The hard truth about development practice is -at least- 20 years old

Planning must be viewed as an incremental process that tests propositions about the most effective means of coping with social problems, reassessing and redefining both the problems and the components of development projects as more is learned about their complexities and about the economic, social, and political factors affecting the outcome of proposed courses of action. Complex social experiments can be partially guided but never fully controlled; thus, analysis and management procedures must be flexible and incremental, facilitating social interaction so that those groups most directly affected by a problem can search for and pursue mutually acceptable objectives. Rather than providing a blueprint for action, planning should facilitate continuous learning and interaction, allowing policy-makers and managers to readjust and modify programs and projects as they learn more about the conditions with which they are trying to cope.

Dennis A. Rondinelli (1993), Development Projects as Policy Experiments (New York: Routledge). Continue reading The hard truth about development practice is -at least- 20 years old

A political economy analysis of Ghana… Sixty years ago

In appearance, Kwame Nkrumah is a slender man in his early forties, of middle height, with a mop of frizzy hair, big soulful eyes, a sultry, sensual expression and a trace of petulance, of prima donna touchiness, in his manner. He is, I am sure, a born actor, with all the magnetism, emotional sensitivity and panache of a good players. To say this is not to suggest insincerity. A true actor believes entirely in the reality of his characters. Nkrumah’s part is that of the savior of this people from foreign oppression. To give point to the part he has had to invent the oppression, but that was not difficult, nor in his eyes wrong. Nationalism is a passion, not an exercise in logic, and to passion’s servant all means are justified.

Continue reading A political economy analysis of Ghana… Sixty years ago

The legacy of Alan Turing

British chancellor George Osborne announced yesterday that the government of the United Kingdom will found an Alan Turing Institute dedicated to research on big data. Universities and other organizations can bid for the £42 million, 5-year grant to establish the Institute. A public gesture which is nonetheless small compensation for the government’s persecution of a man who played a central role in the Allied victory in World War II. Continue reading The legacy of Alan Turing

A story in the margins of a library book

I recently borrowed Umberto Eco‘s classic Foucault’s Pendulum from the University of Manchester central library. It’s a 2001 hard-bound copy in pretty good shape; the stamp sheet only registers 7 loans between 2005 and 2007 (who knows how many times the book has been loaned since the library went digital). But what’s interesting about this book is that one of the few past readers made a handful of pencil annotations on the margins. The first one, on page 60, is a statement of stylistic frustration: Eco writes “My uncle and aunt from *** arrived that evening”, and the reader has drawn an arrow pointing at the asterisks and written a question oozing frustration next to it: “Why do they do this?” This tells me that the previous reader of Foucault’s Pendulum was an introspective person, perhaps a truth seeker with little patience for literary flare. But it is the second annotation that really struck me. Continue reading A story in the margins of a library book

7 tips from Hemingway on how to write social science

Via BoingBoing I have come across this little gem in OpenCulture: “Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction“. Given that the mediocre-to-appalling quality of academic writing seems to be a neverending concern, I think that it may be useful to consider Hemingway’s tips are actually applicable to how we write in the social sciences. Continue reading 7 tips from Hemingway on how to write social science