3 different conversations: blogs to fight poverty

10/8/2007 | Christian Kreutz

Thanks to Tom L. and Peter Ballantayne for their very interesting remarks on my post "an overview of blogging for development." Peter argued that there are a lot different blogs in development aid or international cooperation out there and "must be loads more, just not very visible." And Tom had a great point:

What’s probably as important as noting the existence of the blogs themselves is tracking the development of the aid-development blogosphere, examining the connections (strength, regularity, theme) between blogs and seeing if there are purposive and deliberate communities building out there. Not many groups are actually taking aggregation a step further and building connections and seeking to create value to the profession from the new-found willingness to share online.

I agree with Peter that there is probably much more of it out there, but I criticize that in most cases it is not linked and therefore has no networks. And as Tom rightly points out, there is little knowledge sharing and discourse between different bloggers, different organizations. I give you three examples how different the approaches are and what is behind them. I analyzed all three blogs with technorati.com and aiderss.com to find out about their network and discussions.

Blog World Hunger This blog is from the International Food Policy Research Institute. They also presented their web2.0 approach on the web2fordev conference. They have been experimenting with blogs internally for knowledge sharing for already some years. This internal blogging seemed to me quite vibrant since it involves a lot of staff. However, when you look at the external blog, you have a complete contrast. Six posts and seven comments in 2007. I wonder why they even use a blog and not a normal website. In Technorati, it has 9 blog reactions in 2007 (other blogs linking to it), and in del.icio.us it has been bookmarked only one time (from me!). ** Certainly not a blog to network nor discuss the issue of world hunger with a broader community**. For example it does not link to any other blog. It seems to be a place to just drop various documents and articles.

The following two blogs are very different in which one is grassroot driven and the other from the World Bank.

William Kamkwamba's Malawi Windmill Blog This is a blog about William Kamkwamba, the 19-year-old self-taught engineer who built a windmill power system for his family's home in Malawi. His story was broadcasted at the TEDGlobal 2007 in Tanzania. (Check out all the other great presentations). His blog, which started back in June, got over 222 blog reactions according to Technorati. It has been commented 52 times and it has been bookmarked 48 times in del.icio.us. No doubt that that blog is a great storyteller and invites to read and interact. It also clearly is meant to support William in his eduction. Furthermore, it has been nicely embedded into the wider blogosphere and the result is remarkable. It has big attention.

End poverty in South Asia blog**End poverty in South Asia ** This is a blog run by the Shanta Devarajan, the Chief Economist of the South Asia Region at the World Bank. His statement "End poverty in one generation. It can be done in one generation" makes the goal clear. It is quite an offensive approach for an organization such as the world bank in my opinion. This has triggered already 49 comments two 12 posts since it started in September, and it has aroused over 20 blog reactions so far. **Similar to William's blog and in contrast to the world hunger blog, it gives a personal p****erspective, and evokes feedback.** However, I am curious to see how an organization such as the world bank will keep such an open discourse and how it can contribute:

This is why I am starting this blog. To contribute to the debate (sometimes, to start one) with ideas, analysis and evidence so that South Asians—and people who care about South Asia—can have a dialogue on these critically important issues, so that together we can end poverty in South Asia. (Shanta Devarajan)

In conclusion, I think blogs are used in more and more different ways. However, blogs are often not part of networks nor refer to each other. The communication is a one way street or the discourse is not happening in a social network of blogs. And interestingly there is still a wide gap between the many piles of documents for development themes and the few pioneers tempting to have a two way conversation about development.