Jun 11 2009

Local food movement: Come and get it!

by at 3:45 pm

Every other weekend, I look forward to visiting the local farmer’s market. Bright red tomatoes, farm-fresh eggs, and the waft of spice-scented apples – it’s a veritable feast for the senses. I not only feel that I benefit from the visual feast and “local” nature of the food, I know I am supporting families and farms that care deeply about their produce and their standard of living. It’s a luxury that I can (mostly) afford; I continue to frequent farmers markets because my bounded rationality is low – I know almost everything about the products and the people.

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors

This led me to wonder: Continue Reading »

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Jun 09 2009

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

by at 2:05 pm

Vintage thriller movie aside, what would Jane Jacobs have to say about the situation in Qatar? Focusing on the various components of the network such as links through trade, export and import cycles, and diversification and reinvestment in the city region, I aim to divulge some pros and cons about the state of Qatar today. Specifically, I want to examine the architecture of the city, as well as the underlying balance between social capital and reliance on natural resources, which has primed the nation for a profitable leap into the networked economy.

What does the region look like in terms of cities and agglomeration effects?

Doha, the capital city, holds over 400,000 people, with 80% of the nation’s population residing in the city or in surrounding suburbs (Wikipedia). Continue Reading »

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Jun 08 2009

City-regions that struggle together, gain together

by at 3:28 pm

 Avner Greif’s article, “Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society…” (1994), presents an important look at how cultural beliefs systems have an impact on trade and markets within societies. When looking at the impact of collectivist societies against individualistic societies, Greif notes that cultural beliefs impact social interactions but can have varying effects on wealth distribution (Greif, 19). The horizontal relationships within collectivism are often very beneficial for individuals in small closed regional economies as they provides the informal institutions of protection and feedback loops, but they do little to grow the market for the overall wealth of the people. It can also have devastating results when groups and their cultural beliefs clash with nearby regions. Continue Reading »

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Jun 04 2009

Technological links in a repressive society

by at 3:29 pm

The role of technology in network development is crucial to fashioning a self-sustaining economy. Technology can cut down on transaction costs, bounded rationality (North) and can forge cross-cutting ties (Narayan) that will strengthen the network. It also supports bridging capital (Narayan), in that the up-front costs of implementation then fall to zero when more people are added to such a network. As a development strategist, it is therefore crucial to measure the potential gains of a technological enhancement for a region even at a high implementation cost.

Technological enhancements are especially important for isolated communities or nations with restrictions on free press. Continue Reading »

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Jun 02 2009

Limited Time Offer!

by at 3:21 pm

Patterns of socio-economic behavior repeat themselves, regardless of the “shocks” to networks that come through political upheaval or environmental hazards. These patterns become subsequently more and more difficult to break, whether they are positive or negative. Consequently, both formal and informal institutions with agendas for development need to be careful how they insert themselves into the fabric of the global environment now, especially because the effects may be – to borrow a phrase from Stride gum’s marketing slogan – “ridiculously long lasting.”

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Jun 01 2009

Restructuring for a Drought Network

by at 2:57 pm

This weekend, I spent a beautiful afternoon in the sun at a local pool. As I looked around at the mass of other people enjoying the same opportunity, I acknowledged how bodies of water connect people in communities and connect countries across the open seas. Yet for many developing countries, how isolating it must be during a drought or a particularly arid season in which crops fail and access to water is limited to the point of serious health risks. Through the lens of a development strategist, utilizing many of Douglass North’s principles, I propose the following plan to counteract some of the network interstices that could potentially reconnect such a community to a public good in times of crisis.

20-acre Chilean pool by fak3r

20-acre Chilean pool by fak3r

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May 28 2009

CONFIDENTIAL: Live and Let Eat

by at 2:06 pm

Your mission (should you choose to accept): Engage food markets of underdeveloped countries enmeshed in global food crisis into regional market economies at nationally (or perhaps globally-sponsored) subsidized rates, potentially outsourcing goods to international firms at higher transactional costs.

James Bond Lego by Dunechaser

James Bond Lego by Dunechaser

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May 26 2009

Pace and Place

by at 1:53 pm

Scott Storper and Michael Storper explore the ways in which a node can be affected by its geographical place in the world. The externalities that can occur from neighboring nations’ networks can affect a country’s economic and social status. This may be one more reason that Collier’s theory about the precarious situation of land-locked countries has validity. Scott Storper asserts that agglomeration based on the role of the “region” allows for positive effects of urbanization. He speaks directly to complexity theory in that the more tightly-drawn the network, the better chance of connectivity through weak links to a greater market.

As an example of the node/language of a network, I found that the professional networking site “LinkedIn” has their own “Network Statistics” tab, in which they show “Your Network of Trusted Professionals.” Continue Reading »

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May 21 2009

Small-world networks and exponential effects

by at 2:25 pm

From my coworkers and the upper-level administration at my job to CCT graduate school faculty and students, my intellectual network is built from very differing styles of networks. In a sense, graduate school is one of the easiest ways to make ties to a very disparate network. As we all begin through a link to the program, our paths are connected through a very large node (CCT) to a very extensive network and we each bring our own smaller intellectual backgrounds with us. I exchange ideas within graduate school to perhaps a greater effect than within my work, where the level of participation is much more like a traditional hierarchy.

In analyzing Buchanan’s theories in relation to my experience, it seems as if the Washington Consensus was built upon a more traditional dissemination model. On page 146, Buchanan notes that “more complex networks tend to fluctuate less and are more stable than simpler networks.” This could be a telling insight into how the small-world network effect, where one chopped link can effectively “destroy” an entire ecological (or economic?) network. The link may have been the dialogue between each and every nation.

Development strategies that might make the workplace more effective is to treat it more like a “graduate school” environment and less like a traditional hierarchical workplace. By allowing in a collection of policy-makers with diverse backgrounds in education and culture and encouraging discussion between them, the force of knowledge would be cumulative rather than disseminated from the top.

“We are living in exponential times…”  If you haven’t seen the “Did you know” video created by Karl Fisch, a high school teacher in Colorado and modified by Scott McLeod, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State Univ, you should take a look.  I think the video’s content effectively demonstrates many of the theories that Buchanan expounds in his book about information technology and the interconnectivity of our networks.

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May 21 2009

Networks and the Washington Consensus

by at 2:13 pm

Every Tuesday I have lunch with a dear friend, who I met through a network. My friend Candice is my friend as a result of relationships I’ve had with her two sisters (Abby and Katie).

Me and Candice

Me and Candice

When I told one of her sisters (Katie whom I was friends with when I lived in Florida) I was moving to Washington, DC (where Candice lived) I was then introduced to Candice. That was a little over a year ago, but since then we have become close friends. Her sisters have since become more of acquaintances, since one now lives in Kentucky and the other lives in New York City. Because of my previous relationships I have been able to get close to Candice. I understand her a lot better than I would have without those previous connections and we also know a lot of similar people because of that as well.

Candice, Katie and Abby last May

Candice, Katie and Abby last May

Candice and I exchange ideas and gain new perspectives on things, but we also share our daily experiences and concerns. Because we each have other networks we belong to, there are always differing opinions being brought to the table whether they are about politics, money, marriage or fashion. Although Candice and her sisters are related they have different networks and different opinions about things—just as I do.

Networks formed through family, friends, social organizations, academic and church communities also overlap professional, educational and social lives. Each group is diverse and provides different relationships and fulfills a different purpose in my life. These different networks provide insight on situations that are biased and unbiased, educated and uneducated, informed and uninformed. While their views may not all be adopted as my opinion, they help me to form my personal opinions on people and issues. Mark Buchanan examines these relationships in Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Theory of Networks by identifying how small-world networks can limit the perspective of those involved. The same things that make a small-world network secure can also be it’s “Achilles Heel” (pg. 132).

The Washington Consensus was a result of the sharing of common ideas—coming from similar perspectives. Those formulating the plan were involved in other networks, but did not reach out for ideas from those networks or take-into-account differing opinions. For this reason the Washington Consensus made generalizations and failed to take into account that countries differ in structure, governance and therefore development strategies should be approached differently. The Washington Consensus policies attempted to prescribe each country as if it were giving penicillin for a range of different diseases—this did not work with medicine and does not work for countries. Some people are allergic to Penicillin; some are immune to its benefits. The short term solution may work at first but often leaves a lot more to clean up in the end.

Penicillin

Penicillin

An approach considers debate and outside opinions (those from outside the IMF and World Bank) as well as intrinsic on-the-ground research would definitely formulate new views. These newly formulated ideas could be applied to for the benefit of the developing country. Leg-work and conversation are vital to networks. Many times the IMF and World Bank representatives never set foot outside the capital cities of these developing countries, giving them a very limited perspective. They also only spoke with government leaders and did not speak with people at lower levels who were in need of the aid and would be working on the development projects. They could have met with some aid organizations that were already working on the ground and had relationships with the people of the country, thus making the transition from plan to project run more smoothly. Networks are vital for transitions.

My personal networks are what have made the transition from one location to another more fluid. I’ve lived in Texas, Florida and Washington, DC in the past 6 years. Some of these networks were created for me, others I had to create myself. Professionally I’m apart of several networks including the National Press Club, former Palm Beach Post writers and other journalists that I have worked with or encountered through education. These networks have helped me find contract work. Some of my educational networks have become professional and social networks, I’m also part of networks from former school and college affiliations, including my Sorority Alumni Group, Baylor Alumni Association and The Baylor Women’s Network. Of course there are the connections that I have formed since I enrolled at Georgetown, through CCT and student organizations.

These network webs are a good example of how one person can become connected to several different people and therefore gain several different ideas. People must seek out differing ideas to formulate new idea. Perhaps by circulating through different networks the Washington Consensus would have become less of a consensus and more of a collaboration of ideas for the betterment of each country and its individual needs.

Continue Reading »

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