China's rise, the hidden mom economy, and soda-bottle light bulbs: our top 5 stories of 2011

China's rise, the hidden mom economy, and soda-bottle light bulbs: our top 5 stories of 2011

A foreign domestic worker looks after her elderly client. Photo: <a href="">Jerry Wong (flickr)</a>
A foreign domestic worker looks after her elderly client. Photo: Jerry Wong (flickr)

From low-tech light bulbs in the Philippines to microfinance in Nicaragua, our team of young writers covered lots of ground this year.

Here's a rewind on the themes that struck the strongest chords with readers, and the money quote from each piece. As we head into 2012, odds are that these big ideas will keep resonating.

Lack of electricity is a huge barrier to overcoming poverty by
Megan Kelly, Feb. 10:

As long as those hundreds of millions remain in the dark, they will remain poor," and yet bringing electricity to areas that have none lacks global funding and attention. It's not even part of the Millennium Development Goals.

Megan made a sweeping case for attention to energy poverty, a theme we've continued to cover.

Microfinance isn't a magic bullet by Laura Mortara, Jan. 24:

And any situation involving loan and credit is dangerous, especially when people are allowed to borrow irresponsibly. The failure of microfinance in India is largely due in part to MFI's shifting their focus from non-profit to profit-making industries and the corruption that follows thereafter. In addition to this, microfinance in India expanded way too quickly without the experience or infrastructure to support it.

Laura rounded up the previous year's run of bad news about the microfinance sector with a wealth of links to the best coverage.

Used soda bottles light up the world, for free by Brynn Opsahl, Aug. 18:

A used plastic bottle filled with water and a touch of bleach is placed in a hole of a tin roof. For up to five years, 50 watts of light fill up the once-gloomy windowless shack any time the sun is out

Brynn's look at this shockingly simple, effective idea was one of several articles to land in the Christian Science Monitor as part of a partnership we forged with them this year.

Does China's rise mean U.S. decline? by Chris Sharp, Feb. 4:

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of Americans believe China is already the world’s top economic power, compared to 27 percent who think it’s the U.S.

Chris's piece rebutted the popular cliche about China's looming global power, drawing on a post by Foreign Policy's Daniel Drezner to argue that the U.S.-China relationship is about interdependence, not domination.

The female remittance economy: A hidden global network of mothers and money by Eliza Slater, May 11:

Remittances are a significant part of an unofficial global aid network, worth $325 billion last year. That’s three times the size of official foreign development aid spending.

Eliza zoomed into the human scale of some staggering numbers, showing how shipping cash to one's relatives abroad has become, among other things, an important part of modern femininity around the world.

As we mentioned last week, Global Envision is planning some big new initiatives in 2012. Stay tuned—we're looking forward to talking with you about whatever comes next.

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