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.

Transforming Social Protection: Taking a Gender Lens to Nepal’s Social Security Allowance

Developments

Nepal is in the midst of a demographic shift. Over the past three decades, its fertility rate has declined and population growth has stalled. The country has quickly moved from a high-mortality, high-fertility society to a low-mortality, low-fertility society. Although this shift is an encouraging indicator of development, the changing demograph…

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Plan C: How Makerspaces are Providing a Stopgap for COVID-19 Supply Shortages

Digital

One of the participants in the Think Global Make Local product development workshop, sponsored by our Cambodia Development Innovations project in 2016, created a design for a toy called Doy Doy. With Doy Doy’s silicone straws and plastic connectors, kids can build complex structures. The product has gone on to achieve modest commercial success l…

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The Importance of Understanding Digital Divides During the COVID-19 Response

Digital

Our work at DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration intersects with global COVID-19 responses in many ways. Earlier this week, our data scientists presented an analysis of risk factors and last week we got a glimpse at the hardware community’s approach to the crisis. There is another element to our work that I think is critical to highlight—digita…

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COVID-19 Data Analysis, Part 1: Demography, Behavior, and Environment

Digital

This article was written by DAI’s Gratiana Fu, with contributions from Greg Maly, and Jamie Parr. This analysis is Part 1 of a series on known risk factors associated with COVID-19. We aim to use publicly available data sets to identify national and subnational populations most at risk for infection and case fatality. The analysis will be update…

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COVID-19: Looking for Helpers in the Hardware Community

Digital

As the COVID-19 pandemic makes its way across the globe, and even well-resourced health systems struggle with the availability of critical supplies needed to treat patients, initiatives have emerged in the hardware community looking to help solve the shortage of physical supplies.

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In Guatemala, New Research on Gender Equality Shapes Government and USAID Investments in Taxation

Developments

In the United States, widely available tools enable Americans to register and file taxes from home, and paying Uncle Sam has never been easier or cheaper. But in places such as Guatemala—where electronic governance is just now taking root and literacy, language, and gender present hurdles—the high burden of tax compliance can cause involuntary e…

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Unlocking the Value of Digital Transformation in the Social Sector

Digital

For many years, the support of international donors to civil society organizations and private and public sectors in the technology field revolved around the provision of equipment, hardware, and software. On many occasions, these types of support have proved ineffective. As researchers wrote in 2013, these investments quickly became obsolete or…

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Closing the Gender Digital Divide: What We’re Doing to Bring Women Online

Digital

Digital technologies are revolutionizing the way we access information, financing, and networks—all critical tools for fully participating in the global economy. Yet, these technologies, most notably internet connectivity and mobile phones, are not reaching all people equally. In recognition of International Women’s Day, we are looking at one of…

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What are Cyber Harms and Why Are They Important for Digital Development?

Digital

Since 2014, the digital landscape has significantly changed globally. First, and most obvious, the number of internet users has nearly doubled from 2.8 billion to more than 4 billion in the last six years. Second, and perhaps a bit less obvious, the number of cyber incidents, such as data breaches or cybercrimes, impacting the average internet u…

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What's the Best Architecture for a Management Information System?

Digital

I hate to say it, but it depends. Generally though, I do have an opinion, and while your mileage may vary, I think one model might often better serve more use cases. At first glance, you might think our products team only builds full-stack web applications. That is only half our story. We also spend a significant time providing technical advice …

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What the Food Systems Dashboard Taught Me About Data for Decision Making

Digital

Since I began working with DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration, I have had the chance to explore many of the exciting opportunities presented by our quickly digitizing world. Though I spend most of my time researching how digital tools and service platforms impact economic empowerment and productivity in the agriculture sector, an area that I …

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Strengthening Women’s Control Over Land: Inheritance Reform in Tunisia

Developing Alternatives

With a long record of progressive reforms stretching back to the Personal Status Code, adopted in 1957, one year after independence, Tunisia has a strong claim to be the most progressive Arab and perhaps even Muslim country in terms of women’s rights. Polygamy is illegal. There are strong laws against domestic violence. Tunisian women participat…

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The Complexity of Building a Market for Certified Seeds: A Case Study from Mozambique

Developing Alternatives

Innovations for Agribusiness (InovAgro) is the first market systems development project in Mozambique. Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and active in 11 districts in three northern provinces, the project—a private sector-led agriculture growth initiative that partners with companies seeking to engage with smallhol…

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Restoring Trust: Toward a People-Centric Security Sector in The Gambia

Developments

It’s hard to imagine that The Gambia emerged only recently from 22 years of authoritarian rule: first impressions are of a vibrant and happy nation. Surrounded by Senegal to the north, east, and south, The Gambia is known as the “smiling coast of Africa” because Gambians are said to possess a knack for putting people at ease. Now three years int…

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Digital Development in the Western Balkans: Kosovo

Digital

Last month, the talented, globe-trotting Chloe Messenger posted the first blog on DAI’s activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina in our six-part series about digital development in the Western Balkans. If you haven’t read it, you should. If you did, you’ll know that the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) funded DAI to map digital eco…

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Extending Education Access to Vulnerable Young Salvadorans

Developments

“From better health to increased wealth, education is the catalyst of a better future for millions of children, youth, and adults. No country has ever climbed the socioeconomic development ladder without steady investments in education.”—Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO An effective education system is one of the most critical contributo…

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It’s Not Too Late to Prepare for COVID-19

Developments

A disease spillover event, when a virus moves from animal to human hosts, can cause significant human illness. The coronavirus (COVID-19) seems to have spilled over sometime in late 2019, at a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, leading to more than 40,000 confirmed cases and at least 910 reported deaths by the latest count—in China and at least 25…

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Citizen-Centered Governance App Launches in Kabul

Digital

Note: This follows an earlier post that covers our pre-development human-centered design (HCD) phase. In recent years, Kabul residents have lamented the hours-long queue to access services at their municipal office. Several weeks ago, Kabul Municipality’s solution was hard to ignore. News of a new citizen engagement app was seen displayed on 21 …

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6 Ways Innovation and Entrepreneurship Promote Prosperity

Digital

It is not a coincidence that the most developed nations are also the ones with the highest levels of entrepreneurial activity and innovation. While starting from a minimal level of development helps the latter two, for example, through basic access to capital and institutional stability, the impact of innovation and entrepreneurship on the econo…

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Five Trends in Hardware to Watch

Digital

With the fast pace of technological change, it can be difficult for development practitioners to keep up with tomorrow’s opportunities and risks. Even for more technologically sophisticated members of the community, the focus on technology often overlooks hardware and exclusively focuses on software. As we begin 2020, I wanted to share the five …

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Blended Finance Case Study: Gaza Industrial Estate Solar Energy Rooftop

Developments

The Gaza Industrial Estate was built to accommodate 100 industrial and commercial businesses and 5,000 workers, providing water, electricity, sewage, and so on. It has consistently operated at half capacity, in part because of a failure to maintain power. The Gaza Electricity Distribution Company, the sole electricity distributor in Gaza, faces …

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Blended Finance Tools Offer a New Approach to an Old Problem

Developments

If the world were represented by 10 people in a room, seven would be of working age and six would have jobs. In Palestine, six people would be of working age and only three would have jobs. If the room were only women and girls in Palestine, only one woman in the room would have a job outside the home. Decent work is one of the Sustainable Devel…

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How the Digital Marketplace is Changing the Way We Eat

Digital

It’s the new year and you know what that means…New Year’s resolutions! If you’ve ever uttered the words “New year, new me,” you are far from alone. In 2019, approximately 60 percent of Americans set resolutions and according to a recent survey, the top three were all related to diet and exercise: eating better, exercising more, and losing weight…

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Q&A: Ehat Miftaraj, Anti-Corruption Expert, on the Prospect for Rule-of-Law Reform in Kosovo

Developments

A relatively young nation, Kosovo has implemented significant reforms in its justice sector, including in legislative drafting, institution building, and the training of justice sector personnel. But according to the European Commission’s Kosovo Progress Report of 2018, most Kosovars still see the judiciary in Kosovo as compromised by corruption…

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Digital Development in the Western Balkans: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Digital

For the past few months, DAI has been working closely with the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) to map digital ecosystems across the Western Balkans, and to identify areas where the FCO can support the technology sector in closing the digital skill supply-demand gap. Through our research, we found a region that is well-placed t…

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Social Protection in Somalia Can Bridge Short- and Long-Term Solutions

Developments

DAI has been working in the fragile country of Somalia since 2017 to foster a government-owned social protection system that is underpinned by donor coherence, leadership, and coordination capacities. There is an established consensus that humanitarian relief and development programming need to better coordinate and reinforce each other’s impact…

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Looking Ahead: What We’re Thinking About in 2020

Digital

In our last post from 2019, we reviewed our top posts from the past year. The most-read articles covered a myriad of digital development topics—bridging the digital gender divide, visualizing remote sense data, and insights into the digital lives of Kabul’s residents to design an open source transparency and citizen participation app. Over the l…

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[email protected] Year in Review: Top 10 Posts of 2019

Digital

This year, [email protected] published more than 60 posts covering everything from trends in entrepreneurship ecosystems to the importance of user education for digital development programming and building on user insights to develop an open-source transparency and citizen participation application for the municipality of Kabul, Afghanistan. We featur…

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Five Resources on Human Rights and Tech

Digital

This week marked the 71st anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR)—a founding document which set out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Working in international development, most of us are committed to the 30 rights laid out in the UNDHR. As the digital revolution evolves, countries…

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New Research Offers Alternatives for Frontier Market Venture Capital and Private Equity

Developments

In many emerging countries, the capital markets are nascent and borrowing by government and state-owned enterprises crowds out private entities and disincentivizes banks from lending to the real economy. The funding gap is enormous. The IFC estimates that nearly 30 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) face an aggregate funding gap o…

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Adopting a Private Sector-led Approach to Advance Digital Startups in Cambodia

Developments

Years of working side-by-side with Cambodians in the civic technology sector taught us many things about the country’s startup scene. Its denizens are smart and passionate about their work. Many have their finger on the pulse of what communities want and need. So, what’s missing? Why aren’t there more internationally known Cambodian tech firms a…

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Studying River Health through Citizen Science and Data Analysis in Maryland

Digital

Since 1970, DAI has worked in 160 countries on development issues ranging from good governance to environmental problems. But what about scientific policy-oriented initiatives in our backyard? With a headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, DAI is surrounded by a vibrant and diverse social and ecological community, and civil society organizations tha…

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To Go Where We’re Going, We Need to Meet Investors Where They Live

Developments

We recently attended SOCAP19, the impact investing conference held in San Francisco every October since 2008. Like many development professionals, we’re sold on the idea of engaging the private sector and catalyzing private investment in high-impact development opportunities. But we still struggle with how best to leverage our expertise, instrum…

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Investing in the Underdogs: Boosting Local Leadership in Burma

Developments

One of the best ways to ensure a nascent democracy remains stable and becomes increasingly responsive to its people’s needs, according to the U.S. Integrated Country Strategy, is to invest “across a wider spectrum of society” to identify and cultivate leaders who will drive progress.

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Paving the Way for Green Energy Financing in the Mediterranean

Developments

In the face of a gathering climate crisis, “The world must quickly implement massive energy efficiency and conservation practices,” declared more than 11,000 climate scientists in a statement issued November 5. Their warning lends added urgency to a program that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has been running for mor…

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Investments in Off-Grid Energy Businesses Are Bringing Electricity to Hundreds of Thousands in Kenya

Developments

On New Year’s Eve, 1879, approximately 3,000 people traveled to Menlo Park, New Jersey, to witness an extraordinary sight: an entire street lit by electric lamps. Only three months after prototyping what would become his most well-known invention, Thomas Edison introduced his light bulb to the public by illuminating his laboratory and a neighbor…

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Q&A: John Leckie on What’s Next for DAI’s Land Practice

Developing Alternatives

John Leckie has almost 20 years of international project experience in Europe, Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and South America. Recently named to lead DAI’s land tenure and property rights work, he sat down with Developing Alternatives to discuss DAI’s current and future land work.

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Safe Learning Spaces in Honduras Curb Undocumented Migration

Developments

It is no coincidence that the cities and neighborhoods in Honduras with the highest incidence of violence are also those with the highest migration rates. In the case of Choloma, for instance, the city’s homicide rate was 77 per 100,000 people in 2018—which is high even by the standards of cities such as Tegucigalpa, Tela, and La Ceiba, where cr…

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Finding Meaning in the J2SR Metrics

Developing Alternatives

How can national-level indicators be best used to inform the debate around a given country’s development challenges? It’s a question many of us are asking following the release of the Journey to Self-Reliance (J2SR) Primary Metrics—17 cross-country metrics that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has established to measure a co…

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Can the Development Community Adopt Agile?

Developments

In “The Age of Agile,” Steve Denning argues that agile management is superior to traditional, hierarchical management styles. Companies that adopt agile outperform the rest, and will continue to do so. Agile is catching on, and not only in the software development sector that popularized it.

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Supporting a Human-Centered Home Health System in Jordan

Developments

Jordan’s healthcare system is considered one of the more modern in the Middle East, and many patients travel from neighboring countries to access its medical offerings. However, Jordan struggles with rising healthcare costs, an aging population with a changing disease burden, and meeting high demand from around the region. Expanding home healthc…

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All Systems Go: USAID’s Private Sector-Led Approach Pays Dividends in Bangladesh

Developments

The Southern Delta of Bangladesh is home to 28 million people, many of whom struggle with food insecurity. Despite the presence of high-tech agriculture companies and a huge farming industry, the region’s agriculture sector is not working for everyone.

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Q&A: DAI Global Health’s Chris LeGrand on the Launch of His New Book

Developments

Chris LeGrand is the President of DAI Global Health. His new book, The Complete Business Leader, published in August, lays out a framework for business leadership, drawing on 30 years of experience in health, development, and technology consulting. LeGrand guides the reader through seven dimensions of leadership—individual wisdom, relationship m…

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Through the Looking Glass: The Many Ways to Invest in Greater Gender Equity

Developments

“Where shall I begin,” asked the White Rabbit. “Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”—from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland We often hear the same question when it comes to gender-lens or gender-smart investing. Businesses and investors have varying levels of knowle…

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Nine Lessons Learned: The Not-So-Simple Task of Obtaining Land Rights

Developing Alternatives

The promise of land rights in developing countries goes something like this: Once an individual has secured land and property rights, he or she is more empowered and more able to participate in the economic growth of his or her community. Add in the multiplier effect and voila—a developing country begins to move toward economic growth and stabil…

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Hot Enough for You? Four Steps to Help the World Keep Its Cool

Developments

Four people died in the recent heat wave in the Washington, D.C., area, and 4,600 people lost power. The combination suggests that access to electricity and air conditioning (AC) will not allow us to avoid the consequences of global warming. Climate change will result in higher peak temperatures and an increased number of days over 100 degrees.

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Ushering in 21st Century Agricultural Growth to Northern Afghanistan

Developments

Drought and conflict in recent decades sent Afghanistan’s wheat production into sharp decline. Irrigation systems and farm equipment fell into disrepair and farmers were forced to abandon their land. In a country where bread is a substantive part of the rural diet, the decline of its fundamental farm crop resulted in lost livelihoods and stabili…

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Using a Market Systems Approach to Curb Human Trafficking and Irregular Migration in Nigeria

Developments

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, a global scourge where people are illegally traded for exploitation and commercial gain. Globally, more than $150 billion is generated from forced economic exploitation of people for commercial sex, domestic work, or other economic activities. In July 2018, the Global Slavery Index reported that…

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LIFT: Ensuring Women and Vulnerable Groups Reap Full Benefits of Land Certification in Ethiopia

Developing Alternatives

In rural Ethiopia, land represents dignity and identity. More concretely, holding a certified land title means better prospects for economic independence, stable income, and bargaining power. When it comes to receiving legal recognition as landholders, women and members of other vulnerable, systemically disenfranchised groups have the most to ga…

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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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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.