Free ebooks 4 and 5 – Rotary foundations and grants

Did you know that apart from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International, there are close to 4,000 local Rotary foundations in the United States alone? Two new free ebooks on Rotary foundations and grants are now available in the Rotarian Economist Short Books series.  The first book provides an introduction to Rotary foundations and grants for applicants as well as Rotarians. The second book provides a directory of Rotary foundations in the United States by state and by city within each state. To download your free copy, please go here.

rotary-foundations-grants-1  rotary-foundations-grants-2

Free ebook series: Let me know your ideas!

Next week, as I take time off from work, I will start working on a series of free ebooks for Rotarians and others interested in service work. The ebooks will be released in coming months. If you have ideas or know of projects that I should cover in this new series, please let me know by commenting on this post or sending me an email.

Strengthening Rotary

A first set of ebooks will be about Rotary and ways to strengthen the organization. Let me give three examples.

First, I will provide estimates of the footprint of Rotary, starting with data from the United States. For example, Rotarians know about the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. But they often do not know about the richness of the activities implemented by club foundations and how much Rotary as a whole contributes to “serving humanity”, the theme for this Rotary year. I will provide estimates of our total contribution – which is large. My hope is that these estimates can then be used to better tell our story.

Second, I will advocate for the need to invest more in partnerships, innovation, and evaluation in Rotary. I will argue for such investments, and share examples of great projects that have achieved impact in each of the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation as well as polio through partnerships, innovation, and evaluation.

Third, I will share experiences of successful Rotary clubs, starting with my own and how we succeeded in doubling our membership in six months since July thanks in part to changes adopted at the beginning of the Rotary year. I will share lessons learned that I hope will be useful to other clubs.

Project Design in Areas of Focus

In addition, ahead of the Atlanta Rotary International convention, I will prepare a series of short ebooks providing basic facts as well as good practice advise and great project stories about our areas of focus for service work (fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and promoting peace).

The hope is that these ebooks will help Rotary clubs and districts as well as other organizations choose and prepare great projects by building on the experience accumulated not only by Rotary (including Rotarian Action Groups) but also by other organizations.

Let Me Know Your Ideas

If you know of specific projects that I should cover in this new series of free ebooks, or more broadly of successful initiatives taken by clubs or districts that I should be aware of, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

You can do so by sharing a comment on this post or by contacting me by email if you prefer (through the Contact Me page of this blog).


Open Access Publications from the World Bank: Introduction (Resources Series No. 1)

This post is the first in a series on open access resources from the World Bank that could be useful to Rotarians as well as others involved in service work and development projects around the world. Probably more than any other development organization, the World Bank is making available a wealth of resources on topics related to development, including a large number of books and reports. The focus of most World Bank open access knowledge resources is on developing countries, but data and publications are also available for developed countries, and often lessons learned from the developing world have implications for service projects and social policy in developed countries as well.

In coming weeks, this blog will feature selections of recently published World Bank books and reports by topic, considering in priority the areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation (TRF), namely promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, and growing local economies apart from eradicating polio. The hope is that the featured publications will be beneficial not only to researchers, but also to practitioners and policy makers.

Why a Focus on Open Access Resources?

The inspiration for this series of posts on open access resources came in part from the fact that Rotary is organizing between January and March 2016 five conferences on the core areas of focus of the Rotary Foundation. The first will be the Rotary Presidential Conference on Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution or “World Peace Conference” to be held in January 2016 in Ontario, California. The other conferences are on disease prevention and treatment in Cannes, economic development in Cape Town, literacy and WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) in schools in Kolkata, and WASH in schools in Manila. The dates of the five conferences are listed in the table below together with their websites.

Dates Topic Location Website
15-16 January Peace and conflict prevention/resolution Ontario, California, USA Click here
19-20 February Disease prevention & treatment Cannes, France Click here
27 February Economic development Cape Town, South Africa Click here
12-13 March Literacy & WASH in Schools Kolkata, India Click here
18-19 March WASH in Schools Pasay City, Philippines Click here

The conferences are sponsored jointly by Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran and TRF Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith. Each conference will be led by local Rotary districts and are open to all, whether Rotarians or not. The conferences will feature plenary sessions with world class speakers as well as parallel sessions on topics of interest and hands-on workshops.

The hope for this series of posts on open access resources is that selecting relevant publications on the topics to be discussed at the above five conferences could be useful not only to conference participants, but also to many others working or implementing service projects in those fields.

Why Focusing on World Bank Resources?

Only resources available from the World Bank will be included in this series even though many other organizations provide highly valuable open access resources. Restricting the focus on resources provided by the World Bank is driven by practicality. Including other organizations would yield a rather unwieldy list of relevant publications due to the scope of what would need to be included. At the same time, focusing on the World Bank has the advantage of being able to go global with a single organization, since the World Bank is engaged with the developing world as a whole. By contrast, many other organizations, including regional development banks, tend to have more of a regional focus.

In order to keep the list of publications and other resources highlighted through this series manageable, the focus in most cases will be on open access books and reports as opposed to other publications such as working papers, articles, and briefs. Even when restricting resources to books, a large number of World Bank publications directly relevant to the topics of the five Rotary conferences can be listed. In the case of the first conference on promoting peace for example, several dozen recent books and reports published since 2010 that relate closely to the topics of the conference can be listed.

Topics for Consideration

To keep things simple, the series of posts will consider in priority the six areas of focus of TRF, which also correspond to the topics selected for the five Rotary Presidential conferences (to a large extent, the conference on disease prevention and treatment also implicitly covers the area of focus of TRF devoted to saving mothers and children).

But the series will also feature a few cross-sectoral topics that are highly relevant to multiple areas of focus of TRF. One example is that of early childhood development, for which interventions are needed from virtually all six areas of focus of TRF. The series could also cover some topics in more depth than others, for example allocating more than one post to a single area of focus of TRF if this appears to be warranted.

So please, do not hesitate to share your views as to what should be covered by providing a comment on this post, so that your views can inform the final selection of topics and open access resources to be provided.

Climate Change, Poverty, and Migration, Part 3: The Implications

by Quentin Wodon

In the previous two posts in this series, I argued that households in climate-affected areas are highly vulnerable to extreme weather shocks, and often cannot cope and adapt adequately to changing climatic conditions. Households also are often not able or willing to relocate to areas less affected by poor climatic conditions. The evidence was based on two recent studies – one for the Middle East and North Africa region where droughts and floods are common, and the other for the Sundarbans in South Asia (let me know if you would like a print copy) where cyclones and associated sea surges are frequent. I would like to complete this series of three posts with a discussion of the implications of the findings for policy makers and service clubs.

Implications for Policy Makers

First, communities affected by changing climatic conditions and weather shocks need more government support to help with short-term coping and medium-term adaptation. The cost of weather shocks and climate change is already felt today by many households, but most have limited ways to cope and adapt. While the two studies on which this series of three posts are based did not provide a cost-benefit analysis to assess which types of programs and policies might help households the most in each country context, there is a clear gap in the public provision and financing of coping and adaptation interventions. This leaves individuals and communities vulnerable and alone in making decisions, which may in turn lead to uncoordinated action and “maladaptation”.

The role of safety nets and social protection programs is especially important to enable households to cope. But the design, coverage and placement of these programs should not be just for the purpose of minimizing the immediate or even future impacts of weather shocks and climate change; safety nets should be seen as an integral part of governments’ broader strategy towards poverty reduction and – in this case – urbanization. They should aim to provide portable skills (human capital) such as a better education for those that need support the most, so that migration becomes more beneficial for the migrants and their family back home through remittances.

Second, migration policy needs to understand and address climate-induced migration in the context of other push and pull factors. Migration is a form of adaptation, but it appears to be often seen as a solution of last resort by households. One reason for this is that migration may be perceived as more costly than other strategies such as using savings, selling assets, or getting into debt to cope with shocks. In addition to material costs (travelling and re-lodging), migration implies substantial risks due to unknown outcomes at the place of destination. It also entails non-economic costs stemming from the uprooting of individuals, households, and sometimes communities. Those left behind may be precluded from reaping the benefits from migration when remittances are hampered by the high cost of remitting or by the fact that migrants have a hard time finding jobs. Policy responses and development interventions need to recognize that migration is or should be a viable and legitimate mechanism through which households address risks to their livelihoods, and a means of adapting to weather shocks and changes in climatic conditions and their impacts. Migration should not be considered as something that needs to be avoided.

Third, enabling communities in sending areas to better leverage the benefits of migration is a better alternative than progressive forced displacement. The effective economic insertion of migrants in urban and other destination areas leads to opportunities for the sending communities through remittances. But without a facilitating environment, remittances may be used for pure consumption and the accumulation of non-productive assets. Among others, incentives should be provided for sending areas, when feasible, to use remittances for productive investments.

Implications for Service Clubs

What do the findings imply for service clubs? There cannot be any cookie-cutter recommendation, but when service clubs are implementing projects in climate-affected areas, they should maintain a balance between responding to immediate needs, and confronting long-term challenges. Many households are left vulnerable in climate-affected areas due to lack of government programs. After weather shocks (or other natural disasters such as the recent earthquake in Nepal) hits, Rotarians should mobilize to provide emergency relief. As I mentioned it on this blog, I wonder whether there is a potential role for the Rotary Foundation (TRF) to play here. Currently, TRF does not seem to have a system to provide incentives (matching funds) for individual Rotarians or clubs to donate in times of crisis. Many Rotarians donate when a major crisis hits, but they do so through other organizations. If TRF could set aside some funds to match individual or club donations by Rotarians at time of crises, this could help the foundation raise more funds. It could also help TRF gain even more visibility as a humanitarian organization.

Beyond emergency relief, what may matter even more in the long run are innovative project responses. It would for example be interesting to assess whether investments by Rotary in education projects in climate-affected areas help in improving the likelihood that younger individuals migrate under good conditions to help themselves as well as their family back home. Perhaps one could even think of pilot projects in which Rotarians involved with banking and credit institutions facilitate the flow of remittances from migrants by reducing the cost of remitting, while also promoting investments for productive uses in sending areas through some forms of matching grants for communities. Such projects would have to be evaluated properly to ensure that they are indeed impactful.

These are just a few ideas, but innovative projects implemented by Rotary clubs as pilots, with proper evaluation of impacts, could have larger impacts down the road than traditional grants as other organizations would be able to scale up initiatives that appear especially promising. Not all global grants should be designed that way, but more could. The need for innovation is perhaps largest in those areas of the world where households are especially vulnerable due to repeated weather shocks that will be exacerbated by climate change, as well as other natural disasters.


Climate Change, Poverty, and Migration, Part 2: The Evidence

by Quentin Wodon

How devastating are weather schocks associated with climate change for the populations affected? Are the populations able to cope with and adapt to the shocks? Do they migrate away from the affected areas? These are the questions that were considered in two recent studies, one for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the other for the Sundarbans in South Asia. The book for the MENA region was published last year and is available electronically free of charge here. The book on the Sundarbans was published last month – it is not yet open access, but I received quite a few copies, so if you would like a print copy, please send me an email with your address through the Contact Me page.

Recall that the argument outlined in the first post in this series has three parts: (1) households often suffer from large losses when affected by weather shocks; (2) they have limited ways to cope and adapt; and yet (3) hosueholds affected more do not have higher migration rates away from the areas. In this post, I will share  evidence that backs up these conclusions. In the next post, I will discuss implications of the findings for humanitarian organizations and service clubs.

Impact of Weather Shocks on Households

Surveys were implemented in climate-affected areas of the MENA region and in the Sundarbans. In the MENA surveys, households could identify droughts, floods, storms, mudslides, excessive heat, excessive rain, pest infestation, crop and livestock diseases, and other events as having affected them. In the Sundarbans, the questionnaire identified cyclones, droughts, floods, and other events. Almost all households said that they had been affected by adverse weather events in the five MENA countries as well as in the Sundarbans (the exception was Egypt where the proportion was smaller, but still above two thirds). When asked which type of adverse event had the largest negative consequences for them, households in the MENA countries cited droughts first, followed by excessive heat and floods. In the Sundarbans, households cited mostly the cyclones.

In the MENA region, more than half of the respondents said that changes in weather patterns had led to a loss of crops, and more than a third reported a loss of income. About a fourth reported a loss of livestock. Poorer households were more likely to be affected than richer households, which is not surprising given that poorer households are more likely to be farmers and rely on rainfed agriculture. In the Sundarbans, more than a third of households declared that their dwelling had been completely destroyed by cyclones. Another third said that their dwelling had been partially destroyed. All these losses are rather large, showing that the populations in the areas surveyed are highly vulnerable to extreme weather shocks that indeed have dramatic consequences.

Ability to Cope and Adapt

How do households cope with losses generated by weather shocks? Questions were asked about what households did in the recent past and what they would do in the future in case of a new shock. In the MENA region, almost two thirds of households declared that they have used or would use their savings to cope. Close half have sold or would sell assets, have asked or would as for loans, and have sold or would sell livestock. More than a third have withdrawn or would withdraw their children from school. In the Sundarbans, responses were similar, but the proportion of households declaring that they had withdrawn their children from school or would do so in case of a new shock was smaller. Overall, these coping strategies make sense, but they also show how households often must take desperate measures – such as selling productive assets – to survive. Such coping strategies may have long term negative consequences for the ability of households or their children to emerge from poverty. In addition, in a separate survey for Morocco households declared that they had not been able to recover from losses associated with the weather shocks years after the events.

The data also suggest that households are often not able to implement adaptation strategies to deal with extreme weather shocks and a changing environment. For example, some twenty different adaptation strategies were listed in the MENA questionnaires, and only a minority of households declared implementing these strategies. Community and government programs were also scarce, with the exception of a few government-led safety net programs in the Sundarbans.

Decisions to Migrate

One would expect that if households are repeatedly affected by weather shocks, and if they have limited ways to cope and adapt, younger household members would migrate away. The evidence however suggests that households more severely affected by the shocks are not much more likely to send members away than other households.

  • When households are asked in the surveys about the reasons why some of their members migrate temporarily or permanently, reasons directly related to climatic factors such as droughts, floods, or cyclones do not come up much –socio-economic factors, such as better opportunities for employment at the place of destination, are cited much more often.
  • Regression analysis suggests that the impact of perceptions regarding changing climatic conditions as well as actual weather shocks on migration is small. Households who perceive worsening climatic conditions do not have much higher permanent migration rates among their members than households who do not perceive such changing climatic conditions to the same extent. The same holds for the severity of the impact of whether shocks on households – temporary migration is affected (more severely affected households have more temporary migrants), but this is less the case for permanent migration.
  • Analysis of census data suggests that “push” factors such as climatic conditions at the place of origin (temperature and rainfall) affect migration patterns only in a limited way, with again socio-economic “pull” factors at the place of destination playing a much larger role in migration movements.
  • In the MENA region, qualitative focus groups help explain why permanent migration does not seem to be higher amomg households affected more severely by extreme weather events and changes in the climate: many migrants are simply not doing very well at their place of destination.

Overall, these various strands of evidence provide back-up for the argument that many household members in climate-affected areas may be unable or unwilling to migrate away, at least under present conditions. Many households may be trapped where they are with all the risks that this entails as climatic conditions continue to worsen in the future. In the last post in this series, I will discuss the implications of such findings.

Climate Change, Poverty, and Migration, Part 1: A Major Risk

by Quentin Wodon

Members of service clubs involved in international projects (global grants in the case of Rotary), as well as those interested in development and poverty eradication more generally, need to be aware of broad trends affecting the livelihood of the populations they are trying to serve.

In this series of three posts, I will share results from recent research on climate change, poverty, and migration. In this first post, I will outline a basic argument about the risk that the poor may not be willing or able to leave areas affected by the extreme weather events that climate change will exacerbate in the future. In the second post, I will provide evidence to back up this argument from two regions: the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Sundarbans in South Asia. Finally, I will discuss in the third post the implications of the research for policies and programs. For those interested, the details of the analysis are available in two books, one on the MENA region published last year (open access), and the other on the Sundarbans published last month.

Let’s start with the big picture. Climate change is one of the most significant threats faced by the developing world (see for example the Turn Down the Heat reports). By the end of this century, global mean annual temperatures may increase by 4°C.  In many countries climate change will manifest itself through reduced rainfall, greater seasonal temperature variability, a rise in sea levels, and a higher frequency of extreme weather events. These events constitute threats to people’s ability to continue to live where they are living today, their economic security, and political stability.

Declining precipitation will affect the availability and usage of water, causing agricultural productivity to decrease and poverty to rise. Climate change will also lead to a higher likelihood of extreme temperatures, floods, droughts, and cyclones, depending on the geographic area affected, and thereby risks of substantial displacement as well as deteriorating environmental conditions. How climate change will affect specific regions remains debated. But threats to the MENA region – the first area considered here – include more severe droughts and floods as well as rising temperatures and water scarcity. In the Sundarbans, the second area that I will consider, threats include a sea level rise and more frequent and severe cyclones.

Do households living in climate-affected areas in both regions believe that changes in climate patterns and the environment are taking place? To what extent have households been affected by extreme weather events and what has been the impact of these events on them? What are the mechanisms that households use to cope and the strategies that they rely upon to adapt? Do households benefit from community and government programs that can help them cope and adapt? Are they warned ahead of time of weather shocks? To what extent do remittances reach households living in climate-poor areas and what is their impact on poverty and human development indicators? Finally, to what extent are perceived changes in the climate and weather shocks leading to more temporary and permanent migration? These are the questions I will explore.

But first, what does the literature suggest? A recent Foresight report suggests that while environmental change will lead to an increase in migration, because of the complexity of so-called “push” and “pull” factors involved in migration decisions, in most cases it will not be feasible to identify “pure” environmental migrants. The report also suggests that some vulnerable groups may be either unwilling or unable to migrate away from affected areas, among others due to the cost of migration and the fact that environmental change and weather shocks may result in large losses in income and assets, rendering migration unaffordable. Thus, some population groups may well be trapped in climate-affected areas with progressively deteriorating conditions for their livelihood.

In order to explore the relationship between climate change, extreme weather shocks, and migration, we implemented at the World Bank new households surveys in areas affected by weather shocks and changing climatic conditions in seven countries: Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Morocco, Syria, and Yemen. The five MENA countries were chosen in order to be illustrative of the region as a whole, with some countries affected mostly and severely by droughts, others by both milder droughts and floods, and still others less affected until now

While the MENA countries are affected mostly by droughts, and to a lower extent floods, the Sundarbans in Bangladesh and India (West Bengal) are affected by cyclones, sea water rises, and salinity intrusion in arable land. The contexts in which households are affected by changing climatic conditions and extreme weather events are thus very different in the MENA and South Asia regions. But as it turned out, while circumstances and contexts differ, many of the findings were similar in the two sets of countries. The main conclusions from the analysis can be summarized along three main points as follows:

  • The areas surveyed tend to be repeatedly exposed to weather shocks. Households do perceive a worsening of their environment in terms of the frequency and severity of those shocks. Most households in the areas surveyed have personally been affected negatively and substantially by those shocks, in terms mostly of losses of crops, income, and livestock in the MENA region, and losses in dwellings in the Sundarbans. The poor in both regions typically suffer the most.
  • The ability of households to cope with those extreme weather events and the losses in income, crops, or dwellings that they cause is limited. Relatively few households engage in medium- and long-term adaptation strategies, and remittances, while useful, do not necessarily reach climate-affected areas more than other areas. Support received from communities and government programs is limited, with the exception of safety nets in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Finally the extent to which households are warned ahead of time of imminent shocks differs between areas.
  • As a result of limited ways to cope and adapt, temporary and permanent migration could represent a strategy for household to deal with difficult climatic conditions and extreme weather shocks. The data suggest that today temporary migration is indeed used by affected households to cope and adapt. However the share of the observed temporary migration that can be directly attributed to climatic conditions tends to be small and the link between climatic conditions and permanent migration is even weaker. Essentially, whether this is due to an attachment to their area of origin or a lack of good options at destination for migrants, households who are affected the most by poor climatic conditions and weather shocks do not appear to be sending members away permanently much more than other households living in the same areas but affected less by those shocks. This does not mean that in the future climate-induced migration may not be much higher.

This basic argument, if valid, has implications for development policy in climate-affected areas, and likewise it has implications for the types of projects that service club organizations should implement in those areas. In the next post in the series, I will provide more details on the empirical evidence about the argument outlined above. In the third post, I will discuss implications of this research for development policies and programs, including for service clubs.

Rotarian Economist Call for Briefs and Papers

by Quentin Wodon

The Rotarian Economist blog was launched on World Polio Day in October 2014. The blog discusses challenges and opportunities encountered by Interact, Rotaract, and Rotary clubs, as well as other service clubs. It also features stories about service work and analysis of sometimes complex issues related to poverty reduction and development. This includes discussions about priority areas for Rotary International such as promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education, growing local economies, and (of course) eradicating polio. The hope is that the blog and the resources posted on this website will be useful to Rotarians worldwide, as well as to others interested in service work and development.

A briefs and working papers series will soon be launched on the Rotarian Economist blog and website. This may be an opportunity for readers of the blog to feature their project, initiative, or analysis. Briefs and working papers may be submitted by Interactors, Rotaractors, and Rotarians, as well as by others interested in nonprofit service and development work. For example, great projects by NGOs could be featured even if they have not received any support from Rotary.

This initiative will not duplicate tools such as Rotary Showcase where Rotary projects can be listed with a brief description (typically a paragraph) and basic project and contact information. The idea is rather to provide a space for more in-depth analysis of service projects and development issues through briefs (about 4 pages single spaced in length) and working papers (typically 12-30 pages single-spaced; please use Times New Roman font 12 for both briefs and papers).

The series will welcome briefs and working papers on service projects as well as  thematic issues – especially in the areas of focus of The Rotary Foundation. For service projects, authors should first explain the focus area of the project typically with a few links to the literature on that area (these links to the literature are more important for working papers than for briefs). The following sections of the brief or working paper should describe the project not only generally but also with a focus on what makes it especially innovative or interesting. If quantitative or qualitative data on a project’s impact are available, these should be included. The brief or working paper should also have a conclusion and a list of references.

For work on thematic issues, the briefs or working papers should provide insights or analysis about a specific issue related to service or development work, as academic or professional papers and knowledge briefs would do. This could be an issue related to the management of service clubs, their growth, and the challenges they face. It could also be an issue related to development programs and policies, again ideally with a focus on the areas of intervention of The Rotary Foundation.

The series will be indexed with contents aggregators, and many of the briefs/papers will be announced on the Rotarian Economist blog with a post summarizing the key findings from the work. For briefs and papers on specific service projects, it is a good idea to provide one or more photos.

If you would like to submit a brief or working paper for this initiative, please send me an email through the Contact Me page.  Thank you!