LEPnet.org launched to share knowledge

With support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Global College recently launched LEPnet— an International Applied Research Learning Network on Poverty and Human Rights—to foster research collaborations and knowledge-sharing on legal empowerment of the poor.

The Applied Research Learning Network on Poverty and Human Rights (LEPnet.org) is a project of The University of Winnipeg Global College. The network stems from the work of the UN Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor which issued its final report in June, 2008 entitled "Making the Law Work for Everyone." The network has been developed to serve as a portal through which a diversity of organizations’ contributions to the field of poverty and human rights are channeled, as well as to be a collaborative space where researchers and practitioners can collaborate on the development and publishing of new research and learning materials.

Met with Jin Ho Verdonscot from Tilburg

Finally met Jin Ho Verdonscot at the Imperial Hotel in downtown Kampala today. Jin Ho, a researcher at Tilburg University Law School, has been my virtual counterpart for years. We had a great talk about microjustice and how technology can help with legal empowerment. He is also a part of TISCO, which I blogged about before. Ahh, he inspires me with his recent list of publications:

Harvard and Stanford Law School Call for Papers



Stanford Law School and Harvard Law School have established an International Junior Faculty Forum. The idea behind this is to stimulate exchange of ideas and research, among younger scholars in the academy, from all parts of the world; and to encourage younger scholars in their work. We live today in a global community - especially a global legal community - and it is important to develop legal scholarship on a transnational basis. Scholars in different countries are often divided by barriers of time and space, as well as barriers of different legal traditions and cultures. We hope that the Forum will be a step in the direction of surmounting these barriers. The papers at the 2010 Forum were on a very wide range of subjects, from the treatment of science by the World Trade Organization, to the concept of evil in German and American law, to the role of Islam in the development of national legal system. The young scholars came from many different countries, as did the senior scholars. In all, five continents and a wide range of viewpoints and methodologies were represented.

Another Conference: Emerging Economies and the Rule of Law: Challenges and Opportunities

The 17th Commonwealth Law Conference will take place in Hyderabad, India, Feb. 5-9, 2011. Organizers expect over 1,000 lawyers, judges, and legal academics from 54 Commonwealth countries to attend. The theme of the conference is Emerging Economies and the Rule of Law: Challenges and Opportunities and the diverse business program will cover human rights and the rule of law, corporate and commercial law and the legal and judicial professions.

Berkman Event 9 Nov 2011: Chair Lecture: The Path of Legal Information

Chair Lecture: The Path of Legal Information

John Palfrey, Henry N. Ess Professor of Law and Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School & Berkman Center Faculty Co-Director

Tuesday, November 9th, 5:00PM
Harvard Law School
Space is limited; RSVP *Required* to Amar Ashar (ashar@cyber.law.harvard.edu)

On the occasion of his appointment as the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law, John Palfrey will give a lecture entitled, “The Path of Legal Information.”

I propose a path toward a new legal information environment that is predominantly digital in nature. This new era grows out of a long history of growth and change in the publishing of legal information over more than nine hundred years years, from the early manuscripts at the roots of English common law in the reign of the Angevin King Henry II; through the early printed treatises of Littleton and Coke in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, (including those in the extraordinary collection of Henry N. Ess III); to the systemic improvements introduced by Blackstone in the late eighteenth century; to the modern period, ushered in by Langdell and West at the end of the nineteenth century. Now, we are embarking upon an equally ambitious venture to remake the legal information environment for the twenty-first century, in the digital era.

Conference on Global Competition Law in New Delhi, 19 nov 2010

Global Competition Law Conference: Implementing Competition Law and Policy, Global Perspectives

Global Competition Law Conference:
Implementing Competition Law and Policy, Global Perspectives
19 November 2010, New Delhi, India
Conference website
(From Law and Development Blog)

The recent adoption of competition law statutes in East and South Asia, culminating with the enactment of the Indian Competition Act and the Chinese Antimonopoly Law, mark a significant development to the global business community. Merger control, the application of competition law to unilateral conduct such as distribution agreements, competition issues in intellectual property rights, and state activities in the economy create important challenges in the enforcement of competition law in these crucial markets for policymakers, multinational corporations, law firms and economic consultancies. A number of panels and roundtables will examine these issues, composed by the international and local leaders of the competition/regulatory law and M&A practice.

How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?

(From the Law and Development blog)

Michael Woolcock, World Bank - Development Research Group, Harvard University - Kennedy School of Government, Simon Szreter, World Bank and Vijayendra Rao, World Bank have an interesting new paper that ask How and Why Does History Matter for Development Policy?

ABSTRACT: The consensus among scholars and policymakers that"institutions matter"for development has led inexorably to a conclusion that"history matters,"since institutions clearly form and evolve over time. Unfortunately, however, the next logical step has not yet been taken, which is to recognize that historians (and not only economic historians) might also have useful and distinctive insights to offer. This paper endeavors to open and sustain a constructive dialogue between history -- understood as both"the past"and"the discipline"-- and development policy by (a) clarifying what the craft of historical scholarship entails, especially as it pertains to understanding causal mechanisms, contexts, and complex processes of institutional change; (b) providing examples of historical research that support, qualify, or challenge the most influential research (by economists and economic historians) in contemporary development policy; and (c) offering some general principles and specific implications that historians, on the basis of the distinctive content and method of their research, bring to development policy debates.

berkman Series: Becoming a Networked Nonprofit

Tuesday, October 5, 12:30 pm

Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
Many nonprofit organizations have dipped their toes into the set-me-free world powered by social media, but too many still have trepidations about turning their organizations inside out to take full advantage of the new tools. The Networked Nonprofit, a new bestselling book by leading bloggers and thinkers, Beth Kanter and Allison Fine, enables organizations to overcome their fears of losing control and evolve to meet the informational and cultural needs of today's donors and volunteers. In their research, Allison and Beth discovered that the organizations that are immersed in social media — whether they are created that way or are becoming so — look and act more like social organizations than traditional organizations. They will discuss the myths and realities that make organizations leery of opening themselves up, and they’ll share specific stories of how other organizations have been successful in doing so. 

Legal Institutions and Economic Development

Thorsten Beck (Tilburg - Economics) has a new paper on Legal Institutions and Economic Development.

ABSTRACT: Legal institutions are critical for the development of market-based economies. This paper defines legal institutions and discusses different indicators to measure their quality and efficiency. It surveys a large historical and empirical literature showing the importance of legal institutions in explaining cross-country variation in economic development. Finally, it presents and discusses three different views of why we can observe the large cross-country variation in legal institutions, the social conflict, the legal origin and the culture and religion hypotheses.

Berkman Event: I'm in the Database, but Nobody Knows

Tuesday, September 28, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floorRSVP required for those attending in person (rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu)

This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
Co-hosted by Harvard's Center for Research on Computation and Society

A statistical database provides statistical information about a population, while maintaining the privacy of individuals in the database. A popular interpretation of this statement, due to Dalenius, says that "anything learnable about an individual, given access to the database, can be learned without access to the database." In non-technical terms, we will discuss why any such definition is problematic, and suggest an alternate notion of privacy for statistical databases, differential privacy, that arises naturally from an observation about the impossibility argument.

A thriving research effort has produced high-quality differentially private solutions for a wide range of data analysis tasks. We will try to give a feel for the broad spectrum of things that can be done by accessing information through a privacy-preserving programming interface. Finally, we will touch on some privacy problems arising in the context of behavioral targeting that are not addressed by this approach, and pose some questions about mitigation.

Attended USIP's Awesome Rule of Law Course

I recently attended the USIP's Rule of Law Course in Washington DC this past month and it was an excellent overview about the confusing and overlapping (and sometime contentious) field of 'Rule of Law', which we also know as 'Law and Development'. Piloted just this year, and highly recommended, for the curriculum, the networking opportunities and the wonderful staff at USIP (like Vivienne O'Connor)

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), (from it's official literature) is "an independent, nonpartisan organization, created and funded by Congress to prevent and resolve violent international conflicts. USIP’s mission is to increase the United States’ capacity to manage international conflict—to think, act, teach, and train. It uses its convening power to bring together diverse communities to devise practical approaches to peacebuilding"

Three Important Nonprofit Operations Manuals

Heather Carpenter, a colleague and my personal guru for nonprofit operations (ie intentional operations) in the US, has a very useful blog called Nonprofit Leadership 601. As I slowly set up operations here, I am reminded to adopt and adapt best practices. Her following post, which you can also find on her blog here, lists three important manuals with templates and samples. As I apply them to the work at hand, I will blog more about what I can adapt here and what might be too operationally or culturally different to use here.

Three VERY IMPORTANT Manuals for Nonprofit Organizations

Many times I've blogged about the importance of nonprofit operations. Ever so often accounting, human resources, and technology practices get pushed aside in a nonprofit organization because program work is prioritized as being more important. This is fine and dandy until a crisis occurs, like someone embezzles money from the organization or a disgruntled employee sues the organization. These types of things happen more often than not. That is why it is important to put the proper operations policies and procedures in place ahead of time to prevent these horrible things from happening.

Whether you run a new nonprofit or your nonprofit has been around for years, I recommend that EVERY nonprofit implement and actively use these three manuals in their organizations:

Accounting manual
Employment manual
General operations manual

Does International Development Aid work? - a review of recent books

I'm a big fan of books, and related to this blog, in particular books on intentional development and law work. Here in Uganda, in one of the better foreign-friendly bookstores, I see an abundance of aid-related books, focusing on many different topics. One thing that surprises me is the number of books on aid in general, trying to answer the question of whether international aid works. 

On that very topic alone, you will find a spectrum of views varying from aid euphoria to skeptism to downright contempt/ridicule of aid. Over the last few years alone, some books I've come across in the spectrum from 'aid is bad' to 'aid is good' are:
  • The Aid Trap: Hard Truths About Ending Poverty, R. Glenn Hubbard (2006) - Not surprisingly, these authors from the Columbia Business School, make the case that current foreign aid and Third World projects is not working because the general strategy for aid is it creates a charity trap, instead of promoting real growth through cultivating a functioning business sector. 
  • Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism, Ha-Joon Chang (2007)- An effective critic of globalization and a protectionist on the side of the free-trade debate, the author considers the first world to be bad Samaritans because they had used the same unfair protectionist approaches to improve their economies and now are in fact advocating for free market and free trade to the poor countries in order to capture larger shares of the latter's markets and to pre-empt the emergence of possible competitors. 
  • Aid and Influence: Do Donors Help or Hinder?, Stephen Browne (2006) - Examining bilateral donors, the author concludes that on balance, aid seems to work, BUT there is at the same time so much aid that is seemingly ineffective (significant part of the causes can be traced back to the main donor governments).There needs to be more coordination of bilateral aid, possibly through multilateral organizations. For more details, read this review by Roger Riddeil (another aid author, see below)
  • Does Foreign Aid Really Work?, Roger C. Riddell (2008) - I'm personally a big fan of Riddell's previous books, and his current book does not disappoint as one of the most comprehensive, scholarly and objective on the subject. He undertook a massive literature review of aid (although some have criticized that they are mainly inherently biased donor reports). Combined with his own long personal experience as a practitioner, concludes with something that sounds like 'yes, aid is working, but not as well as it should'.
  • Foreign Aid: Diplomacy, Development, Domestic Politics, Carol Lancaster (2006) - looking at bilateral aid from both a seasoned practitioner and academic point of view, this former USAID administrator looks at the motivations behind aid in the biggest donors- United States, Japan, France, and Germany, and Denmark. She shows that bilateral aid is neither purely a tool of diplomacy or altruism towards developing countries, but it is really used for a combination of reasons. From this point of view, aid then makes sense, because it at least fulfills most of these goals of the donor countries. 

The Big Picture: Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and the Microjustice Movement

I was recently asked by the wonderful folks at Microjustice4All to write a short introductory article about how microjustice fits into the bigger Law and Development context. I revisited some content of this blog and realized that, while I have been blogging about Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and Microjustice for a while now, I don't yet have a post on the big picture context. So I'm reproducing my article as follows:

The Big Picture: Law and Development, Legal Empowerment and the Microjustice Movement

International Development is a relatively new field of practice, and even newer still is the Law and Development field, which began in the 1950s. For many years, Law and Development projects have been highly criticized as being ineffective, and even today, there continues to be many debates (both between academics and practitioners) about whether law has a role in bringing about international development, and if so, what that role is. The international community is still continuing to find new and better ways to old problems. Might microjustice be an answer?

While many smaller grassroots NGOs have always focused on concrete ways which law can be used to benefit poor people in their own countries, donor countries and large development agencies like the World Bank have concentrated on big, top-down law reform projects such as law-making, court reform and legal training. However, in the 1990s, these expensive programs appear to have made little to no impact on poor people at all. Along with a bigger movement to focus on the poor (spearheaded by the UN though the Millennium Development Goals), the Law and Development industry started to focus on the people who matter the most- not the judges, lawyers or formal legal departments, but marginalized, unempowered poor people.

Initial discussions among passionate people resulted in the formation of the United Nations ‘Commission on the Legal Empower of the Poor’ in 2005 to examine this issue. After three years of research and the publication of their report in 2008, ‘Legal Empowerment of the Poor’ soon became a new way to think about Law and Development. While there are still debates about the details of the UN report, most practitioners are relieved that, finally, the concept of bottom-up legal work focusing on the poor has been recognized in the international arena. In particular, grassroots organizations that have done legal empowerment work for as long as the big agencies have on top-down reform are the first to celebrate. Still, their work is far from over, because billions of people are still without basic rights, access to justice, and legal empowerment.

It is within this context that an organization started to explore innovative ways to bring justice and legal empowerment to poor people. Instead of the traditional donor-based approaches, Microjustice4All wanted to find a way to bring relevant legal services to the poor in a way that is truly sustainable and scalable. Its founder, Patricia van Nispen, who was nominated by renowned Utne magazine as one of 50 Visionaries who will change the world, pushed the envelope with a visionary concept called Microjustice, premised on the dignified belief that poor people are willing and able to pay for services that they need and want. With the creation of Microjustice4All, then MJ Bolivia, MJ Peru, MJ Argentina and now MJ Uganda, we are all together riding the exciting beginning of a big, unprecedented movement in the Law and Development field.

African Land Grabbing: whose interests are served?

Now that I am based in Uganda to implement a microjustice model for legal empowerment (that includes services that addresses property issues like land titles and see these issues again first hand), I am reminded of the political economy issues as expounded in this fairly recent and readable article by Brookings Director of the Africa Growth Initiative Ernest Aryeetey discusses transnational land acquisitions in Africa.

Read the article...

Berkman Event: Modeling a Paradigm Shift: From Producer Innovation to User and Open Collaborative Innovation

In Uganda, I find myself wondering how this can apply to legal services for the poor? 

Tuesday, September 14, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floorRSVP required for those attending in person (rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu)
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.

Both innovation by individual users and open collaborative innovation is increasingly competing with and may displace producer innovation in many parts of the economy. This represents a paradigm shift with respect to innovation research, public policy related to innovation, and innovation practice. Eric will present the basic story and we will transition to a discussion of important implications and interesting research opportunities.

FailFaire- a Discussion on failures in ICT4D projects (no, REALLY!)

My long time colleague and friend, Katrin Verclas recently founded MobileActivea New York-based nonprofit network aiming to improve the lives of the poor through technology (also known as 'ICT4D' efforts in our industry). I've seen lots of dismal results from the use of technology in development projects (most of them not due to technology, but rather politics and people), but it's true that they are not usually shared with the world (which is an understatement). So I have to love this honest and gung-ho attitude, which is only Katrin's- 
“I absolutely think we learn from failure, but getting people to talk about it honestly is not so easy,” she said “So I thought, why not try to start conversations about failure through an evening event with drinks and finger foods in a relaxed, informal atmosphere that would make it seem more like a party than a debriefing.”
(UPDATE 8/22. True to Katrin, I received this post from her to a maling list we both belong to:
"Love to see a #failtrack included in all conferences - there really is a lot to learn from other's people's #fails.  And, by the way - since this idea occurred to me in the shower, is completely unfunded, and a loss leader (good booze is expensive, you know), here are our 7 Tips on How to Roll Your Own FailFaire: http://mobileactive.org/roll-your-own-failfaire"
The New York Times reports on the event as follows: (and most of us involved in ICT4D conversations will get the joke about the One-Laptop-Per-Child laptop as prize. Aside from that, I'm also impressed about the sponsorship- not the mention the candor (drinks sure can help!)- of the World Bank...)
WASHINGTON — At a gathering last month over drinks and finger food, a specialist at the World Bank related the story of how female weavers in a remote Amazonian region of Guyana had against all odds built themselves a thriving global online business selling intricately woven hammocks for $1,000 apiece.
The state phone company had donated a communications center that helped the women find buyers around the world, selling to places like the British Museum. Within short order, though, their husbands pulled the plug, worried that their wives’ sudden increase in income was a threat to the traditional male domination in their society.
Technology’s potential to bring about social good is widely extolled, but its failures, until now, have rarely been discussed by nonprofits who deploy it. The experience in Guyana might never have come to light without FailFaire, a recurring party whose participants revel in revealing technology’s shortcomings.

Community Organizing Handbook

As I evolve further from law/legal/governance reform work and get more and more involved (again!) with legal empowerment work, the bottom-up power from community organizing is becoming more important to me. I found a great wiki-based (ie you can help edit the document and make it better) Handbook For Community Organizers by Netsquared. Netsquared focuses on social web/new media/web 2.0 tools and is a project of Techsoup, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that supports other nonprofits in the use of general technology (and which I'm a fan of since the early days of NPower founded and managed by my friend Joan Fanning). 

What I like about the Handbook is that it is grounded in using both non-IT and appropriate IT-based tools for community organizing, based on concrete examples used by nonprofits (albeit in US). But I can see ways that it can be adapted worldwide even in developing countries. If anything, Techsoup (and many bay area nonprofits in general) are leading at the intersection of technology and social change. 

Visit the Handbook For Community Organizers. Being my area of interest, here are some links from segment of the Handbook on using digital tools, which are so powerful, when used approproately and in complement to non-IT tools, but which many nonprofits are quick to dismiss. (But to the technophile- I know, I know, even I at some point I will go "Oh, this list is SOOOO 2010..."): 

Berkman Conference: Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?

September 25
Atlanta, Georgia
Visit the conference website for more information on the conference agenda, registration and logistics
We're pleased to announce that the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard's Berkman Center and the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University are co-hosting a conference on September 25, 2010 entitled "Media Law in the Digital Age: The Rules Have Changed, Have You?" in Atlanta, Georgia.
If you are a journalist, blogger, or a lawyer who works with media clients, the conference should be at the top of your schedule. This will be a fantastic opportunity to learn first-hand the latest legal developments and to get your questions answered by our panel of experts.
The program will bring together panels of legal practitioners, journalists, and academics to discuss the latest legal issues facing online media ventures. Topics will include: libel law, copyright law, newsgathering law, and advertising law, as well as the legal issues arising from news aggregation, managing online communities, and business law considerations for start-up online media organizations. Small-group workshops will focus on strategies for accessing government information and understanding legal terms in content licenses, freelancer contracts, and website terms of service and privacy policies.
If you need personalized legal assistance before or after talking about these media law issues, contact the Online Media Legal Network, a legal referral network for independent online media administered by the Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center.
Funding for the conference is being provided by the Harnisch Foundation, which has been a long-time sponsor of the Center for Sustainable Journalism and recently provided a grant to the Berkman Center to support media law education.
Visit the conference website for more information on the conference agenda, registration and logistics.

Visiting the Hague- Tilburg University and TISCO

Being in the Hague, I got a chance to visit Tilburg University Law School (which I have blogged previously many times such as here) and TISCO, along with the many institutions in the Hague and Holland in general, are great proponents of justice. In fact the concept of microjustice originated from a partnership between Tilburg University and and the ILA (see previous post on microjustice here). I'm just amazed at how advanced they are relatively to the US, on the issues of justice and law and development. Perhaps it is their location at The Hague, City of Justice and Peace. ;)


Berkman Event: Hacking the Casebook

Ahhh... memories from Law School days and the 200 page casebook:

Tuesday, September 21, 12:00 pm 
**Please note earlier start time for this week only**

Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor
RSVP required for those attending in person (rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu)
Traditional law school casebooks are expensive, bulky and stagnant.  With the support of the HLS Library, Berkman has been updating our suite of classroom tools, H2O, to create an online alternative to casebooks that are free, online and remixable.  H2O includes our new tool Collage for editing down and annotating cases, Playlists for aggregating materials, the Question Tool for in-classroom back channel, and the Rotisserie for out-of-class discussion.  In this lunch we'll demo some of the tools (all still in alpha) and show how Jonathan Zittrain's Torts class is using them this term.

About H20

H2O is an open source, educational exchange platform that explores powerful ways to connect professors, students, and researchers online. There are four tools within the H2O platform:  the Question tool, the Rotisserie, Playlists and Collage.  

The question tool is an organized backchannel for conferences and classes that allows participants to submit, answer, and vote on questions. It’s an effective way to keep feedback focused, direct speakers to audience interests, and potentially prevent the mic from being hijacked by that weirdo.

Rotisserie discussions represent an innovative approach to online discussion that encourages measured, thoughtful discourse in a way that that traditional threaded messaging systems do not, in the process solving some of the universal complaints about online discussion boards: that the substance of discussions is poor, that participants post quickly rather than thoughtfully, that participation is uneven (most people lurk, and a few posters dominate the rest), and that discussion forums are segregated into balkanized communities of people with similar thoughts and beliefs. 

An H2O playlist is a shared list of readings (links to books and articles) and other content about a topic of intellectual interest. It is a simple yet powerful way to group and exchange useful links to information -- online and offline.  It can be used as a syllabus or reading list for a class.  The playlist items can then be remixed by other authors, lending influence to the items themselves and their original contributors.

Finally, Collage is the newest tool being added to the H2O platform.  Collage is an annotation engine for online materials.  It allows for tagging text, annotating it, and hiding portions of text without changing the original document.


Law and Development Institute (LDI) Inaugural Conference (focused on Trade Issues)- 16 Oct 2010

The Law and Development Institute (LDI) is an international academic network established as a non-profit research institution in Sydney, Australia, with an objective of promoting law and development studies and projects. Law and development concerns the impacts of law on economic and social development, and the LDI aims to become an international centre for law and development studies. LDI will be hosting its innagural conference, which will focus on trade issues (see after jump)

Law and development studies concern the impact of international and domestic legal orders on economic development, which has become increasingly relevant to our economic lives due to the rapid globalization that has taken place in the recent decades. Law and development issues have become a subject of considerable attention in the recent Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in relation to international trade law. The Doha Round was suspended because of the large gaps between the developed and developing countries in their positions on key international trade law and development issues. There are also many unresolved issues about the role of domestic laws and regulations as well as international law in economic development.

The LDI addresses those issues and seeks to help find solutions to poverty issues around the world by clarifying the impact that law has on economic development. Currently a number of preeminent scholars and professionals from several countries, includng the United States, Canada, China (including Hong Kong), Japan, Australia, Korea, Israel, and Singapore, are participating in the LDI.

LDI will be hosting its innagural conference, which will focus on trade issues (see agenda after jump) 

Berkman Event: Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 19, 12:30 pm
Pound Hall Room 335, Harvard Law School 
**Please note new location for this week only**
RSVP required for those attending in person (rsvp@cyber.law.harvard.edu)
This event will be webcast live at 12:30 pm ET and archived on our site shortly after.
Wikipedia's style of collaborative production has been lauded, lambasted, and satirized. Despite unease over its implications for the character (and quality) of knowledge, Wikipedia has brought us closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia. Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia is a rich ethnographic portrayal of Wikipedia's historical roots, collaborative culture, and much debated legacy.

Berkman Event: ICT and Civic Engagement in Nigeria: the 2011 Presidential Election and Beyond

Interesting as I prepare to head out to Uganda to implement a microjustice model with technology...

A Public Symposium
19 July 2010
Abuja, Nigeria
Sponsored by the Georgia Institute of TechnologyDigital Bridge InstituteNational Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and the Berkman Center. 
Visit the main website for this event, which includes registration, the agenda, and more information. 

The objective of this ongoing series is to stimulate discussion of, engagement with, and reflection upon the role and uses of information and communications technologies (ICTs) in civic engagement. We will specifically examine and advocate around the upcoming 2011 Nigerian presidential election, exploring ICTs as environments to educate, discuss, deliberate, choose, and act. The meetings will draw on relevant experiences from Nigeria, the rest of Africa, and elsewhere around the world, bringing together thought leaders, practitioners, activists, and citizens, with a particular focus on civil society actors.

Of particular interest are the various ways in which ICTs can be enabling key functions of democracy, including how they help people to access and share relevant news and information, organize and coordinate activity, and generate and utilize data. While these endeavors are always important in the drive to create transparent and accountable government and rich civic engagement, they are perhaps never more essential as in the period around (and including) elections, where they represent a unique resource.


Nigerians, and indeed the world, are collectively holding their breath in anticipation of the 2011 presidential election. Indeed this election’s importance to the citizens of Nigeria and the good functioning of the government cannot be overstated. And no longer is there doubt as to the tremendous promise – and associated risks – of using information and communication technologies to enhance the effectiveness of both electoral activities and new approaches to reform, monitoring, and civic participation in the democratic process.

This upcoming symposium and workshop emerged from a July 2009 conference in which diverse non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made plain the requirements of robust state accountability and transparency for civil society to succeed with its missions – and the concomitant potential of ICTs to support these goals of participatory, inclusive and deliberative processes of decision-making. What became eminently clear from these NGO participants was that Nigeria now sits at a critical juncture with respect to this civic engagement, with all eyes focused upon the upcoming election.


The symposia are co-organized by the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs and the College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology (USA) and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (USA), hosted by Digital Bridge Institute (Nigeria), and sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


The series begins with a large, daylong public symposium at the Yar’ Adua Centre in Abuja on July 19, 2010, followed by a smaller invitation-only interactive workshop on July 20 at the Digital Bridge Institute in Abuja. Facilitators are leading researchers, activists and organizations in the field and will come from Nigeria, across Africa and around the world. Participants will overlap, drawing from across sectors, including NGOs, donors, academics, activists, policymakers, technologists, and entrepreneurs.

The public symposium will introduce the big picture making the issues widely accessible and compelling to a diverse public audience. It will include a small number of plenary talks from eminent personalities designed to give framing overviews to the topics. However, most of the day will consist of panel discussions that will combine case studies and critical analysis with policy engagements including next-step provocations.

The subsequent workshop will consist of highly interactive plenary sessions separated by two hands-on breakout sessions focusing on relevant skills, strategies and tools. This invitation-only workshop will be limited to at most 100 participants.
Visit the main website for this event, which includes registration, the agenda, and more information. 

ANLEP- Academic Network on legal Empowerment of the Poor

ANLEP was established in 2007 at the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo in Norway, and it has grown into a great resource for LEP scholarly work. 
The main purpose of ANLEP is to undertake research and disseminate research findings on selected topics that have been crucial to the work of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, including a focus on access to justice and rule of law, labour and property rights, socio-economic and political empowerment of women and human rights-based pro-poor governance.

This will be undertaken through a variety of activities which include workshops, joint publications, short-term exchange programme for faculty, doctoral courses on legal empowerment and visits by doctoral students from Europe and developing countries to partner institutions of the ANLEP network. ANLEP was established in May 2007, and is headed by Dr. Dan Banik,, from the Centre for Development and the Environment, University of Oslo.

Within the website you can find scholarly articles, event/workshop listings and notes, a list of cross-border folks interested in Legal Empowerment issyes, and a link to Dr. Banik’s book (Dan Banik (ed.) Rights and Legal Empowerment in Eradicating Poverty, London: Ashgate.). Of particular interest to me are the following two articles (but look at the site for more updated literature!)
·         Li-ann Thio, 'Unpacking the Human Right to Development: The 2007 ASEAN Charter and Legal Empowerment Trajectories', ANLEP Working Paper No. 1 (2009) (pdf)
·         Dan Banik, 'Legal Empowerment as a Conceptual and Operational Tool in Poverty Eradication', Hague Journal on the Rule of Law (2009) (pdf)

Professional Development Courses for Law and Development Practitioners

Younger practitioners sometimes ask me if there are good Law and Development Courses to recommend, as a part of their professional development. I myself have had the same questions for years, and for want of an answer, usually end up self-educating. What I find is that Law and Development is such a broad field, and often conceptually contentious on so many levels, that it is hard to recommend one course that is all encompassing. Moreover, most practitioners come from many backgrounds- a lawyer might need more training in project management and general international development, while a generalist might need more concrete legal training. Sometimes, a specific focus is necessarily- a legal field, a geographical area, a type of intervention, or working with specific donors. 

With those caveats, the UN Rule of Law Unit maintains a broad (ie. non-UN) database of non-academic Rule of Law Courses for practitioners. It builds the database from user recommendations.  Some links to training courses are reproduced below (Please do submit a course if you find that it might be useful for others!):

Virtual Technology Summer Camp for Nonprofits

Charity Dynamics, a young, cool group is hosting a free Summer Camp for Nonprofits webinar series. The six-part series runs from June 22 through August 11 and presents topics ranging from social media fundraising and website optimization to special events and open APIs. The sessions are free but you need to register for the series here: http://www.charitydynamics.com/summer-webinar-series-2010 

(UPDATE 8/25: Now that the webinars are over, you can access them on-demand on Charity Dynamics' website here. I do love how this younger world is evolving...)