We are living through an unprecedented global crisis and worried about our families, our jobs and our common future. Although these are indeed troubling times, it is also an opportune moment to reflect on the numerous developmental successes that we have achieved in recent decades; how we have addressed major crises and resolved numerous challenges. Indeed, the world has witnessed remarkable improvements in agricultural production, life expectancy and literacy— together with a reduction in child mortality and incidences of infectious diseases.
Last week, I had the pleasure of launching a revised and updated Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that I first offered in 2015. This free course — What Works? Promising Practices in International Development — is available to a global audience (visit: www.sum.uio.no/sdg) and features a world class teaching faculty from Malawi, Norway, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. You can watch the over 50 short video lectures from the comfort of your home.
My colleagues and I highlight stories, cases, and events that can be considered ‘promising’ or perhaps even ‘successful’ in contributing to overall societal progress. The goal is to promote a better understanding of what works—and to unpack how and why it works—as we consider global and national development programmes and anti-poverty interventions.
This free online course is structured in five parts. We begin with an overview of how development is understood, including a discussion of the various dimensions of development, what constitutes “success” and how the Sustainable Development Goals differ from the Millennium Development Goals. In part 2, we explore East Asian successes in achieving high rates of economic growth and effective poverty reduction. In particular, we focus on China’s impressive achievement in lifting over half a billion people out of poverty of just two decades. My colleagues also highlight the role and impact of the Green Revolution, cash transfers in Africa and Malawi’s well-known Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
We make a persuasive case for strengthening democracy and promoting human rights and the rule of law in part 3 of the course. The lectures highlight the importance of free speech and public protest, in addition to the crucial role that civil society organisations play in our societies. In part 4, we highlight the numerous successes within the domain of global health including immunisation programmes and the global response to the Ebola epidemic. The final section of the course highlights international cooperation and what works in relation to foreign aid. With schools, universities and offices closed in most parts of the world, watching these videos may offer you some hope for the future. Please join us and continue the discussion on social media (use: #WhatWorksUiO).