Saturday, May 28, 2011

Debating heaven.

From two churches that face each other in the street. Brilliant debate!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Toy Peacekeepers.

"Miniscule Blue Helmets on a Massive Quest" is a project from fellow-country man and graphic artist Pierre Derks to distribute tens-of-thousands of blue-helmeted toy soldiers around the world. The Hague (Holland) functions as their forward operating base from where they take off. Eyewitnesses of the quest have submitted hundreds of photos taken on nearly all continents - photos of their new patrols can be seen on the website. (Thanks Simon for letting me know about this project!).

Fig1. Blue helmets in Berlin.

Field Experimentation in Political Economy.

Last week I spent my Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at a workshop on Field Experimentation in Political Economy, organized by Columbia University's CSDS. In brief, this was great!

In a bit less brief, during these three days most things necessary for good field experimentation were covered (for the complete agenda see
  1. The first day was theory-based and discussed the theory behind causal inference (the fundamental problem of causal inference, randomization, instrumental variables, etc.), issues of analysis (estimators, missing data, spillovers), etc.
  2. The second day was more design-oriented and discussed differences in data-collection techniques (survey, lab, lab-in-the-field, etc.), how to get at sensitive information, etc.
  3. The last day discussed practical issues (forging partnerships with implementing partners, ethics, etc.) and several design-in-progress field experiments were presented and discussed.
This was a very useful three days. Not only because some of the top people from the field were present (Don Green, Chris Blattman, Becky Morton, Macartan Humphreys, etc.), but also because it was a small crowd (maybe twenty people), the discussions were lively and close to all topics on field experiments were covered. Moreover, what I know about field experiments I learned from our work in the Congo. We would have for example X that had to be done and we would ask Macartan "How to do X?". He would then give us an explanation, an example and some papers to read and we would figure it out (and if we didn't he would do it and explain it in detail). As a result we learned about field experiments bit by bit. Now for the first time I saw all bits together as one coherent whole. Very useful!

Together with Raul we gave two presentations ourselves: During the round table we discussed ex ante analysis plans and the benefits of behavioral measures over for example surveys or lab-in-the-fields. The last day we discussed the design of an evaluation that we will be undertaking in Eastern Congo from 2011 to 2014 with the International Rescue Committee and CARE International. More on the latter soon!

Fig1. To sex-up our presentation a bit we
added a picture - made in Haut
Katanga - of a lovely DRC bridge. In the
end it was about field experiments.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Voix des Kivus @ FrontlineSMS.

The Ushahidi blogpost (see previous post) was also posted on the FrontlineSMS blog. FrontlineSMS is a great (and free!) software program that allows you to do great things with the combination phone and computer. We have been using it for almost two years now. Find the post HERE.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Voix des Kivus @ Ushahidi.

Since the ICCM Conference on Conflict Mapping in Cleveland in 2009 I've been in contact with Patrick Meier; one of the founders of Ushahidi and a Ph.D. Candidate at Tufts. He does some truly incredible work. We recently met each other again in Berlin, and he invited Macartan and me to write a blog post about Voix des Kivus for the Ushahidi Blog.

Of course, we were very willing to do so. You can find the blog post about Voix des Kivus

An informative four-pager with information about Voix des Kivus can be found here.

Fig1. Introducing Voix des Kivus in a
village. Due to the sensitive nature
of the project I never blogged much
about it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Breakfast in Maniema.

Today I came across several pictures made while visiting an enumerator team in Kibombo - a city about 200 kilometers from Maniema's capital Kindu. We had not seen each other since October 2010. As a celebration we had a fantastic breakfast. Note: when the teams are in the field they often do not eat for breakfast or only eat left-overs from the evening before.

Fig1. Me getting water. Thank you USA?

Fig2. The superassistant preparing eggs. We
also got some onions locally. Great!

Fig3. Pascaline got bananas. The latter
have to be cooked for a long time before
they can be consumed.

Fig4. Preparation of foufou [1] is hard work.
These are the superassistant's and my feet. :)

Fig5. Great breakfast. F.l.t.r.: Luc (supervisor Maniema),
Alain and Pascaline (enumerators), Emmanuel
(superassistant), and me. Our bikes in the background.

Fig6. Of course after breakfast the laptop came
out. There is always work when I'm around. ;)

Foufou is the staple food of the DR Congo. You take manioc (cassava) roots, cut this in pieces, leave it out to dry and then grind/smash it until it is powder. Then mix this with hot water and you get a dough-like ball.

Friday, May 6, 2011


I know. This is not very substantive. It is fun though. Last week I had two good friends from the Netherlands in town and we spent quite a bit of time in the metro.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Back in the US of A.

After several days with mom and dad in the Netherlands, several days at a conference in Berlin on "Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood", and three weeks of field work in the Eastern Congo, I am back in New York City.

Let's start with some true American patriotism. While waiting for the Western Union employee to send money to the Congo, I noticed the flag below hanging on the wall. Indeed it has some seriously patriotic words written on the flag.

But since when does the United States have 87 States!? Hehe!

Fig. America patriotism.