Thursday, September 30, 2010

How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?

(From the Law and Development blog)

Michael Woolcock, World Bank - Development Research Group, Harvard University - Kennedy School of Government, Simon Szreter, World Bank and Vijayendra Rao, World Bank have an interesting new paper that ask How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?

ABSTRACT: The consensus among scholars and policymakers that"institutions matter"for development has led inexorably to a conclusion that"history matters,"since institutions clearly form and evolve over time. Unfortunately, however, the next logical step has not yet been taken, which is to recognize that historians (and not only economic historians) might also have useful and distinctive insights to offer. This paper endeavors to open and sustain a constructive dialogue between history -- understood as both"the past"and"the discipline"-- and development policy by (a) clarifying what the craft of historical scholarship entails, especially as it pertains to understanding causal mechanisms, contexts, and complex processes of institutional change; (b) providing examples of historical research that support, qualify, or challenge the most influential research (by economists and economic historians) in contemporary development policy; and (c) offering some general principles and specific implications that historians, on the basis of the distinctive content and method of their research, bring to development policy debates.

Monday, September 20, 2010

berkman Series: Becoming a Networked Nonprofit

Tuesday, October 5, 12:30 pm

Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
Many nonprofit organizations have dipped their toes into the set-me-free world powered by social media, but too many still have trepidations about turning their organizations inside out to take full advantage of the new tools. The Networked Nonprofit, a new bestselling book by leading bloggers and thinkers, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, enables organizations to overcome their fears of losing control and evolve to meet the informational and cultural needs of today's donors and volunteers. In their research, Allison and Beth discovered that the organizations that are immersed in social media — whether they are created that way or are becoming so — look and act more like social organizations than traditional organizations. They will discuss the myths and realities that make organizations leery of opening themselves up, and they’ll share specific stories of how other organizations have been successful in doing so. 

About Allison

Allison studies and writes about the intersection of social media and social change. She is the author of the award-winning bookMomentum:  Igniting Social Change in the Connected Age (Wiley & Sons, 2006). Her new book, The Networked Nonprofit, co-authored with Beth Kanter, was published by Wiley & Sons in 2010.

She is a Senior Fellow on the Democracy Team at Demos:  A Network for Change and Action in New York City. In 2008, she published a paper on young people and activism commissioned by the Case Foundation call Social Citizensbeta, and edited a collection of essays, Rebooting America, about transformative ways to reinvent 21st century democracy using new media tools. Allison hosts a monthly podcast for the Chronicle of Philanthropy called Social Good and writes her own blog, A. Fine Blog.

Allison was the Founder and Executive Director of Innovation Network, Inc. from 1992-2004 providing program planning and evaluation support for nonprofits and foundation.  She served as the C.E.O. of The E-Volve Foundation in 2004-2005.  Allison is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and New York University.

About Beth

Beth is the author of Beth’s Blog (, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits and co-author of the highly acclaimed book, The Networked Nonprofit, published  by J. Wiley in 2010.

Beth is the CEO of Zoetica, a company that serves nonprofits and socially conscious companies with top-tier, online marketing services.  In 2009, she was named by Fast Company Magazine as one of the most influential women in technology and one of Business Week’s “Voices of Innovation for Social Media.”  She is currently the Visiting Scholar for Social Media and Nonprofits for the Packard Foundation.

She curated NTEN’s “We Are Media: Nonprofit Social Media Starter Kit,” an online community of people from nonprofits who are interested in learning and teaching about how social media strategies and tools can enable nonprofit organizations to create, compile, and distribute their stories and change the world.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Legal Institutions and Economic Development

Thorsten Beck (Tilburg - Economics) has a new paper on Legal Institutions and Economic Development.

ABSTRACT: Legal institutions are critical for the development of market-based economies. This paper defines legal institutions and discusses different indicators to measure their quality and efficiency. It surveys a large historical and empirical literature showing the importance of legal institutions in explaining cross-country variation in economic development. Finally, it presents and discusses three different views of why we can observe the large cross-country variation in legal institutions, the social conflict, the legal origin and the culture and religion hypotheses.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Berkman Event: I'm in the Database, but Nobody Knows

Tuesday, September 28, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floorRSVP required for those attending in person (

This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
Co-hosted by Harvard's Center for Research on Computation and Society

A statistical database provides statistical information about a population, while maintaining the privacy of individuals in the database. A popular interpretation of this statement, due to Dalenius, says that "anything learnable about an individual, given access to the database, can be learned without access to the database." In non-technical terms, we will discuss why any such definition is problematic, and suggest an alternate notion of privacy for statistical databases, differential privacy, that arises naturally from an observation about the impossibility argument.

A thriving research effort has produced high-quality differentially private solutions for a wide range of data analysis tasks. We will try to give a feel for the broad spectrum of things that can be done by accessing information through a privacy-preserving programming interface. Finally, we will touch on some privacy problems arising in the context of behavioral targeting that are not addressed by this approach, and pose some questions about mitigation.
About Cynthia

Cynthia Dwork, a theoretical computer scientist, has made fundamental contributions to cryptography, distributed computing, and complexity theory. Her current focus is the development of a mathematically rigorous framework and algorithmic techniques for the privacy-preserving analysis of data. A Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft, Dwork is a recipient of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize and a member of the US National Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Attended USIP's Awesome Rule of Law Course

I recently attended the USIP's Rule of Law Course in Washington DC this past month and it was an excellent overview about the confusing and overlapping (and sometime contentious) field of 'Rule of Law', which we also know as 'Law and Development'. Piloted just this year, and highly recommended, for the curriculum, the networking opportunities and the wonderful staff at USIP (like Vivienne O'Connor)

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), (from it's official literature) is "an independent, nonpartisan organization, created and funded by Congress to prevent and resolve violent international conflicts. USIP’s mission is to increase the United States’ capacity to manage international conflict—to think, act, teach, and train. It uses its convening power to bring together diverse communities to devise practical approaches to peacebuilding"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Three Important Nonprofit Operations Manuals

Heather Carpenter, a colleague and my personal guru for nonprofit operations (ie intentional operations) in the US, has a very useful blog called Nonprofit Leadership 601. As I slowly set up operations here, I am reminded to adopt and adapt best practices. Her following post, which you can also find on her blog here, lists three important manuals with templates and samples. As I apply them to the work at hand, I will blog more about what I can adapt here and what might be too operationally or culturally different to use here.

Three VERY IMPORTANT Manuals for Nonprofit Organizations

Many times I've blogged about the importance of nonprofit operations. Ever so often accounting, human resources, and technology practices get pushed aside in a nonprofit organization because program work is prioritized as being more important. This is fine and dandy until a crisis occurs, like someone embezzles money from the organization or a disgruntled employee sues the organization. These types of things happen more often than not. That is why it is important to put the proper operations policies and procedures in place ahead of time to prevent these horrible things from happening.

Whether you run a new nonprofit or your nonprofit has been around for years, I recommend that EVERY nonprofit implement and actively use these three manuals in their organizations:

Accounting manual
Employment manual
General operations manual

The accounting manual will keep an organization in compliance with nonprofit specific Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), as well as protect its financial assets, and ensure that proper internal controls are in place. The contents of a nonprofit accounting manual generally includes:

· Division of Duties
· Cash Receipts Procedures
· Cash Disbursements Procedures
· Reconciliations
· Petty Cash Fund
· Purchases
· Fixed Asset Management
· Payroll
· Financial Reporting
· Grant Compliance
· Fiscal Policy Statements

Sample Nonprofit Accounting Manual
Steps for Creating an Accounting Manual

The employment manual will help protect an organization against employee lawsuits and grievances. This manual will also help nonprofit employees understand key employment policies as well as the benefits available to them and mandated by California employment law**. The contents of an employment management generally includes, but is not limited to:
· Employment Policies
· Leave from Work and Other Benefits
· Vacation and Sick Leave
· Other state mandated policies
· Conditions of Employment
· Compensation and Other Administrative Matters
· Grievance Policies
· Verification of Receipt
· At Will Employment Statement

**Always involve a personnel attorney in creating or revising your employment manual

Sample Employment Manual
Creating an Effective Employment Manual for Your Nonprofit

Personnel Policy ManualsThe operations manual will document critical organizational information and general operating procedures. This manual will also improve operational efficiency. The contents of an operations manual generally includes, but is not limited to:
· Security Culture/Procedure
· File Saving Procedure
· Back Up Procedure
· Marketing and communications Procedures
· New Hire Procedure
· Emergency/Evacuation Procedure
· Fundraising Filing Procedure
· Human Resource/Personnel Filing Procedure
· Events Procedures

Operations Manual Template
Operations Manual Example
Operations Best Practices
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