EmmaBond Gardner

A virtual repository for the bits and pieces of life I find interesting. These include (but certainly aren't limited to) digital media, NYC, history, southern culture and food, international affairs, sports, traveling to faraway lands, books, and women's rights. Even shorter musings can be found on Twitter at @EmmaBGardner.
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With so many options when donating to great causes, it can often be overwhelming to figure out where to send your money. Will $1 of your hard-earned income be better spent financing a small business in Guinea, or helping a girls’ education project in India? In a guest post for the World Bank Impact Blog (and originally from an article in Christianity Today), Economist Bruce Wydick polls his colleagues to determine the most cost-effective ways to give to the poor.

Some of the most effective? Providing clean water to rural villages, de-worming children, donating insecticide-treated bednets, and sponsoring a child. And some of the least effective? Fair-trade coffee, laptops for kids, and menstrual pads for girls. The inefficiency of laptop for kids comes as no surprise (see here and here) - but menstrual pads for girls? That intervention has long been touted as a cheap and easy way to help girls stay in school. These (perhaps counter-intuitive) findings are exactly why the monitoring and evaluation of development projects is so important. 

It would also be interesting to see where in the world your money gets put to good use. Is de-worming kids in southern India as cost-effective as de-worming in southern Africa? What other nuanced findings can be discovered within the data?

As part of my Columbia SIPA coursework, I’m participating in a capstone workshop that examines the evolving nature of media development monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Media development M&E is, basically, how people try to determine the impact of the millions of dollars that flows into media development worldwide. All of the money spent creating a free press in Russia, developing social media in Egypt, or training journalists in China - what’s the actual impact of that?

One of the issues that comes up time and time again is how effective M&E really is at proving impact. Can you use numbers to measure how free a press is? Can you use data to capture how well-informed a society is? There is a tendency in M&E culture to privilege quantitive data over qualitative. Is that really appropriate for something as qualitative as media? At the same time, what’s the point of spending millions of dollars trying to improve the media if you cant even show that media development works? Budgets are tight; we cant be throwing money away. How do you balance this tension?