About Alex Glennie

Alex Glennie is a Principal Researcher in International Innovation at the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta). She joined Nesta in 2015, having previously worked in senior research roles at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. She works across a range of issues relating to innovation and international development, and is currently leading a programme of work on innovation agencies.

Communicating with the public on aid and development spending: we need a better story

The comprehensive Data report released today by the One campaign reveals that the flow of aid from Europe to developing countries fell by €700 million in 2011, the first such drop in almost a decade. The crisis in the Eurozone and the squeeze created by austerity measures are taking the blame for this, with Greece and Spain having – understandably – made the largest cuts in their development budgets.

So far, much of the commentary has concentrated on what this means for the EU in terms of its pledge to contribute 0.7% of national income towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  Although the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands are on track to meet this target, many other European countries will have to stump up billions more in order to do so.  This is a tall order at a time when cuts in public spending are being made across the board.

However, new research from IPPR and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), also published today, suggests that this debate is missing the point somewhat.  Instead of focusing on ‘getting to 0.7%’, more attention needs to be paid to addressing declining levels of popular support for aid.

In February and March of this year, IPPR and ODI held a series of deliberative workshops around the UK: in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Evesham.  These sessions gave us a chance to have in-depth conversations with diverse groups of UK voters, both to hear their views on various aspects of the aid and development debate and to better understand the values and attitudes that underpin them.  The messages we took from these were mixed.

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Globalisation: a new wave?

In recent years, the word ‘globalisation’ has become synonymous with a whole range of international ills.  Financial globalisation has been particularly maligned.  Once hailed as the solution to poverty and underdevelopment, it is now blamed for the unfettered flow of ‘hot’ capital around the world, the build-up of credit and asset bubbles and the creation of unsustainable global imbalances that have led to dangerous levels of volatility in the global economy.  But are either of these views fair?  Do we expect too much from globalisation, or do we credit it too little?

Let’s start with the positives.  Over the last century, globalisation – the faster and cheaper flow of goods, services, capital, people and ideas around the world – has helped to lift millions out of poverty.  It has enabled developing countries abundant in resources and manpower to generate remarkable rates of growth, while in the developed world it has brought down the cost of consumer goods, stimulated innovation in many sectors and created new markets for goods and services.  Globalisation has provided unprecedented opportunities for people to live and work abroad, and helped to spread acceptance of universal values such as democracy, freedom and human rights.

Yet in spite of these achievements, globalisation has manifestly failed to deliver security and prosperity for all.  Inequality may have fallen between countries over the last thirty years, but it has risen within them as an ever smaller elite have captured most of the gains associated with technological progress.  Global competition has spurred huge productivity increases in many industries, but has also put serious pressure on jobs and wages.  These problems were evident before the global financial crisis, but have been magnified and exacerbated by it.  In 2003, a Eurobarometer survey found that 60 per cent of Brits were in favour of globalisation, compared to 27 per cent who were opposed.  By 2010, just 30 per cent of UK respondents to a YouGov poll thought that globalisation was good for the British economy, against 34 per cent who thought it was bad (with the rest being indifferent or unsure). Continue reading

Are the Euro sceptics winning?

‘Euroscepticism’ is firmly back on the political agenda following last week’s battle in the House of Commons over whether to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.  Labour and Lib Dem opposition to the motion ensured its defeat, but an unprecedented 81 Tory MPs defied the party whip to vote in favour, revealing sharp differences of opinion within the Conservative Party.

Where is the public in all of this?  Media coverage of this issue generally gives the impression of a nation that is deeply Eurosceptic.  Opinion polls indicate that much of the population regards the EU with apathy at best and antipathy at worst.  A YouGov poll for Chatham House in June of this year asked respondents to rank international institutions according to how positively they viewed them (with 10 being extremely positive and 0 being extremely negative).  The EU scored lowest with a mean score of 4, coming in below the oft-maligned IMF and World Bank.  Recent Eurobarometer surveys have found similarly low levels of satisfaction with the EU, with just 35 per cent agreeing with the statement that EU membership has benefitted the UK, compared to 54 per cent who disagree.

However, public attitudes are more nuanced than the topline figures suggest.  First, over the last decade, Europe has fallen steadily down the list of issues that voters say they are concerned about, and now sits consistently near the bottom when compared to the economy, crime, immigration and others.  There have also been considerable fluctuations in the relative proportions of those who say they would vote to take Britain out of the EU if given the choice, indicated by the results of a series of Ipsos-MORI polls.  In October 2011, 41 per cent said they would vote yes in a referendum on staying in, versus 49 per cent who said they would vote no and 10 per cent who were undecided.  Yet in 2007, a majority of 51 per cent would have voted to stay in, against 39 per cent who would have voted to get out.  It would appear that public opinion is fairly malleable then, responsive to both swings and roundabouts in the economy as well as the rhetoric of political leaders.

We held an interesting debate on these issues at IPPR earlier in the week – the first in a new series of events about the next phase of the European project following the Euro crisis – chaired by the Economist’s David Rennie and with contributions from Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander, Conservative MP Douglas Carswell, Ben Page (Ipsos-MORI) and Olaf Cramme (Policy Network).  It fairly quickly became a conversation between the two Douglases, although compared to the tone of media commentary on this issue, the discussion was refreshingly civil.  Continue reading

Migration and climate change: old assumptions and new ideas

I spent yesterday afternoon at the launch of the new Foresight report on Migration and Global Environmental Change, a study commissioned and led by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir John Beddington.  Drawing on the best available science and analysis from other disciplines, the project aimed to develop a picture of how international and internal migration patterns might be affected by global environmental changes between now and 2060, and the implications of these developments for policymakers.

It is a substantial report, and looks like important reading for those working on migration, climate change and many other related issues.  It is also full of crunchy data and pretty charts, which always helps.   Some of the top-line conclusions are unsurprising.  It states that environmental change has a clear impact on migration through its influence on the web of political, economic and social drivers that lead people to move, and that this impact will only increase in the future as the world becomes more populated and as natural hazards proliferate.  It also argues that the complex interaction of drivers will lead to different migration outcomes, and that well-planned and coordinated policy responses will reduce the risks of humanitarian emergencies and displacement.  So far, so predictable.

However, some of its findings and recommendations are more counterintuitive, and should be studied carefully by policymakers.  Three in particular jumped out at me. Continue reading