Anyone who has spent some time in India is sure to have noticed the slogans painted on the back of trucks, autos, and other vehicles advising “we two, ours one”. This is part of India’s “family planning” efforts–efforts which have had a pretty bumpy history that included a forced sterilization program.
Originally, the slogans were “we two, ours two”, or at least that was the catchy English version–regional languages usually had a slogan more along the lines of “one family, two children”. And, the change to the new slogan led to at least one humorous math discussion with an auto driver who commented that, “Earlier, it was ‘we two, ours two’; now, it is ‘we two, ours one’. What’s next? ‘We two, ours half?’”
Anyway, keen observers might have noticed the following new addition to selected trucks:
When people begin the study of communication, their attitudes vary anywhere from “I think this would be a very important class: it is important to understand the communication process if I want to improve the effectiveness of my communication,” to “What a waste of time. I’ve been communicating all my life. Do I really need to take a course to understand communication?”
Whether or not we take a course in communication, there is considerable value in trying to refine our understanding of communication. To demonstrate, I will present two class exercises. In describing the exercises, hopefully some of the jargon common in the communications discipline (for example, encoding, decoding, channel, and congruence) will become clearer, and you will be at least a little more sensitive to trying to verify the effectiveness of your everyday communication approaches.
Yesterday, at DHAN Foundation’s “Foundation Day” celebration, the students from PDM 11 of the Tata-Dhan Academy and others were able to have–after a really long break–a new issue of Spectrum: Colours of Development in their hands to look at (and hopefully read). Spectrum is the student newsletter of the Academy; students contribute articles, solicit articles from faculty, and do the shortlisting and preliminary editing before passing it on to me for further polishing.
One of the things I’m happiest about is that we were able to do this issue entirely using open-source tools. In the past, PageMaker and CorelDraw have been used. These programs are good, but in the long run, we would like the students to create (including design) these newsletters entirely on their own, and seeing that we don’t have copies of these programs for the students to use and that I don’t encourage the students to use pirated software (see Am I inconsistent?), I thought it would be good to experiment with this issue and do the design entirely using open-source programs.
So, for that, we used Inkscape and Gimp for all of the graphics, and Scribus for the layout. Since there were a couple of tables in this issue and Scribus has terrible support for tables at the moment, we used OpenOffice.org Writer to design the table, copied the table into OpenOffice.org Draw, exported the table as an EPS file, and imported that as a vector graphic into Scribus. Kind of a roundabout way, I know, but then again, as far as I remember neither PageMaker nor CorelDraw are that great for tables either. For the fonts, I decided to use the Linux Libertine font family both because it is open type and because it is a really nice font. And, for hosting online, we decided to use WordPress (though we are using the .com variant, rather than the .org variant–for now at least).
When one surveys news reports today, mention of disasters seem to be commonplace. And, quite often, there is a lot of response to disasters. Aid agencies channel money or other forms of relief directly to communities who need it or to organizations who are better prepared to implement response work. Governments create plans to offer rehabilitation support, or find some other way to compensate those who are affected by disasters. Academicians write reports comparing one disaster to similar disasters, and theorize about what could have been done to minimize the impact of the disaster.
But where is the community in this post-disaster scenario? And what about the communities who have not suffered catastrophes? Are they safe? Is that enough? Is it appropriate to merely respond to disasters, or is there a better way to approach disaster risk reduction? And what does this mean for a development organization?
ACEDRR believes that there is simultaneously a positive and negative relationship between development and disasters. However, development efforts have incredible potential to contribute to disaster risk reduction and to help create a “culture of preparedness”. Development practitioners have a responsibility to be aware of this continuum and use it to guide their work and to build knowledge about disaster preparedness and prevention.
This primer is by no means a complete account of the relationship between disasters and development. However, it is hoped that this primer can serve as an introduction for practitioners to become more sensitized to the relationship, and that they use this awareness to change from working in what is mostly a reactive manner, to working in a proactive one. It is also hoped that this primer can lay a foundation for further discussions and research—not discussions and research designed around communities, but ones which include the community as an integral partner and as a stakeholder whose traditional wisdom might be able to help us with some of the more complicated issues we face in our rapidly modernizing world.
Map party time. For some reason this happens every once in a while with me. A few years ago, I got to develop a website filled with choropleth maps galore. It was a pretty tedious process. Excel sheets. Photoshop. No good access to free Indian shapefiles. I was even thinking of making my own SVG files of Indian states at one point and thinking of a complex PHP and MySQL website.
Skip forward a few years now, and I’m back with the maps. Only this time, I have some new tools and resources: the software named after a pirate’s favorite letter, some free maps from the Global Administrative Areas website, some data from the 2001 Indian Census (I selected district data, all districts, and total population), and Google Docs (to clean up my CSV files).