New Stories

The stories people tell about the world, their perceptions of reality, their very dreams-these are the lasting legacies that give shape to daily life, often over generations. So new stories that change the way people think about their lives can be among the most powerful catalysts for change. Often when people change their stories, they are empowered to change everything else: the evidence they collect, the capacities they work to build, and the rules under which they operate. From competing stories about ways of farming to alternative visions of providing energy for daily life, people throughout the developing world are rethinking the paradigms of development. From fundamental gender identities to new narratives about the role of poor people themselves in remaking their communities, the world is reinventing its guiding themes. And these themes will, in turn, reinvent the lives of poor people.

The Pivotal Challenge

Action Zones

As the world grapples with the challenges of a fossil fuel economy, two competing stories have pitted development of large-scale electric solutions against adoption of small-scale, distributed energy systems. However, a new narrative in the leapfrog nations of the south is redefining the options— including waste-to-energy conversion and subsidies that favor both renewables and poor people.

Energy taxes for social development

Thai tariff reimburses communities hit by large power projects

Small-scale solutions

Pico-hydro systems produce low-cost, off-grid power

Waste-to-energy conversion

Methane capture converts palm oil waste to energy in Thailand

The Pivotal Challenge

The Cost of Sustainability

Developing nations face a resource curse: untapped oil, minerals, and forest lands promise new wealth as countries enter into global agreements for developing these resources. At the same time, extractive business is often a toxic business-and one that disrupts not only natural ecosystems but the communities that depend on them. Choosing sustainability will require a host of new solutions.

Carbon credit strategies

Ecuador leaves oil reserves untapped in exchange for international funds

Community-based sustainable management

CBOs restore fisheries, promote equal access in Bangladesh

Traditional practices

Al hima is a traditional Muslim practice of "protected places"


Discover More Signals

Urban agriculture as mitigation measure for food security
Government, NGOs, private sector pursuing sustainable agriculture in Indonesia
Climate change threatens food supply, economy for Southeast Asia
Dhaka developing world's first vitamin A-rich rice
China moving to control rice production
Effectiveness of hybrid rice overhyped?
Organic rice farming in Thailand as a method to escape debt entrapment
Food self-reliance program in Indonesia focuses on farmer education and empowerment
Land degradation and organic response in central India
Farmers rejecting hybrid rice
Thai rice farmers experimenting with sustainable agricultural practices
Thai farmers growing own food for financial security
Indonesia's bid to become (organic) bread basket of the world
Agriculture in Thailand needs structural/political support
In Yemen, replacing Qat with less-harmful agriculture could boost health
Salinity-tolerant agriculture could improve livelihood of rural farmers in Bangladesh
From lingerie protest to social enterprise
Confusion over definition of social enterprise/entrepreneurship
UK & Australia support social entrepreneurship in Southeast Asia
Domestic private companies filling gaps in Lebanon
Admitting failure, finding success, and improving development
When for-profit businesses take over not-for-profit initiatives
African Development bank’s alternative capital caught in crossfire
Pay with service model for businesses serving the urban poor
Bongo Flava: Boosting East Africa’s creative economy
Formalization of the social sector
Rise of the “feminized sector” in Southeast Asia
Growing religious fundamentalism threat to women’s rights in Southeast Asia
Gender disparities in wages, work, and vocational training in Indonesia
Technology, affluence correlate with increases female feticide in India
Female genital mutilation continues to threaten mothers in Benin
In poor communities, cost-benefit analysts of keeping girls out of school
Women and peace
Trade liberalization does not equal gender equality
Women’s rights laws sometimes ignored, rejected by citizenry in Africa
The new witches
Solar energy investments in Bangladesh could supplement, replace electricity grid
Bangladesh invests in solar energy experiments
Egypt embraces wind energy to reduce oil dependence
Turning acid mine drainage into a solution for water and energy shortages
Power development fund as strategy to curb resource curse
Hydroelectric dams on Mekong threaten downstsream food supply
Recent increases in oil prices could lead to longer-term economic damage for poorest countries
Punjab government plans to set up rooftop solar plants
Gas reserves in Bangladesh depleting rapidly
India plans new nuclear authority
Southeast Asian countries with less access to electricity use more combustible renewables
China’s path towards low carbon development
Biofuels on the rise in South America
Qatar successfully powers a commercial flight with biofuel
South America’s increasing hydroelectric capacity
Civil society and energy