily lives, often without realizing it.  For example, tape is plastic, as are band-aids.  There are, of course, plastic shopping backs, plastic wrappers on food, utensils, and many other purchases, and straws.  Even drinking milk or juice or eating yogurt is using non-reusable plastic containers.
Third, I would list some steps that people can take to use less plastic.  People can do something as simple as asking to waiter at a restaurant not to put a straw in their drink, when ordering.  There are also many reusable grocery and other kinds of shopping bags for sale at stores from Trader Joe’s to Kohl’s, and using those instead of plastic shopping bags is a great step.  Packing a lunch so that one does not have to purchase a lunch in a plastic container and using a reusable lunch container, along with Tupperware instead of plastic baggies, can also help.  One friend of mine even goes so far as to request no tape on her paper-wrapped Au Bon Pain lunch sandwiches.
In conclusion, I would use information sharing to try to influence those with whom I interact to use less plastic in their daily lives.  The things I would say would depend on the structure of our relationship, but I would generally talk about the negative effects of plastic, how much we use it in our daily lives, and easy ways to use less plastic.  Hopefully this would influence those people to think more about their use of plastic and its effects, and to make changes to their daily lives.

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May 26 2009

Nodes and the Global Network

I would describe the global network as complicated, with states, financial institutions, and NGOs as nodes in their own smaller networks.  These networks would be the same in overall concept but different in their individuality.  One impact of these architectures is a varied global network, comprised of vastly different nodes in smaller networks, which are all linked in some way to form a diverse but interconnected whole.
State, financial institution, and NGO networks would be likely to each be similar to some other networks in their same category (i.e. other state, financial institution, and NGO networks).  Each of these networks would also be unique, and some networks in the same category might be very different.  For example, the network of the United States government would be very different from that of the North Korean government.  The US government would have many more strong ties to others, whereas North Korea would be more isolated, with mainly or only weak links, especially after its recent nuclear and missile tests.  Overall, though, most nodes would probably be similar to many other nodes in their same category (i.e. similar kinds of states and NGOs).  The structure of these different types of states, financial institutions, and NGOs, would determine the architecture of their networks.  For example, organizations that are more open to the public would be more likely to have many strong ties.
State, financial institution, and NGO networks might also be more likely to have links to other networks in their same category (i.e. states having diplomatic relations with other states and NGOs networking with other NGOs).  However, their nature also makes them likely to have certain links to networks in other categories.  For example, international financial institutions are funded by and answerable to various governments, meaning the links between them would be strong.  Some NGOs pursue relationships with states in order to get funding.  One NGO that I interned in, Vital Voices Global Partnership, was initially part of the US Department of State, and spun off to become an NGO.  Clearly, it had strong ties to State, given that some of its employees had worked there and some State employees had worked on or with its predecessor version.  International financial institutions might also work with NGOs as contractors on various development processes.
All of these networks would be linked together in some form within the global network, whether weak or strong, closely liked or linked through many other networks.  They are therefore interdependent in some way, and thus vulnerable to other parts of the worldwide network.  In other words, something happens in a piece of the global network, this can cause major effects in the rest of the network.  This could include a decision by a state to go to war, a decision by a financial institution to change policies, or a decision by an NGO to promote an issue or attack a state or financial institution.
Therefore each of these nodes would be unique, but would be likely to be similar to some other nodes in its same category.  They would all be interconnected in some way among others in their category and with networks in other categories.  These interconnections could be far removed and very weak, or the organizations could be intimately linked.  Actions by one node in the network would affect the other nodes in some way.

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May 21 2009

Networks and Intl Development Blog # 2


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Networks are and always have been very important in my intellectual life. One network I have is my family, with special focus on my mom, dad, and husband. They are the ones that I would talk to the most, and I exchange ideas with them about daily life, world outlook, and news. The effect of these interactions is that their views often determine how I make key life choices. My parents probably determined my political outlook, as well. Thus my family influences the way I approach my intellectual life and the decisions I make related to that life. My parents also influenced a second network I have, which includes those belonging to the religion in which I grew up. Being a part of that network for most of my life has certainly influenced the way in which I approached and viewed the world, and thus my own intellectual life.

A third network I have is my friends, which includes sub-networks of friends from high school, college, various internships and jobs, and graduate school. I have varying degrees of interaction with the members of these groups. These friends have a somewhat broadening effect on my world outlook, as they all have slightly different backgrounds. Some have experiences in different countries and with different cultures. They have contributed additional information to my intellectual world with their stories or viewpoints. They also suggest books or news stories for me to read, or recount others they have read.

However, similarly to how only those with similar backgrounds interacted with and reinforced each other to foster the Washington Consensus, the vast majority of those in my networks are not so different from me. They are mostly all well educated, ambitious, American, and upper-middle class. A large percentage of them went to Georgetown, where I earned my undergraduate degree and am earning my graduate degree. Others, such as those from my magnet International Baccalaureate High School in Maryland, went to similar excellent universities for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. My friend network also includes those diverse international acquaintances from my middle school years in Brussels, Belgium, but those ties are much weaker, and tend to consist solely of reading each other’s Facebook pages. Indeed, many of the folks in my networks are visually displayed as part of the 480 ‘friends’ associated with my Facebook profile. Facebook might in fact be a way that some in my network introduce slightly more diverse ideas into my intellectual life – through their status messages. This is because many of these people are more my acquaintances than my friends, and sans Facebook I would not interact with them on a regular basis, or maybe ever (if they are an acquaintance from my past). Thanks to Facebook, though, I get to see their daily thoughts on a wide variety of topics. Some of these postings contain ideas to which I would otherwise not have been exposed.

Another network I have is made up of the people with whom I work or have worked. Given the wide variety of internships and jobs I have held over the past nine years, this is a fairly diverse network. The main ways in which these people have influenced me would be in teaching me about different topics related to work and about how to approach various types of work. The approach to work may have been rather prescribed, depending on the job. Therefore this network has probably both expanded my intellectual life, by teaching me about new topics, and limited it by teaching me that there is a correct way to approach or execute different tasks.

Finally, it is worth noting that my educators have been another (rather obvious) network that has influenced my intellectual life. Teachers have the power to choose what we study and read, and influence what aspects of those issues we think about critically. Some interesting influences included: my third grade teacher who came into class in her ethnic African dress and had us perform an African play and read African children’s stories; my fifth grade teacher who told us Columbus was a murderer who roasted Indians alive, cut off their wrists for them to die of blood loss, and fed them to dogs; my tenth grade A.P. US history teacher who stood backwards on top of his desk and stuck his head between his legs to help us remember an important point; my eleventh grade European history teacher who emphasized the importance of conflicting historiography; and my Introduction to Biblical Literature professor at Georgetown who taught freshman the Bible was full of complete contradictions. My teachers, and the curriculum they chose, have significantly influenced my intellectual life, by introducing new ideas and norms.

As seen in my networks, I would probably suffer from the same problem as the one that fostered the Washington Consensus. I have many linkages, and they are somewhat diverse. However the majority of people in my networks are educated, upper-middle class Americans of a liberal bent, from the mid-Atlantic.

Strategies that might help bring in new ideas about international development could include consultations with communities set to receive development funds as to what they would like to do with the money – what they wanted to accomplish specifically. Another possibility would be creating ways for anyone in the world to make anonymous or attributable suggestions for development projects, either via the internet, phone, or mail. One last possibility would be to have more general open town hall meetings throughout the world on how to approach development projects.

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