How do we get better at killing our darlings? Is scale best pursued obliquely? More thoughts on innovation and development

August 6, 2015
Benjamin Kumpf, Policy Specialist for Innovation at UNDP, responds to guest post by James Whitehead published on 24 June. I found myself nodding to most of James Whitehead’s reflections. Particularly: ”I want to be working with people who are passionate about solving problems at scale rather than magpies obsessed with finding shiny new innovative solutions.” Yet, something seemed to be

A long-ignored crisis in development – the collapse in morale among public officials. New UN paper.

June 16, 2015
News flash: officials are people too. With feelings. If you treat them as untrustworthy scumbags who only do good things for voters and tax payers when they are threatened or offered cash, they are likely to get thoroughly demoralized and may even end up behaving that way. You don’t have to take it from me, you can instead read it

Is the era of flagship publications (HDR, WDR) coming to an end?

October 15, 2014
Had an interesting chat with some UNDP types last week in the Brixton cafe that is fast becoming my second office. In the same week as UNDP was named top donor on transparency (ahead of the UK and US), they were evaluating the UNDP’s flagship publication, the Human Development Report (HDR). Over the long term, I am a huge fan

The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World. Synthesis > novelty in a big new UN report.

March 22, 2013
Of the big reports that spew forth from the multilateral system, some break new ground in terms of research or narratives, while others usefully recap the latest thinking on a given issue. Last week’s 2013 Human Development Report, The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World, falls into the latter category, pulling together the evidence for a

What does the UN’s first Africa Human Development Report say about food security?

May 16, 2012

How can we improve the way we measure poverty? The UN’s new poverty index (and groovy graphics)

July 27, 2010
Ask poor people what poverty is like, and they typically talk about fear, humiliation and ill health, at least as much as money. But can the non-income dimensions of poverty be measured in a way that allows policy makers to weigh priorities and allocate resources? If not, the danger (as often happens) is that decision makers and documents initially nod

How important is growth to improvements in health and education? Not at all, says a new UN paper

June 25, 2010
The first batch of background papers to this year’s big Human Development Report has just been published. The one that caught my eye is by George Gray Molina and Mark Purser. “Human Development Trends since 1970: A Social Convergence Story” crunches a big dataset of Human Development Indicator (HDI) numbers and comes up with some pretty heretical conclusions. It finds

Want to help write this year’s Human Development Report?

January 13, 2010
2010 marks two decades years since the first Human Development Report was published by the UN Development Program in 1990. Besides subsequently spawning huge numbers of useful national and thematic reports, the global HDRs have become some of the most influential of annual development analyses, for many years providing an invaluable intellectual counterweight to some of the excesses and errors

Migration and Development: lead author of this year’s Human Development Report responds to my review

November 10, 2009
Jeni Klugman responds to my fairly critical review of this year’s HDR: ‘It is good to see interest from Oxfam GB’s head of research in the migration and development debate — however, this blog about the 2009 Human Development Report (HDR) misses basic and important aspects of the report’s analysis and policy recommendations. In particular, this critique appears to have

Migration and development: how to improve on a feeble new Human Development Report

October 20, 2009
The Human Development Report, published by UNDP, is traditionally the best of the UN annual tomes. This year’s HDR, entitled Overcoming Barriers, discusses migration. It’s a critical issue in development – moving in search of work and a better life has always been a strategy for people living in poverty as most modern-day Americans and Australians can testify (not including indigenous inhabitants,

Cuba beats USA again, this time on child welfare

December 10, 2008