Making Local Democracy Accountable

Representatives from 10 countries met in Zambia in early December to review methodology from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA).

The methodology, called the State of Local Democracy Assessment Framework (SoLD), allows people to carry out citizen-led assessments of local democracy.
It has already been tested in nine countries and is currently applied in Ghana, Indonesia, the Philippines (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), and Morocco.

Based on the challenging findings of assessment teams made up of academics and NGO representatives, delegates shared experiences and discussed the various strengths and weaknesses of the methodology.

Specific issues included challenges for assessment teams in conflict situations, urban versus rural contexts, the impact of informal institutions, the adequacy of methodology in capturing the gender dimension, and the need to include accountability for improving service delivery as a specific topic in the assessment.

On the final issue, a small team of experts of which I was part, was invited to contribute to the SoLD discussion and to work more specifically on IDEA’s methodology for assessing accountability in service delivery which was piloted in Lesotho, Bolivia and Indonesia in 2011 and which will be revised on the basis of these experiences in early 2012.

Renée Speijcken, Researcher, UNU-MERIT / Maastricht Graduate School of Governance.

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Reflections on Globelics 2011

BUENOS AIRES: The Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation, and Competence Building Systems (GLOBELICS) is an international network of scholars who apply the concept of ‘learning, innovation, and competence building system’ in developing countries, emerging economies and societies in transition.

This year the Globelics conference was held from 15th-17th November in Buenos Aires. Considering the large number of presentations and variety of research topics, the conference was well organized and the hosts did a splendid job to make the Buenos Aires conference a memorable one.

The event was like a walking bibliography of innovation studies and development, with many big names being present there. As in previous years, UNU-MERIT had a strong presence at the conference, and all our researchers, alumni and former visiting fellows made it feel like a family reunion.

Our director Luc Soete delivered one of the keynote speeches and then a group of UNU-MERIT senior scholars, researchers and PhD fellows presented their research, including Pierre Mohnen, Jacques Mairesse, Shyama Ramani, Micheline Goedhuys, Michiko Iizuka, Jojo Jacob, Francisco Aguayo,Salih Cevikarslan, Radhika Perrot, Alejandro Lavopa, Shuan SadreGhazi, Ezequiel Tacsir, Lilia Sturbin, Giorgio Triulzi and Daniel Vertesy.

What was interesting in this year’s conference was a special track on social and sustainable aspects of innovation, which were discussed under the theme ‘Inclusive Innovation’. In Latin America, with increasing inequality, ‘social warming’ has become a hot topic. IDRC Canada, which was one of the sponsors of the conference also organized an invitation-only workshop after the conference to discuss a new research agenda on Innovation for Inclusive Development. From UNU-MERIT, Shyama Ramani, Michiko Iizuka and Shuan Sadreghazi took part in the workshop.

It was also announced that next year’s Globelics conference will be held in Hangzhou, China, which the Chinese delegate referred to as ‘Paradise on Earth’.

Shuan Sadreghazi, PhD Fellow, UNU-MERIT

Keynote Asia: Corporate Social Responsibility and Emerging markets

TOKYO: In early November I received an invitation from the University of Tokyo to give a keynote speech on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainable Development. Initially I was a bit nervous about delivering a keynote speech; but having a prior acquaintance with Bottom of the Pyramid initiatives in Japan and experience of working with a UNDP project on Growing Inclusive Markets helped to draw relevant lessons and prepare the speech well.

During the symposium, it was interesting to hear the experiences of Japanese public and private actors with regards to CSR and emerging markets. I especially liked Sanyo’s environmental initiatives to introduce safer and cheaper lighting to families living at the bottom of the pyramid. In the Q&A session one could feel the interest of the new generation of young Japanese students in the topic.

The representatives of Japanese firms also expressed their interest in taking CSR to the next level and linking it to core business strategies while enhancing its social impact. With the rise of China and South Korea in emerging markets, Japanese companies need to be more outward-looking and see emerging markets with a different lens. However, both sides admitted that traditional corporate culture and societal trends have yet to adapt to a different and more appropriate approach.

Social responsibility is deeply rooted in the Japanese philosophy of doing business and the country certainly has a competitive advantage in environmental technologies, which can be linked to green innovation for those at the base of the pyramid. However, technological innovations need to be supported by appropriate business models and become socially embedded in the local context. The latter is something that Japanese firms have less experience with. The firms seem to focus too much on their technological skills, while more attention is needed for accompanying soft/social skills, for example developing human capital and local ties to make innovations locally embedded in emerging markets and BoP.

In my keynote speech I argued that CSR can be linked with Inclusive business approaches to develop a socially inclusive innovation that caters to sustainable development in the South and benefits companies’ long-term growth. During the stay in Tokyo I also conducted interviews with representatives of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan International Cooperation Agency about new policies for linking private sector innovation with development initiatives.

Shuan SadreGhazi, PhD Fellow, UNU-MERIT