Publications

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


The Whole Spectrum: A Holistic Approach to Climate Resilience

Developments

Climate change is a growing threat to global stability and national security. Decades of fossil fuel combustion and unsustainable land use have contributed to carbon dioxide levels in the planet’s atmosphere that are higher than in the past 4 million years. With so much carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere, the planet is getting warmer…

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How Tax and Budget Assistance Helps Developing Countries Help Themselves

Developments

In the United States, April brings warm weather, budding flowers, baseball season and … Tax Day. While not a joyful occasion for most, it is an opportune moment to reaffirm the value of assisting developing countries to improve their tax systems.

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Meet Honduras's Innovation Community

Digital

Chronogram of the 2016 Honduras Startup accelerator from hondurastartup.com In December 2016, I spent a month in Honduras helping launch the new USAID Local Governance Activity and, replicating some work I did in El Salvador last year, I decided to get to know the innovation and technology community. Why? DAI is currently launching four new USAI…

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Making Land Rights Real

Developing Alternatives

Land rights are largely taken for granted in the developed world. Yet for many people in developing nations, land rights have no reality. In the developed world, land rights are almost always recorded in secure registers, but this is not the case elsewhere. It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of the world’s poorest people enjoy neither se…

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Public-Private Partnerships for Land Administration: Can It Work in Cabo Verde?

Developing Alternatives

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have a long history as effective mechanisms for delivering infrastructure projects and more recently as vehicles for service provision. The use of PPPs for land administration services is less common, though there are a few notable successes in developed economies. In a development context—where donor-funded ti…

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Digital Insights Rwanda: How Do Rural Youth Use New Technologies?

Digital

In early March, I spent a week in Rwanda building a profile of how young people in rural areas use media and technology and interact with rural financial institutions (RFIs). With the help of the Rural Youth Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), we interviewed 116 young people (aged 17 to 34) in a ring of towns and villages outside the capital, Kigali.

A …

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Despite Regional Instability, Lebanon’s Honey Sector Reaches New Heights

Developments

Even before more than 1 million Syrian refugees crossed into Lebanon, the nation’s agriculture sector was struggling to serve its 4.5 million citizens.

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SXSW 2017: The More Trends Change, the More They Stay the Same

Digital

The annual South by Southwest Interactive Music and Film Festival with all of its thought-provoking panels, workshops, keynote speakers, and booths demonstrating the latest gizmos, gadgets, applications, and trends has come and gone—and for the second year, I was in attendance to make some sense of it all.

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Unlocking Capital: How USAID Pushed the Frontier of Financial Services and Built a Foundation for Economic Growth in Kenya

Developments

In 2010, as part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) designed the Kenya Financial Inclusion for Rural Microenterprises (FIRM) project. FIRM aimed to push the frontier of financial services into the agricultural sector where smallholder farmers—the bulk of Kenya’s 45 million p…

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Doubling Access to Safe Drinking Water: How Four African Countries Did It … and How Others Can, Too

Developments

In 1990, the East African nation of Ethiopia stood among the nations in most dire need of water development. Seventeen years of war had left its government and systems in disarray. Only 11 percent of its more than 48 million people had access to piped or other improved water sources; the rest used unimproved sources such as unprotected wells and…

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Jhatkaa: Tech-enabled Citizen Advocacy in India

Digital

Our top post of 2016 was my interview with Avijit Michael, the director of Indian citizen advocacy organization Jhatkaa. In his interview, Avijit mentioned they had created a tool for citizens to report local issues via WhatsApp. Needless to say, we were intrigued. So, in the spirit of investigative journalism, we sent one of our staff members t…

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Ethiopia Land Registration Ready for Lift Off: Now What?

Developing Alternatives

Large-scale land registration programmes such as the U.K. for International Development (DFID)-funded Rwanda Land Tenure Regularisation Programme have demonstrated that it is possible to roll out land registration programmes quickly and cheaply, on a national scale. Now, a similar but even more ambitious U.K. initiative in Ethiopia—the Land Inve…

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A Call to Arms: Shaping a More Innovative Approach to Adaptive Programming in Democracy Assistance

DAIdeas

While adaptive programming is at the forefront of development programming, its basic tenets are not new. As the name suggests, this approach implies adapting a programme to the specific circumstances in which it will be implemented and to the needs of those it targets, as they evolve. Adaptive programming means that the programme’s purpose, stru…

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Digital Insights Bangladesh: How Urban Youth Stay Connected

Digital

It’s late January in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which means I’ve managed to avoid the usual heat and humidity, but the bustle and throng are just what I’d expect of one of South Asia’s largest cities. Even though I grew up in India, I’ve never had the chance to travel to its sister republic to the east. And yet, all at once, everything seems familiar—th…

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Legitimate Land Tenure and Property Rights: Fostering Compliance and Development Outcomes

Developing Alternatives

At the request of the U.K. Department for International Development, DAI recently undertook structured research into the following question: What policies and interventions or approaches have been successful in fostering compliance with legitimate land tenure rights and what impact have these strategies had on development outcomes? The research …

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The Law of the Land: Recent Cases Show Legal Support for Local People

Developing Alternatives

International efforts to secure the land and resource rights of local and indigenous peoples are increasingly finding a friend in the law. National and international law, policies, and jurisprudence are coming together with “soft” legal guidelines and principles to yield stronger standards related to indigenous land and resource rights. Landmark…

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Afghan Municipalities Raise More Revenues, Deliver Better Services, Enhance Stability

Developments

The long-running conflicts in Afghanistan have threatened to reduce its municipalities to mere clusters of people rather than organized cities operating for the local good. But this is changing. Many municipalities are now gaining strength, establishing financial systems, increasing revenues, and improving service delivery by virtue of technical…

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Ecosystem Insights: How Trade Associations in Rural Afghanistan Use Mobile Tech

Digital

We’re pleased to launch a new research product on the blog today: Ecosystem Insights (EI). EI seeks to understand how key groups of stakeholders use digital tools to connect with each other and share information, pushing beyond the individual personas of our Digital Insights work to gain insights into how groups access and use ICT in both their …

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Enhancing Women and Girls’ Land Rights in Rural Sierra Leone

Developing Alternatives

Around 70 percent of Sierra Leoneans live in rural areas, the large majority of them depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Issues of land ownership, tenure, and inheritance rights are therefore crucial to virtually every rural household. But these issues are bound up in a system of customary law that in turn reflects endemic gender dis…

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Investing, Leasing Land, and Compensating Landowners: The Addax Bioenergy Experience in Sierra Leone

Developing Alternatives

Much has been written about the impacts of long-term land-based investments on local land rights, development, and livelihood opportunities—and much of the commentary, driven by notable controversies, has been hostile to the land investor. But while investors now have a plethora of guidelines and principles to follow in implementing their projec…

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Delivering Large-Scale Land Certification Programmes: Lessons from Rwanda

Developing Alternatives

The challenge was steep but straightforward. Survey, collect, and clarify information for all land parcels in Rwanda—an estimated 7.9 million plots that eventually turned out to be millions more—and provide lease certificates to all rightful claimants. Never before attempted in Rwanda, yet alone accomplished, this feat had to be executed in line…

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I Made a Facebook Chatbot (And You Can, Too!)

Digital

I’ve been excited about using chatbots in our work since Facebook’s F8 Developer conference last April, when the company announced that Messenger would begin to support them.

What is a Facebook chatbot?

Our Digital Insights work in Indonesia, Honduras, and Palestine has shown that Facebook and FB Messenger are hugely popular in the places D…

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Crowdsourced Data Collection Provides On-the-Ground Insights

Digital

At the end of 2016, we published a post on the digital data collection sector. In 2017, we’re delving deeper into this growing sub-field of ICT4D with interviews, technology reviews, and guest posts. We’re kicking things off with a piece from our friends at Findyr who specialize in gathering insights from emerging markets using mobile-enabled, t…

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Unemployed? Stop Looking for a Job and Create One—Insights from INC Monterrey

Digital

Guest blogger Caity Campos is a specialist in our youth and workforce development unit. Here she reviews the recent Innovate Network Create (INC) Monterrey conference, a gathering of global entrepreneurs from a variety of disciplines. Finally, a conference that wasn’t boring, cliché, or overly esoteric. The Innovate Network Create (INC) Monterre…

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Six Ways to Mitigate Instability in Central America

Developments

Some people might be surprised to know that most of the migrants trying to cross the U.S. southern border come not from Mexico but from countries to Mexico’s south.Eighty percent of the unaccompanied child migrants detained at the border in the year ending September 2016—roughly 47,000 out of 59,000—came from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras…

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Remote Sensing Part 4: The Everest of Satellite Conferences, SatSummit 2017

Digital

We reached the summit of satellite conferences this week! This is the fourth post in our remote sensing series. See part 1, part 2 and part 3. #SatDiversity and #FatData are two hashtags I did not expect to see blaring across the screen when I attended the SatSummit conference this week. These bold declarations are something new: a compression o…

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More Data, Less Risk: Innovators Chart a Path to Financial Inclusion

Digital

The phrase “Catch-22” was originally coined to describe a paradoxical situation that someone is unable to escape from because of contradictory rules or regulations. Think, for example, about the recent graduate who is unable to obtain a job because he or she does not possess any previous work experience, yet cannot gain any work experience becau…

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Remote Sensing Part 3: Identify Healthy Vegetation From Space

Digital

DAI’s excitement about the upcoming SatSummit is approaching perigee levels, with the conference less than one week away! This is Part 3 of our Remote Sensing Series. In case you missed them, here’s Part 2 and Part 1. You could live a perfectly fulfilled life while taking for granted all the colors that appear in the natural world. However, when…

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Remote Sensing Series Part 2: Landsat is the Stalwart of Satellite Imagery Platforms (and it’s Free!)

Digital

DAI is in a stellar mood about the upcoming SatSummit in Washington, D.C. Part 1 of the remote sensing series can be read here. Some incredible things were happening in the United States in 1972: Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” was the No. 1 song on the radio; the first “Godfather” film was released; and NASA launched the first in a series of satelli…

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Situamos a la Ciudadanía en el Centro del Proceso de Diseño en Guatemala

Digital

This post is also available in English. A finales de 2015, el proyecto USAID Nexos Locales recibió una solicitud novedosa. Fue enviada por Carlos Alvarado Figueroa, que acababa de ser elegido alcalde de Chiantla, un municipio de 75.000 habitantes en el altiplano occidental de Guatemala. Alvarado había sido elegido por su plataforma de transparen…

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What Good Is the Internet of Things to People Who Don’t Have the Internet?

Digital

As I write this, the annual Consumer Electronics Show has just wrapped up in Las Vegas, having introduced an allegedly eager public to smartphone-enabled hairbrushes, Bluetooth-capable vibrating hotpants, and refrigerators that tweet when you’re running low on soy milk. This is what marketing departments call the Internet of Things (IoT): device…

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GeekFest 2017: Q&A with Ian Schuler, CEO of Development Seed

Digital

Welcome to Geekfest 2017, a series of interviews featuring ICT4D thought leaders. Our goals in launching #geekfest2017 are: to highlight the people and organizations who are pushing the field in new directions, to feature their work and show how it’s different or new, and to support the growth of the ICT4D community. We’re kicking things off wit…

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Sexual Harassment Law Passes Afghan Houses, Awaits President’s Approval

Developments

Harassment in the workplace in Afghanistan is a major deterrent to women’s participation. In the private sector, women regularly suffer verbal and physical abuse, blackmail, and the use of authority to coerce sex. But this treatment extends beyond the private sector.

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We Need More Women on the Frontlines of the War on Hunger

Developments

In developing countries, something is missing in the war on hunger: an equal voice for women.

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Hiring ICT Staff (Or, How to Get 500 IT CVs Without Really Trying)

Digital

Kabul, 2016. I’d been here before: a cold cup of Nescafe and stack of overly formatted CVs on the table next to me, an over-worked HR officer slow-blinking at me from across the room in subtle panic. Of the 35 CVs in the stack, culled from hundreds submitted online, only two had any mention of ICT experience—the rest were full of network enginee…

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[email protected] Year in Review: Top Five Posts of 2016

Digital

That’s a wrap for 2016, folks. We launched this blog in February with a sense of curiosity and caution, unsure who would read it—or if it would be read at all. Since then, we’ve grown steadily to more than 2,000 page views a month, collaborated with colleagues throughout the ICT4D ecosystem to host 12 guest author posts, and had the privilege of…

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We’re Putting Citizens at the Center of the Design Process in Guatemala

Digital

Esta entrada también está disponible en español. Back in late 2015, the Nexos Locales project in Guatemala received a novel inquiry. It was from Carlos Alvarado Figueroa, who had just been elected mayor of Chiantla (CHEE-ahn-tlah), a municipality of 75,000 in the Western Highlands, and he had an idea. Alvarado had been elected on a platform of b…

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Next Steps: Making Countering Violent Extremism Approaches More Rigorous

Digital

This is a guest post by a friend and colleague of the DAI ICT Team, Ben Dubow. Ben is a partner at Omelas, a firm that works to bring together data scientists, software engineers, and counterterrorism experts to defeat violent extremism. Debuted at the annual meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Safe Cities, Omelas currently has operation…

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Remote Sensing Series Part 1: The Foundations and Applications of Remote Sensing

Digital

This is the first in a series of posts about remote sensing. DAI is entering an orbit of excitement about the upcoming SatSummit on January 31!

Origins of Remote Sensing One day in 1800, German-born British citizen and musician-turned-astronomer, Sir James Herschel was doing something we’ve all found ourselves doing on lazy Sunday afternoons:…

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Mobile Data Collection: A Sector in Flux

Digital

In recent years, mobile surveys and data collection capabilities have increased alongside rapidly expanding mobile phone penetration in the developing world. And with this trend, there has been a proliferation of small firms that have entered this space. At DAI, we realize that by allowing us to quickly capture hard-to-gather data and conduct su…

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Onshore Fish Farms Flourish in Gaza

Developments

In less than a year, an onshore fish farm in Gaza has more than tripled the amount of fish it grows and sells by applying technology and assistance from The Compete Project (Compete), a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program implemented by DAI.

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Simple Solutions: Nutrition and Garden Training in Afghanistan Improves Food Security for Thousands

Developments

As in many developing countries, mothers and children in rural Afghanistan suffer from chronic undernutrition, often because they lack knowledge. Thousands of families in northern Afghanistan are now enjoying improved nutrition and food security thanks to work by a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) economic growth program.

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Crowdsourcing Ideas—The Challenge Fund Model for Innovation

Digital

I apologize for using the word “innovation” in the title of this post. I know… I work in ICT4D and I’m supposed to be a champion for innovation in all its forms. The truth is, for me, the word has nearly lost all its meaning. Innovation is easily one of the most overused and least-understood words favored by businesses, academia, and yes, intern…

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4 Things I Learned at MIT’s TechCon

Digital

This past week I attended TechCon 2016, co-hosted this year by MIT and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). TechCon is the annual gathering of the Higher Education Solutions Network, a partnership between USAID and top universities to harness the academic power, passion, and curiosity of students, researchers, and faculty to so…

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Market Systems Development Boosts Farming, Nutrition in Bangladesh’s Southern Delta

Developments

Bangladesh’s Southern Delta—home to 30 million people—is afflicted by inefficient farming, persistent poverty, and poor nutrition. But a market systems approach applied by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Agricultural Value Chains Program (AVC), a Feed the Future initiative, is beginning to show great promise for the region.

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Counting People is Hard: Biometrics can Help

Digital

This is a guest post written by Ben Mann, a development specialist at DAI with a wide range of interests. He is a policy wonk; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) technical expert; ICT enthusiast; and general advocate for improved use of data and visualizations. Follow Ben on twitter @bhmann One of the core functions of an effective monitoring…

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Hey USAID, Want to Promote Innovation?

Digital

Earlier this month I had the good fortune to attend the Global Accelerator Network’s (GAN) annual Rally in Denver, Colorado. GAN includes 70 startup accelerators in 100 cities across six continents.

GAN CEO Patrick Riley and the managing directors of startup accelerators at the GAN Summit 2016

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Should Big Data Be Open Data?

Digital

This is a guest post by Michelle Kaffenberger, Applied Research Consultant, and Bill Kedrock, Independent Consultant. The post uses Nigeria smallholder farmer data collected through the Growth Enhancement Scheme as the backdrop for a set of initial principles to guide those weighing the pros and cons of opening big data. We propose that when con…

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App-a-Thon 2016: Viber for Development

Digital

As we’ve ramped up our Digital Insights work over the last few months, we’ve had the opportunity to talk with people around Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East about the digital tools they use to stay in touch with each other and the world around them. These conversations have reminded us that we have to work hard to stay on top of …

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Geeks Like Us: How Academic Research Can Help us Create Better ICT Programs

Digital

In a not-so-distant past life, I was at the PeaceTech Lab, a spin-off from the U.S. Institute of Peace. For the most part, the Lab executes in-country technology and media projects, but one vestige of its parent organization’s think tank legacy is the Blogs & Bullets project—a research initiative done in partnership with some of the wonkiest…

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Establishing a Model at the Local Level for Science-Driven Climate Adaptation

Developments

Countries in the Lower Mekong Basin (LMB)—Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam—are home to rural populations that are chronically poor or vulnerable. Many of these families still produce much of their own food and are acutely sensitive to weather events such as floods, droughts, and extreme storms that cause crop failures and serious hardshi…

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Mining Companies and Startup Partners Should Begin Developing Local Content Before Breaking Ground

DAIdeas

A typical mining operation lasts 30 years or more. As a result, mining companies are accustomed to becoming long-term fixtures in the communities where they work, and local stakeholders have increasingly high expectations for company contributions to community welfare. Local content development is one tool mining companies have used to foster lo…

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Learning From Local Content Policies: Insights From a Study of Six Resource-Rich Countries

DAIdeas

Since the 1970s, dozens of countries have enacted local content requirements in an effort to translate foreign direct investment, particularly in extractive industries, into local economic development. These policies require multinational companies to source local goods, services, and labor in a wide range of sectors, from civil works to transpo…

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Applying Market Systems Approaches to Financial Inclusion Projects

DAIdeas

The market systems approach to economic development has gained prominence within development work that prioritizes inclusive economic growth. Donors such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) have endorsed market syste…

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National Governments Hold the Key to Sustainable Local Climate Change Adaptation in the Mekong Basin

Developments

Over the past few years, farmers in the Lower Mekong Basin have had to change how they win their livelihoods: diversifying crops, reconfiguring livestock husbandry practices, addressing water quality and quantity, even moving their planting schedules. Utilizing local knowledge and experience, these farmers and communities are adapting to the cha…

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Chevron’s Nigerian Initiative Found to Decrease Business Risk, Attract Local Investment, and "Bring Hope"

Developments

When Chevron launched the Niger Delta Partnership Initiatives (NDPI) Foundation in 2010, it knew there were no easy solutions to the instability felt by Nigeria’s youth, poor, and unemployed. Ethnic and religious conflicts had long festered and flared, including in the Niger Delta, where Chevron has extensive oil and gas operations. Taking a reg…

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Unveiling a New Methodology for Measuring Market Systems and Their Impact on Local Development

Developments

When the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) was launched with Chevron’s backing in 2010, it also meant that a time would come to assess whether the team was achieving its goals—primarily, to open doors for broad-based economic opportunity in the conflict-affected Delta.

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New Opportunities Emerge to Support Meaningful Democratic Reform in Sri Lanka

Developments

By 2014, DAI was winding down the Reintegration and Stabilization in the East and North (RISEN) program in Sri Lanka on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Office of Transition Initiatives. Over more than four years of operations, the program worked locally with people in civil society and government, implementing g…

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Agriculture Goes Prime Time: Enthralling a TV Audience of Future Farmers

Developments

Each Wednesday night, up to 11 million viewers tune into Makutano Junction, a hit TV series that airs on Citizen Television in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the most-watched locally produced program in Kenya, but Makutano Junction is not just any soap opera. Africa Lead II, a Feed the Future program of the U.S. Agency for International Dev…

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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.