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The first-ever National Business Census began in Haiti this month. A census of formal and informal businesses has never been conducted and there is no comprehensive business database. Although a daunting task, the census will likely help to strengthen small and medium enterprises and increase local procurement.
The survey began September 3rd and will be conducted by 500 interviewers recruited by 42 supervisors from across the country – at a cost of 26 million gourdes (around $600,000). Wilson Laleau, the Minister of Trade and Industry, explained that this survey will enable the government to assist entrepreneurs with access to credit, help meeting standards, and entering new markets. Maintaining crops, inventories, and production is notoriously difficult with disasters such as Hurricane Isaac. A comprehensive census could improve access to credit and insurance coverage for natural disasters. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said: “Everyone recognizes the importance of such an activity… [a census is a] prerequisite to any policy to support the development of entrepreneurship in Haiti.”
Yesterday I discovered a development organization so revolutionary, most people wouldn’t even call it a development organization. It’s a non-profit called the Independent Agricultural Worker Center (CITA).
CITA is a matchmaker between farms and seasonal agricultural workers. The farms are in the United States; almost all of the workers are in Mexico. CITA brings them together and unleashes the vast economic power of labor mobility for development.
Last week I gave a speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). I was the keynote speaker for a session on the global economy and the Millennium Development Goals. I came away with mixed feelings. On one hand, the inefficiency of the UN can be maddening—the place is badly overdue for a good skewering on The Daily Show.
I frequently get inquiries from organizations that recognize the importance of rigorous evaluation and yet aren’t quite sure how they can do it. They see the growing number of random assignment or quasi-experimental studies and are attracted to the apparent objectivity and relative certainty of quantitative studies, but they are often reticent to dive into those approaches. Sometimes organizations have reasonable concerns about costs, lack of expertise, or the applicability of such approaches to the questions they care about.
Impressed by the response to Justin Sandefur’s recent CGD blog entry, I’ve titled this post in an attempt to sex up the topic of government procurement. No need, you say? What’s hotter than one hundred pages of legalese and a bill of quantities detailing asphalt and gravel? The below is for you, and it ends with a request for your help.
In the last of a series of three blog posts looking at the implications of complexity theory for development, Owen Barder and Ben Ramalingam look at the implications of complexity for the trend towards results-based management in development cooperation. They argue that is a common mistake to see a contradiction between recognising complexity and focusing on results: on the contrary, complexity provides a powerful reason for pursuing the results agenda, but it has to be done in ways which reflect the context. In the 2012 Kapuscinski lecture Owen argued that economic and political systems can best be thought of as complex adaptive systems, and that development should be understood as an emergent property of those systems. As explained in detail in Ben’s forthcoming book, these interactive systems are made up of adaptive actors, whose actions are a self-organised search for fitness on a shifting landscape. Systems like this undergo change in dynamic, non-linear ways; characterised by explosive surprises and tipping points as well as periods of relative stability. If development arises from the interactions of a dynamic and unpredictable system, you might draw the conclusion that it makes no sense to try to assess or measure the results of particular development interventions. That would be the wrong conclusion to reach. While the complexity of development implies a different way of thinking about evaluation, accountability and results, it also means that the ‘results agenda’ is more important than ever.
This week I started leave from CGD for three-plus months, to teach at Williams College. For those of you from the US west coast and outside the United States, Williams is among America’s most selective (and expensive!) small liberal arts colleges. It’s nestled in a tiny town in the Berkshire mountains in western Massachusetts.