Quarterly Links: Summer 2019

by Alex Hughes-Smith

Aug 29, 2019

Not-entirely-random stuff for funders and doers obsessed with impact at scale. ​Every 3 months. More or less.

What’s the latest economics research on Africa?
We should really have a David Evans section. This is his latest round-up from the Center for the Study of African Economies 2019 Conference. We learn a lot from skimming his summaries and diving into the intriguing papers.
CGDEV (2 - ∞ minutes)

Our world in data map

Population density varies hugely in the places we work. This map has been fodder for many of our discussions around scale. If you love maps, follow @simongerman600 on twitter.

The poor, who most need insurance, are least likely to have it
To sell insurance to the poor, three things seem most important: trust, price and ease. Pula design and deliver insurance products that are bundled together with seeds, fertilizer and farm loans. They are also piloting the use of a "yield" index, that covers a wider range of risks than a simple weather index.
The Economist | Non paywall version here (6 minutes)

This company is redefining how to sell good things to poor people
Scott Roy is the founder of the international sales consultancy Whitten & Roy Partnership. They're "on a mission to change the way people see selling, to stop it from being a manipulative thing, and turn it into something that is an honorable profession that gets things into the hands of people who need it”.
Devex (6 minutes)

Mobile money

Fun fact: Bangladesh (not India, not Kenya) leads the world in mobile money adoption w/ 24.6M adult accounts.

Gender bias in blind review
This study of grant proposals submitted to the Gates Foundation from 2008-2017 found that despite blinded review, female applicants receive significantly lower scores. Men tend to sell the big dream. Women tend to present what needs to be done.
NBER (1 minute for the abstract; 20 minutes for the whole paper)

All happy grantees are alike
They focus on ideas, interactions, and important details. Ruth Levine recently ended her term at the Hewlett Foundation. She wrote 6 blog posts on what she's learned. In this one, she explores the patterns that have emerged from the 1,300 meetings she has had with grantees and potential grantees.
Hewlett (4 minutes)


"How the pursuit of leisure drives internet use: Movies, not grain prices, are bringing the poor world online" in The Economist

Gradually, then suddenly
Tim O'Reilly looks at some of the technologies that are in the middle of their “gradually, then suddenly” transition right now.
LinkedIn (8 minutes)

Behavior change podcasts
Who better to learn how to change behavior from than a leading advertising executive? Rory Sutherland, vice chair of Oglivy, may be preposterously British, but he really gets the science of persuasion. This is a deep dive podcast into why humans do some of the silly things we do.
The Knowledge Project (2 hours)

An all-star team of behavioral scientists discovers that humans are stubborn (and lazy, and sometimes dumber than dogs). You'll also hear about binge drinking, humblebragging, and regrets.
Freakonomics (50 minutes)


Book: Loonshots by Safi Bahcall

We weren't crazy about its title, but we love this book. It's really about organizations: how to build a productive organization that can continually come up with bold ideas.

Bahcall's model is simple, but not simplistic. An organization needs to have both a factory and a lab (our terms). The lab needs to nurture crazy new ideas, the factory needs to consistently produce high-quality goods and services. The lab can be designed to optimize the generation of great solutions. The factory and lab need to be separate. They also need to talk to each other.

Don't have time to read a book? Listen to a summary podcast here.

Damn it

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