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.

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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Unearthing Lessons by Revisiting—Not Reinventing—the Wheel by Utilizing Data Science

Digital

As we enter what the World Economic Forum refers to as the “fourth industrial revolution”—a profound transformation of industries and institutions driven by artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and augmented reality—international development practitioners are shifting toward data-centric business practices that require new system…

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Apply Now: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in International Development

Digital

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, although still relatively new concepts, are garnering a vast amount of interest in international development across sectors and geographies. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Center for Digital Development (CDD)’s Strategy & Research (S&R) team pub…

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Lessons Learned from Development Innovations Team: Adapt, Serve Users, and Tell Your Story

Digital

As an avid and committed reader of [email protected], you have no doubt come across our extensive coverage of the Cambodia Development Innovations (DI) project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). My colleagues have chronicled efforts to address flooding by building hardware with locally available parts, the project’s desi…

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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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Part I: Big Data in Agriculture Conference Download: Building Trust and Fueling Innovation

Digital

As a data enthusiast with a budding curiosity in digital agriculture, I was excited to attend the recent 2019 CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention in Hyderabad, India. The event brought together attendees from around the globe to connect over the theme of Trust: humans, machines, and ecosystems. The CGIAR Big Data Platform aims to “use big d…

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Respond Now: USAID Seeks ICT Regulatory Policy Technical Assistance Services

Digital

The Digital Frontiers project is issuing an expression of interest (EOI) to support the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Promoting American Approaches to ICT Regulatory Policy (ProICT) activity.

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10 Trends Changing Entrepreneurship Ecosystems

Digital

If you’re supporting early stage entrepreneurs in emerging and frontier markets, there’s a lot to be excited about as we approach the start of the third decade of this century! Over the past year supporting the Shell LiveWIRE global entrepreneurship program and the Kosmos Innovation Center (KIC), I’ve had the chance to attend some rather dynamic…

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Apply Now: Support USAID on the Digital Development Awards and Communications Activities

Digital

Within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Development Lab, the Center for Digital Development (CDD) addresses gaps in digital access and affordability and advances the use of technology and advanced data analysis in development. DAI’s Digital Frontiers project works closely with the CDD’s Knowledge and Insights (K&I…

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Digital Insights: How the Disability Community in Honduras Uses Digital Tools

Digital

Read this post in Spanish. Studies on how many disabled people live in Honduras are scarce. Results of a survey by the National Statistics Institute (INE), carried out in September 2002, showed there are 177,516 people with disabilities in the country. Academic studies tell a different story. They estimate that the number of people in Honduras w…

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Digital Insights: El contexto digital de la población con discapacidad en Honduras

Digital

Read this post in English. Se estima que el número de personas que viven con algún tipo de discapacidad en América Latina y el Caribe entre 2001 y 2013 fue de más de 70 millones (o 12.5 porciento de la población regional total, el 12.6 porciento de la población de América Latina y el 61 porciento de los países del Caribe). En Honduras los estudi…

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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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Building Digital Medical Records for Floating Villages in Cambodia

Digital

How do you digitize medical records in Cambodia when your clinics are on a lake, have minimal internet connectivity, and are four hours away from the nearest big city? Impossible, you say? Not quite. Let me introduce you to the Lake Clinic (TLC), a health clinic working to solve this complex challenge with the support of the six-year, Developmen…

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Making Sure Data Science For Good Does Good

Digital

Last week at the 74th U.N. General Assembly, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $100 million Precision Public Health initiative to integrate data analytics and data science tools such as machine learning into the community health systems of low- and middle-income countries. During the announcement, Rockefeller noted the significant impact of…

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Digital Development for Newbies, Part 1: The Basics

Digital

I joined DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration (CDA) several months ago as an international development professional: familiar with ADS 302, Geo Code 937, Form AID 1420-17, among other industry acronyms, but a newcomer to the language of tech trends, digital buzzwords, and product design. I found the CDA team to be both inspiring and daunting, b…

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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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Applying the Principles for Digital Development in a Flourishing Digital Ecosystem

Digital

As a co-facilitator at a recent Feed the Future training on digital development for resilience and food security in Nairobi, I was struck by the stark contrast between the short amount of time (a scant four years) I’ve been settling debts with friends on Venmo and the participants’ resounding “we’ve been using it forever” response when I asked h…

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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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Confidence Not Competence: What Holds Women Back from Embracing Tech in Development

Digital

Throughout my life, I’ve heard women grumble about using technology—from my mom, from friends in school, and from work colleagues—yet these are highly educated, often extremely logical thinkers that excel at, well, Excel! The irony of the situation has been troubling me in the past few months. Why? Because there is a clear contrast in attention …

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Lessons from Cambodia: How to Grow a Girls’ Tech Entrepreneurship Challenge in Six Years

Digital

How do you get Cambodian girls engaged in addressing the digital gender divide? This is a question that the six-year Development Innovations (DI) project has been wrestling with since it was launched by the U.S. Agency for International Development—and that DAI’s Center for Digital Acceleration (CDA) and DI have regularly chronicled on their blogs.

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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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Lessons from the Makerspace Community in High-Income Countries

Digital

Makerspaces—akin to coworking spaces with tools such as 3D printers and computer numerical control (CNC) mills as well as more traditional woodworking and metalworking items—offer participants access to equipment traditionally the domain of specialists or well-funded firms. Along with the proliferation of independent makerspaces starting in the …

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Visualizing Remotely Sensed Data: True Color and False Color

Digital

What kind of images do you think of when you imagine Google Maps of our planet? Landmarks? Roads? Roads on top of satellite imagery? When we see that satellite imagery base map, we generally expect to see a representation of the earth that matches our reality. This is what we call in the world of remote sensing, “natural color.” For the average …

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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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Center for Digital Acceleration Partners with Award-Winning Tech Startup Skilllab

Digital

One of the ways DAI tackles global challenges is by partnering with other innovators to invest in promising solutions. In joining forces with tech startups that align with our mission, we bring the power of technology and entrepreneurship to bear on global development challenges. In 2016, for example, we supported four startups through our ‘Inno…

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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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Navigating Barriers to Digital Inclusion

Digital

When I first began learning about digital development, I thought of it as a new frontier that could push international development out of its modus operandi. New digital tools could provide individuals, communities, governments, and organizations with new sources of information at rapid speeds—enabling new means of collaboration to propel develo…

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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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EU Investment Guarantees Begin to Deliver on the Promise of Development Finance

Developments

The first risk-sharing finance facility under the €3.7 billion European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) recently opened in Jordan, marking a milestone in the European Union (EU)’s plan to spark investment in some of the world’s most investment-starved markets.

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Improving Safety Net Programmes to Include Those Most Vulnerable to Climate Change

Developments

Tanzania’s population of 60 million is projected to double by 2050. As with many low-income countries, Tanzania’s livelihoods and food supply largely depend on livestock and rain-fed agriculture and fisheries. The climate supporting these conditions is projected to change through the 2050s with warmer temperatures, longer droughts and heat waves…

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In Guatemala, Assisting Municipalities to Improve Governance, Services, and Self-Reliance

Developments

Communities in Guatemala’s Western Highlands have struggled for decades under persistent exclusion. This exclusion has limited local governments’ capacity to serve residents and caused over-reliance on central government funds. Many of this region’s 2.3 million residents have lacked for food security and public services such as water and sanitat…

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Hard-Fought Wins Reaffirm the Value of Working with Palestine’s Private Sector

Developments

Businesses in the West Bank and Gaza for decades have overcome political instability, regional violence, and economic blockades, maintaining a resilient focus on commerce.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.