Publications

By freely sharing what we learn, we have built a reputation as thought leaders who translate ideas into action and action into results. You can browse through recently published articles from all our publications ( Checkpoint, Developments, Developing Alternatives, [email protected] ) below—or visit individual publication sites for a full archive.

Longing for my SuperApp: Where’s the American Go-Jek?

Digital

Earlier this year I underwent a major life transition. After over four years living in Southeast Asia while supporting DAI’s ASEAN-U.S. PROGRESS project, I packed up my Jakarta apartment, shipped my belongings, and said farewell to the people and place that had become my home. The year 2019 was certain to be one of adjustment and inescapable rev…

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Mark Your Calendar, It’s May 21

Developments

Every year on this day, May 21, the United Nations celebrates what it calls the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. “Cultural diversity,” says the UN, “is a driving force of development, not only with respect to economic growth, but also as a means of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritu…

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Lebanon’s Cornucopia: Value Chain Project Unleashes Potential of 10 Sectors

Developments

Six years ago, a DAI-led team went to Lebanon to learn everything there is to know about the country’s apples, avocados, cherries, grapes, honey, olive oil, processed foods, oregano, pine nuts, and rural tourism sectors. They recorded their findings—from identifying existing and new potential target markets, how many farmers grow the produce, wh…

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5 Takeaways From ICT4D 2019

Digital

This year’s ICT4D Conference took place alongside Lake Victoria in gorgeous Kampala, Uganda. It was my first time attending, and it was great to catch up with friends and colleagues (old and new) and marvel at how much bigger the ICT4D sector is since I first joined it in late 2010 and Ken Banks and I been invited to speak on the one mobile for …

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Building a Bridge to the New Era of USAID Assistance

Developments

In 2004, and for the first time, more money flowed into developing countries through direct investment, philanthropy, and remittances than through official development assistance. That trend has only accelerated in the years since.

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GIS Toolkit Overview Part I: Remote Sensing

Digital

Geographic information systems (GIS) are often misunderstood, or unknown to many. Even in the development community, we often have a shallow understanding of the technology once we delve into methodologies or use cases—particularly with satellite imagery, or more aptly, remotely sensed data. GIS and remote sensing are not synonymous, but scienti…

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Partnering for Social Good: What’s in It for (All of) Us?

Developments

Half the world’s 7 billion people lack access to essential health services. That’s a terrible number, and yet an enormous market opportunity. The kind of opportunity that might pique the interest of mobile tech entrepreneurs who note that while many of these underserved people lack healthcare, they nonetheless tend to have mobile phones and some…

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Designing A Wildlife Identification Tool in the Philippines

Digital

Human-centered design (HCD)—the design and management framework pioneered by greats like IDEO.org and taught in countless design and business schools—is taking the development world by storm. And rightly so, in our opinion. HCD’s focus on empathy and creativity helps us design better, more sustainable solutions to some of the most difficult deve…

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Apply Now to Redesign the USAID Center for Digital Development’s mAccess Online Platform

Digital

A digital ecosystem is the how and why users interact with government services, digital financial tools, and each other using mobile devices. A single data point alone may not tell the whole story for digital inclusion and how to best reach those in low-connectivity settings globally. To help address this challenge, the U.S. Agency for Internati…

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Digital Identity Series Part 2: Digital Identity and Politics

Digital

Welcome back to the Digital Identity series. This week we continue the discussion of digital identity, with a focus on the politics of digital identification. Let’s start with the recognition that a formal identity is often a starting point for inclusion—without it, a person may not be able to access services such as health care, banking, or edu…

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Hold the Charcoal: Diverting Sub-Saharan Africa’s Demand for a Destructive Energy Source

Developments

Charcoal and other solid biomass fuels are still used in 70 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa, killing more than 4 million people annually and depleting forests, in turn reducing rainfall and contributing to climate change and other impacts. Luckily, it is not too late for Sub-Saharan Africa to avert a charcoal-induced public health and environmenta…

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What Makes This Wireless Technology (5G) Different From All Other Wireless Technologies?

Digital

When thinking about the internet in an ideal world, I often think of an independent platform that provides a mechanism for free expression, commerce, and the exchange of ideas. Yet, as more and more of the global population comes online, the internet has become a reflection of global dynamics and geopolitical undercurrents. Today, this reality i…

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5 Tips for Doing International Design Research

Digital

DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration (CDA) relies heavily on ethnographic design research in our work. By focusing our efforts on people and the institutions around them, we:

Define the problem in their terms, not ours; Learn of, and about, previous attempts to solve the problem; Develop our understanding of local culture and history, as well …

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DAI Global Health Partner THINKMD Embarks on New Projects in Kenya and Indonesia with Save the Children

Developments

In July 2017, following three years of development and validation testing, THINKMD implemented its frontline clinical assessment and data analytics technology in Bangladesh with Save the Children. We focused our work on the Rayer Bazar settlement in Dhaka, an overpopulated informal settlement where maternal and child mortality and morbidity are …

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From One Qualie to Another: Insights from Qual360 2019

Digital

I have a confession to make: I am a bonafide, card-carrying qualie. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this term, it’s a (nerdy) colloquialism to define people who are really into qualitative research. I swear, it’s a thing. So yes, I am a qualie. I have been involved in conducting qualitative, ethnographic research in some way or another…

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Getting Creative with Transportation for El Salvador’s Young Job-Seekers

Developments

An estimated 80 percent of El Salvador’s formal jobs are concentrated in greater San Salvador, according to the USAID Bridges to Employment labor market assessment. Yet close to two-thirds of the Salvadoran population lives outside of that metropolitan area.

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In El Salvador, Outsourcing Remote Programming Jobs to Youth Outside the Capital

Developments

Jobs in computer programming can help level the playing field for talented young people. While being young is often a disadvantage in other industries, youthfulness is an advantage in the technology sector where youth are digitally savvy and have an aptitude for new technologies. Working remotely on IT projects allows greater flexibility for wor…

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In El Salvador, Shifting Employer Perceptions While Getting Youth Work-Ready

Developments

It’s not easy being a young job-seeker when adults tend to stereotype millennials as unreliable or entitled. El Salvador is no exception. In a 2017 opinion poll of 2,000 individuals (ages 16 to 60) conducted by the USAID Bridges to Employment project across 15 high-crime municipalities, most respondents said poor work ethic and lack of motivatio…

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Three Ways to Make Hiring More Inclusive of Vulnerable Youth: Lessons from El Salvador

Developments

Salvadorans have a reputation as entrepreneurial, hard-working, and committed. In fact, El Salvador was ranked first on employee engagement among Latin American countries in Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report. At the same time, too many young Salvadorans do not get an opportunity to work hard in their first job and demonstrate their t…

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Game Mechanics—Great Tool for Designing Digital Development Services

Digital

📱 Smartphone connections continue to rise and people, globally, love to game. The Global Systems for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA) estimates that by 2025 78 percent of all developing market mobile connections will be smart. By that time GSMA predicts that India will be the second-largest smartphone market by adoption globally (ahead o…

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Digital Identity Series Part 1: Digital Identity and Informed Consent

Digital

This post marks the launch of a Digital Identity series here on [email protected] It is a pivotal topic to many of our technical areas: from health service provision, to cash transfers, and voter registration. It is also a topic garnering increased attention with the debate over privacy and data security—and the global refugee crisis reinforcing the …

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Nobody Cares What Tech You Use

Digital

Technologists and developers love to talk about the best tools for building new technology. MERN or MEAN stack, functional vs. object-oriented programming, vanilla development or frameworks. The internet is ripe with these discussions and attend any tech meetup and you’ll easily find multiple discussions comparing one tool to another. The perfor…

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Now More Competitive, Jordan’s Pharmaceuticals See Healthy Jump in Exports

Developments

Six Jordanian pharmaceutical companies have reported an additional US$55.6 million in exports since installing the electronic Common Technical Document (eCTD) system in December 2016. The installation allows the companies to register their drugs in foreign markets using internationally recognized standards, enabling faster and more competitive d…

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Is Your Data in a Lake or Water Treatment Plant?

Digital

They say to write about what you know. For the first part of my career and through my formal education, my work was all based in the world of water and sanitation. Glamorous stuff—pipes and pumps, fecal coli-forms and treatment options, toilets and activated sludge. It made for great dinner conversation (or so says my wife). At some point, I mad…

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Apply Now to Support Digital Tools and Approaches for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security

Digital

Rapidly changing access to digital tools such as basic mobile phones is changing the landscape for how we can address the challenges to ending global hunger, undernutrition, and extreme poverty. “Despite our collective progress in global food security and nutrition over recent years, a projected 702 million people still live in extreme poverty; …

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How to Ensure Voluntary Sustainability Standards are More Effective in Promoting Gender Equality in Global Value Chains

Developments

Voluntary sustainability standards (VSS) are guidelines that industry producers, traders, manufacturers, retailers, or service providers are asked to meet that encourage respect for basic human rights, worker health and safety, environmental impacts, community relations, land-use planning, and more. The standards include certification and ethica…

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INVEST: On the Frontier of Gender-Lens Investing

Developments

Gender-lens investing is gaining momentum and for good reason. In the United States, most gender-lens investors target companies with significant numbers of female leaders and board members. Investing in these companies makes financial sense because they have proven potential to outperform the market: Numerous researchers have demonstrated lower…

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KIC Mauritania: Winners Announced!

Digital

Since 2016, DAI has provided support to the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC), which got its start in Ghana and expanded its work Mauritania in 2018. Last week, KIC Mauritania’s 2018 cohort of young entrepreneurs pitched concepts to a panel of judges, competing for more than $85,000 in total seed funding. Unlike KIC Ghana, which focuses solely on s…

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Building a Culture of Innovation in Cambodia

Digital

Many in international development want to be “innovative,” but how do workplaces develop cultures that promote useful innovation? The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Development Innovations (DI) in 2013 to help Cambodian civil society organizations and tech companies leverage technology to address social needs. This ob…

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In Uganda, Local Hearings Show Accountability in Action

Developments

Audits, oversight procedures, compliance protocols—the language of public accountability can seem bureaucratic and dry. The reality in Uganda is anything but.

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Machine Learning Changes the Business Case for Automated Phishing Attacks

Digital

Researchers have demonstrated the capability of machine learning to help with everything from saving honeybees and tracking flu vaccine uptake, to aiding in the fight against bioterrorism, and plenty in between. But machine learning can also be put to less-scrupulous uses just as easily. Social engineering is a type of cyber attack that deceives…

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Lessons from the Fall Armyworm Tech Prize: The Importance of Ensuring Goals Align

Digital

One of the attractions of awarding prizes in global development is that the prize sponsor shifts the responsibility of achieving results onto competitors. While this approach can inspire a range of creative solutions and spur a nascent market, it also means many finalists will develop something valuable whether they win the award or not. For a p…

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The (Missing) Digital Principle: Educate the User

Digital

We in the international development community talk a lot about privacy and security in digital development. We try to think through privacy and security in terms of the data we collect, what we do with it, and even how we address issues of consent around data collection. There’s an entire digital principle about it. In discussions like these, pr…

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Improving Livestock Markets to Generate Economic Growth and Resilience in East Africa

Developments

East Africa’s immense livestock resources represent the largest proportion of Africa’s livestock population. Many millions of people depend on the sector for food, income, and employment, and it contributes greatly to the region’s gross domestic product and foreign currency earnings. Strategically located near the livestock markets of the Arabia…

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Will Feminized Parliaments Mean More Gender-Friendly Policies?

Developments

On January 3, 2019, a new U.S. House of Representatives was sworn in with 102 women members—a record number for the United States. All told, 127 women are serving between House and Senate, a 20 percent increase in the number of women over the previous Congress.

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In Afghanistan, Women Step Up to Fill Need for Frontline Healthcare Workers

Developments

Communities across Afghanistan—especially the dispersed populations in rural areas—have long endured a lack of basic health services due to low numbers of trained health workers and chronic security issues. But this situation is improving. Today, a program to bolster women’s inclusion in Afghanistan’s mainstream economy is also serving to fill h…

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Working in Agriculture? Using Digital Ag Tools? Please Fill Out This Survey!

Digital

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has worked with Missions to integrate digital tools and technologies into Feed the Future activities since 2015, first through the U.S. Global Development Lab-led Digital Development for Feed the Future(D2FTF) initiative and now through the Bureau for Food Security (BFS) (BFS). BFS works with…

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Building Inclusivity into Inclusive Education

Developments

Since the Millennium Development Goals were established in 2000, the number of out-of-school children in the world has dropped from nearly 100 million to 65 million, and in most countries, girls have achieved equal attendance in primary schools through hard-fought wins. At the same time, however, we are still not reaching millions of out-of-scho…

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Why the Time is Right for Access for All

Developments

Following is DAI CEO Jim Boomgard’s Foreword to Access for All, Brigit Helms’ new book on economic inclusion: For the first time in my career as a development professional—a career that goes back to the early 1980s—informed observers are talking in credible terms about ending extreme poverty, not just within our lifetimes but within the foreseea…

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Four Steps to Advocate for Government Investment in Public Health

Developments

In Nigeria, as in many countries, the government faces practical hurdles to funding health systems adequately and preventing sickness and disease among its most susceptible citizens. As Health Systems Advisor for DAI Global Health on the Integrated Approach to Neglected Tropical Diseases (UNITED) programme, I advocate for increased, cost-effecti…

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Can Online Dispute Resolution Change the Way Global MSMEs Do Business?

Developments

As a grad student in London in the 1990s, I earned a bit of extra money sourcing and exporting handcrafted furniture from India to the United States for interior designers. My U.S. customers were small businesses, but I was even smaller, so if I wanted to sell to them I had to take on most of the risk. On school breaks I would travel to India, f…

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Putting the Value in Land Titling

Developing Alternatives

What is a land title worth? The prevailing assumption in development circles is that helping smallholders acquire formal title to the land they farm will help them integrate into formal economic channels, invest more in their property, and access loan financing. But in practice most land titling programs have focused on the process of delivering…

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Case Study: A Market Systems Approach to Deriving Value from Land Certificates in Ethiopia

Developing Alternatives

Funded by the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), the Land Investment for Transformation (LIFT) project works to raise incomes for poor and vulnerable populations in Ethiopia and to enhance economic growth through second-level land certification and improved rural land administration.

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Case Study: Overcoming Land Tenure Issues to Stimulate Investment in Mozambique

Developing Alternatives

In Mozambique, the Innovation for Agribusiness project (InovAgro) uses a market systems approach to encourage investment by smallholder farmers in agricultural productivity, thereby boosting their incomes. But many of those smallholders find themselves increasingly at risk of losing their land to large investors who, with the backing of the gove…

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Beyond Boundaries: How Secure Land Tenure is Improving Lives in Rural Tanzania

Developing Alternatives

After Monika Lalika’s husband passed away, her in-laws did not allow her to use the land he had left her and she used to worry that they would one day claim the property for themselves. For Martha Paulo Mwilongo, a land dispute with her neighbor kept her from selling or renting part of her 11 acres to pay her children’s school fees. Joti Kihongo…

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Land Titles in Ethiopia Open Doors to Finance and Investment

Developing Alternatives

While still one of the poorest countries in the world, Ethiopia has made major advances in reducing poverty and increasing agricultural production in recent years. However, the pace of progress is constrained by inefficiencies in the rural land sector, including weak documentation and management of land rights.

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Baseline Study Prompts School Officials to Counter Violence in Honduras

Developments

Too often, in our experience as development professionals, baseline surveys can seem like proforma exercises—dry, mechanical constructs conducted at the beginning of a project, shelved almost as soon as they are done, then dusted off for the midline survey. By the time we conduct the endline, the project is closing. Baseline findings don’t drive…

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Women and Girls Advocate for Their Place in Afghanistan’s Social and Political Mainstream

Developments

Girls and women in Afghanistan are transitioning away from Taliban-era oppression to attend school, get jobs, and fully participate in mainstream life. Afghan leaders and politicians have enacted national laws to support this movement, but the reality in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces is another matter. Girls and women in too many locales routinely …

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How Can Developing Countries Identify and Allocate Resources to Pay for Health Services?

Developments

Governments in many low- and middle-income countries have committed to provide affordable and high-quality health services to their citizens. To make good on these promises, they need to identify more money for health expenditure and need to invest it more wisely. Our recent policy paper—Financial Management Mechanisms to Support Increased Gover…

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Iraq’s Prisoner Dilemma

Checkpoint

The rise of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist organization presented civilians caught in IS-controlled areas with limited choices. While a small percentage joined the group as combatants—either willfully or under coercion—more sought other ways to survive and provide for their families. In these situations, ordinary people can easily become compl…

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Demand for Private Capital Draws USAID Units to INVEST Program

Developments

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) units around the world are increasingly asking for specialized support to mobilize private capital—requests now being met by the agency’s new INVEST program. In less than one year, USAID missions, bureaus, and other operating units have hired the INVEST team to support 17 initiatives to develop m…

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Market-Driven Cash-for-Work Projects Show Promise in Somalia—and Beyond?

Checkpoint

Editor’s Note: This post expands on a report originally prepared for the Centre for Development Results. The Somali peninsula—home to 14.32 million people—suffered a devastating drought in early 2017, leading to widespread crop failures and livestock losses that have dangerously affected the region’s food security. The Food and Agriculture Organ…

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Report: Youth and Violent Extremism in Mindanao, Philippines

Checkpoint

Development responses to violent extremism are challenged by a lack of methods for rigorously testing assumptions about and determining the relative importance of different drivers of extremism. DAI’s Center for Secure and Stable States designed and implemented a mixed-methods research methodology for addressing these challenges on the Enhancing…

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The Money Trail, Part I: Safe Charitable Giving in Pakistan

Checkpoint

Counter-threat finance—the efforts to reduce the flow of money that funds terrorism and organized crime—has been a key component of the international community’s struggle against terrorism since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. When we think of counter-threat finance, international banking, money laundering, and oil smuggling come to mi…

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Q&A: Complexity-Aware Planning for Stabilization Programming

Checkpoint

In complex and unstable environments, standard performance monitoring is often insufficient to ensure activities remain relevant and adapt to the evolving ecosystem in which they are implemented. DAI’s complexity-aware planning (CAP) cycle is designed for situations where the understanding of a country’s conflict is narrow, conditions are consta…

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Alternative Dispute Resolution: New Evaluation Shows Its Impacts and Limitations in Reducing Violence

Checkpoint

In conflict-affected countries, formal legal systems often are limited, with department or agency staffs absent or overloaded or both, leaving communities with few or no dispute resolution mechanisms. In their place, communities tend to rely on informal processes or institutions to resolve disputes before they escalate to violence. Development p…

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Trauma Awareness and Healing: A Step on the Path to Peace

Checkpoint

I recently traveled to South Sudan to investigate efforts to address trauma in a region that has experienced nearly 27 years of war since the 1980s. As a global development professional and trauma educator, I don’t need to be convinced of the need to address trauma as part of a portfolio of peacebuilding activities. Encouragingly, an increasing …

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A Good Facilitator is Hard to Find: This Might Help

Checkpoint

As measures to counter violent extremism (CVE) are complex and unproven, development practitioners must pay attention to any and all variables that even appear to be important. One of those key common factors is the importance of a good facilitator. Luckily, the field of public health has much to teach us on this topic.

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A Tool in Progress: The Sub-National Fragility Index

Checkpoint

Is it possible to build a fragility index that is truly useful as a tool for day-to-day development programming on the ground? That’s what we’re trying in Nigeria.

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Words Matter: Pastoralists and Identity in the Sahel

Checkpoint

It is broadly understood that language—especially generalizing and dehumanizing language—can play a central role in fostering communal violence. William Donohue has shown how the language of classification was a key early warning in the Rwandan genocide, for example. Such instances should remind the development community to be mindful of the wor…

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Will the Real Bad Guys Please Stand Up?

Checkpoint

A review of “Conflict, Violent Extremism and Development: New Challenges, New Responses” One of the most acute challenges of working in conflict zones is differentiating between “legitimate” conflict actors and extremist groups. In countries such as Libya and Syria, state collapse has led to a proliferation of armed groups and institutions—all c…

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Engaging Women in PVE Programming

Checkpoint

Recent research by DAI’s Enhancing Governance, Accountability, and Engagement (ENGAGE) project team in Mindanao demonstrates that while membership in violent extremist groups is overwhelmingly male, there is limited evidence to suggest that support for violent extremist ideologies differs fundamentally between the sexes.

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What To Do About Fake News? Ask Kenya

Checkpoint

So-called fake news is an issue du jour in Washington and beyond. While it has undoubtedly been hyped for political reasons, fake news is real, its dangers clear and present—especially in unstable environments. Even in the United States, the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and subsequent Comet Ping Pong shooting in Washington, D.C., in December 2016…

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Mopti: A New Front in the Struggle for Stability in West Africa

Checkpoint

Since the Bamako Agreement of 2015, the international security and development community has invested in significant stabilization programs for Northern Mali, and specifically the Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal regions. Northern Mali and its roughly 1.3 million people are more engaged and resilient as a result, but now “the center” of the country—home…

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Welcome to Checkpoint

Checkpoint

The social critic and author Christopher Hitchens wrote: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” Research, applied learning, and fierce debates about measuring success and failure, about embracing new ideas and technologies, and about adapting concepts and practices from both the development and national defens…

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Good, Timely, Affordable Research: Can We Hit the Trifecta?

Checkpoint

Anyone who has worked in transition or stabilization environments knows the value of good research. But good research tends to have two drawbacks that constrain its applicability for professionals working in unstable environments: it takes time and it’s expensive. Even the best research, if it comes too late, is of little use if you’re working i…

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Developments

DAI’s newsletter, offering feature articles, opinion pieces, and interviews on DAI projects and global development issues.

Developing Alternatives

A forum for our professional staff and guest authors to share their ideas in depth and address issues of enduring interest.

DAIdeas

A companion publication to our Developments newsletter, showcasing innovative thinking in capsule form.

[email protected]

DAI’s Digital for Development blog on what we’re learning in the rapidly emerging field of ICT4D.

CHECKPOINT

Checkpoint is the blog for the Center for Secure and Stable States—where development and national security intersect.