Friday, April 20, 2007

Case for "political pillars"

Which is the greatest threat to globalisation: the protesters on the streets every time the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organisation meets, or globalisation's cheerleaders, who push for continued market opening while denying that the troubles surrounding globalisation are rooted in the policies they advocate?
Dani Rodrik on globalization...
Historians teach us that globalisation rests on delicate social and political pillars. The first order of business today is to strengthen these pillars, rather than to push market opening further.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Buy (Less)

I am not opposed to the idea of donating part of the profits to help boost sales, but I haven't been a fan of (RED). There were some thoughtful comments recently on the Stanford Social Innovation Review blog. Don't miss the comments either...
What’s wrong with all of this ostensible “corporate generosity”? First, it is self-serving, further diminishing true altruism in the corporate world. We live in a society where values are threatened, and avarice and greed need to be better balanced by a sense of the greater good – the commonweal. If values erode further in the market, nonprofits and the rest of us are all in deeper trouble. Second, all of us need to understand that, in the words of Buy(Less), shopping is not a solution. We cannot consume our way to charity and to a better world. Doing good sometimes requires sacrifice, and we ought not allow ourselves to be convinced that we’ve done our part because of the color of what we use. Third, we generally don’t know how much goes to the cause and how much goes to profit for each sale or in the aggregate; there is no true transparency or accountability. What do direct and secondary benefits add up to for the corporation? Are charities being fairly compensated for those benefits? Fourth and last, we need to remember that there really is a profound difference between doing well and doing good. To the degree that we confuse the two, we substitute ourselves for the other and are diminished rather than enriched.

Check out Buy (Less).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cultural literacy

I like the questions that the Cultural Literacy project at Demos is asking:
What skills do we need to read a changing world?
What are the key skills that we will need as cultures merge, meet and clash to a greater degree than ever before?
What can we learn from other disciplines and domains, like anthropology in how to approach this new environment?

I am very interested in interaction and the Cultural Literacy project gave a great link to a Wired article that discusses the dominance of English in cultural communication. One part of me wishes this wasn't the case, but when I read the article, I found myself thinking about other places, like the South Caucasus. Instead of culture going through a Russian channel in that part of the world, people are less likely to interact (Armenian, Azeri and Georgian are very different languages). I don't like the idea of having only one language hub, but do think having a few "biggies" - like the six UN languages - helps immensely. We need "hub and spoke" and "point to point" communication and we always will.

You can subscribe to the Demos projects and get regular updates through your feed reader. There must have been a real mastermind behind that site. It is truly amazing.

Coffee trade and intellectual property

The value of a brand or a manufacturing license is now far more important than a product’s physical production. Also, income from creative products (such as designs, writings or inventions) is entirely due to intangible value.

So reports the Light Years IP website, which today launched a blog on its project with Ethiopian Coffee growers. The blog will give "real-time coverage as they lead a momentous training on Intellectual Property management, bringing together fine coffee stakeholders from across Ethiopia."

This case seems to need a whole econ course. If you talk to Starbucks, the seem to think they have done a lot to help coffee and Ethiopia. If you get the other sides, Starbucks is little more than a greedy corporation. Of course, the Economist warns us of the side effects of fair trade initiatives:

Starbucks also has questions about the different standards of fairness applied by the Fair Trade brand custodians in different parts of the world. It doubts even that the strategy of the Fair Trade movement, to secure farmers a premium over the market price for their beans, is the best basic approach. Starbucks prefers a code known as the CAFE practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity), which aims to help coffee farmers develop sustainable businesses through a mixture of technical support, microfinance loans, and investment in infrastructure and community development where the farmers live.

No opinion here. But I am eager to hear a bit more from the directly affected people rather than another press release from Starbucks or an NGO working on fair trade. Perhaps the Light Years IP blog will give some insight. I will also be reading through the Poor People's Knowledge, that includes a chapter by the founders of Light Years IP. This seems like an idea worth exploring.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Life Along the Pipeline

This is a good article. I appreciate the balance and love the photos. (Disclaimer: Rena Effendi is a pal of mine. But she still takes really amazing photos. I learn a lot from her images.)