Media in Peril: Taking a Global Stand

Media in Peril: Taking a Global Stand

The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has riveted the world’s attention on the Fourth Estate, rallying the public, titans of industry, and media sector veterans alike. ”Fake news,” election hacking via new media channels, censorship regimes, and the power of authoritarian leaders all depend on who wields the power of the press and effective control of the message. These issues have galvanized a resurgence in public support for a free press and for the bolstering of democratic institutions.

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Dreaming with Your Head Screwed on Tight: 10 Lessons from and for Social Entrepreneurs

Dreaming with Your Head Screwed on Tight: 10 Lessons from and for Social Entrepreneurs

The perennial question for social entrepreneurs: How to build a business model that achieves the trifecta of social impact, financial viability, and growth. Passionate people everywhere have come up with excellent (and not-so-excellent) ideas for improving people’s lives. But successful social entrepreneurs have identified both a game-changing solution to a market gap and a solid business model. A unique idea, financing, and patience are needed to build a successful social business that can go the full distance.

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Pathfinders, Influencers, Gatekeepers: Women & Entrepreneurship in Developing Markets

Pathfinders, Influencers, Gatekeepers: Women & Entrepreneurship in Developing Markets

Equality is not just a “women’s issue” but a global economic imperative. Closing the gender gap could add $12 trillion to global gross domestic product over the next decade. In developing countries, women’s entrepreneurship creates jobs, enhances overall economic growth, and is a path out of poverty for many women and their families. Women don’t need handouts; they need business and leadership training, role models, professional networks, and moral support from family. Women entrepreneurs also need a broader and more creative range of financing options to grow their business and realize its full potential.

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How Tech is Propelling Private Sector Growth & Investment in Frontier Markets

How Tech is Propelling Private Sector Growth & Investment in Frontier Markets

It takes a village whether you’re in Dhaka, Dakar, or Denver. This includes a public sector able to meet people's basic needs, responsible governance, resilient security, and a vibrant market with robust private enterprise growth and investment.

In frontier and developing markets ((think Rwanda, Myanmar, or the hardest to serve populations of India), technology is enabling new business creation, driving increased productivity in conventional sectors like agriculture and energy, and drawing deeper interest from investors, both those close to home and further afield.

Homegrown innovation that leverages technology, a deep understanding of local market needs, increased technical capacity, and a more active and diverse investor/funding community is driving market growth across frontier and developing markets — “leapfrogging” over developed ones in some sectors, including potential blockchain innovations.

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Why Development *Is* About Security, Stability, and Growth

Why Development *Is* About Security, Stability, and Growth

Development as an industry is pivoting — in the way a behemoth cruise ship pivots. It needs to pick up the pace to match the speed of modern, tech-enabled human society, to leverage the opportunities of a lately more engaged private sector, and to onboard a world of populist governments who are persuaded more readily by a security argument than an economic one. 

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Alliances: How Relationships May Shape (and Save!) the New World Order

Alliances: How Relationships May Shape (and Save!) the New World Order

Alliances (read: geopolitical relationships) first wrangled, then sustained global economic progress and relative stability after two devastating World Wars. The end of the Cold War ushered in a brave new world of threats, notably from non-state actors (Al-Qaeda, ISIS), technology (cyber, biochemical), and climate change. To address these challenges, cooperation among allies with shared values and goals is no less critical.

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Liberal World Order 2.0?

Liberal World Order 2.0?

Necessary period of adjustment to globalization and balance-of-power shifts… or The End Of The World As We Know It (cue music)? The latter 20th century liberal world order that brought relative stability, enabled democracy’s spread, moved poor nations toward greater wealth, and precipitated technological progress has hit a rough patch. Is 2016 the year the bubble burst or are we at the cusp of an inevitable evolution to the next cycle?

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Politics and Public Trust – Why Institutions Still Matter

Politics and Public Trust – Why Institutions Still Matter

2017: Out with the old, in with the…? As we ponder how a new administration will shake things up at home, populist movements abroad promise substantial change. The Brexit vote, rejection of constitutional reform in Italyrise of right-wing parties in Europe, and Sanders' and Trump's popularity are all indicators of a growing lack of faith in leaders, political systems, and government.

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Rural-Urban Divergence in Perceptions, Experience, and Values

The divide between rural and urban areas is starker than ever across social, political, and economic markers. This division influences everything from the pace of economic development in China to sectarian strife in the Middle East to political pivots in the U.S. 

In the 2016 U.S. election, “red” and “blue” counties each deepened their political positions for Republican and Democratic candidates, respectively, often delineated by rural, exurban, and urban geographies. Around the world, urbanization continues apace as rural populations in developing countries migrate to cities in search of better economic opportunity.

How will these demographic shifts influence the political, economic, and security prospects of growing cities and shrinking rural communities? How do policy makers and business leaders reconcile the respective resources, needs, and constraints of serving these different populations?

We will explore this divide and how it can be bridged at our monthly roundtable discussion. Suggested reading (additional articles will be posted on our Facebook page):

  1. How the Election Revealed the Divide Between City and Country
    The 2016 election exposed a chasm between urban and non-urban America that will likely widen under a Trump administration.
  2. Leaving the Land: China’s Great Uprooting – Moving 250 Million into Cities
    This series looks at how China's government-driven effort to push the population to towns and cities is reshaping a nation that for millenniums has been defined by its rural life.
  3. Why the War for Syria’s Future Will Be Fought Over the Country’s New Urban Villages
    Urban conflict in Syria is a byproduct of over ten years of rural village migrations – fueled by economic necessity and a persistent drought – into the outskirts of Syria’s ancient cities.

Opportunities and Risks in the Century of Cities

From China’s new Silk Road initiative that connects dozens of cities across three continents to urban behemoths like Lagos and Mumbai in the developing world, cities are more connected, concentrated, and influential than ever. 

The city is one of mankind’s oldest and most abiding social structures. The great ones have been destroyed and rebuilt many times over, outlasting empires and nations. Megacities – cities with populations of 10 million or more – are expected to grow from 20 today to close to 40 by 2025. We’ll discuss the improved connectivity that accompanies this growth, the opportunities for innovation and inclusiveness, and the challenges in terms of resources, infrastructure, and security.

On Monday, November 7th, we welcome guest speaker Col. Patrick J. Mahaney to our November policy salon. Col. Mahaney will anchor the discussion with his expertise on megacities, the focus of his role as Senior Military Fellow of the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Group.

Below is suggested reading to bring you up-to-speed:

  1. Megacities, Not Nations, are the World’s Dominant, Enduring Social Structures
    Today cities have become the world’s dominant demographic and economic clusters, though connectivity matters more than size.
  2. Safe in the City: Urban Spaces are the New Frontier for International Security
    Major cities of the world will increasingly play a large role in the 21st century distribution of global power.
  3. How Cities Are Shaping International Relations
    While countries negotiate international security deals, trade partnerships, and climate agreements, the power of cities to develop their own foreign policy is growing.

Additional articles will be posted on our Facebook page

Hitchhiker's Guide to 'One Belt, One Road'

All roads may lead to Guangzhou someday thanks to China’s ambitious land and maritime Silk Road redux that reaches as far as London and Djibouti. China's vast and complex connector initiative could trigger major shifts in the global balance of power with ripples across trade, enterprise, development, environment, and human security. We'll cover the top line intersections at our flagship monthly roundtable discussion on Monday, October 3rd.

Below is suggested reading to bring you up-to-speed:

(1) Our Bulldozers, Our Rules
China’s biggest foreign-economic policy ‘One Belt, One Road’ – which refers to ancient maritime routes and the overland trails between China and Europe (see map) – could reshape a good part of the world economy.

(2) China's Huge 'One Belt, One Road' Initiative Is Sweeping Central Asia
Beijing’s ambitious foreign-economic development initiative is redirecting capital abroad to reduce excessive industrial capacity at home while increasing financial returns.

(3) China Has a Plan to Take Over Eurasia — and America Loves It
Beijing has pledged tens of billions of dollars in investments for new roads, pipelines, power stations, rail lines, and ports to create a network of trade routes that link China to South and Central Asia, and to Europe.

Sustainable Development + Women and Girls = Powerful Global Growth

Summer has sailed on despite what the weatherman (and climate change) tell us. It's back to business! This year, the must-have color for autumn is: Equality.

Below are suggested readings for our September 2016 policy salon to bring you up-to-speed (additional articles are posted on our Facebook page):

(1) How Advancing Women’s Equality Can Add $12 Trillion to Global Growth
A new McKinsey Global Institute report finds that advancing women's equality could add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

(2) Promoting Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for Sustainable Development in Africa
Promoting gender equality is an essential component of a sustainable development strategy to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living.

(3) Free from the Taliban, How the Women of Afghanistan are Saving the Silk Weaving Tradition
42,500 women are involved in a project to provide a means of subsistence for their families and to lead the international market access for silk producers in the country.

The Brexit Club

From Brexiteer to Bregretter, what does the walk of shame look like when half the country is scuttling home, disheveled from a night of impetuous decision-making, wondering how they ended up in such a mess? 

In honor of our own American Brexit of 1776, we’ll do a post-mortem at our next policy salon on last week’s historic U.K. referendum to leave the European Union. We’ll look at likely implications for the international order, the E.U., and the U.S.

Below are suggested readings to bring you up-to-speed:

(1) EU Referendum: What are the Pros and Cons of Brexit?
The final result went 52% to 48% in favor of Brexit - so what are the pros and cons of leaving the European Union?

(2) Please Leave: Why Brexit Would Benefit Europe
The EU is showing grave sclerosis, and voices are calling for its dissolution; the moment has thus come to prune the dead wood of the tree to save the trunk.

(3) Brexit 101: What Just Happened, and Why it's Important for Americans
It does sound hyperbolic, but there are actually a couple arguments for why a Brexit may hurt the rest of the globe.

(4) Brexit Is Good News for Russia but a Headache for NATO
Britain’s exit from the EU will undercut its role as America’s key ally in Europe, leaving the continent more divided and distracted — just the way Putin likes it.

The Digital Inclusion of Girls and Women

This is a guest post by Jason Riffe, Founder and President of RiD+. He recently lived and worked across Haiti for 15 months implementing programs and advocating for economic, social, and cultural rights. Jason will be a guest presenter at our April 27th Workshop on Digital Inclusion in Fragile Communities from NYC to  Cité Soleil.

There is a problem that exists across our developing world. The lack of access to relevant technologies restricts girls and women from professional development, a livable wage, and a strengthened community. An inclusive society and an inclusive world requires training and access to current technology in order for the developing world to improve. If we look at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, specifically the municipality of Cite Soleil we can see that the barriers women and girls face are one issues and access to technology generally is another. 

When assessing the limits of digital inclusion for women and girls there are a number of variable issues to address first. Over the course of the 15 months that I lived and worked in this community, I realized digital inclusion is marginal if it exists at all. Firstly, Cite Soleil has sporadic access to electricity. Without this resource it is difficult to keep a technology center open for girls and women. Residents do steal electricity from neighboring areas, but the state power company does not provide resources here.  Since the community is impoverished, the state argues that they do not have any tax revenue to pay for the resources. This inherently means that the wealthier areas of Port-au-Prince have 24hr power. Secondly, there are very few schooling centers and only one that has a technology hub comprised of five touchscreen pads. This is a primary school that serves approximately eighty students. 

If we assume electricity is available, and technology is generally accessible, then the barriers women face are cultural. There is a cultural expectation that girls stay home and support the family by performing house duties to the detriment of their education. This expectation removes girls from secondary schooling around 12-14 years of age. This has traditionally been an expectation supported by the mothers as opposed to the men in the community. 

Soleil is a slum of approximately 400,000 people with minimal access to state infrastructure. Social services are non-existent, the majority of the population is unemployed and suffers from extreme poverty.  And yet in a community such as this, where families live next to open canals, where hogs feed off of the waste and refuse, girls and women are constantly searching for opportunities to better their livelihoods. They want a better life and they want to learn relevant skills. Working to include these women in the digital world will positively affect their livelihoods and improve the human condition.

The opportunity exists in communities such as this to integration technology centers focused on providing current relevant technology to underserved populations. Girls and women will be able to learn not just job readiness skills, but critical thinking and problem solving skills. Classes in coding and design can be taught  in a technology lab on platforms and operating systems locally available via personal smartphones. And the extremely poor will gain access to a global network of communication as well as an expanding network of entrepreneurial opportunities. We know the problem; we have a solution. Now let’s work together to provide a life of dignity for all starting with the digital inclusion of women and girls in developing nations.

First Mondays: Final Thoughts – April 2016 Policy Salon

Impact of Domestic Politics on Foreign Policy

This month’s topic provoked a wide-ranging discussion on the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy decisions. In particular, the 2016 election has provoked healthy public debate across a range of issues. While foreign policy is primarily the domain of the President and the dedicated professionals who provide policy advice, it is also clear that “domestic politics — the lifeblood of the republic — is necessary and inevitable, if at times inconvenient” for furthering the national interest abroad.

Elections and Foreign Policy. Much election research shows that US voters generally care more about economic issues than foreign policy concerns, but this year may be different. The terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and the recent attacks in Europe have raised fears and again brought international terrorism to the forefront. In 2012, terrorism was one among a handful of priorities. Now, the overwhelming focus is on ISIS, which eludes a firm set of policy options, and on Syria, a complex situation that has proven immune to clearly defined and easily communicable policy responses. The way we confront challenges abroad will need to become more adept and creative. Whichever candidate the voters consider able to confront these challenges will likely have an edge in the general election.

US Power – Perceptions and Limitations. There is a difference between the general perception of what the US can accomplish and the actual limitations of US power. Consider the difference between the recent moves by the US and Russia in Syria. Putin finally took aggressive – though limited – action to prevent the Assad regime from falling. Some regard this action as “decisive,” yet Putin waited four years into the conflict to help his ally with direct military support. Obama responded with more special forces and military trainers, but remains unwilling to put to put US troops on the ground. This action may have been influenced by US public perception that we should be “doing more.” More likely it was influenced by classic balance-of-power and realism theory, which dictates that every foreign policy move is, at least in part, a reaction to the moves of another actor, assuming that both actors are rational. Yet, in many foreign policy situations, all bets are hedged: an actor cannot be absolutely certain that a move is in his or her interest because there are so many variables. Articulating the myriad of things that could go wrong – or that it’s hardly possible to guarantee a favorable outcome – requires a greater level of attention than the public is generally willing to exercise.

No Patience with Strategic Patience. While opinion is divided on the use of ground troops against ISIS, Americans tend to like and understand what they consider decisive action in foreign policy. This bias for action fits neatly with our can-do American ethos. It is easier for the President to articulate a war strategy than it is to explain a strategy based on patience, negotiation, and diplomacy. Obama’s approach of strategic patience is particularly difficult to rally the public around, since that strategy depends on the notion that the US is strong and secure enough to wait for facts on the ground to change or for other actors to come to decisions that work in our favor.

Where Public Opinion Holds Sway. While many foreign policy decisions are made independently by the President, there are instances in which domestic politics is crucial to the conduct of foreign policy. For example, President George W. Bush and his administration spent an enormous effort to garner public support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Helping with this effort was a network of think tanks and media outlets, which one can argue should have exercised more skepticism. Ultimately, this full-court press swayed US public opinion in favor of the war, when initially it had been against overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

First Mondays: Final Thoughts – March 2016

Dickens to Davos: The Fourth Industrial Revolution – What It Means and How Business and Policy Leaders Can Respond

Thanks to all who participated in our March policy salon, where we tackled the issue that was top-of-mind for business and policy leaders at the World Economic Forum: The Fourth Industrial Revolution. These are our key distillations from the evening’s discussion.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is characterized by the integration of cyber-physical systems, the “fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres." This includes developments in artificial intelligence, robotics, Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and weapons, and 3-D printing, and crosses sectors from nanotechnology and biotechnology to materials science and energy storage. Progress is happening at an exponential rather than linear pace, disrupting every industry and precipitating the transformation of entire systems of production, management, governance. 

Is there really a Fourth Industrial Revolution? There is a perspective that the changes, no matter how fast or profound, are due to the evolution of the interconnectivity and network-building brought on by digitization. Thus, we are now reaping the benefits of the Third Industrial Revolution. The group discussed the need to be clear on terminology, especially definitions of technologies and processes, in order to understand which characteristics may be fundamentally different and what milestone might mark a fundamental shift to a new “revolution.”

Benefits will not necessarily “trickle down” to all. In every revolution, it is an unfortunate fact that jobs are lost and not all who are displaced will be able to make the shift to a new job that pays just as well or better. Retraining is a favorite refrain of business leaders who must make adjustments in order to stay competitive, and of politicians who must contend with angry, under- or unemployed constituents. Retraining is sometimes an option but can be difficult and highly variable, depending on the resources invested and participants’ potential for acquiring new skills. On the other hand, it is certainly true that technology has vastly improved the quality-of-life for billions of people around the world, increasing access to variety of goods and services and finding innovative ways to improve livelihoods, especially for rural populations and people with disabilities.  

Concerns about increasing inequality. One concern about the impact of the revolution is the division of gains between capital and labor. Recent trends suggest that small elites – the innovators, investors, and shareholders – will reap many of the financial benefits. In a political environment in which the safety net that mitigated some of the negative impact of the Second Industrial Revolution continues to fray, our leaders will need to exert the political will to prevent predatory corporate behavior and to reduce the externalized costs that often fall on the taxpayer. Business leaders, for their part, should focus on how to make the pie bigger for everyone, rather than how to take a larger slice. 

Power to the people. Technology has certainly provided the public with unprecedented access to information as well as a platform to make their voices heard. Digital platforms enable civic engagement to influence both the public and commercial spheres. For instance, consumers are able to post ratings for products and services publicly, which can prompt better service and a higher level of corporate responsibility. While the anonymity of social media tends to expose the worst of human behavior, collaborative platforms for social and commercial good (e.g., crowdsourcing, crowdfunding) have mobilized people to solve problems and exposed “the better angels of our nature.”

What can be done to mitigate negative effects? The group discussed the need to incentivize better behavior of corporations to ensure workers are not exploited and gains are spread more broadly and to raise productivity and employability of less-skilled workers. We need to have political will to address potentially egregious abuses from government (e.g., pervasive surveillance), to protect privacy, to guarantee network neutrality, to ensure data, security, and to regulate potentially destructive corporate behavior. We must also increase our digital inclusion efforts to ensure that all people have access to technology to avoid being left behind. 

Attack of the killer robots. Technological breakthroughs have enabled the development of autonomous technologies, such as artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, and autonomous weapons, aka “killer robots.” While it is possible to build technologically sophisticated systems, there is still a human judgement – call it “instinct” or tacit knowledge, the result of many years of experience – that is required and, in some circumstances, superior, especially where things don’t go as planned. We must think about the human element in terms of how we integrate these new technologies with our lives, how they can be beneficial to the human condition while mitigating the risks, what kinds of new jobs and training are needed. 

First Mondays: Final Thoughts – February 2016 Policy Salon

Thanks to all who attended our second member-facilitated First Mondays policy salon. Debi Spindelman asked us to think about how to engage business and policy leaders as we address the impact of stunting (a.k.a. chronic, early-life malnutrition).

Below, find our key distillations from the evening’s discussion and additional resources to explore the topic further. Mark your calendars for our next First Mondays salon on Monday, March 7th at 6:30 p.m., and look for an invitation to an upcoming special event.

Why the Richard Bransons, Ben Bernankes, and Bill Brattons of the world should care about stunting (a.k.a. chronic, early-life malnutrition)

Bransons, Bernankes, Brattons – you’re up! The nutrition folks have put together the right foods to reduce stunting. The humanitarian and development people have tried to get this food to where it’s needed. But these efforts are clearly not whole-problem solutions. We’re still living in a world that produces 159 million children so malnourished that their physical and cognitive development stops far short of their potential. This fact is a hit not only on our collective hearts, but on your respective sweet spots: the company bottom line, the country bottom line, and the CompStat report. As countries’ economies grow, leaders (like you) and operators (like us) across the business, policy, and security sectors can ensure that strategic investments are made not just in high-growth business sectors, but as well in poverty alleviation, nutrition security, maternal health, and early childhood development on the front-end and cognitive behavioral therapy and educational intervention for those affected by stunting on the back-end. These are long-term investments in the productivity of the global workforce and governance capacity in the most fragile corners of our world.

Stunting is a biomedical issue. It’s not only about quantity of food – the number of calories from fat, protein, and carbs, a.k.a. macronutrients; it’s also about quality of food – the vitamins and minerals, a.k.a. micronutrients, that make kale a better food choice than those fries you’re about to eat for lunch. Deprivation of micronutrients in the first 1000 days from conception (in utero) to 3 years of age impedes cognitive development, thereby influencing learning capabilities, IQ, judgement, and decision-making.

Reversible, or not reversible, that is the question. We queried whether cognitive impairment caused by stunting can be reversed to any degree across the lifespan of an individual. Most academics and practitioners have said, “No,” and put their efforts behind prevention. But Debi, who has spent substantial time in her career and throughout her life working with special-needs learners, contends that like other mild-to-moderate learning and behavior disorders, there may indeed be mitigation techniques for stunted individuals with a similar degree of cognitive impairment. These techniques could have a game-changing influence on economic productivity, law enforcement strategies, and public-private policy approaches in food-insecure areas with high stunting rates. Unlike the biomedically irreversible impairment caused by lead exposure, impairment from stunting may be partially reversible.

But, food is also a cultural issue. “Fixing” access to enough nutritious food is relatively straightforward, but changing how people engage with food is a stickier conundrum. Across South Asia and places with strong cultural gender biases combined with poverty, women, girls, and even expectant mothers (beginning the cycle of early-life malnutrition in utero) often eat last, after the most nutrient-rich foods have already been consumed. Further, nutrition is not simply sustenance; food also influences behavior and culture. Basic satiation leads to big changes in mood and behavior, as well as our ability to handle difficult decisions and learning processes. Thus there is a connection between nutrition, environmental health, and the social problems that often beset food-insecure communities, such as structural violence and higher enrollment in illegal activity. How do communities and countries change the path of food insecurity with behavior changes and cultural adjustments?

Nutrition is a money issue and money is a political issue. Poor communities are disproportionately affected and lack resources for remediation. Yet nutrition assistance is often a victim of partisanship in which social programs for the poor are framed as a moral hazard that incentivizes dependency. To pivot the conversation, we must recognize that poverty is not only a social issue; it is a primary driver of a biomedical problem that negatively affects children’s brains/cognitive development and their ability to be well-prepared, contributing adults of their communities, which, ironically, feeds the same vicious cycle.

Like the scourge of politics (#GetOutTheVote2016), cognitive impairment has broad implications for everyone. Whether cognitive impairment is due to stunting (caused by early malnutrition, neglect, or trauma), Zika-borne microcephaly, or lead poisoning, poor cognitive development is closely entwined with poverty and is a driver of reduced economic productivity. Conflict, disaster, and bleak livelihood options that stoke the fires of forced migration are tightly bound up with stunting rates (which are often double in conflict-impacted areas) and human capacity issues. Prevention efforts are great but attention needs to be paid to those living with this impairment to support them, their communities, and their countries
to fulfill their full participation in society.

For a deeper dive, Debi recommends:

Please feel free to share any additional thoughts or feedback by emailing us:
ideas (at) franklinstreetppolicygrp (dot) nyc.