Monthly Archives: January 2013

Politics, Political Change and International Development

The challenge of poverty reduction as a part of international development initiatives has preoccupied individuals, nonprofit organizations, and governments for more than half a century. Addressing poverty has proved to be a difficult undertaking and one replete with a host of ideological prescriptions, good intentions gone wrong, popularized ‘best practices’ and critics damning the whole enterprise. Making sense of the diverse efforts and arguments that fall under the umbrella of international development is a complex task. Yet critical thinking about those initiatives and their effects on poverty is essential as aid comes under increased political pressure from critics. The continuing global economic malaise and the increasingly desperate fiscal circumstances of many donor countries has put development budgets at risk. Aid critics, such as Dambisa Moyo and William Easterly, have compiled evidence of the failures of international development efforts over the past decades to argue it should be discontinued. Moreover, and as an overarching trend, growing trade volumes, foreign direct investment, and remittances now dwarf aid budgets in many developing countries. Continue reading

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Re: Reflections and Explorations

I am delighted that today marks the launch of a new series of commentaries authored by interested Virginia Tech graduate students, irrespective of their disciplinary background, on topics relevant to the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance mission. The new student-run column, Re: Reflections and Explorations, will appear weekly in this space on Thursdays and will feature the thinking of a different author each week. I want to thank the doctoral students who organized this effort and do encourage those interested in contributing an essay to contact Lyusyena Kirakosyan ( to obtain editorial guidelines and to schedule a date for your effort next fall. Meanwhile, as it happens, Lyusyena has written our first commentary to kick-off the series, entitled “Harnessing the Power of Narrative for Social Change.” Thank you for your interest and consideration. Continue reading

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Harnessing the Power of Narrative for Social Change

Few would argue with the idea that stories represent a universal human activity across history and cultures that has served many different purposes. Bruno Bettelheim believed that through narrative human beings come to know themselves better, becoming more able to understand others and to relate to them in mutually satisfying and meaningful ways. I have been a member of the Virginia Tech Institute for Policy and Governance Community Voices team for several years now, as we invited a number of local, national and international leaders to Blacksburg to share their stories and perspectives on social change. Our guests have used the power of narrative to connect people, stories and resources, to begin conversations around health, arts and culture, economy, technology and community engagement, and perhaps to encourage some of us to take action. Continue reading

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