SOOR had a busier Monday morning this week because Oregonian publicized the news article “Special Olympics face another year without state games” on Sunday.

The article reports that while last weekend’s regional Special Olympics bowling competition in Portland should be a warm-up for statewide games later, due to the lacking of budget, Special Olympics is facing another year without state game after 2009.

For the second straight year, financial woes have forced the Special Olympics of Oregon to cancel the organization’s biggest event, formerly held three times a year in Eugene.

When funding began to dip in 2008, the Special Olympics of Oregon cut four of its 41 athletic events and laid off two employees. Suspending the statewide games allowed organizers to preserve more sports, Hunt (Margret Hunt, CEO of Special Olympics Oregon) said.

Some other states have kept the state games but cut back heavily on the number of sports they offer.

“We didn’t want to eliminate sports,” Hunt said. “Bringing that back is a much bigger deal than restarting the state games.” Hunt said staff at Special Olympics of Oregon also worried that cutting sports would keep some single sport athletes from competing.

This news article may count as a bad publicity for SOOR and people in the office were worrying the reaction of stakeholders and board members. Read this article from another angle, it actually may turns out as a good PR piece for SOOR. One prove is that our office receive a call from a business offering help but requires us to help them as well. We turn it down at last, but at least it’s a good sign.

From the comments people made under the news article, I also realized that some people understand the problem here:

“people just don’t seem to think of Special Olympics as anything more than a novelty, when it is actually the kind of organization that brings people of all cultures/backgrounds together for positive purposes–the kind of organization everyone can and should support regardless of your politics, religion, etc.”

The problem is that since SOOR is cutting budget now, how can SOOR make a budget to educate the public when SOOR can’t even run the state games?

I have been tracking news articles and reports related to international development for a while in the free time of my internship and found this Cash Transfer program interesting.

Last month, Newsweek published an article about cash transfer program and its positive impact in the past two decades. It states that with skepticism on the effectiveness of redistributing wealth instead of structural reform, today, “cash-transfer programs are thriving in some 45 developing countries and helping more than 110 million families. The World Bank has put at least $5.5 billion into nearly a hundred different projects.”


On the Third International Conference on Conditional Cash Transfer in 2006, participants agreed the objectives of these programs:

“Governments award income support to poor families on the condition that they send their children to school regularly or bring their babies and youngsters into health, centers for regular check-ups. The programs have the dual objectives of diminishing poverty directly today and reducing the transmission of poverty to future generations by helping form the human capital of today’s children.”

One of the two biggest impacts of cash-transfer programs is education. For families living in poverty, it’s very possible that the cost of sending a child to school involves more than just educational fees. The Newsweek article quotes Santiago Levy, the architect of Mexico’s cash-transfer program that “poor households need labor of their children so that they don’t send they to school.” The “opportunity cost” can be wages lost when sending a child to school rather than having them taking care of siblings so parents can work, or having them work by themselves if they are old enough. Cash-transfer programs certainly helped poor families have more sources in hand so that they can decide and make the best use of them while left more free time for their children to have an education.

On the other hand, giving money to poor mothers may increase school attendance, but it has yet to show it can improve dysfunctional schools or actual learning. For example, in Philippines,  a few studies found that the increases in school enrollment rates were not matched by improvements in learning outcomes. In other words, children who have benefited from cash-transfer programs and completed more years of schooling do not seem to have learned more. The small, overlooked thing seems to be to improve the instruction, improve infrastructure, and improve teacher attendance. Editor of Philanthropy Action did an interview with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, two of the founders of the Abdul Lateef jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL) at MIT, touched on the topic of program effectiveness. Esther Duflo says:

“The bottom line on that is that I don’t think it is so hard to get students and teachers to come to school if you give them incentives to come to school. The problem is that a lot of the teachers don’t have those incentives. One thing we are finding is that pedagogy is very important. One problem that seems to be common across a lot of the curricula is that they are just not adapted to the student.”

Paying parents to send their kids to school is only one part of the solution. The infrastructure – schools, teachers – must be in place for a program to be effective. Thus, Dr. Leigh Linden, a Columbia University economist suggests that the next “single biggest improvement” for cash-transfer programs involves developing a method to determine which families are most likely to alter their behavior. He says:

“From a policy standpoint, I think we need to be a lot more creative with the payment structures – what exactly we’re [encouraging]. Keeping children in school is as important as getting them there in the first place – payment structures need to reflect these dual goals.”

My Portland Senior Experience classmate Andrew Baldwin wrote a blog post about the viscous political ads in  United States, it made me thinking about elections in China.

I have never voted in China because I came to America to study when I turned 18, the legal age to vote. The only “vote” experience I have is from my last year of high school. Some of my classmates turned 18 that time and was gathered and asked to vote. They didn’t know any candidate, and later was all asked to vote for one man the school has a relationship with. Not a good experience.

Free elections only exist at the local level in China, like in small villages and neighbor communities. Even for election scale small like this, injustices and corruption often happen. The government has no system of accountability, no system of checks and balances, no watchdog agencies and no free press. Discussions and decision making are conducted behind closed doors.

Elections have not been held for higher positions before. Therefore, many foreigners may not know that China is actually a multi-party socialist state:

“Officially, the People’s Republic of China is a multi-party socialist state under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. In practice, the power of parties other than the Communist Party of China is severely limited due to the personnel structure outlined above. Because none of the minor parties have independent bases of support and rely on Communist Party approval for appointment to positions of power, none have the capacity to serve as a true opposition party. In order to represent different segments of the population and bring in technical expertise, the CCP does ensure that a significant minority of people’s congress delegates either minor party or non-party delegates, and there is some tolerance of disagreement and debate in the legislative process where this does not fundamentally challenge the role of the Communist Party.”

Due to the limited election power, most people in China care more about economy rather than politics. I was one of them. I read an article analyzing a poll taken ahead of recent mid-term elections in United States and the poll showed that about half of Americans consider economy as the top issue. So, I thought it’s ok for me not to care about politics or democracy in China as well. I was wrong. I read a column written by Yang Hengjun, an expert on international affairs, in China Media Project which mentioned the difference. Americans may say the economy is their top concern, but the point is that they already have the political right to exercise their vote as a means of shaping economic policy.

It’s time for me and others to wake up.

All of my SOOR coworkers are talking about the grand opening of H&M in downtown Portland on November 11th, and a lot of my friends are talking about it too. It reminds me of the H&M grand opening in Beijing in Summer 2009. I was doing an internship in Beijing that time and heard people talking about it also, just like now in Portland. Later on the grand opening day in Beijing, customers emptied the store…Is this going to happen later in Portland? Probably. In my opinion, H&M has such a great marketing and PR team.

H&M has many successful campaigns with a lot of effective tactics, one thing is promoting their latest news and designer collaboration using social media and mobile marketing.

iPhone application: download H&M application on iPhone, open the app, give your iphone a shake, you will be presented a surprising 20% off H&M coupon.

Twitter: Retweet + follow @hmusa to enter to win a H&M + Mentor Foundation T-shirt + $200 gift card. www.hmformentor.com (Expired)

Facebook: Get 20% off your entire purchase by using Facebook Places new Check-In Deals on touch.facebook.com or the latest version of FacebookB for iPhone.

Grand Opening event on Facebook: H&M Pioneer Place will offer the first 300 shoppers in line an H&M T-shirt and Access to Fashion Pass, valued from $10 to $300 in addition to fantastic opening offers and giveaways.

Youtube:

Time flies fast. I have been interning with SOOR for six weeks already. During these six weeks, I have drafted news releases and media advisory, I have compiled a media audit book for the Bite of Oregon, I have been tracking all the media clippings related to SOOR, and I have done a lot more. But, I did nothing related to social media until this week. This week, I was asked to write a social media plan for next year’s event Polar Plunge – a fund-raising event as part of Law Enforcement Torch Run. Finally!

I learned that the Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest grassroots fundraising effort for Special Olympics in the world. In 2009 alone, more than $34 million was raised world-wide by law enforcement volunteers in many unique ways, and one of the most successful events has been the Polar Plunge. In Oregon, Polar Plunge Bend was the inaugural plunge in 2007. Since then, nearly 3,500 people have taken the plunge in Bend, Portland, Medford, Eugene and Corvallis.

With more than half of all people in the Unites States over 12 have set up a social media profile and two-thirds of the global internet population visit social networks daily, Using social media to increase participation and connection while attracting more potential donors became a trend that no one can miss. SOOR sees it too. Therefore, I got the task to write a social media plan for them.

Polar Plunge 2011 schedule (Mark your calendar!):

Medford – Feb 4

Eugene – Feb 5

Portland- Feb 12

Corvallis – Feb 12

Bend – Feb 12

Check out Polar Plunge: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Youtube!

Besides doing the internship with Special Olympics, I’m also a Global Envision intern for Mercy Corps. My main duty is in charge of Global Envision blog, coming up with new blog post ideas related to international development and poverty alleviation. I find several news about Southeast Asian arms race interesting.

Wikipedia has a definition for “Arms Race“:

The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for real or apparent military supremacy. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Southeast Asia nearly doubled their weapon purchases between 2005 and 2009, with Vietnam agreed to pay $2.4 billion for Russian submarines and jet-fighters. Malaysia spent more than $1 billion for two diesel submarines from France, Thailand and Indonesia have drawn up their own shopping list of submarines and Singapore became the first Southeast Asian country to make the top 10 arms importers since the end of Vietnam War.

Time has an article talking about this issue saying that there are two main reasons causing arms race. One is the concern about China’s rise. countries like Vietnam and Malaysia are arming up to send a signal to a rising China that they will continue to protect their strategic interests and their claims to energy resources in areas like the South China Sea, the Mekong basin, and other regions. Another reason is that Southeast Asian nations also distrust one another. There are lingering historical tensions between countries like Thailand and Cambodia or Thailand and Burma. Another reliable source of regional tension is the hazy maritime frontier between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Only Southeast Asian countries make these weapon acquisitions more transparent can keep the region peace and continue the strong relationship of ASEAN.

I know I should have updated my blog earlier this week so that I won’t have two blog posts, two papers, one homework and a midterm to prepare all piled up in this Halloween weekend. I couldn’t though, because I had a hectic week preparing for the GRE test. I’m now so released and excited that I am done with a score of Verbal 800 + Quantitative 770! Some experience to share with you all:

Don’t under estimate math. Some questions in the math section can be tricky. I did wrong for a progression and sequence question and missed the chance to get perfect score for math. One forum helped me a lot is Dr Raju’s GRE Quantitative Database – an Indian forum build up with math questions people remember from previous test.

I never know English has this much vocabulary until I study for the test, especially as a PR major student you are always told to write news releases in a simple and direct way. I probably will never see a lot of these vocabulary again in my whole life. But, to get a high score in Verbal, vocabulary is the key. My suggestion is to study vocabulary in pairs instead of remember every single of them. No matter it is analogy, antonyms or sentence completion questions, most questions are testing vocabulary in pairs. Reading Comprehension is hard as well because the passages you have are from various of subjects and many readings are related to science with a lot of technical words. I like to skim through the whole passage in 2-3 minutes, then start to read the first question instead of spending 6-8 minutes figure out every little detail. I find this way very efficient for me.

And of course, we all need a little bit luck on the test day. (: