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As markets around the world slump, sputter and slump again, China maintains the fastest-growing economy. But despite the country’s boom, it has fallen behind in making sure its children will be healthy, strong and smart enough to cash in on it.

About 30% of children living in China’s rural areas are anemic – sick with an iron deficiency that Stanford researcher Scott Rozelle and his colleagues with the Rural Education Action Project have proven leads to bad school performance. And a poor education coupled with anemia’s physical blow puts those kids at risk for lives of poverty and missed opportunities.

But things are changing. Influenced in part by the research Rozelle has conducted and presented to Chinese officials, the government recently launched a policy to improve school lunches for about 20 million children across the country.

The plan invests $2.5 billion a year during the next nine years to ensure the meals are more nutritious for elementary and middle school students. That doubles the amount spent on lunches for China’s neediest children.

“For 5,000 years it was OK to be anemic if you’re never going to leave the farm,” said Rozelle, an economist and senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies who is still experimenting with ways to improve children’s health in rural China and get the government to adopt the most effective methods.

“But we’re looking 20 years into the future where there are much fewer farms and you need at least a high school education to make a living in the city,” Rozelle said. “If you are sick with anemia, it is going to affect your cognitive ability, educational performance and ultimately your chances of going on in school.”

Rozelle began studying anemia and its links to school performance in 2008.

After conducting an initial study of about 4,000 primary school students in Shaanxi province, he found that nearly 40% of the children were anemic – the result of diets that consisted mostly of rice and noodles in regions where meat, fruit and fresh vegetables are expensive and often hard to come by.

Those survey results were presented to the government in a 2009 policy brief written by Rozelle and his collaborators. Officials adopted the brief, making rural primary school nutrition part of China’s official policy discussion.

A second study conducted between 2008 and 2009 found that anemia rates dropped when schoolchildren were given vitamins fortified with iron. And as their iron levels rose, so did their test scores.

An experiment followed to back up those findings, while another set of large-scale surveys across four provinces reinforced that childhood anemia was indeed a widespread problem.

The findings from those surveys and tests were packaged in another policy brief that was accepted by the government earlier this year, prompting a government directive urging more concrete action in the area of student nutrition.

Those documents, along with several presentations Rozelle has made to government officials and commissions, have culminated in a move to pour $22.5 billion into more nutritious school lunches between now and 2020. It will likely be up to local government and school officials to decide exactly what those meals will include, but Rozelle is hopeful they’ll lead to diets with more meat, vegetables and iron supplements.

“Research-based results are an important avenue for affecting policy in China,” said Chen Zhili, vice chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and a former minister of education. “The new programs for child nutrition were only made possible by the work of groups (like the Rural Education Action Project).”

And a national policy aimed at improving nutrition and curbing anemia helps ensure that China maintains its foothold in the world’s economy and grow in a more stable, equitable way, Rozelle said.

“The social return is huge,” Rozelle said. “These kids will be able to do better in school, work harder and sustain China’s growth.”

-Adam Gorlick

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STANFORD UNIVERSITY — As a youngster, Joanne Pasternack thought she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up — first an Olympic figure skater and then a pediatrician.

 Instead, she has ended up in a totally different realm —professional football, where she works as the director of community relations and philanthropy for the San Francisco 49ers, helping to raise millions for charity.

 Likewise, as a youngster Lorie Murphy aspired to be the unlikely combination of an attorney and professional dancer. Today, Murphy is president of entertainment production firm E2K, which directs all the eye-popping entertainment put on during the San Francisco 49ers football team’s home games — everything from National Anthem singers and team cheerleaders to skydiver performances at the 49ers’ current home at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.

 Pasternack and Murphy were part of an all-star panel of women who described what it’s like to have a career in the professional sports industry. The panel discussion highlighted the Women in Sports Symposium, held on November 9, and sponsored jointly by the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the San Francisco 49ers.

 Panelists included three women working in influential posts for the 49ers, as well as five others holding jobs with the team’s partner organizations, including Stanford Hospital and Clinics, which provides medical services for the players. Sports journalist Andrea Kremer, sideline and feature reporter for NBC Sunday Night Football, served as moderator of the event.

 While the sports industry is more an old-boy’s network than a meritocracy, 49ers’ chief operating officer Paraag Marathe said that’s changing as team owners strive to find ways to meet player costs that are rising as much as 20% each year.

 ”It is not just about winning games, and the business part is an afterthought. They need to be able to run their businesses more efficiently to be able to afford those players,” Marathe, MBA ’04, told the gathering. That means finding talented employees “regardless of their age, ethnicity, or gender,” he said.

 The search for the best has brightened prospects for young women aiming for influential posts within professional sports. Marathe pointed to the 49ers’ principal owner, Denise DeBartolo York, who has “long been a champion — not just in the National Football League but across all sports — to advance opportunities for women in sports.” The team recently started an internship specifically for college women interested in sports careers.

 ”It is really the perfect moment in time for all of you to be considering a job in sports,” Marathe told the mostly young and female audience.

 Several of the panelists came to the sports industry through circuitous routes.

 Before assuming her current role with the 49ers in 2008, Pasternack said she worked as a senior analyst with the City of Mountain View. Armed with a law degree from Santa Clara University, she helped the mayor and other city officials write speeches and analyze legislation. “It was a very comfortable job,” she said, but it wasn’t exciting.

 She had grown up as a competitive ice skater and did a stint as manager of international corporate relations for the Special Olympics, so Pasternack decided to go for the 49ers” position because of her zest for community relations and passion for sports.

 As part of her duties, Pasternack arranges for players, former players, team owners, and 49ers employees to participate in service projects, such as building playgrounds in underserved communities or heading to Ronald McDonald House to play board games with young patients. “That’s the really fun part of the job,” she said.

 When searching for prospective college interns, Pasternak doesn’t focus on students’ grade point averages. Instead, she’s impressed by candidates who have played on a sports team or taken a leadership role in a campus club or sorority.

 ”I’m looking for somebody who’s able to come in and take a leadership role, but who also understands how to be part of a team,” said Pasternak. “That’s far more important to me than what they majored in.”

 Panelists also reminded the students about the importance of paying their dues while building expertise and credibility.

 ”Honestly, I think you have to do unpaid internships and if you’re not willing to do that, you’re not willing to work in sports,” said Hannah Gordon, the 49ers’ director of legal affairs and a Stanford Law School grad. After getting a foot in the door, she added, determine which people see your value to the organization and tap them to help you advance.

 And, Gordon said, be conversant about sports: “If you can’t hold your own, no one will have respect for you and what you do.”

 A strong work ethic and commitment to follow through with assigned duties is crucial to success in a sports industry career, according to Murphy. “The game kicks off on Sunday at one o’clock whether you are ready or not,” she said. “So, I want someone who’s going to share that intensity and sense of urgency.”

 Here are some of the other insights for young women embarking on a career in sports, gleaned from the panelists’ wide-ranging, two-hour-long session:

  • Prepare for a different world. Because the sports industry remains male dominated, women must be realists and deal with that culture, said Alana Nguyen, executive producer of SFGate.com, the online face of the San Francisco Chronicle. Be assertive and speak up in meetings, Gordon  said, “otherwise you will get drowned out and lost.”
  • Don’t take criticism personally. Ali Towle, the 49ers’ director of marketing, says in the face of criticism she finds that “women will go off and obsess.” However, “men will have moved on to the next thing, and they haven’t even thought about it another second. I just wish somebody had told me that.”
  • Use technology. SFGate.com’s Nguyen gets hundreds of resumes, but one she recently received immediately caught her interest because it contained a Quick Response barcode leading to an online site with more information about the candidate. She also likes people who network using communications tool Twitter. Internship candidates who incisively comment on Nguyen’s Twitter feeds or solicit her opinion on their own blog posts “have got their foot in the door” if they later request an informational interview, she said.
  • Enlist mentors, female or male. “It’s really great to find wonderful female mentors, but you have to be open to the fact that a lot of your mentors are going to be men,” said Gordon, since sports remains such a male-dominated industry.
  • Network with like-minded people. Panelists mentioned these groups as especially valuable for students and professionals alike: WISE: Women in Sports and Events and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

  Michele Chandler

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Silvio Berlusconi has been a force in Italian politics during the past two decades. As the country’s prime minister and richest man, the media mogul managed to slip through sex scandals and criminal charges only to be forced out of office by Europe’s debt crisis.

As a new government led by economist Mario Monti takes place, Ronald Spogli talks about Berlusconi’s fall, what’s next for Italy and whether the United States should get involved in the eurozone’s tailspin. Spogli, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Italy from 2005 to 2009, is a Stanford trustee and major benefactor to the university’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

What will Italy’s government look like under Mario Monti, and how will it trim the country’s $2.5 trillion debt?

Monti is an economist by training and has been president of Bocconi University, Italy’s most prestigious business school. He was the European Commissioner and that position earned him international influence and experience. So here’s somebody who has economic savvy, institutional gravitas, and the ability to be perceived as above politics.

The new government is expected to carry out the stability program enacted immediately before Berlusconi’s resignation on Saturday.  This law contemplates asset sales to reduce debt, among other measures.  The idea of a wealth tax has been floated in Italy — which by most measures is the richest country on the continent — as a way to immediately and significantly pay down the nation’s debt. 

The Monti government is likely to consider this and other options to reduce the country’s indebtedness.  However, it will have to gain parliamentary approval for any new laws. And depending on the nature of the bill proposed, passage of legislation could prove problematic.

How did Berlusconi manage to survive sex scandals and corruption charges, only to be brought down by Italy’s financial crisis?

I think he survived because for most Italians, his personal life was less relevant than his actions and promises as a politician who could do good things for Italy.

He came into power in 1994, and his ability to dominate Italian politics for nearly two decades has been the main story. He came in with an expectation that as Italy’s richest man and as a successful businessman, he would help jumpstart a country that had begun to stall economically. The notion was that after stagnation had begun to creep in, Silvio Berlusconi was the person to break the logjam and move Italy forward.

But for the last 20 years, Italy has had half the economic growth rate of Europe. That’s the biggest issue against Berlusconi. But nobody is 100% convinced that he’s really gone for good. He has an amazing ability to resurrect himself. He’s proven that throughout his political career.

How does Italy’s debt burden fit in to the rest of Europe’s economic woes?

In terms of the sheer magnitude of the problem, the Italian circumstance dwarfs Greece’s situation and the ability of the initiatives meant to deal with other countries’ crises. The issue is whether the new Italian government will be able to calm the bond markets.

Restoring credibility is absolutely vital. The fundamental concern is that there’s no offered solution to an Italian debt problem. There is no bailout being contemplated that’s big enough to be able to deal with the issue, unlike Greece.

The euro crisis has claimed the political lives of prime ministers in Greece, Spain and Italy. Can we expect more high-profile political casualties?

It’s interesting how the markets — in such a short period of time — have forced a political change that the internal Italian political system has been unable to achieve for quite some time. It’s difficult to speculate as to whether those forces will move to more counties. But it certainly wasn’t contemplated that they’d have this impact on Italy, so it’s fair to say that nothing is completely off the table.

In the United States, candidates vying for the Republican nomination in next year’s election say America shouldn’t get involved in Europe’s financial mess. Is that the right attitude?

Europe is extremely important to the United States. Not just for economic reasons, but for political reasons. This is a European problem to solve. On the other hand, if it gets to the point where it continues to have a very damaging impact on the world’s capital markets, I think the resolve to keep it as an isolated problem may fade.

Beyond the narrowly defined economic impact of the crisis, we have many issues of global security that we cannot effectively deal with without the help of Europeans. If they’re going to go into a pronounced period of economic contraction, that’s going to heavily impact their ability to be a great partner for us.  Italy is a perfect example of this concern. We counted on its help in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. Those are expensive missions, and if the country doesn’t grow its economy, it’s harder for them to be a great American ally.  Italy’s economic situation extends to our basic international security interests.

- Adam Gorlick

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STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — Guy Kawasaki, a tech venture capitalist and author, who worked for Apple in the 1980s and 1990s, said he learned plenty from Steve Jobs, the company’s late co-founder and CEO.

 At the top of the list: ignore self-appointed experts bearing bad business news — a group including social media and computer technologists, journalists, and industry analysts.

 Be very skeptical if one of them declares something “can’t be done, shouldn’t be done, isn’t necessary, or won’t work,” Kawasaki advised. If Apple and Jobs had listened to naysayers who doubted whether the graphics-focused computer line would ever catch on, he said, the company “wouldnt be with us any longer.”

 To punctuate his point, Kawasaki listed three powerful business leaders who got it very wrong. In 1943, IBM Chairman Thomas Watson declared there was a world market for only five computers, tops. Western Union concluded in 1876 that the telephone had “too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communications.”  And Kenneth Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corp., sniffed in the late 1970s that there was “no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home.”

 These incorrect forecasts show that while experts think they know it all, “they’re pretty much clueless,” Kawasaki said during his standing-room only, no-holds-barred Oct. 28 talk at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, sponsored by the student-led Stanford GSB Entrepreneur Club. “These ‘experts’ are typically people who criticize and analyze, but they don’t do. I would advise you that you’ve got to listen to them, but I’d also advise you not to believe them.”

 Another lesson Kawasaki learned from Jobs is that design counts, and served as the hallmark of a groundbreaking line of products released during the past three decades, from the Macintosh personal computer to the iPod and iPad. In 1984 Jobs introduced the first Macintosh, which went on to become the first commercially successful personal computer to feature a mouse and reliance on graphics rather than text-only commands, according to Wikipedia.

 ”Many people are thinking it’s all about cost of goods sold, return on equity, or the return on the rate of return. Design counts, and it’s a very emotional thing,” Kawasaki said. “Don’t underestimate that.”

 He urged the MBA students to resist asking customers what they need, just as he said Jobs never relied on focus groups or market research when developing new products, going with his gut instinct instead. 

 ”If customers haven’t seen anything different, how can they describe something different?” he asked. “This is not to say you should ignore customers, but I will tell you that it is very difficult to get ideas for a revolution from customers. They will tell you how to fix what is out there already, but they cannot tell you how to get to the next curve. The real message I got from Steve is: the real action is by jumping curves, not by duking it out in the same curve and giving better sameness.”

 Kawasaki said he wouldn’t emulate some of the things he learned from Jobs. He called the CEO, who died last month, a “brilliant and difficult” man who wouldn’t hesitate to stomp on people’s feelings.

 ”When I worked there, I lived in great fear of his temper. He would tell you in front of the rest of the division, ‘You’re a piece of s***, and your work is s***,’” Kawasaki said. “You know, that’s not exactly standard HR practice. But it was a really motivating force, and I can tell you it drove me to do great work. I don’t think I would be as tough on people, but maybe I would not have gotten such great results.”

 Still, Kawasaki said, helping build Apple and working for Jobs were great experiences that “definitely changed my life.”

From 1983 to 1987, Kawasaki worked in the Macintosh division as an Apple evangelist, promoting Macintosh products to software and hardware developers. He left to start ACIUS, a Macintosh database company and went on to become a writer, speaker, and consultant.

 In 1995 Kawasaki returned to Apple as an Apple Fellow responsible for maintaining and rejuvenating Macintosh sales. In 1997, he again left the company, this time to start Garage Technology Ventures, which has funded about 40 companies including financial services firm Motley Fool, Pandora internet radio, and job search site Simply Hired. He also is a cofounder of online news site Alltop.

A member of the board of directors of online firm FilmLoop, Kawasaki holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Stanford, along with an MBA from UCLA and an honorary degree from Babson College.

— Michele Chandler

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STANFORD UNIVERSITY—Blaming leaders in America and abroad for not doing enough to combat climate change, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said continued failure to tackle the problem will result in worldwide hunger, social unrest, and political turmoil.

“Without action at the global level to address climate change, we will see farmers across Africa – and in many other parts of the world, including here in America – forced to leave their land,” the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize winner told a crowd of about 1,400 people at Stanford’s Memorial Auditorium on Nov. 10. “The result will be mass migration, growing food shortages, loss of social cohesion, and even political instability.”

Citing numbers from the World Bank, Annan said rapidly rising food prices since 2010 have “pushed an additional 70 million people into extreme poverty.” He called a lack of food security for nearly 1 billion of the world’s population “an unconscionable moral failing” that is also a stumbling block to a strong international economy.

“It affects everything from the health of an unborn child to economic growth,” he said.

Annan’s talk, “Food Security Is a Global Challenge,” was delivered as part of a daylong conference on global underdevelopment sponsored by Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. The event drew leading experts in the field and featured panel discussions that explored the connections between global security and food supplies, health care and governance. Keynote speeches were delivered by Annan and Jeff Raikes, chief executive officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

 

The conference marked the launch of the institute’s Center on Food Security and the Environment.

“With this facility, and the creative thinkers and inquisitive minds for which Stanford is famous, you are well equipped to undertake research which advances our knowledge and helps to shape our response to the many global challenges we face,” Annan said. “And with the resources at your disposal, you also have the capacity to actively engage to influence policy, implement solutions and thus improve the lives of the most vulnerable people on the planet.”

Annan also lauded government initiatives that focus on alleviating global hunger, such as America’s Feed the Future program. He recently met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and Raj Shah, head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, to discuss ways to address food insecurity.

“If we pool our efforts and resources, we can finally break the back of this problem,” he said.

But he challenged wealthier nations to do more than pay lip service to the problem.

“We need to make sure that promises of extra support from richer countries are kept and involve fresh funds rather than the repackaging of existing financial commitments,” he said.

Annan, who is the chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, the Africa Progress Panel, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, said Africa represents both the greatest problem and the greatest promise when it comes to food security.

The continent is home to 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land but cannot produce enough food to feed its own people, he said. But if Africa can grow just half the world’s average yield of staple crops like wheat, corn, and rice, it would end up with a food surplus.

Transforming Africa into one of the world’s biggest crop producers will take more than supporting farmers, he said. It entails sound environmental stewardship.

“I hope this is an area where the Center on Food Security and the Environment can make a major contribution to finding solutions,” Annan said.

Without those solutions, the future is bleak.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, where global warming brings the threat of persistent drought, current crop production is expected to be cut in half by the end of the century and 8% of the region’s fertile land is expected to dry up.

“Those arguing, here and elsewhere, for urgent action and a focus on opportunities to green our economies still find themselves drowned out by those with short-term and vested interests,” Annan said. “This lack of long-term collective vision and leadership is inexcusable. It has global repercussions, and it will be those least responsible for climate change – the poorest and most vulnerable – that will pay the highest price.”

Adam Gorlick is the communications manager for Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

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STANFORD UNIVERSITY – If you feel overwhelmed by social media, you’re hardly the first. Think of Europeans of the 17th and 18th centuries. They suddenly had to cope with the Copernican Revolution, the invention of the printing press, the exploration of the New World, and public postal systems that became the equivalent of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and smartphones.

“In the 17th century, conversation exploded,” said Anaïs Saint-Jude, director of Stanford’s BiblioTech program. “It was an early modern version of information overload.”

 Letters crisscrossed Paris by the thousands daily. Voltaire was writing 10 to 15 letters a day. Dramatist Jean Racine complained that he couldn’t keep up with the aggressive letter writing. His inbox was full, so to speak.

Stanford’s Mapping the Republic of Letters project, which forms part of the context for Saint-Jude’s remarks, shows that 40 percent of Voltaire’s letters were sent to correspondents relatively close by.

What was everyone saying? Not necessarily much. Rather like today’s email. “It was the equivalent of a phone call, inviting someone to tea or saying, ‘OMG, did you know about the Duke?’” said Dan Edelstein, an associate professor of French and the principal investigator for the project. He will be teaching a course in the spring called Social Animals, Social Revolutions and Social Networks.

Clearly, something had changed: Commercial postal services were on the rise. Though their prototypes had existed down through the centuries, they had mostly served government officials, and later (via the Medicis, for example) merchant and banking houses. Suddenly they were carrying private correspondence.

More people were writing, and more people could respond quickly, not only with friends and family, but across far-flung distances with people they had never met, and never would. Rather like some of our Facebook friends.

According to Saint-Jude, it was an era, like ours, of “hyper-writing,” even addictive writing. The aristocratic Madame de Sévigné wrote 1,120 letters to her married daughter in Brittany, beginning in the late 1670s, until her death in 1696. It was important to keep her kid up to date with the goings-on in Paris. Although she is remembered today for her witty epistles, she never intended them to be saved, let alone published.

For a time, the streets of Paris were littered with little bits of papers – les billets – filled with a few words of scabrous and politically defamatory verse that were thrown to the public. Sound like Twitter?

The little bits of paper in your pocket could cause big trouble – Voltaire landed in jail for his verse. Nonetheless, these short, anonymous postings bypassed the government censor. It was also a way of organizing uprisings. Edelstein points out that earlier this year  Egyptian social networks were critical to coordinating demonstrators and drawing large crowds.

Indeed, he noted that social networks are key to almost all revolutions. “The Egyptian youth organizers may have excelled at mobilizing people at a moment’s notice, but interestingly it’s another kind of social network that seems to be taking advantage of the post-revolutionary situation – the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

“This network may be less agile, but it has created longer and better sustained bonds between members over time.” Unlike Facebook networks that almost anyone can join, the Brotherhood echoed the older, more exclusive networks that vetted prospective members, such as France’s Jacobin clubs. “Flash mobs quickly splinter into cacophony,” Edelstein told an assembly of incoming freshmen last month.

What is public? What is private? More correspondence meant that letters could fall into the wrong hands. Laclos’ epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, showed the dangers and disgrace that could befall the writers of wayward correspondence. In our own era, need we mention the fate that befell the indiscreet Rep. Anthony Weiner?

Meanwhile, modern journalism was born, via a precursor of the blog. Nobles, such as Cardinal Mazarin, hired their own “journalists” to report on scandal and sex in the city. These writers set up bureaus around Paris to get the juiciest news, and it was written and copied and distributed to subscribers. Literary reviews and newspapers soon blossomed, along with letters to the editor and a new environment of literary and cultural criticism.

These new networks flexed a new kind of media punch. For example, Edelstein noted that across the ocean in America, the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2. The news was published in a newspaper on the legendary 4th. “What we’re really celebrating is not the fact that 56 men signed the declaration, but rather that a new network of people emerged around the published declaration – a network that would ultimately become the United States,” he said.

The poster was invented to invite more and more people to more and more public events – theater, for example, became the dominant art form in the 17th century. Posters mobilized these slow-motion “flash mobs.”

The new spaces we have created are virtual, not physical. But the physical spaces of the 17th century and Enlightenment were just as much of a psychological earthquake – l’Académie française, l’Académie des sciences, the celebrated salons. That large groups of people were getting together to chat about literature, discovery, ideas, revolution, or simply to watch a show, was a change from the carefully manicured guest lists of the court, where the principal order of business was big-time sucking up.

These spaces evoked new questions: How does one conduct oneself? How does one appear to others? Managing your public profile became vital. The result? A new self-consciousness was born, and a new social nervousness. The players had the same questions we have today, said Saint-Jude: “How do you curate all this information?”

“Relax,” said Saint-Jude. “You’re in good company. There’s nothing new under the sun.”

-       Cynthia Haven

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STANFORD UNIVERSITY – “Instant runoff” voting – which San Franciscans will use this week to choose their new mayor, county sheriff and district attorney – requires voters to rank their three top choices in each race, instead of simply voting for their first choice, with a later run-off if needed.

Advocates say instant runoff does a better job than a traditional election of producing a winner who truly represents most of the voters’ preference; opponents say the opposite. It all boils down to what you think of the math, which raises an obvious question: What does a mathematician think?

We posed the question to Stanford mathematician (and NPR Math Guy) Keith Devlin.

“There is no perfect voting method,” said Devlin. “A famous 1950 result by the Nobel Prize–winning mathematician Kenneth Arrow, who spent much of his career at Stanford, tells us that there is no voting system that meets all basic democratic requirements.

“One advantage of the system we use in our national elections, the ‘first past the post’ method, is that it is easy to understand. Everyone votes for one candidate and the one with the most votes wins. But ease of understanding is about the only thing in its favor, and all the experts agree it is just about the worst possible system.

“For one thing, in a field with at least three candidates, split votes between two top candidates can result in a third person being elected who is disliked by a large majority of the electorate. Another problem is more social than numerical, in that it forces candidates into opposing camps, slugging it out in a verbal prizefight.

“That may have a lot to do with the current dysfunction in Washington,” Devlin suggested, “where no one is willing to compromise or make deals.”

The method being used in San Francisco is a variant of the “instant runoff” process, also known as “ranked choice” voting. Here, voters select their top three choices out of the field of candidates and rank them in order of preference. In the mayoral race this year, that means ranking three out of 16 contenders.

‘With ranked-choice voting, you can get a winner who is the first choice of only a relatively small minority of the voters,’ said Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin.

All the first choice votes are counted and then an iterative tallying process begins.

First, the contender with the lowest number of first-choice votes is dropped from the competition. Each voter who had ranked that candidate as his No. 1 choice then has his vote given to whichever candidate he selected as his second choice. The votes are re-tallied and, as before, the contender with the lowest vote total is eliminated.

This process continues for as many rounds as needed until one candidate has over 50 percent of the votes tallied in a round, at which point he or she is declared the winner.

Advocates point out that this method can save costs. With the one-vote approach previously used in San Francisco, if no candidate received over 50 percent of the votes in the election, a special runoff election had to be held, entailing the expense of printing new ballots and paying poll workers. With the instant runoff approach, a second election is not needed.

Opponents of the method point out that voters whose choices are repeatedly eliminated effectively get to vote several times, and moreover the process gives equal value to a person’s third-place ranking of a candidate and someone else’s top-choice vote.

But there are other problems, Devlin pointed out. “For example, with ranked choice voting, you can get a winner who is the first choice of only a relatively small minority of the voters.

“Undesirable outcomes such as this can arise,” he explained, “because the candidates are eliminated and their votes reassigned one after another, and the order in which that happens can make a huge difference.

“A shift of a large block of votes in an early round can eliminate a candidate who would have gone on to win had she survived until a later round and then picked up more votes to boost her tally.”

Devlin’s example is not a just theoretical possibility. In the 2010 race for supervisor in San Francisco’s District 10, the eventual winner received just 11.8 percent of the first-place votes, ultimately edging out the candidate who had the most first-place votes, according to reports in the San Francisco Chronicle.

There is also Jean Quan’s win over Don Perata last year for mayor of Oakland. Quan had only 24.4 percent of first-choice votes; Perata had 33.7 percent, the Chronicle reported.

The known vagaries of the voting method have resulted in some candidates trying new approaches to getting votes. For example, mayoral candidate Michela Alioto-Pier sent out a mailing urging voters to “please consider at least making Michela your number 2 choice for Mayor.”

A mailing from the San Francisco Republican Party suggested two mayoral “candidates to avoid.”

Devlin said he thinks that as candidates become more aware of the election math and the possibilities it opens up, more of these tactics are likely to be seen,  adding, “Particularly in the era of social media, where it is possible for large numbers of voters to coordinate their actions.”

Is this a misuse of election math? Devlin does not think so. “Arrow’s theorem tells us that the only mathematically ideal system is a dictatorship, and no American wants that.

“So voting is not like physics or engineering, where we have to do what the math tells us. Rather, it is one of those cases where we can make the math work for us – to use it to achieve our own ends as a society. The voters will make the selection, but the math we choose can shape the kind of government we get. Do we want politics to be about partisanship and fighting, where half the electorate will always end up as losers and we just keep seesawing between the two, or do we encourage cooperation and compromise, where no one gets everything but everyone gets something?” Devlin asked.

Devlin said that ranked choice voting now in use in San Francisco almost certainly encourages coalition building and reduces negative campaigning. “The question is, do you think that is a good thing? I have my opinion, but there I am being a citizen, not a mathematician.”

- Louis Bergeron

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Excerpted from Stanford Lawyer magazine

STANFORD— Afghanistan is an unlikely classroom for Stanford Law School students. In the grip of war since 2001 — the second major foreign military intervention in 30 years—it is a country struggling to find its way to peace and stability. Essential to these aims is the development of the rule of law. But it is a nation of the young – where the median age is just 18 and the people are yearning for education. As more students aspire to attain a university degree, many eager to participate in rebuilding their country, a group of Stanford Law students is helping to meet the challenge of establishing legal education in this fledgling democracy.

Rose Ehler and Daniel Lewis returned from a trip to Kabul in February. Both are second-year law students  midway through their term as co-executive directors of Stanford’s Afghanistan Legal Education Project (ALEP), leading the fifth student management team since the project launched in 2007.

Lewis recalls a sign at Kabul airport, “Welcome to the land of the brave,” which greets guests and cautions them as well. “But Kabul is really another world,” he says. “It’s a bustling city, with beat-up shanties, partially destroyed buildings, and strip malls. War torn but also booming. And then you see the beautiful mountains surrounding it.”

The trip was a culmination of months of hard work for the Stanford Law students on the ALEP leadership team who made the journey this year – likewise for the students who traveled there before them. For those involved at the launch of ALEP, dealing with legal curricula that predated such developments as drafting the 2004 constitution and coping with the severe shortage of printed texts were paramount.

But legal education in Afghanistan has come a long way in four short years, and ALEP has made a significant contribution to that progress. At the project’s inception, the group partnered with the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) -forming a union that has been instrumental to the success of both. When it was opened in 2006, the Kabul-based university was a new venture with no legal program. ALEP founders, Alexander Benard ’08 and Eli Sugarman ’09, approached Stanford vice president and general counsel Debra Zumwalt ’79, and suggested that they help develop one. Since  ALEP was born, approximately 330 Afghan students have completed.

The legal program’s mission is somewhat audacious: the develop an innovative legal curricula to help Afghanistan’s universities train the next generation of lawyers and leaders. But this is a dedicated group.

“It’s like running a company,” says Ehler. “We have weekly meetings. Daniel and I delegate to our teammates, trusting that things will get done. There are a lot of different balls in the air at any one time – someone working on translation or on military outreach, others handling urgent e-mails or talking with the U.S. department of commerce.” The list goes on.

Then there’s managing the $1.3 million grant from the state department. “ It’s a job to make sure we’re reporting everything correctly,” says Lewis of the grant, which funds one of the five law faculty positions at AUAF, plus expenses such as printing and travel.

While the country’s constitution became the official law of the land when it was ratified, Islamic and tribal laws continue to play strong roles in the legal system. ALEP’s principal focus is researching, writing, and publishing high-quality, original legal textbooks that include an emphasis on the application of secular laws and how they might co-exist with local customs and religious rules.

“We are not engaging in legal imperialism,” says Erik Jensen, co- director of Stanford Law’s Rule of Law program. “Local practice and culture are necessarily part of our view.”

To date, ALEP has published three textbooks, all in English, which are among the first to specifically address Afghanistan’s post-2004 legal system: An Introduction to the Law of Afghanistan(second edition and now available in Dari), Commercial Law of Afghanistan, and Criminal Law of Afghanistan. A fourth text, International Law of Afghanistan, is in its final stages, and a fifth, Constitutional Law of Afghanistan, will be available late 2011. All of ALEP’s publications are available online for free use and distribution. Additional Dari and Pashto translations are forthcoming.

The February trip was an opportunity to visit AUAF and Kabul University, to hear feedback on books and curriculum already in use, and to assess needs going forward. The team met with law faculty and senior members of the afghan government, including the chief justice, the deputy minister of justice, and a commissioner on human rights. One meeting with the dean of Kabul University ended with a request for 1,200 ALEP texts.

Equally important, though, were the meetings with students at the project.

“The young people do have a sense of optimism,” says Lewis. “There is a generational divide. They see what’s going on in the government and want to change it.”

“When you ask the students about why they take our classes, they say they want to understand what’s going wrong in Afghanistan. They know that corruption is a problem, and they’ve asked for a book on anticorruption,” says Ehler. “It all turns on their sense of obligation and ability to not succumb to corruption.”

AUAF students who complete the current three-year legal studies curriculum receive a certificate in Legal studies—a key qualification for those pursuing a career in government.

Collaborating with afghan colleagues and seeking advice from educational and governmental influencers are key to the success of ALEP. So team members used their time in Kabul for face-to-face discussion about the prospects of further developing the legal curriculum at the project – taking it from a three-year certificate program for which students minor in law to a five-year accredited program with a major in law.

One step is developing an understanding of the current state of the legal system in Afghanistan.

However, the work of ALEP is not done in a vacuum. Part of the group’s research involves understanding where their afghan students will work and matching the education that ALEP helps to shape with the needs of the country. There are traditional avenues for a legal career via government services and the judiciary. There are also opportunities within government ministries, as well as at international organizations—both governmental and nongovernmental. The legal market in Afghanistan is evolving, with the tradition of informal dispute resolution offering limited but growing opportunities for lawyers in the private sector. As the country’s drug trade makes way for other trade—and as education and civil society take hold—lawyers will be required and the law will play a greater role in society.

“Afghanistan has tremendous human resource needs across the board. And we know that a lot of lawyers become leaders—law is an incubator for leadership,” says Jensen. “Whether our graduates practice law, work in business, or work in the government, they will benefit from these courses, which enhance their understanding of the rule of law, good governance, and government function.”

“I met one student who is taking a night class at AUAF. He works at Afghan Radio, but much of what he reports on has to do with the law,” says Ehler.

“Another student, after taking the commercial law class, said his boss was like ‘here write this contract,’” adds Lewis.

“Our books are showing up everywhere—in the U.S. military, in the Afghan government, in law schools throughout Afghanistan. The attorney general had our law text on his website for a period of time,” says Jensen.

Before rushing off to the airport for a flight to Bhutan, Jensen offers one last thought:

“This project has changed me in a way that I didn’t expect in the span of a twenty-five year career in the field of international rule of law. I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed teaching and interacting with Stanford Law students, who doesn’t? But when you see able and inquisitive students taught by able faculty in classes that you’ve worked on designing and resourcing, in a place like Afghanistan, it’s absolutely magical. It has taught me that I can be even more passionate about this work than I thought possible.”

-          Sharon Driscoll

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STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — As Americans tune in to the debate preceding the next election, some will hear hypothetical questions about candidates. You might get a phone call, for example, asking how likely you would be to vote for so-and-so if she’d hired an illegal immigrant, or if such-and-such a candidate opposed gay marriage.

Questions in this form are so common that we rarely give them a second thought. After all, trial lawyers sizing up prospective jurors, or market researchers testing the waters through focus groups, routinely use hypothetical questions in their work.

“But what seems innocuous can have insidious effects on an individual,” says Baba Shiv, Sanwa Bank, Limited, Professor of Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He and his colleagues have shown that hypothetical questions don’t merely measure our current attitudes: such questions can actually sway opinion and affect behavior. And, in their most recent study in this line of research, they showed how and why this distortion occurs.

Designers of political “push polls” understand the basic effect already: ostensibly asking for your true opinion, the push pollster in reality aims to spread rumors and taint your view. (The most notorious example was a push poll during the 2000 Republican Primaries that asked South Carolina voters whether they’d vote for John McCain if they learned that he had fathered an illegitimate child.) Since hypothetical questions cloak a malicious act under the cover of legitimacy, Shiv calls them wolves in sheep’s clothing. “Because they’re hypothetical, they’re not subject to criticism. If I make an outright accusation, I have to defend it, whereas with a hypothetical, I can say, ‘I didn’t say that. It’s a hypothetical question.’”
    
In an experiment published in 2001, Shiv and his colleague Gavan Fitzsimons, a professor at Duke University, looked at voting behavior, finding that hypothetical questions like those used in push polls decreased the percentage of participants voting for the targeted candidate. In this latest set of experiments, the researchers, who also included scholars from the Alberta School of Business and the University of Southern California, probed deeper to discover what gives hypothetical questions their power. Hypothetical questions, they found, work by heightening what psychologists call “accessibility” — “what information becomes top of mind,” Shiv explains.

Under normal circumstances, any stereotypic beliefs you may have about politicians or conservatives or any other group are generally buried in your mind, so they won’t have much effect on how you behave. “But if a stereotype becomes top of mind, this top-of-mind knowledge will have an impact on behavior,” Shiv says. For example, if one of your stereotypes of politicians is that they’re corrupt, then hearing a hypothetical question about a politician who took bribes will remind you of that stereotype, making you even less likely than before to vote for that politician in the near future.

That certainly sounds sneaky, but what makes the process especially insidious is that it happens subconsciously. “Even if you alert people that this situation is hypothetical, they don’t latch on to that. They simply focus on the content, and not the context.”

For example, in one experiment, the researchers gave a pretrial jury selection questionnaire to a group of actual prospective jurors. They asked some of them, hypothetically, how finding out that the defendant was a gang member would affect their impartiality in the trial. Even though the questionnaire explicitly told participants not to use the questions to draw conclusions about the case, participants who saw this question ended up giving more guilty verdicts and meting out harsher sentences, at least on paper, than did participants who hadn’t been exposed to the hypothetical.

Shiv, of course, is reluctant to encourage anyone to exploit the power of hypotheticals, but he suggests they can be a fallback when you don’t have all the facts to make your case. The more important takeaway, though, is to notice when others are using hypotheticals — and to raise your guard. “Whether we know it or not, we’re being influenced by innocuous-looking tactics.”

— Marina Krakovsky

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STANFORD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS — To make the greatest impact as philanthropists in today’s world we must “put our minds to work as well as our hearts,” writes Laura Arrillaga-Andreesen in her new book Giving 2.0: Transform Your Giving and Our World. Arrillaga-Andreesen, creator of the first course in philanthropy at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and founder and board chairman of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, has written a guide to giving that emphasizes constant learning and improvement and an activism over and above sitting down and writing a check at year’s end.

Arrillaga-Andreesen launched her book in front of a powerhouse of Silicon Valley philanthropists Oct. 27 at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Foundations such as Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Sand Hill Foundation, Goldman Foundation, Skoll Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, Legacy Venture, David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and Arrillaga-Andreesen’s family foundations represent hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions, of giving. The audience was sprinkled with representatives of those and similar organizations, a testament to the impact of the Arrillaga family in local philanthropy.

Giving 2.0 weaves a story of philanthropy out of the threads of her family’s giving history and the experience of others who came to philanthropy in the past decade. The result is a combination of personal discovery and instruction manual, complete with explanations of various giving vehicles available to aspiring donors, their tax treatment, a jargon buster (glossary), and comprehensive index.

“When you give the 2.0 way you understand how your gift touches individual lives,” says Arrillaga-Andreesen. To get there she advocates:

  • Shifting from being reactive to proactive donors by finding your passion,
  • Researching your areas of interest,
  • Discovering the nonprofit to match,
  • Shifting from the sympathetic to the strategic through asking tough questions to find the nonprofit that is doing its job well, and
  • Moving from isolated to collaborative giving to leverage the benefit from every dollar given.

“When I talk about ‘Giving 2.0,’ I’m referring to a state of mind that embraces constant learning and improvement,” she says.

Jim Canales, president and chief executive officer of the James Irvine Foundation and a Stanford alumnus, is a firm supporter. “I think people today are thinking about impact and the legacy they leave. That is a good thing. It helps to lift up a sense of accountability by foundations and by all of us,” he says.

The Arrillaga-Andreesen story starts with her father, John Arrillaga, who arrived at Stanford on a basketball scholarship funded by “the generosity of someone he didn’t know,” she told the audience. As the family prospered, her late mother became a community leader, supporting existing nonprofits with her time and her money, and founding several nonprofits of her own.

Giving 2.0 is structured to help potential donors determine which path they wish to pursue. Each chapter describes a form of giving such as joining a board, getting together with others in a giving circle, starting a new nonprofit, or becoming an advocate.  She identifies opportunities, challenges, and points to consider. In the “Making It Happen” section, at every chapter’s end, a lengthy set of questions serve as a guide to establishing clear goals and how to achieve them. A component called “For the Family” is a mainstay of the practical approach Arrillaga-Andreesen advocates and an affirmation of her belief that the example of giving starts in the home.

At the same time Arrillaga-Andreesen is calling for the “democratization” of the word philanthropist. Philanthropist means “love for mankind” in Greek. Modern donors should embrace the word, she says. “Anyone who gives anything—time, money, experience, skills, networks—in any amount to create a better world, is a philanthropist,” she says.

Giving 2.0 is published by Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley. Arrillaga-Andreesen has launched a website, www.giving2.com, and a Twitter feed, @LAAgiving2, to support her efforts to help donors “transform your giving and our world.” The author is donating all royalties to nonprofits described as high impact and innovative. 

– Anne Gregor

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