Development that Works
  • About

    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • Tag: owen-barder

    Found 6 posts.

    18 ways to fail

    By - 10 de April de 2014, 6:49 am


    Lately in my daily commute, I have been listening to audio books. This past couple of days it has been Flash Boys by Michael Lewis. The book is about how high frequency traders game the stock market exchanges – very complex systems – by front running purchase orders by a millionth of a millisecond.

    “Front running” is like tapping the right shoulder of the person in front of you at the line in the grocery shop when you are buying fish. In the nanosecond before she turns around, you sneak in front of her on the other side, buy her order for a pound of salmon, turn around and sell it to her for a profit, without her having a clue of what just happened.

    All in a nanosecond because this transaction takes place in cyberspace where the trading system is a complex web of millions of simultaneous orders.

    In the book there is an excellent discussion on how complex systems fail. One of the references it quotes is a short article (more of a geeky PowerPoint if you ask me) that lists 18 ways complex systems fail. I think they complement very well the discussions on complexity and development that Owen Barder has been having on his blog (I find numbers 7 and 8 particularly compelling):

    1. Complex systems are intrinsically hazardous systems.
    2. Complex systems are heavily and successfully defended against failure.
    3. Catastrophe requires multiple failures – single point failures are not enough..
    4. Complex systems contain changing mixtures of failures latent within them.
    5. Complex systems run in degraded mode.
    6. Catastrophe is always just around the corner. Read more…

    The 60% solution and the trillion dollar bill

    By - 27 de February de 2014, 6:50 am

    I came across an astonishing mind blowing number in my commute to work the other day, while listening to Owen Barder (@owenbarder) interview with Michael Clemens (@m_clem) on this Development Drums podcast (highly recommended -end of infomercial).

    The number? 60 percent.

    60 pc eng


    Sixty percent of the difference between the income of a person in a developed country and a person in a developing country that can be explained by one thing: the country you live in. Think about that for one minute.  Your standard of living is basically determined by where you were born.

    Not your education, your job, your parents, not your school, your friends, not your health or how hard you work. No. It’s your luck of being born in the right place that determines how well off you are in comparison with other people on this beautiful planet.

    So, where does this number come from? Read more…

    Random Monday links

    By - 17 de September de 2012, 2:55 pm

    a small sample size can also yield useful results

    If you are interested in water and sanitation issues, you should check out our publications. Did you know that Mexicans consume almost 5 times as much bottled water as Americans do, per person?

    Small is beautiful? A recent evaluation of a major UK government funded Community Driven Reconstruction Program in the Democratic Republic of Congo had the biggest sample ever: 1.8 million people in the treatment group. That is mind-boggling, even in a developed country. But a small sample size can also yield useful results. Read more…

    The top ten blogs and sites for 2012: a randomized list

    By - 4 de January de 2012, 6:56 am

    As 2012 slowly starts, and this being our first blog of the year, here are ten blogs and sites that are fun and interesting, in eclectic and random(ized) order.

    1. Roving Bandit is probably the best economics blog in South Sudan, according to its author Lee Crawfurd, who also blogs at the Innovations for Poverty Action site.
    2. If you like Thaler’s and Sunstein’s Nudge, then you should try Ideas 42, created by – among others- Sendhil Mullainathan at Harvard.
    3. The Khan academy has delivered almost 100 million lessons on anything between Addition to Venture capital.
    4. Chris Blattman is always an interesting read and gets over half a million visitors a year, not bad for an Assistant Professor of Political Science & Economics at Yale.
    5. View from the cave has an interesting list of blogs that it finds “interesting”.
      Read more…

    Failing successfully

    By - 22 de December de 2011, 3:12 pm

    By Belissa Rojas

    The race for accountability, transparency and clear results is creating incentives to report the positive: demonstrating that project outputs were delivered, and in the best case, that the interventions had the desired impact.

    A quick look at the monitoring, evaluation and reporting systems from the MDBs shows that there are clear incentives to communicate what was “accomplished.” If problems are mentioned, these are presented as justification for what was not possible to deliver.

    Many in the development world, are striving to show results via geo-referenced projects and products on maps. This necessarily requires simplification, highlighting what is most relevant in a clear fashion.

    Read more…