A review of the evidence on developing and supporting policy and practice networks


Report by Ilona Haslewood: “In recent years, the Carnegie UK Trust has been involved in coordinating, supporting, and participating in a range of different kinds of networks. There are many reasons that people choose to develop networks as an approach to achieving a goal. We were interested in building our understanding of the evidence on the effectiveness of networks as a vehicle for policy and practice change.

In Autumn 2020, we began working with Ilona Haslewood to explore how to define a network, when it is appropriate to use this approach to achieve a particular goal, and what is the role of charitable foundations in supporting the development of networks. These questions, and more, are examined in A review of the evidence on developing and supporting policy and practice networks, which was written by Ilona Haslewood. This review of evidence forms part of a broader exploration of the role of networks, which includes a case study summary of A Better Way….(More)”

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation


Max Fisher at the New York Times: “There’s a decent chance you’ve had at least one of these rumors, all false, relayed to you as fact recently: that President Biden plans to force Americans to eat less meat; that Virginia is eliminating advanced math in schools to advance racial equality; and that border officials are mass-purchasing copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book to hand out to refugee children.

All were amplified by partisan actors. But you’re just as likely, if not more so, to have heard it relayed from someone you know. And you may have noticed that these cycles of falsehood-fueled outrage keep recurring.

We are in an era of endemic misinformation — and outright disinformation. Plenty of bad actors are helping the trend along. But the real drivers, some experts believe, are social and psychological forces that make people prone to sharing and believing misinformation in the first place. And those forces are on the rise.

“Why are misperceptions about contentious issues in politics and science seemingly so persistent and difficult to correct?” Brendan Nyhan, a Dartmouth College political scientist, posed in a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It’s not for want of good information, which is ubiquitous. Exposure to good information does not reliably instill accurate beliefs anyway. Rather, Dr. Nyhan writes, a growing body of evidence suggests that the ultimate culprits are “cognitive and memory limitations, directional motivations to defend or support some group identity or existing belief, and messages from other people and political elites.”

Put more simply, people become more prone to misinformation when three things happen. First, and perhaps most important, is when conditions in society make people feel a greater need for what social scientists call ingrouping — a belief that their social identity is a source of strength and superiority, and that other groups can be blamed for their problems.

As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings who put truth-seeking above all else, we are social animals wired for survival. In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup….(More)”.

The Hidden History of Coined Words


Book by Ralph Keyes: “Successful word-coinages — those that stay in currency for a good long time — tend to conceal their beginnings. We take them at face value and rarely when and where they were first minted. Engaging, illuminating, and authoritative, Ralph Keyes’s The Hidden History of Coined Words explores the etymological underworld of terms and expressions and uncovers plenty of hidden gems.

He also finds some fascinating patterns, such as that successful neologisms are as likely to be created by chance as by design. A remarkable number of new words were coined whimsically, originally intended to troll or taunt. Knickers, for example, resulted from a hoax; big bang from an insult. Casual wisecracking produced software, crowdsource, and blog. More than a few resulted from happy accidents, such as typos, mistranslations, and mishearing (bigly and buttonhole), or from being taken entirely out of context (robotics). Neologizers (a Thomas Jefferson coinage) include not just scholars and writers but cartoonists, columnists, children’s book authors. Wimp originated with a book series, as did goop, and nerd from a book by Dr. Seuss. Coinages are often contested, controversy swirling around such terms as gonzo, mojo, and booty call. Keyes considers all contenders, while also leading us through the fray between new word partisans, and those who resist them strenuously. He concludes with advice about how to make your own successful coinage….(More)”.

Treading new ground in household sector innovation research: Scope, emergence, business implications, and diffusion


Paper by Jeroen P.J.de Jong et al: “Individual consumers in the household sector increasingly develop products, services and processes, in their discretionary time without payment. Household sector innovation is becoming a pervasive phenomenon, representing a significant share of the innovation activity in any economy. Such innovation emerges from personal needs or self-rewards, and is distinct from and complementary to producer innovations motivated by commercial gains. In this introductory paper to the special issue on household sector innovation, we take stock of emerging research on the topic. We categorize the research into four areas: scope, emergence, implications for business, and diffusion. We develop a conceptual basis for the phenomenon, introduce the articles in the special issue, and show how each article contributes new insights. We end by offering a research agenda for scholars interested in the salient phenomenon of household sector innovation….(More)”.

Why Aren’t Text Message Interventions Designed to Boost College Success Working at Scale?


Article by Ben Castleman: “I like to think of it as my Mark Zuckerberg moment: I was a graduate student and it was a sweltering summer evening in Cambridge. Text messages were slated to go out to recent high school graduates in Massachusetts and Texas. Knowing that thousands of phones would soon start chirping and vibrating with information about college, I refreshed my screen every 30 seconds, waiting to see engagement statistics on how students would respond. Within a few minutes there were dozens of new responses from students wanting to connect with an advisor to discuss their college plans.

We’re approaching the tenth anniversary of that first text-based advising campaign to reduce summer melt—when students have been accepted to and plan to attend college upon graduating high school, but do not start college in the fall. The now-ubiquity of businesses sending texts makes it hard to remember how innovative texting as a channel was; back in the early 2010s, text was primarily used for social and conversational communication. Maybe the occasional doctor’s office or airline would send a text reminder, but SMS was not broadly used as a channel by schools or colleges.

Those novel text nudges appeared successful. Results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that I conducted with Lindsay Page showed that students who received the texts reminding them of pre-enrollment tasks and connecting them with advisors enrolled in college at higher rates. We had the opportunity to replicate our summer melt work two summers later in additional cities and with engagement from the White House Social and Behavioral Sciences team and found similar impacts.

This evidence emerged as the Obama administration made higher ed policy a greater focus in the second term, with a particular emphasis on expanding college opportunity for underrepresented students. Similar text campaigns expanded rapidly and broadly—most notably former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Up Next campaign—in part because they check numerous boxes for policymakers and funders: Texts are inexpensive to send; text campaigns are relatively easy to implement; and there was evidence of their effectiveness at expanding college access….(More)”.

Bridging the digital divide for underserved communities


Report by Deloitte: “…This “digital divide” was first noted more than 25 years ago as consumer communications needs shifted from landline voice to internet access. The economics of broadband spawned availability, adoption, and affordability disparities between rural and urban geographies and between lower- and higher-income segments. Today, the digital divide still presents a significant gap after more than $100 billion of infrastructure investment has been allocated by the US government over the past decade to address this issue. The current debate regarding additional funds for broadband deployment implies that further examination is warranted regarding how to get to broadband for all and achieve the resulting economic prosperity.


Quantifying the economic impact of bridging the digital divide clearly shows the criticality of broadband infrastructure to the US economy. Deloitte developed economic models to evaluate the relationship between broadband and economic growth. Our models indicate that a 10-percentage-point increase of broadband penetration in 2016 would have resulted in more than 806,000 additional jobs in 2019, or an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs. Moreover, we found a strong correlation between broadband availability and jobs and GDP growth. A 10-percentage-point increase of broadband access in 2014 would have resulted in more than 875,000 additional US jobs and $186B more in economic output in 2019. The analysis also showed that higher broadband speeds drive noticeable improvements in job growth, albeit with diminishing returns. As an example, the gain in jobs from 50 to 100 Mbps is more than the gain in jobs from 100 to 150 Mbps….(More)”.

Information


Information

A Reader edited by Eric Hayot, Anatoly Detwyler, and Lea Pao: “…For decades, we have been told we live in the “information age”—a time when disruptive technological advancement has reshaped the categories and social uses of knowledge and when quantitative assessment is increasingly privileged. Such methodologies and concepts of information are usually considered the provenance of the natural and social sciences, which present them as politically and philosophically neutral. Yet the humanities should and do play an important role in interpreting and critiquing the historical, cultural, and conceptual nature of information.

This book is one of two companion volumes that explore theories and histories of information from a humanistic perspective. They consider information as a long-standing feature of social, cultural, and conceptual management, a matter of social practice, and a fundamental challenge for the humanities today.

Information: A Reader provides an introduction to the concept of information in historical, literary, and cultural studies. It features excerpts from more than forty texts by theorists and critics who have helped establish the notion of the “information age” or expand upon it. The reader establishes a canonical framework for thinking about information in humanistic terms. Together with Information: Keywords, it sets forth a major humanistic vision of the concept of information….(More)”

Can Democracy Safeguard the Future?


Book by Graham Smith: “Our democracies repeatedly fail to safeguard the future. From pensions to pandemics, health and social care through to climate, biodiversity and emerging technologies, democracies have been unable to deliver robust policies for the long term.

In this book, Graham Smith asks why. Exploring the drivers of short-termism, he considers ways of reshaping legislatures and constitutions and proposes strengthening independent offices whose overarching goals do not change at every election. More radically, Smith argues that forms of participatory and deliberative politics offer the most effective democratic response to the current political myopia, as well as a powerful means of protecting the interests of generations to come….(More)”.

The Delusions of Crowds: Why People Go Mad in Groups


Book by William J. Bernstein: “…Inspired by Charles Mackay’s 19th-century classic Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Bernstein engages with mass delusion with the same curiosity and passion, but armed with the latest scientific research that explains the biological, evolutionary, and psychosocial roots of human irrationality. Bernstein tells the stories of dramatic religious and financial mania in western society over the last 500 years—from the Anabaptist Madness that afflicted the Low Countries in the 1530s to the dangerous End-Times beliefs that animate ISIS and pervade today’s polarized America; and from the South Sea Bubble to the Enron scandal and dot com bubbles of recent years. Through Bernstein’s supple prose, the participants are as colorful as their motivation, invariably “the desire to improve one’s well-being in this life or the next.”

As revealing about human nature as they are historically significant, Bernstein’s chronicles reveal the huge cost and alarming implications of mass mania: for example, belief in dispensationalist End-Times has over decades profoundly affected U.S. Middle East policy. Bernstein observes that if we can absorb the history and biology of mass delusion, we can recognize it more readily in our own time, and avoid its frequently dire impact….(More)”.

Better Law for a Better World: New Approaches to Law Practice and Education


Book by Liz Curran: “How as a society can we find ways of ensuring the people who are the most vulnerable or have little voice can avail themselves of the protection in law to improve their social, cultural, health and economic outcomes as befits civilised society?

Better Law for a Better World answers this question by looking at innovative practices and developments emerging within law practice and education and shares the skills and techniques that could lead to confidence in the law and its ability to respond. Using recent research from Australia, practice initiatives and information, the book breaks down ways for law students, legal educators and law practitioners (including judicial officers, law administrators, legislators and policy makers) to enhance access to justice and improve outcomes through new approaches to lawyering. These can include: Multi-Disciplinary Practice (including health justice partnerships); integrated justice practice; restorative practice; empowerment modes (community & professional development and policy skills); client-centred approaches and collaborative interdisciplinary practice informed by practical experience. The book contains critical information on what such practice might look like and the elements that will be required in the development of the essential skills and criteria for such practice. It seeks to open up a dialogue about how we can make the law better. This includes making the community more central to the operation of the law and improving client-centred practice so that the Rule of Law can deliver on its claims to serve, protect and ensure equality before the law. It explores practical ways that emerging lawyers can be trained differently to ensure improved communication, collaboration, problem solving, partnership and interpersonal skills. The book explores the challenges of such work. It also gives suggestions on how to reduce professional barriers and variations in practice to effectively, humanely and efficiently make a difference in people’s lives….(More)”.