Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lessons in Civic Action from India

Arriving with the birth of 2011 is our newest book The Politics of Collective Advocacy in India by Nandini Deo and Duncan McDuie-Ra. In addition to revealing the amazing diversity and complexity of India’s civil society sector, the authors highlight practical strategies that NGOs and other actors can use for the greatest impact in their work. An excerpt:

Successful collective advocacy—whether by a social movement, an advocacy network, or a loose coalition of civic actors—comes from people, organizing strategy, relationships, and principles.

The attributes of successful involvement of people
• implicit, restricted membership criteria with daily responsibilities for members
• a division of labor based on membership and either mission or activity
• frequent interaction among organization leaders to coordinate mission and strategy

The attributes of a successful organizing strategy
• It is sustained over long periods of time.
• The recruiters become community insiders who relate to recruits as mentors and friends.
• The new activists are free to choose the means by which they contribute.
• The activists and their families are supported by the movement.

The attributes of successful relationship management
• accepting support but not becoming wholly dependent on it
• targeting individual donors who are unlikely to take over the mission
• using a mix of methods to reach individuals

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Musings Before the Holiday Noise

I was listening to Beethoven's Third Symphony, the "Eroica," the other day. The onslaught of chords that begin this symphony has always evoked in me at least two sets of contrasting feelings and impressions. One is a sense of awe in regard to the utter confidence and certitude that these chords display; the other is goose-bumpy fear and wariness of that certitude. As I have grown older and more conversant with the language of music, I have come to be more attentive to the silences between these chords. When I think of these chords in relation to development theory and practice, it now strikes me that development may be seen as a panoply of "chords" each for a time trumpeting certitudes and pieties: modernization, dependency, grassroots participation, neoliberalism, microfinance, etc. And to pursue further the idea of silence, it seems to me that silence is indeed a form of invisibility. I have learned to listen for the silences in Beethoven's symphony. But the silences would not be so deafening were it not for those opening chords! Perhaps when confronted with the "chords" of development theory and practice we should learn to listen for the silences between them?

And I think too of Milton's phrase in Paradise Lost:

No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv'd onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes

In this season of wish lists here's mine. I want Kumarian Press to give sound to silence (apologies to Simon and Garfunkel), give light to darkness (apologies to Milton), give development practitioners insights and ideas so that the vital work that they do imparts hope and purpose and does not draw nectar in a sieve (apologies to Blake).

Last, I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday and look forward to posting more blog thoughts in 2011. And of course, please do send me your ideas and book projects!

Jim Lance
Editor and Associate Publisher
jlance [at]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Dispelling Myths--a message from KP editor Jim Lance

The 13 December issue of The New Yorker has a superb article by John Cassidy on China's "state capitalism" and how it challenges the free market ideologies espoused by many in the United States. Cassidy goes on to show in the article that in spite of the free market rhetoric, the history of capitalism in the US is rampant with examples of state interference in the supposedly efficient operation of the "free" market. As Cassidy concludes, the greatest danger to US economic interests comes not from China, but from the persistent myth in the US of a free market unfettered by interference from the government.

Cassidy's article brought to my mind a book we published in 2009, The Myth of the Free Market, by Mark Martinez. And it struck me that one of the missions of KP is precisely to dispel and disrupt conventional wisdom, the myths and ideologies that often pose as truth or hard fact.

As editor for the press, I am constantly on the alert for authors who question conventional wisdom and received narratives. So for my first blog posting, I am asking a question: what are more myths that require dismantling and examination? Feel free to respond to me personally. I give my contact information below.

I look forward to posting more entries on the KP blog and I look forward to hearing from potential authors!



James Lance, PhD
Editor and Associate Publisher
Kumarian Press, an imprint of Stylus Publishing, LLC
PO Box 185
Williamsburg, MA 01096

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Other Side of Microcredit

Sam Daley-Harris, Director of the Microcredit Summit Campaign and author of several Kumarian Press books including More Pathways Out of Poverty, was interviewed on the Kojo Nnamdi show yesterday about recent scandals in India involving microfinance. He was joined by Center for Global Development Research Fellow David Roodman. Listen to the interview here.

And here's Roodman's take on the Indian Microcredit Crisis:

Perhaps the heedlessly expanding Indian microcredit industry deserved a smackdown. But what matters most is not what is fair to the microcreditors but what is best for the poor. The Indian government has built an impressive 50-year track record failing to meet the financial service needs of the poor. Under the right circumstances the private sector can help fill the gap. The goal should be to reform microfinance, not kill it.