Trendy Research Design: An introduction to Google Trends and how it can be exploited to understand the issue of Expropriation Without Compensation in South Africa
What is EWC? Why does it matter?
EWC stands for Expropriation Without Compensation. This is the practice that allows a government to take ownership of an individual’s private property without having to pay any compensation. Currently, a constitutional amendment allowing for EWC is making its way through South Africa’s Parliament. The policy change is being justified as a policy of land reform that would correct for the land equity issues that stem from Apartheid.
According to the November 2017 Land Audit Report published by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform, white individuals own a 72% of the hectarage of individually owned farms and agricultural holdings (Figure 1).
These land equity issues are deep rooted in South Africa’s colonial past and its history marked by the racially oppressive system of Apartheid. When the regime of Apartheid came to a close in 1994 as the nation began its transition to democracy, the racially motivated injustices of the past were influencing the present. Within the text of the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, lies the legal ground upon which EWC is built. It states: that “[a] person or community dispossessed of property after 19 June 1913 as a result of past racially discriminatory laws or practices is entitled, to the extent provided by an Act of Parliament, either to restitution of that property or to equitable redress.” Additionally, the Constitution allows for expropriation, however, it is subject to compensation. Hence, the push for a Constitutional amendment to change this.
So is EWC a good thing? Though it may be well intentioned, EWC carries the potential to bring disaster to South Africa. Historically, EWC has lead to economic hardship. Zimbabwe passed land reform policies allowing for EWC in 2000 and has since faced many negative economic repercussions. These negative economic impacts are largely attached to investor confidence. EWC may lead investors, both domestic and foreign, to doubt the stability of their property rights and thus they may choose to leave. Investor flight, is only one of the negative economic impacts. The economy is also intertwined with global politics. Alliances may shift due to this critical change in policy. Due to the frightening precedent of Zimbabwe, there is a real concern that EWC could bring to economic and political ruin to South Africa. However, despite the risks attached to the proposed policy, there still is support for it. But what causes this support? What characteristics are attributed to those who favor EWC? By using Google Trends data, we can attempt to construct stories of the factors which may be contributing to support for EWC.
What are Google Trends?
Before delving into the particular mechanisms of the proposed research design, it is important to understand what Google Trends is and what data it offers. Google Trends is a free and publicly available Google service which provides data on the search volume of different queries across time and space. Users choose particular terms, words or phrases and are allowed to specify time periods and regions of interest and Google Trends will produce a graph of the relative search term frequency within the specified parameters. Google Trends sometimes also offers data on further regional levels. For example, if one were to research how often people searched Elon Musk in the United States over the past three months, Trends also provides information on which states had the highest search volume in comparison to others. This search volume is measured in relative terms with 100 signifying the greatest term search frequency. This means that the peak of the graph will always be 100 which signifies the point at which the particular search term was most searched.
This is best illustrated through an example. With the search term “Matthew McConaughey” (specified as the American Actor), the following trend line (Figure 2) was produced for the United States in 2018.
There are several spikes in the line which signify periods during which the search frequency for the term was higher than average. The spike in early March was given the value of 90, the spike in mid September peaked at 80, and the last spike in late December was 100. The 100 value indicates that the term popularity was highest in that period. The other values are all relative to this peak popularity. For example, the value during early June was 42, which means the search term popularity was 42% of what it was during its highest peak. The spike in early March with a value of 90 indicates that the term popularity during that period was 90% of peak popularity.
Not only does Google Trends tell us when a particular term was searched the most, but it even offers some information on where it was most popular. These values are also calculated on a scale from 0 to 100, where 100 is given to the location where the term is the most popular. This value is calculated as the proportion of total searches at the particular location that are of the search term of interest. It is important to understand that the term popularity is relative to the total number of searches at a given location.
For example, suppose there are two regions, Location A and Location B. Suppose Location A produces four times as many searches as Location B does. Let’s say that 10% of Location A’s searches are of the term of interest compared to the 20% of Location B’s. Even though Location A yields the higher quantity of term searches of the two, Location B has the higher proportion of term searches. Google Trends would assign the value of 100 to Location B and 50 to Location B.
Going back to the Matthew McConaughey example, when analyzing the term popularity, Texas has a value of 100 indicating that the term is most popular here. Alaska is ranked 30th and has a value of 62. The District of Colombia is ranked last with a value of 46.
Google Trends also offers options to specify the type of term. The results of the Matthew McConaughey trend data specified Matthew McConaughey as the actor. Similarly, instead of narrowing down the term, it can be generalized by using search topic. The search topic is somewhat of a blackbox because the terms attributed to the topic are not published.
Now that the mechanics behind Google Trends have been explained, the research design can be understood.
What can Google Trends Tell Us about EWC?
For the study, we will be analyzing the search volume of the search topic “Expropriation” in South Africa from 01-01-2017 to 12–31-2018. Over this two year period, Google Trends provides the search popularity data at the provincial level. This study will exploit this regional variation in search popularity in order to correlate it with and regress it on various regional characteristics.
By correlating and regressing the relative measures of search frequency on regional characteristics, we can create a model that predicts how much a region searches EWC related terms based on its regional attributes. However, what does this mean? How should we interpret one region searching EWC related terms proportionately more than another?
At the very least, increased search popularity can proxy for salience of the issue at hand. Additionally, there may be a direction to the relationship. It is possible that searching the topic more expresses more concern and opposition to the policy, or perhaps the opposite is true. It is not even necessary for there to be a relationship between how frequently these terms are searched and the region’s general attitude towards the policy.
However, the possible hypotheses of direction could be explored. One method would be to compare the results from correlations between regional variables and the search popularity values with the results of correlations between the same regional variables and partisan polling data from local elections. If a pattern emerges, perhaps more could be said about the interpretations of search term popularity in the context of EWC.
Limitations to Using Google Trends
There are several issues with using Google Trends data, some of which have been mentioned upon, that should reiterated. Among the problems of using Google Trends data touched upon earlier, is the matter of interpretation. It is often times unclear what Trends data can tell us. Often times, Google Trends is used to support findings produced using other datasets. On its own, Trends data does not come with much confidence behind it. This is also due to its relative nature. Rather than providing absolute measures of search volume, it offers values relative to the most popular moment. Another issue is with the blackbox nature of the search topic queries. Google does not publish the list of terms it associates with the topic of interest. Lastly, another aspect that needs to be taken into account is the very small number of data points offered. This can be mitigated some by constructing panel data manually, however, the sample size would still be very limited in comparison to survey data with thousands of observations.
Coming Soon: Next Steps with EWC
The study is currently in the data processing stage. Most of the annual regional and Trends data has been collected and preliminary analysis is already underway. However, data is still being collected for additional variables of interest. In addition to collecting data for new variables, more data and observations are being sought for more years to allow trends over longer periods of time to emerge.
by: Devon Hsiao, Lillian Mauldin, and Savannah Whitmer
In February 2018, Cyril took office as the President of South Africa. During the same month, the South African National Assembly passed a motion to review Section 25 of the Constitution, also known as the ‘Property Clause’. The national debate on land reform takes place in the context of a history of land displacements dating back to 1913, when the colonial government passed the Native Lands Act that allocated only 7% of land to Africans, as well as rising unemployment rates in the country.
There are many differing opinions on the state of land reform in South Africa. A 2017 report published by the Institute for Race Relations indicates that most black South Africans are less concerned with land issues than they are with job creation and unemployment. The Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF) in South Africa currently advocates for the nationalization of all land, whereas the African National Congress (ANC) party advocates for a more specific, law-based approach to evaluating what land should be retaken. The ANC currently appears to support some form of expropriation without compensation (EWC), a process in which the government reclaims land without compensating the property owners, as opposed to a governmental buy back of land at a fair market price. The ANC also positions EWC as an economic move, whereas the EFF utilize racial rhetoric when discussing land reform.
As the debate continues in South Africa on whether to adopt a policy of EWC, we are interested in foreign reactions to the situation. Specifically, what causes foreign actors to take a stance on EWC?
Shadow timeline overview
A number of international actors and officials have taken explicit stances on South African EWC. The first documented official statement on this issue was made on February 28th, 2018, by Janice Atkinson, a member of the European Parliament. She tweeted pictures of a letter addressed to Boris Johnson, a UK Member of Parliament, in which she accused EFF leader Julius Malema of “[encouraging] farm terror and murder.” She went on to emphasize that “The British government has a duty to South Africa” and “as a commonwealth member, it is our duty to step in and mediate.”
Almost four months later, on June 12th, the IMF said that “the South African government should clearly articulate its land reform plans in order to lift uncertainty weighing on investor sentiment” and “the government’s stated priorities of strengthening governance and promoting employment presented an opportunity to accelerate economic growth momentum.” However, on August 30th, the IMF “gave its full backing to South Africa’s land reform plan... as long as the highly contentious process is transparent and based on the constitution.”
The tidal wave came on August 22, 2018, when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted out a racially charged disapproval of EWC. In the tweet, Trump asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “closely study the South Africa land and farm seizures and expropriations and the large scale killing of farmers.” The tweet also included a quote from Fox News stating that the “South African Government is now seizing land from white farmers.” The South African Government Twitter page offered a quick rebuttal less than four hours later, stating firmly that “South Africa totally rejects this narrow perception which only seeks to divide our nation and reminds us of our colonial past… @realDonaldTrump.”
Unsurprisingly, media outlets took to the web to offer both facts about South African EWC and subjective analysis of Trump’s tweet. Additionally, a slew of international political officials issued statements in the following days and weeks. On August 23rd, just a day after Trump’s tweet, Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton displayed concern for white South African farmers, stating “If you look at the footage and read the stories, you hear the accounts, it’s a horrific circumstance they face.”
Five days later On August 28th came British Prime Minister Theresa May’s statements on South African EWC. At a speech in Cape Town, she proclaimed “The UK has, for some time now, supported land reform that is legal, transparent, and follows a democratic process.” This endorsement came alongside her promise of £4 billion in investment for Africa’s economy, security, and young people.
May’s statements were followed by endorsements from China’s President Xi Jinping and Belgium’s Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders. Promises of more economic investment were made by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. However, Russian Stavropol government liaison Vladimir Poluboyarenko delivered an underhanded criticism of EWC as he began planning immigration trips to Russia for white South Africans. The South African government also received pushback from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who warned of a supposed detriment to foreign investment under EWC.
Looking at the types of actors taking explicit stances on EWC in South Africa and what they are saying, we hypothesize that political actors that are vulnerable domestically are more likely to take a public stance on EWC. To evaluate our hypothesis, we look at the case of Theresa May and the United Kingdom.
In July 2016, Theresa May became the Prime Minister of the UK following the contentious Brexit referendum. In her role as PM, she was charged with the task of negotiating the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. Part of her strategy appears to be engaging with partners outside of the EU, including in Africa; an October 2017 UK government white paper on the future of trade emphasized relationships with developing countries. In accordance with this apparent policy to focus on developing countries, May and Ramaphosa met in London in April 2018, where they agreed on a £50 million deal over the next four years to “identify and dismantle barriers to trade”.
In August 2018 on an “African Trade Mission” to South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria, May publicly came out in support of Ramaphosa and “legal” land reform in South Africa. The fact that in July 2018, a month before her trip, May’s approval ratings hit a record low, indicates that our hypothesis might be correct, and that domestic political vulnerability impacts whether a political actor takes a public stance on EWC.
Details on TM's Africa trade proposals
From 2010 to 2015, the United Kingdom’s investment in Africa fell from £50 billion ($63.8 billion) to £42.5 billion ($54.2 billion). As Britain’s investment dropped, China and the United States’ investment skyrocketed. But in August 2018, on her three day trip to South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya, UK Prime Minister Theresa May declared that she intended to boost the UK’s investment in Africa and become the largest investor in the continent out of the Group of Seven countries (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US) by 2022. Though her statement was tempered by the acknowledgement that the UK may not be able to match either China or the US in terms of “economic might,” she promised stable, long-term opportunities of the “highest quality and breadth”.
In the wake of Brexit and the UK’s impending March 2019 withdrawal from the European Union, May has been transparent about her intention to find an alternative trade and investment source in Africa. On her August trip, May made clear her proposal, which includes an increase in bilateral trade with several countries. This proposition affirms that established trade relations from European Union-era agreements will remain in place, as the UK currently invests billions each year in countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Sudan. However, May proposed a shift in funding from aid to trade and expressed her intention to focus on long term economic relationships instead of short term poverty-reduction funding.
May committed the UK to spending its £13.9 billion development budget in the best interest of both African economies and British companies, affirming the need to set up formal, systematic trading terms to promote private British investment. In August, she remarked, “I am unashamed about the need to ensure that our aid programme works for the UK. So today I am committing that our development spending will not only combat extreme poverty, but at the same time tackle global challenges and support our own national interest.” Economic analysts have surmised that her overarching strategy functions as an effort to publicize the UK’s global investment interests.
This plan was imperative to May’s trade mission in August, where she began in Cape Town by pledging £4 billion ($5.1 billion) direct investment to African economies, remarking that she expects these investments to be matched by the private sector. The stop in Cape Town held particular weight, as South Africa has the continent’s second largest economy and is Britain’s largest export market in Africa. In April 2018, when South African president Cyril Ramaphosa visited the UK, the leaders agreed that the UK would provide £50 million to South Africa over the course of the next four years in the hopes of creating jobs, reducing poverty, and attracting potential investors, including British companies. The agreement was an asset to Ramaphosa, who is seeking $100 billion in investments over the next five years.
With a rejected Brexit deal, a vote of no confidence, and a March 29th deadline looming, May faces continued political instability. Her approval ratings as well as cooperation from her own Conservative party are under threat, leading us to believe she will turn to other avenues of political support. Our hypothesis suggests a likelihood that May will push to increase foreign investment in South Africa and continue to publicly display her support for EWC. However, with the publishing of a controversial Expropriation bill in December and the upcoming 2019 general election, Ramaphosa and his party likely face upcoming political instability as well. Considering the trying Parliamentary circumstances for both May and Ramaphosa, the formation of a symbiotic relationship of investment and political backing seems entirely possible in the coming months.
Authored by: Kassandra Barrera, Mackenzie Salter, and Kiearra Ortiz-Cedeno
Background of Apartheid
Apartheid was a policy of legally sanctioned racial discrimination and segregation in South Africa that lasted from 1948-1994. Apartheid has ended, but the effects of these policies can still be seen today. White Afrikaners, although a smaller portion of the population, were given a disproportionate amount of wealth during this time period, and many of today's conversations revolve around how to fix this lasting legacy of inequality.
The Lead up to EWC
One part of apartheid that largely drove inequality has to do with land ownership. The disparity in land ownership can be seen in 1913 with The Native Land Act. This act defined a native as someone “any person, male or female, who is a member of an aboriginal race or tribe of Africa”(SAHO, 2015). This definition segregated black South Africans (“natives”) from white South Africans who were of European heritage. The act gave 93% of the land to white South Africans. Native people were barred from buying land from anyone except other native people, and they could only own 7% of the land. This was later increased to 13.5% in the Native Land and Trust Act of 1936 (SAHO, 2015). This inequality has been inherited by current generations, where although not legally mandated, wealth is disproportionately in the hands of white South Africans.
South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, and his political party, The African National Congress (ANC), has pledged to end the lasting impact of these policies through a policy known as “expropriation without compensation” (EWC). Expropriation without compensation means that the government will be given the right to take land from the wealthy, to help the public good, and redistribute it without reimbursing the person who it was taken from (Answers Africa, 2018).
On July 31, 2018, Ramaphosa made a statement saying that he would finalize a proposed amendment to the South African constitution that would begin to outline how expropriation without compensation can be implemented. The goal of this policy would be to help fix the inequality in land ownership and wealth in South Africa. This has provoked many different reactions internationally with many concerns being raised about the future of agricultural productivity, investment in the country, and concerns of discrimination against white people.
One of the main questions we aimed to answer was: What determines public support for EWC and what factors influence individuals’ opinions on EWC? To tackle this question we concluded that analyzing petitions provided a unique insight into what individuals around the world were saying, their goals regarding EWC, and overall opinions and biases. Specifically, petitions were gathered from Change.org and Petitions24.com along with the parliamentary petition databases of various countries. Change.org and petitions24.com are both websites that allow users to post petitions for causes that they care about. The general public can then respond to these petitions and "sign" them online. Petitions were found using search terms that were common regarding the topic such as “EWC,” “South Africa,” and “property rights” and were included in the data if they specifically mentioned the EWC in some way shape or form. From here various variables were coded for each petition such as the origin, when spikes in signatures occurred, the language and argument used, as well as who started and was signing the petitions. The hard data gathered depended on the information each individual platform provided and was not uniform through all petitions. Tableau was then used to analyze the variables coded and display that data.
We began some preliminary data analysis and concluded that the majority of petitions found displayed a position against EWC and were aligned with a far-right mentality. This was especially evident in the petitions found on the Change.org platform. A total of 25 petitions were gathered, all were against EWC and 19 mentioned the murder of white South Africans and/or farmers as a reason why. We aligned the mentioning of murdering of these individuals with a far-right mentality because these accusations are promoted by far-right organizations, media outlets, and journalists. Credible media sources such as BBC news have concluded that “there is no reliable data to suggest farmers are at greater risk of being murdered than the average South African” (Chothia, 2018). As can also be seen in the first figure, the majority of petitions originated and targeted the United States. This could be partially due to AfriForum leaders, a South African lobby group focused on the protection of Afrikaner culture, having toured the US, and the extreme right organization Suidlanders visit to the US. This could also be due to Fox News airing a program about farmer killings, and President Trump’s tweet regarding EWC and farm murders occurring in South Africa. In addition, petitions from around the world reference to this occurrence of “white genocide” could be attributed to Suidlanders’ members meeting with far-right activists including David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan that has helped spread their message through their network.
One of the petitions that had the most signatures was found on the Petitons24.com platform. This petition was titled “Petition to Protect the Property Rights for the People of South Africa” and gained a total of 268 signatures thus far. It was created by caucus leader Cllr Phillip De Lange of the DA Ekurhuleni Caucus in order to prevent the initiation of the process of land expropriation without compensation in Ekurhuleni. This petition was created in early October 2018 as a result of Mayor Mzwandile Masina announcing that he wanted to be the “first Metro in Gauteng to expropriate land without compensation for the purposes of human settlement,” which would serve as a test of Section 25 of the Constitution. The plan included 4 properties, 3 private properties whose owners have relinquished their property rights and 1 governmental property in Benoni. As can be seen in the figure below, the majority of signatures originated from the town of Benoni from the city of Ekurhuleni in the province of Gauteng, but overall the majority of signatures came from towns in the city of Ekurhuleni and Gauteng as a whole. There were two seperate spikes in signatures, one between October 11th and the 15th, and a second spike between October 20th and 21st.
There are two prominent limitations that we came across when analyzing the petitions. One is not being able to search for petitions published in different languages, specifically on the Petitions24.com website. There is a probability that petitions in other languages would display a different stance, especially those originating from South Africa. The second is that since these petitions are online individuals that do not have access to a computer or the internet do not have the ability to participate. Therefore, these petitions are only seen and created by wealthier individuals, which encompasses the white minority, which may also be the reason why the majority of the petitions are against EWC.
Importance & Possible Next Steps
Overall producing and analyzing this type of data allows us to see what portion of the population is speaking out about EWC and why. From here we can notice interesting findings that we can feed off of to further investigate responses to the progress made and expand on the research that is not yet available about EWC.
Next steps for the Petition24.com petition can be to see what is causing the spikes in signatures during the mentioned dates. Possible factors could be announcements or advancements of EWC policy passing, a new popular article being published, or even a political figure speaking out. Coordination can be carried out with the Search Term Analysis team to see if there were spikes in EWC search terms in Gauteng during these dates as well. Another question that could be investigated is why signatures are coming from a certain town, specifically why are signatures so much higher in Benoni. Possible factors may be that there is a certain industry in the area that will be impacted or that a large portion of white South Africans live there and will be affected.
In regards to all the petitions in general, it would be interesting to see what the respective governments are doing in regards to them and the requests laid out. Specifically, if government officials are taking the petitions seriously, ignoring them, or taking an opposing stand. Lastly, it would be interesting to develop a public opinion survey and send it to the individuals that have created or signed petitions as well as distribute it to various individuals that live in South Africa. This would allow us to gather personal data on each individual's to see what specific factors are correlated with supporting EWC and with opposing the EWC.
News regarding EWC is developing day by day, and it is yet to be seen whether it will happen successfully. Through our research, we were able to analyze the mentality of those most passionate about EWC through petitions and determine possible reasons for the sources of these petitions. We will continue to track and analyze South Africa’s progress regarding EWC and be able to see if opinions have changed once the amendment language is released in March of 2019.
To interact and view the figures on the Tableau Public platform please visit the links below.
Kedibone. (2015, October 14). The Native Land Act is passed. Retrieved from https://www.sa
history. org. za/ dated-event/native-land-act-passed
Apartheid in South Africa: How it Happened and Everything to Know. (2018, April 16).
Retrieved from https://answersafrica.com/what-is-south-africa-apartheid-and-when-did -it -happe n.html
Chothia, F. (2018, September 01). South Africa: The groups playing on the fears of a 'white
genocide'. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-45336840
I was born in Austin, Texas, but my parents are first-generation immigrants from India. A few summers after I had gotten my first period, my family and I made one of our many trips to see family in India. I had brought my own sanitary napkins, but I struggled to maintain my own menstrual hygiene while in India because of the lack of clean toilets. I wondered what Indian women did while on their periods, especially if they were in even more rural areas. I became so curious, I turned to my mom, and finally to my grandma, who told me she used to use a rag or cloth when she was on her period. At that time, I couldn’t understand how you could keep using one rag while on your period, because in America we don’t have to think twice about it. As I did more research, I learned from UNICEF that 28% of the students in India do not go to school during their period, due to lack of facilities and materials. They’re forced to hide due to cultural taboos, which means they can’t often dry their cloths properly and they can pick up dust which can lead to infections that can greatly alter their lives. I knew we had to do something.
I raised over $4,500, or 292,000 Rupees by reaching out to friends, family, and local businesses in the Indian community in Austin and found incredible support. We bought the machine and had it transported to Dityakhedi, Rajasthan, near where my father grew up. My family then went to India to help set up the machine and hold educational discussions with the young women of the villages about puberty, menstruation, and menstrual hygiene, which was all nonexistent in their school curriculum. The education piece was my favorite part. We used the Hindi Menstrupedia video resources and Hindi brochures we made from scratch. After we brought the information to the girls, we then opened the conversation and discussed these topics. They asked so many questions and really seemed receptive to the information. In our first trip, we visited 4 different villages and discussed with about 150 girls. After those discussions, we knew we had to continue. That’s how The MAHI (Menstrual Awareness and Hygiene in India) Project came to be. Because of this, I was chosen as one of the top ten outstanding Gold Award projects in the country, earning the National Young Woman of Distinction Award and Scholarship, which opened even more doors for me.
After a year, however, I had gotten a bit older and wiser, and I learned that my initial approach had many flaws. The machine was not being used to its full capacity in Rajasthan, and I did not want it to fall into disuse. I realized that this wasn’t a failure, but rather a learning opportunity and a first step in a very long journey where we’re constantly trying to improve. We made the decision to move the machine to Kerala, in South India, where we worked with low-income school to partner with a group of unemployed women and create an ongoing initiative using the machine. This past March, my family visited one more time to take the educational piece to 5 different schools in the rural parts of Lucknow. There, we asked the girls if they talked to their moms or sisters about their periods or if they knew why periods happened, the girls shook their heads “no.” I knew that the even the educational piece was making a huge impact on the girls.
Devika Kumar is currently a sophomore majoring in International Relations and Global Studies, and Plan II Honors. Devika is a first-generation Indian-American and thus has a strong connection to the South Asian region. This background inspired her to create The MAHI Project (Menstrual Awareness and Hygiene in India), for which she was selected, as one of ten, to receive the National Young Women of Distinction Award. Through her long-standing study of the Spanish language and culture, she also has a special interest in Latin America and its development. Devika is also pursuing coursework in Economics with hopes to further study economic gender equality in developing nations.
The power of networks is a central interest for the Global Indices Network Project. We deconstruct indices of global ratings and rankings in order to study their connections and relationships, which reveal information about the power of the indices within the network. How linkages form in this network of indices, how many times an index is used in the creation of another index, and how much weight the information from one index holds in another index are some questions we address.
What does the networked power of global indices really mean for the GIN Project? For the purposes of our research, networked power has a much broader meaning than simple linkages between indices. These connections matter, but more generally, we are most interested in the indices’ power to influence the structure of other indices, as well as their power to change actions of real-life actors. Different conceptual measures of how an index influences the network can be found both within and from outside the immediate network of deconstructed indices. The directionality and overall connections within the network may constitute an index’s power; its ability to generate attention and to affect actors outside of the network space may also lend to its influence. These concepts of power are discussed in more detail below, with some examples from our preliminary network.
Within the Network
At the base, the networked power of global indices comes from the density of connections that an index has to other indices. That is, the more connections that an index has, the more relative power it holds in the networked ecosystem of global indices. This is related to the network concept of degree. In the collapsed network of our first batch of deconstructed indices, the Worldwide Governance Indicators - Rule of Law had the highest degree (the most connections with other indices, regardless of direction) at a total of 19 connected paths with other indices.
However, it is not simply the number of connections that matter in our network - the directionality of a connection is even more important. In terms of our network, in-degree comes from the number of connections other indices borrow from a certain index, and out-degree comes from the number of connections an index borrows from other indices. The Global Competitiveness Index had the highest in-degree, with 17 other indices that borrowed from it. This could be an example of what we are looking for in a “powerful” index. If there is a change in the quantitative value or the methodology of such a highly connected index with a high in-degree, all the other indices that are connected – dependent – on that index will be affected, and a ripple effect will occur in the network. Meanwhile, if an index has high out-degree, it would be susceptible to changes in indices that it borrows from. The Worldwide Governance Indicators - Voice and Accountability had the highest out-degree with 18 connected paths. This means that it borrows from (and is prone to being affected by changes in) 18 other indexes.
As aforementioned, however, the number of direct one-to-one connection paths is not the only important factor to consider in defining the power of an index. In a network, connectivity needs to be considered as a whole in terms of the entire network. That is, an index that influences a number of other indices, which themselves go on to influence a larger number of yet other indices, and so on along the network pathways, would be able to exert more influence in the network through intermediary connections. This is related to the network concept of eigenvector centrality, which is a relative measure of centrality in the overall network as a whole, measured on a scale of 0 to 1. When taking all of the connections in the network into account, the index with the highest level of eigenvector centrality was the Ease of Doing Business Index, with an eigenvector centrality value of 1. While the Ease of Doing Business Index itself is directly connected to only three other indices (Basel Anti-Money Laundering Index, Global Competitiveness Index, and Millennium Challenge Corporation Country Scorecard), all three borrow from the Ease of Doing Business Index. Especially, through its connection with the Global Competitiveness Index, many more indices that borrow from the Global Competitiveness Index end up indirectly borrowing from the Ease of Doing Business Index.
This leads us to believe that there may also be indices with “hidden” power. When a lesser connected, lesser known index is connected to a powerful index, its influence over the entire network of indices has the potential to be amplified, indirectly, through this connection to the powerful index. For instance, the Country Credit Ratings has only one connection with another index, but because that connection is with the (highly influential) Global Competitiveness Index borrowing from the Country Credit Ratings, its power in the overall network is very high, with an eigenvector centrality value of 0.9703.
Outside the Network
Although looking at the power of global indices within their network gives us an explicit understanding of what networked power is in the structural sense, it is not necessarily the most tangible or practical way of conceptualizing power. In reality, the network structure that we are interested in at the GIN project is more or less irrelevant to the unquestioning user of an index. In this sense, looking outside the network can give a different perspective in conceptualizing power. We look at external network power mainly in terms of the attention given to an index, the external network of users it generates, and the power to influence action of such users.
In this external network, higher levels of attention toward an index are generated by the number of times an index is utilized and referenced in mediums such as journal articles, newspaper articles, or online posts. This is a self-propagating process, where additional users pick up and reference more visible indices with more ease, with the more frequently referenced indices becoming established proxies for the social phenomena they represent. Through repeated use, the information contained in indices grow power to influence academic analyses, news stories, and public opinion. A simple search of articles within the time range of 2013 to 2018 found that the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (17000 hits on Google Scholar and 445 hits on Factiva), the Corruption Perceptions Index (14500 hits on Google Scholar and 1318 hits on Factiva), and the Global Competitiveness Index (11800 hits on Google Scholar and 1458 hits on Factiva) were the indices that were most heavily referenced in academic studies and frequently cited in the media.
Going a step further in this external network of users, another way to define the networked power of an index is in how much leverage it holds in actually shaping the behavior of its users. National governments, international organizations, and advocacy groups produce indices that rate and rank countries to advance their political and organizational mission and exerting influence (Cooley and Snyder, 2015). In some cases, these indices become a mechanism of international governance in which rankings bring both financial consequences and political naming and shaming. In countermeasures/response to these scorecards, countries may choose to alter their policies, tailoring policies to improve scores and rankings. This type of action-altering influence can be seen as another form of the power of global indices.
We are still in an exploratory phase of networked power. With our ongoing analysis, we hope to refine our understanding of power in both the internal and external networks of global indices. Diving deeper into our database of deconstructed indices and identifying indices with varying types of power will be our next step.
Cooley, A., & Snyder, J. (2015). Rank Has Its Privileges. Foreign Affairs, 94(6), 101.
Hanneman, R., & Riddle, M. (2005). Introduction to Social Network Methods. Retrieved from http://faculty.ucr.edu/~hanneman/nettext/
Eun Young is a PhD student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests encompass topics of national statistics and open data for policymaking in the international development context, evaluation of foreign aid effectiveness, and transnational policy transfer.
When I applied to work at Ubongo, I knew that I was making a decision which would impact my summer, but I did not fully understand how much it would alter my trajectory beyond those three months. I was itching to go abroad and work at a company which prioritized education and I found the perfect opportunity with Ubongo. Their edutainment programs Akili and Me and Ubongo Kids were the perfect continuation of previous working experiences as well as a new opportunity to utilize my skills in another country. Having interned as the Education Coordinator for the Houston-based non-profit Advancing STEM for Students in Southeast Texas (ASSiST) the previous summer, I took my knowledge of managing small teams, creating educational videos, and working to fill young minds will 21st-century skills to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to serve as a Pre-Production Intern.
This position entailed researching topics related to social-emotional learning for the two programs, writing scripts that would turn into content watched by 6.4 million households weekly across East Africa, coauthor grants to ensure production could continue, and even voice my favorite character Bush Baby for a few episodes! The 10 weeks I spent in Dar taught me what it means to be a member of a team so focused on their craft and dedicated to producing unparalleled content. When I would brainstorm with my coworkers Annette and Esteria on ideas for an episode, I felt what it meant to take an ugly, half-formed new idea, put it out there, and transform it into a well-rounded end product. I changed from shyly offering my thoughts to actively taking a role in operating meetings throughout the course of my internship.
Writing grants with Shehz taught me an immense amount about the interworkings of Ubongo from viewership to impact studies and how to best leverage the show’s proven effectiveness to potential donors. Investigating the ways in which funders sought out the enterprises which they awarded grants to turned into an invigorating puzzle of reviewing past recipients and discovering how their pitch lined up with the vision of the funding organization. This philosophy turned out to be pretty effective as I recently learned that we were selected for the Templeton World Charity Foundation grant I co-authored worth about $250,000 USD.
Perhaps the most personally enjoyable aspect of the internship for me was working directly with the production of the show through directing the child voice actors and trying my hand at voicing myself. I had learned enough Swahili during my time in Tanzania to be able to guide a group of local students through voicing the script for a segment on the phoneme D I had written, instructing them “semeni ‘-oll’ kama ‘wote’ kwa kiingereza” or “say ‘-oll’ like ‘all’ in English” when the children had difficulties pronouncing the -oll in “doll.” For my own voice, I recreated muffled recordings from the actor who usually voiced Bush Baby and gave the rambunctious character a crisp sound. Every day at the office was something new, and there was never a time which I felt as though I was not using my full creative and analytic capacities.
This unbelievable opportunity has made me reconsider what I want to do with my education and where the trajectory of my life is heading. Because of how much I loved Tanzania and learning Swahili, I am currently applying for the Critical Language Scholarship to return to the country this summer and formally study the language. My writing abilities improved astronomically through collaborating with such talented individuals, and I now am certain that I need to have that sort of interactivity and exchange in whichever field I end up pursuing. I am forever grateful to Ubongo and IPD for providing me with this life-altering experience, and I am more than happy to discuss the program with any prospective applicants. My one piece of advice for it? Tumia Ubongo!
Nicole Pownall is a third year International Relations & Global Studies major focusing on Latin American Studies and International Security. Additionally, she is completing certificates in Core Texts and Ideas & Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies. As a member of the Governance team, Nicole has contributed to projects focusing on natural resource extraction and collection worldwide. She aspires to work in foreign service in the future.
Eight years ago I moved to Tanzania to teach at a failing international school. This past summer, I went back to Tanzania to carry out my own research. It felt amazing to be back in a country that I love. I had the opportunity of working as a research intern for 10 weeks at Ubongo in Dar-es-Salaam. I spent my time assisting with finding curriculum resources, helping to write curriculum for episodes, being a soundboard to the full time staff with early childhood related items and lastly, I was able to carry out my own research that I designed.
My two research questions were 1) What are children’s attitudes on gender and gender roles? and 2) Can Ubongo Programming serve as an intervention? These question emerged because I believe and research also shows that cultural norms that stratify boys and girls are still alive and well in Tanzania. Additionally, Tanzanian society is largely patriarchal and women are socialized to become homemakers and child-bearers and less value is placed on their economical and educational attainment. This also means women and girls are less represented. This history puts women in the roles of being submissive and men to be stronger and dominant. My focus is to disrupt this.
The research design was created by me with language and cultural support provided by three full-time Ubongo staff. This research could not have happened without them and the autonomy I was given, so I am forever appreciative of that. The research design was simple and child-friendly. I created three different activities that served as both the pre-test and post-test. The activities included drawing, a survey and storytelling. The responses to the activities provided insight into what children thought about gender roles and the possibilities of boys and girls. After the pre-test activities, children watched five short Ubongo episodes over the course of two days. The same activities where administered again for the post test after the children watched the episodes.
Findings from my pre-test study revealed that both boys and girls believed 1) a girl can never grow up and be President, 2) a girl will grow up to be a woman whose main job is to have children and take care of the household and 3) jobs are gendered and a girl can only have specific jobs (i.e hairdresser, selling food on the street and or being a teacher). Their responses portrayed the emotional, financial and physical vulnerability that girls face in East Africa. Additionally, the data revealed that girls internalize these norms more than boys and seem more challenging to shift. The post test showed a shift in thinking: 1) maybe boys and girls can grow up to have similar jobs, 2) a man should also help around the house, and 3) women are just as strong as men and can be stronger.
I feel proud of what I did in Tanzania with Ubongo because it showed me the work that still needs to be done and what is possible. Additionally, it reaffirmed my desire to pursue this opportunity with Ubongo because the work they are doing is clearly changing mindsets and opening up opportunities for change. My work is inspired by a vision of Black girls being able to live and exist freely but I realize this work cannot be done without chipping away at masculinity and hetero and patriarchal beliefs that are bigger than just gender. My findings helped me realize how socioeconomic status, cultural history, religion and etc. can be at play in concert with one another. This realization has helped be even more curious and read more, so maybe I can return to Tanzania for the 3rd time and do something even bigger and better.
Maureen Nicol is a PhD candidate in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus in Early Childhood Education. Her background is in teaching. Her research interests include education throughout the continent of Africa, Black girlhoods and Black female teachers.
This post was written by IPD Research Affiliate Jill Baggerman. Jill is a first year student in the Master's of Global Policy Studies program at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. She focuses on water policy in peace-building contexts. Her most recent work was at the African Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), where she focused on peacebuilding efforts in South Sudan and Liberia. Baggerman also has some experience in local peacebuilding and development efforts in northern Uganda and Bihar, India.
What can be done in Syria with its extreme levels of physical and social destruction? How can the international community begin to assist given the overwhelming need? How can peacebuilding and development begin under these circumstances?
Peacebuilding is considered to set the conditions necessary for eventual development. Peacebuilding is holistic in aims, focusing on creating a durable peace by addressing all root causes to the conflict. Peacebuilding practitioners focus on societal structures—physical, social, and political structures—to facilitate reconstruction of a conflict-afflicted nation.
Development is comparatively more fine-tuned to improve the livelihoods of a population. Increasingly, development agencies aim to improve human development, which incorporates healthcare, education, equality, and other social factors. Many of these goals are measured in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI).
Because Syria’s conflict has not affected the nation equitably, development and peacebuilding efforts will be complex. They cannot be easily categorized on a linear timeline with peacebuilding leading to development. Both are needed simultaneously.
In this article, I draw on data for human development and statistics on how the conflict has affected Syrian populations to make a case for where in Syria and what kind of development-oriented initiatives could most lead to a peacebuilding outcome.
Overview of Syria
Syria is a war-torn country in the Middle East bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed Syria as the center of their Caliphate in 2014, terrorizing the people and expounding the civil war which began in 2011. The urban population is 58.5% and the total population is estimated at over 18 million. Currently, those living under or near the poverty line—the working poor at purchasing power parity (PPP) living on less than $3.10/day—is 34.8% of the population.
Syria is in the lowest tier of human development, ranked 149th out of 188 on the HDI. The civil war and violence from ISIS are significant socio-economic challenges, though even before the war, Syria was ranked with a medium HDI at 111th in the world. Few countries have experienced this degree of a sudden drop in HDI.
Although contributing factors of low development in Syria are multidimensional, all factors are exacerbated by the war.
Syria’s Situation is Complicated
ISIS is well-known for planting land mines and their destructiveness. It is just being realized though that while they gripped power, they provided services typically considered the responsibility of the state. In several cases, ISIS provided public services more efficiently than the Syrian government had before them.
This severely complicates peacebuilding efforts and damages the government’s perceived legitimacy.
Because of this, in some cases, such as healthcare and education, development in regions of Syria must be restored to pre-war conditions before it can be further improved. In other cases, such as electricity provision, development in regions of Syria must, uncannily, be restored to war-time conditions.
Where to Focus within Syria?
I conducted a country-wide analysis of various livelihood indicators to determine which governorates (provinces) of Syria could be prioritized in peacebuilding and development initiatives. Key indicators considered were categorized as:
● the population in need of humanitarian assistance,
● multidimensional poverty rankings,
● internally displaced persons,
● education and literacy statistics,
● unemployment rates,
● poverty indicators,
● percent of the population relying on agriculture and intermittent employment,
● improved drinking water and sanitation access,
● malnutrition rates.
Within these categories, 46 governorate-level statistics were found and compared. Other indicators were sought, but the lack of reliable governorate-level data required me to exclude them in the analysis. Most recent statistics were used in each available case.
When indicators were compared, the governorates of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor rose to the surface as in the most need of initiatives. For instance, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor had the highest multidimensional poverty rankings within the country in 2009.
Comparison of Indicators Across Governorates
I then evaluated the specific development and peacebuilding needs of these governorates to determine what priorities were most likely to contribute toward a durable peace there. In this evaluation, data indicates that as soon as land mines are cleared, the restoration of livelihoods will depend on repairing healthcare, water and sanitation access, and agricultural systems.
Water and Sanitation Country-wide
Before the war, access to improved water and sanitation was as high as 87.3%, however, ISIS intentionally contaminated water sources as a war tactic. At various points in the conflict, in different places (including all major cities), and by both ISIS and the government, access to potable water was restricted or cut off. While household level studies are yet to be updated, nongovernmental organizations and UNICEF have noted that half of the population most in need of water and sanitation are children.
Water and Sanitation in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor
Water system improvement is critical for healthcare and livelihoods. Water contamination in the Euphrates River has reportedly increased levels of typhoid and hepatitis A in Syria. 75% of the 2,600 cases of typhoid from January-July of 2014 were in Deir ez-Zor governorate. Much of the nation’s water contamination seems to have come from when the ISIS controlled the Tabqa Dam, upstream from Raqqa, beginning in 2013. Conflict in Raqqa has also damaged governorate water systems, leaving communities to rely on boreholes and modifying their hygiene practices to accommodate for reduced water volume and quality. Unlike other governorates, Raqqa’s irrigation system was centralized, leaving Raqqa particularly vulnerable to the damaged infrastructure.
Agriculture and Food Security Country-wide
Nongovernmental and governmental organizations are assessing what impacts the war has had on the agricultural sector. From preliminary reports it appears that ISIS sustained and possibly even improved agricultural production. However, continued production potentially came at the cost of increased ethnic division because ISIS stole land from non-Sunni populations and sold it to Sunnis. These reports also indicate that Shi’a or Kurds have returned to agricultural lands to find damaged canals and broken equipment. Determining land equitable and proper land ownership will be a key challenge in long-term agricultural production.
Agriculture and Food Security in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor
Both governorates rely on the agricultural industry for food and livelihood security. Before the war, 62.3% of Deir ez-Zor’s workforce and 52.2% of Raqqa’s was employed in agriculture. Economic security was low in the governorates. Total unemployment in Deir ez-Zor in 2012 was 23.5% (the second highest rate in the country) and for Raqqa it was 21.9%.
The nation increasingly relies on irrigated agricultural land because of prolonged droughts and irregular precipitation. Since the war, most governorates have increased their irrigated areas, but because of deteriorated and damaged irrigation systems, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor have decreased irrigated areas—Raqqa from 110,000 hectares in 2015 to 92,000 in 2017 and Deir ez-Zor from 70,000 to 65,000 respectively.
Health and Nutrition
Before the conflict, access to healthcare was adequate. Severely or moderately undernourished children stood at 9.7%. The majority, 87.7%, of children were fully immunized. Recently, the infant mortality rate was reported as low as 14.8 deaths/thousand live births, though the maternal mortality ratio measured higher, at 68 deaths/thousand live births.
However, rates of malnutrition were staggering in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. Before the war, the governorates ranked first and second in the nation for highest rates of chronic and acute malnutrition. Raqqa also ranked second and Deir ez-Zor third for highest stunting rates in the country in 2006, with rates that are nearly unbelievable (see table below). Wasting rates in Deir ez-Zor were the highest in the country and Raqqa’s were also dangerously among the highest nationally. All this is despite the region being among the highest agricultural producing governorates in the country.
Percentages of Malnutrition Rates Among Under-five Children
Source: United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) “Syrian Arab Republic: Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey,” February 2008.
Healthcare During the War
With large swaths of the country at war, healthcare facilities operated at high capacity and in dire circumstances. Aid workers increasingly consider that hospitals and medical professionals are intentionally targeted.
By 2013, over 15,000 of Syria’s 30,000 doctors had fled the country. 5 of the 7 main health care centers in Raqqa were operating at limited capacity by 2014, when only 13 (of formerly 23) primary health centers remained open. Raqqa National Hospital, the only medical facility with dialysis services in Raqqa governorate, was severely damaged in 2014 and by 2017 provided no services. By that time, public health systems in Deir ez-Zor were operating at 5% of required capacity with chronically short staff and supplies.
Recommendations for NGOs and Others
To address these challenges, partnering NGOs and governments will need to be multidimensional and multi-sector in their activities. Cross-cutting issues to be addressed include out-migration, violence and personal safety, conflict sensitivity, drought and climate change, and participation in government.
Improved Food Security
One of the first needs is improved food security which can come from the ability to resume agricultural production. Development organizations and national partners could work with demining groups to identify what agricultural lands are already safe for resumed production. They could also link farmers with local authorities to select and prioritize additional demining locations.
NGOs may also consider food for work programs to repair irrigation systems and canals. They could also conduct trainings simultaneously on ethno-religious cooperation, conflict sensitivity, and the creation of a cooperative regional irrigation system. Such an initiative would target both the infrastructural and social needs of the governorates.
Another need, with great potential, is increased availability of medical personnel and access to healthcare. Organizations which work with refugees and internally displaced persons should identify and work with the 15,000 Syrian medical personnel who fled to determine what conditions would best quicken their return. Would they require safe houses near or within hospitals, for instance? Or could convoys be organized to facilitate their return?
NGOs and governmental partners should additionally create programs to improve the damaged medical facilities of the governorates. They could again utilize food for work programs to repair the physical infrastructure and partner with medical-specific organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, for provisions of medical equipment.
Again, development agencies could simultaneously aim to address long-standing social issues in Syria while aiming to increase access to trained medical personnel. For instance, they could engage in community education on the importance of women and caregivers being medically trained and provide information on how they can seek higher education in healthcare. Some organizations may even consider gathering resources to provide EMT training to women and caregivers currently in refugee or internally displaced persons camps of Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.
Improved Water and Sanitation Access
Necessary for both livelihoods and healthcare is improved water access for consumption and agriculture. Governmental and nongovernmental partners in Syria’s development and peacebuilding processes should consider how they can contribute to increased access to decontaminated or otherwise potable water on the household level. They could also train community members on how to test water quality in their area.
Water quality levels necessary for agricultural lands need not be as high as for household consumption. Nonetheless, organizations should also work with farmers and water engineers to identify decontamination methods appropriate for irrigation. For instance, NGOs could train farmers on how to test irrigable waters for pH, total soluble salts, sodium hazard (SAR), and toxic ions.
In post-conflict, development efforts can be an avenue to restore the damaged social trust among populations. Likewise, peacebuilding efforts can and should be incorporated into reconstruction and development initiatives.
Improving food security, healthcare, and access to water and sanitation in these recommended ways will not provide an elusive magical solution. Furthermore, the need for these things must be reevaluated with local and returning Syrians in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The data simply indicates that these are among the most severe of needs within the least developed of the governorates of Syria. Prioritizing these sectors can thus uniquely provide needed development and peacebuilding services.
"Ar-Raqqa City, Syria: Situation Overview V," REACH, September 25, 2017.
BBC, “Syria Country Profile,” British Broadcasting Company, February 7, 2018.
BBC, “Syria Profile – Timeline,” British Broadcasting Company, February 7, 2018.
Bethan McKernan, "Isis ‘Destroys Thousands of Years of Culture Almost Overnight’ as it Flees Iraqi Army Near Mosul," The Independent, 15 November 2016.
Central Bureau of Statistics of Syria (CBS), "Employment Indicators by Economical Activity," 2006, accessed April 18, 2018.
Central Bureau of Statistics of Syria (CBS), "Rate Unemployment by Governorates and Labor Force," 2012.
Central Bureau of Statistics of Syria (CBS) and UNICEF, "Multidimensional Poverty in Syria: A Comparative Research 2001, 2009," June 2014.
“Country Profile: Syrian Arab Republic,” The World Bank Group, accessed April 9, 2018.
Daniel Victor, “Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria: What We Know and Don’t Know,” New York Times, April 11, 2018.
Ellen Francis, “The War on Syria’s Doctors,” Foreign Policy, August 11, 2016.
FAO and WFP, "Special Report: FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment to the Syrian Arab Republic," Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Food Programme, July 18, 2017.
"Human Development Index," Human Development Reports, United Nations Development Programme, last accessed May 25, 2018.
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Jaafar Woertz and Eckart Woertz, “Agriculture as a Funding Source of ISIS: A GIS and Remote Sensing Analysis,” Food Policy 64 (2016): 14-25.
Kerina Tull, "Agriculture in Syria," University of Leeds Nuffield Centre for International Health and Development, June 26, 2017.
Marcus DeBois King “The Weaponization of Water in Syria and Iraq,” The Washington Quarterly 38, no. 4 (Winter 2016): 153-169.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, “Syria: Four Hospitals Hit as Bombing and Shellig Continue in Damascus Region,” October 7, 2016.
Mona Yacoubian, "Governance Challenges in Raqqa after the Islamic State," United States Institute of Peace, October 2017.
Omer Karasapan, "The War on Syria's Health System," Brookings Institute, February 23, 2016.
Rukmini Callimachi, “The ISIS Files,” New York Times, April 4, 2018.
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Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, "The Greatest Threat to People Returning to War-ravaged Raqqa: ISIS Mines," The Defense Post, October 20, 2017.
This post was written by IPD Research Affiliate Sebastian DeBeurs. Sebastian is a third year student in Plan II Honors and Government. His interests lie in developmental policy, political psychology, and poverty alleviation - especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. This past summer, Sebastian was a foreign service intern at the US Department of State in the Bureau for African Affairs.
Through the Bill Archer Fellowship, I have had the opportunity to work in Washington D.C. as an intern at the Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE).
ANDE is a solid network of development organizations, corporates, banks, universities, and other organizations that support entrepreneurship and small and growing businesses (SGBs) in developing nations. SGBs are formal firms that employ between 5 and 250 employees with a strong potential for growth (ANDE, 2010). SGBs play a critical role in entrepreneurship-driven international development, generating sustainable employment as small businesses and local economies grow. The wealth generated by small and growing businesses often stays within the community, spurring the growth of other businesses and cultivating a self-sustaining private sector over the long run.
Entrepreneurship in developing nations is especially important to closing the gender gap. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 26% of women aged 18 to 64 in are entrepreneurially engaged (GEM, 2017). And of these female entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa, 36% cite “necessity” as a motive to start a small business or engage entrepreneurially (GEM, 2017). There are a range of reasons that necessitate entrepreneurship, including the exclusion of women from male-dominant professions or the necessity to generate additional income to sustain personal livelihood and that of families.
While critical to local economic development and female empowerment, SGBs face several challenges in the developing world. To fulfill their growth potential, SGBs often seek between $20,000 and $2 million in investment capital (ANDE, 2010). Yet these enterprises are often too small to access the capital, knowledge, and networks they need to scale, and too large to receive microfinance and seed funding, if there is any available in the first place. This creates a “missing middle” of investment capital in which SGBs in developing nations cannot access the adequate resources required for growth.
This is why the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) is bringing together diverse actors from across the world to empower SGBs. By supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing nations, organizations in the ANDE network put the agency for economic development in the hands of entrepreneurs and small business owners. Rather than outside actors dictating what works, this way of conducting international development trusts entrepreneurs to build businesses and generate their own economic solutions to their local economies.
Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE) 2010 Impact Report. The Aspen Institute. 2011
Donna J. Kelley et al. Women’s Entrepreneurship Report 2016-2017. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM). 2017
As we wrap up one more year with IPD, let's learn more about our dedicated students. Jenny has been with us since 2015!
1. What is your year and major at UT?
I am an incoming senior at UT majoring in Plan II, International Relations and Global Studies, and Middle Eastern Studies, minoring in Arabic.
2. How long have you been in IPD and how did you hear about the organization? Are you part of a specific team within IPD?
I joined IPD in the fall of 2015 on the Conflict and Development team, and have recently been working with the Open Aid Team. I heard about IPD from Vishal Duvvuru, a fellow classmate of mine from a class we had together about NGOs and Terrorism. He could tell I was really interested in aid projects in conflict stricken zones, and suggested I join IPD. My experience in the organization has really helped me explore these interests Vishal saw I had, and I am so thankful he introduced me to IPD.
3. What is the most rewarding part of contributing and being an active member of IPD? Have you faced any challenges while working in IPD?
The most rewarding part of being actively involved in IPD are the people I've been able to work with, and the skills I've learned from data workshops. There aren't a lot of opportunities for undergraduate students to work and collaborate with students and faculty from LBJ, but I have had incredible mentors over the past three years that have taught me so much, namely Raheem Chaudhry and Caleb Rudow. It's also amazing to be able to learn skills in OpenRefine, R, STATA, Excel, GIS, etc. without taking a semester long class; it's helped me with so many projects in IPD and even in my classes. The only challenge I would say I've faced in IPD is being an undergrad surrounded by so many successful and intelligent graduate students. They have more experience with field work, jobs, and are more narrowly studying the things we discuss in IPD - it can be a little intimidating at times. This challenge has definitely helped me grow as a student and researcher interested in aid, governance, and security.
4. How does your work with IPD relate to your career goals?
My future career goals are pretty wide, but IPD definitely relates to all these interests I hope to pursue. I either hope to work with a development aid agency, the state department in international security affairs, or with an IGO related to foreign aid projects and security. I have a strong passion about effective, long term, and sustainable aid in conflict stricken zones, and IPD is preparing me to make an impact in this field by analyzing what makes foreign aid effective. This summer I'll be living in Amman, Jordan, and will be working with the non-profit Souriyat Across Borders. I'll be volunteering with Syrian Refugees and will help them develop a summer curriculum for their aid projects in Amman. I'll be using skills that I learned from IPD lectures and workshops to build this curriculum, and can't wait to see what more I learn to bring back to IPD in the fall.