The tension between global norms and national interests

Fareed Zakaria

By Fareed Zakaria/The Washington Post

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has unified Western democracies, at least in their robust condemnation of the action. But farther afield, one sees a variety of responses that foreshadow the great emerging tension in 21st-century international life: between global norms and national interests.

Consider the response of India, the world’s most populous democracy. New Delhi was mostly silent through the events of February and early March; it refused to support any sanctions against Russia, and its national security adviser declared that Russia had “legitimate” interests in Ukraine — all of which led Vladimir Putin to place a thank-you phone call to India’s prime minister.

India’s reaction can be explained by its deep ties with Russia. From 2009 to 2013, 38 percent of major weapons exported from Russia went to India, far more than to any other country (and more than triple the next-highest recipient, China, at 12…

View original post 606 more words


Institutions Must Adapt to the Needs of Five Distinct Groups Within the Online Education Population  June 18, 2014

Schools That Reach Emerging Segments of Students and Parents Will Tap into New Sources of Growth and Innovation, New BCG Research Finds
BOSTON, June 18, 2014—A survey of more than 3,000 U.S. students and parents conducted by The Boston Consulting Group’s Center for Consumer and Customer Insight has identified five distinct segments of the online education population. The report, The Five Faces of Online Education: What Students and Parents Want, is being released today and is the latest in BCG’s Consumer Sentiment series. The survey shows that schools must vary their approaches in order to best reach the following five segments:

True Believers. These students take the majority or all of their classes online. This population will be familiar as the original group that online education grew to serve.
Online Rejecters. These students have tried online courses, but they have decided not to take more in the future because they see problems with the quality, outcomes, and reputation of online programs.
Experience Seekers. These students uniquely emphasize the experiential, social, and emotional benefits of education. To them, it does not matter greatly which form their education takes, so long as they achieve their goal of a degree for personal and social advancement.
Money Mavens. Members of this segment are primarily motivated by the financial outcomes of an education. They view an online education much more as a transaction than as an experience.
Open Minds. This segment will become True Believers if the experience of online learning meets their high standards and offers benefits beyond that of traditional classrooms.
“The needs of the current mix of students are different from those of the past, driven by broader generational, digital, and marketing trends,” said Christine Barton, a partner and coauthor of the report. Consider, for example, the overall finding that students rank academic advising ahead of faculty and teaching quality for the improved online education experience of the future. “What worked for online education in the past won’t work in the future, and what will work in the future, won’t work the same way for all institutions,” says Barton.

Despite the differences among the segments, the survey also shows that universal attitudes exist. More than 60 percent of respondents who have taken an online or blended course believe the following: online offerings can improve the quality of education; online courses and degrees are gaining in importance as a part of the criteria for choosing an educational institution; and the traditional classroom experience benefits from online instruction.

Students are combining the best of online, blended (a mix of online and in-person instruction), and traditional academic settings into a new learning experience. In fact, BCG’s survey suggests that the proportion of students currently taking at least one blended course is more than 25 percent.

At the same time, students are demanding much more from online education than in the past. All types of students surveyed wanted greater real-time interactivity and contact with faculty, advisors, and other students. And parents in particular are not sold on online-only degree programs: They were significantly more likely to withhold financial support for a child pursuing a fully online degree than for a traditional or a hybrid degree that mixes online and traditional classes.

Ultimately, BCG’s survey found that online education has reached the mainstream: 67 percent of secondary and postsecondary students report experiencing online education to some degree. (The survey defines those with online education experience as students who have taken an online or blended course and parents whose children have taken an online course.) In addition, the survey confirmed other estimates that the proportion of studentscurrently taking at least one online course stands at 30 percent of postsecondary students, and that 16 percent of postsecondary students are currently learning primarily through online courses.

“Growth in the future will come from altogether different sources than in the past,” said Allison Bailey, a senior partner and coauthor of the report. “Successful institutions will understand how groups of students differ, which segments to target for growth and innovation, and how to prioritize investments, operations, and marketing messages to meet more needs with fewer resources.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded at To arrange an interview with one of the authors or receive a copy of the report, please contact Patrick Riccards on +1 703 298 8283 or

Garbology Market Research: Is it Effective? by: FKMensah

Competition in the consumer goods market has become more intense over the past decade. There are many reasons for this competitiveness in this industry but the most talk about is globalization. In this new age of internet and technological advancement consumers now have more choices when it comes to purchasing household consumable products among many other items they use on a daily basis. Gone were the days when a consumer only has to run to the convenient store in the neighborhood to buy items. The internet has now made it easier and presented many alternatives and choices for the consumer. Typical consumers who use to go to the grocery store now have a choice of just having to order groceries over the internet and have it delivered to their homes.i,e. Shoprite.  This has created a marketing environment where companies do whatever it took to have such consumers become aware of their products and brands that may not even be at every store in a community.

Companies have long been faced with the difficulty of being able to particularly define their customers’ purchasing and consumption patterns. This has led to marketers exploring all marketing strategies available to them to capitalize on the consumption patterns of their customers.  They use brand engagement platforms like social media to not only create awareness of their products, but also engage consumers of their products through comments made about their products by these consumers– which is a huge trend in this modern era in marketing. One other trend that has been explored but not increasingly popular is Garbological marketing research—when people in a neighborhood place their trash outside their homes for pickup, and a marketing researcher sorts through the garbage as part of a brand-preference survey. To a marketing staff or firm, such consumption patterns or information revealed in this research could guide them by providing first-hand knowledge of what customers in this particular area are willing to spend money on, and what products will not sell.

ImageA garbological study, in relation to marketing is an observation technique which adapts the process in which a researcher combs through people’s trash to assess the things they’ve consumed… (Hyman, Sierra 2010).  During a garbology study in Tucson, a survey found that all Hispanic women in the area did not use bottled baby food. However, it was discovered through the analysis of these women’s garbage that they used just as much prepared baby food as other households within the region. Thus, through studying garbage we can analyze the belief system surrounding food consumption (Rathje, Murphy 2001).  A marketer’s ability to have a first-hand knowledge of what products and how often consumers go through a product in a period through these marketing research means can add to the mitigation of the complex customer consumption pattern. Obviously, one may see this type of research as an over stretch and going too far but in this competitive global market having a slight edge over a competitor does go a long way to capturing or increasing a company’s market share.

Others have argued that there is a downside to this garbology marketing research, thus, violates respondents’ privacy (unless they’ve consented to sharing their trash for this purpose). This is a strong argument against the concept. After all is not that easy to walk in neighborhoods dressed on “research gown” scouting through one trash after the other without either being questioned by owners of these trash cans or even being perceived as some sort of “lunatic” or “spy”.  But having these individual trash owners understand your quest and reasons for this unusual act and persuading them of the benefits of your research to them could be very useful—this is where marketers need to define their marketing objective and also determining what information is needed and how that information can be obtained efficiently and effectively.

The goal of competitive intelligence is to provide a reliable and effective information that is mostly backed by facts to support the decision making process of a business in a competitive or non-competitive market, on the other hand, garbology market research and the “dirty” business of competitive intelligence and a company’s ability to acquire first-hand knowledge of consumer consumption habits maybe what makes trash searching legal in some sense, at least market researchers do not have to trespass on private property or even grabbing those trash bags before it hits the pavement. Some lawyers and strategic intelligence professionals like Richard Horowitze has argued this as the legality of dumpster diving for research intelligence purposes. Regardless of its legality, there is the another task of being able to either talk to the right consumer whose permission you may need to search their trash or finding the right neighborhood or consumer segment that may have the right “trash” to solidify your market research—whether or not those consumers use the types of product pertaining to the research. This is where market research and competitive intelligence come into play.

 There is a clear distinction between garbology/ market research and competitive intelligence—Competitive Intelligence is not about talking to lots of people or in this case going through every single trash in a particular neighborhood, it is about talking to the right people or looking through the right trash. When conducting Competitive Intelligence, if three reliable sources give you the same answer to a question, then the intelligence is considered triangulated and the analyst moves on to the next question. While Market Research generally focuses on customers, gathers information by surveying lots of people, usually customers, in order to gather their opinion and insights on certain topics. Once the survey is complete, analysts apply various tools and techniques to extrapolate the data and postulate on its meaning.

Even though there may be a fine line between the legal and illegal aspects of this garbology research methodology, I do believe that the end result is what justifies garbology market research as either an effective or ineffective tool, and since many consumer goods companies have tried it and may still be using it tells of its existence as a useful marketing research tool.


Michael Hyman, PhD, Jeremy Sierra, PhD “Marketing Research Kit For Dummies” John Wiley & Sons, Mar 5, 2010 – Business & Economics

Rathje, William and Cullen Murphy  2001 Rubbish! The Archeology of Garbage. Harper Collins. New York

Karl Moore, Niketh Pareek ,Routledge, Nov 24, 2009 – Business & Economics

Heath Gross, Market Research and Competitive intelligence. Accessed 1/1/14. <;


Every-woman’s Struggle With Society. by: Fkmensah

Mary Wollstonecraft once said’ “I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves,” but the question still remains, how many women can truly testify to this quote about having power over themselves? Thus The power of responsibility; self sufficiency; independent; pride; self reliance and the “can do” ability which I believe comes natural to most, if not every woman.

Among many, there would only be a few women who can genuinely and boldly admit to this. When you literally scratch most feminists, you will see that underneath them is a woman who longs to be anything but oppressed. But the real truth is that, that is not all she wants to be! Most, if not all of these women want love, affection and most of all respect that is not based on looks and body features alone. But the mutual respect for being human and being a woman. Frederick Douglass once said “Woman should have justice as well as praise, and if she is to dispense with either, she can better afford to part with the latter than the former”. Many books have been written on inequality with regards to women. Many stories have been told. But yet many are the women who still live under the oppression of their husbands, boyfriends and other men in their community.

Do these women just lack the power to overcome this oppression? Or did they just fall victims to this situation by virtue of being born a woman or because men are depicted as superior from time immemorial! The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor or midwife says, “It’s a girl”. Society has put so much sexual pressure on women and this has created an environment where most women feel they have to attain perfection in order to please a man or to “fit in” and not to be looked down upon. Some of these women, with their low self esteem, turn to allow themselves to be oppressed in many different forms by men. For the longest time, Henrik Ibsen’s classic play, A Doll’s House, in my mind, is a clear example that illustrates such dilemma and also a feminist piece that draws attention to the plight of women in the Victorian Era which still exists in our society today.

 In this play, Nora Helmer’s struggle for independence often leaves me with the impression that the play is a tale of “Everywoman’s struggle against Everyman”! Although there is no denying that an element of feminism exists in this play, the stranglehold that society has over a female is often overlooked. It is a tale that analyzes society in a scope that extends much further than women’s rights. Throughout the play, it is apparent that the majority of the feminine characters are caught within the grip of a society that confines and shapes them.

            Nils Krogstad is a perfect example of a character bound by his role in society.  Although he is a forger and a blackmailer, it is difficult not to have a bit of sympathy for him. Krogstad is a man with bad reputation. As Dr. Rank puts it “he’s rotten to the core” (Ibsen 1822). At one time, Krogstad was the fiancé of Mrs. Kristine Linde, until she left him because he “hadn’t much immediate prospect in anything,” (Ibsen 1850). Eventually, Krogstad married and had children. His wife passed away, leaving him to raise and support his children alone. Mrs. Linde’s rejection of their relationship and denial of her true feelings for Krogstad for financial support has had long-lasting psychological impact on Krogstad. In other words, society tells him that if he wants to be truly worthy of a woman’s love, he must be able to provide a stable financial environment for his wife and family. It can be assumed, based on Mrs. Linde’s rejection of him that he either consciously or subconsciously attempts to attain society’s goal of wealth by committing an act that is outside society’s acceptable parameters.

            While on the topic of Krogstad, it is hard to ignore the effect that society has had on his former fiancée, Kristine Linde. Mrs. Linde left Krogstad to marry a man with money. Unfortunately, she did not have much of a choice, being left with her brothers and ailing mother to take care of, with no way to support them on her own. Her husband eventually passed away and left her penniless, forcing her to work her hands to the bone to survive. This is a typical situation that befalls many women who in some cases do not have the power to stand strong and fend for themselves without the help of a man. And this is what sometimes leads to some men taking advantage of a woman who lacks the will to fend for her self.

Kristine took on a mother role to her siblings and to her mother. Thus, this is what she has been trained to do in life right? Women in that time were not encouraged to get an education and pursue a career. Although it was possible for women to obtain jobs, they were not the types of jobs that led to any type of success, or even provide comfortable working conditions, as a result of the role that she has been forced to take on, she has been made to feel useless and without purpose because she does not have someone (a man, in other words) to take care of.

 Nora reacts not to the explosiveness of his vituperation, but to the realization that he has thought only of himself. Rather than live up to his claims of willingness to sacrifice himself for his wife to save her from a great peril, he submits to Krogstad’s blackmail. Thus, Torvald selfishly violates his arrogant morals in an attempt to save his reputation. Torvald’s moral view of the world is not the only aspect of his personality that can be scrutinized. However, this same principle runs much deeper than just the obvious in the Helmer household.

Additionally, Ibsen makes reference to the fact that Torvald likes to have the house kept a certain way. Nora speaks of her urge of “making the house nice and attractive, and having things just as Trovald likes to have them” (Ibsen 1820).  This is a woman who yearns to have an independent life, but is caught up with the dilemma of just doing nothing but please her husband. Due to Torvald’s attitude and lack of respect for his wife, it first appears that Nora’s role in the household is reduced to merely a pawn on Torvald’s grand societal chess game. She is expected to be the perfect Victorian wife: beautiful, entertaining, and subservient. Torvald expects her to present herself in a certain way, thus illuminating the idea that Torvald is ruled by society and not only accept this role, but choose to project its standards upon his environment and others around him. His actions are an attempt to create a beautiful façade that fulfils society’s aspirations. He thus embodies the paradox of being the oppressor and the oppressed.

This story expresses the absurdity of Victorian society and its effects that still exists in present day. Likewise, it will not be entirely denied that Ibsen is making a statement on the right of women in this era; So had immortal guinuse  like Sojourner Truth in her famous speech “Ain’t I A Woman?” However, this aspect is merely a symptom of an all-encompassing epidemic. My writing of this blog is an intention to make a statement on society, and certainly not exclusive to the plight of women in society. However, it would have been impossible to avoid the issue on the basis that women and their counterparts symbolize the offspring of a broken society. After all, societal pressure is a consistent one. Society’s stranglehold transcends gender barriers. Although some suffer more than others, society is a dictating force in all classes especially among women. Whether one is male, female, rich, or poor, the norms and morals of the society permeate and eventually begin to control the actions of its inhabitants if not its women. But rest assured, any day now; anyway now, most of not all of these women will once in their life, find their voice and their oppressors will find their shame.



Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll’s House. Ibsen: The Complete Major Prose Plays. Trans. Rolf Fjelde. New York: New American Library, 1978. 119-196.


Preservation of The International Environment. by: Fkmensah

The preservation of the international environment has been a major concern of the United Nations (UN) for over a decade now. Changing ideas and thinking about the world’s environment is where the UN has probably had its greatest influence. The United States; a member of the UN has contributed a great deal to the preservation of the international environment including its own environment here in the U.S. the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in conjunction with other agencies with the UN, has contributed by way of finances and legislations to help improve the international environment. This has been a major step for the US after nearly a decade of defiance by Washington towards international efforts to protect the environment, notably, the disengagement from the Kyoto Treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  It is a general policy perception that the U.S. is an ardent laggard when it comes to global environmental governance, but is this really the case? As the world’s one remaining superpower, the United States stands forth as a hegemony in international politics. Within the traditional realist perspective, this means that the U.S. is decisive for the ambition and scope of international cooperation. However, research has shown that there is limited empirical support for this assumption when it comes to environmental cooperation. 

Essentially, the U.S. tends to champion a policy of picking and choosing from the menu offered by international organizations only those items that enhance America’s power and of rejecting those items that might constrain it. To use Hoffman’s description, “those who follow a more “realist” tradition explain that world order is based on might, that the network of international law and organizations is “frail scaffolding” that holds only as long as there is a structure of power behind it. They believe that the only thing that matters is what is good for the United States. The rest of the world is not important. They also argue that “under our Constitution, any Congress may, by law, amend an earlier act of Congress, including treaties, thus freeing the U.S. unilaterally of any obligation.” The U.S. Constitution is superior to international law and that international bodies are politically unaccountable and therefore dangerous (Hoffman 2002, p.351). The U.S. plays a “prophetic and reformist role,” because its “sense of mission has led it to conceive and support the establishment of international institutions” and to be the “guardian of world order.

The U.S. in the UN Environmental Arena Unlike in peace and security-related issues, there is no simple and straightforward correlation between America’s hegemonic position and the type of environmental diplomacy it is likely to pursue. This status implies in many cases a convenient option to press for policy changes abroad that the United States has already undertaken at home. “At times, the U.S. government has used its economic strength and political influence to promote global environmental objectives. When the United States takes the lead in a positive manner, the possibility becomes greater that environmental policies and institutions will be stronger. However, if the United States fails to take the lead, progress can be blocked”.(Paarlberg 2002, p.324). Given the absence of a global strategic imperative in U.S. environmental foreign policy, it is possible to suggest that the U.S. pursues global environmental issues largely in response to domestic or ideological imperatives. In fact, domestic factors play a stronger role in determining environmental diplomacy than in many other foreign policy arenas.

As recent as November of last year, a Whitehouse press release stated that, “Obama is prepared to set a goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels over the next decade. The White House also reiterated Obama’s goal of reducing U.S. emissions by 83 percent by 2050.The targets come from a climate change bill passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate has yet to pass the bill, so the United States has not committed itself to any binding goals”. As the experience with U.S. policy on biodiversity and climate change suggests, U.S. presidential leadership abroad can easily be trumped by Congressional opposition at home. “And although the President has greater room for initiative in environmental foreign policy, the need for Congressional approval of multilateral environmental treaties and domestic programs hinders international leadership efforts that are not backed by a broader coalition of interests at home (Falkner 2005, p.593). 

The U.S. environmental movement is among the largest and best organized in the world but it has been unable to sway U.S. policy regarding the Kyoto Protocol or ratification of the Biodiversity, Basel, Rotterdam or Stockholm Conventions. This is due in part to powerful interests that oppose U.S. participation in these treaties and because the environmental movement has not been able to influence the outcomes of congressional or presidential elections. For example, property rights advocates were concerned that the Convention on Biological Diversity would impose too many restrictions on the way private and public land is used and lobbied Congress and the White House heavily against its ratification. “The relative influence of different interest groups varies across time and between issue areas, which is one of the important reasons for the fluctuations in the pursuit of U.S. environmental diplomacy.” (Falkner 2005, p.594).

The U.S. has also been supportive of the Regional Seas Programs, the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) and the work in chemicals. In 2003, the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Governing Council adopted a U.S. proposal to establish the UNEP Mercury Program which assists developing countries in taking action to deal with mercury. The U.S. has provided over 80 percent of the budget of that program, nearly $2 million since its inception. There is no doubt that the US, regardless of its passed reluctance in environmental issues, has played a major role in the preservation of the international environment. And in many cases, including on methyl bromide, climate change, bio-safety, the hazardous waste trade and some chemicals-related issues, the U.S. can be characterized as a powerful laggard and even a threat to regime effectiveness. The bottom line is that the U.S. doesn’t like foreigners telling Americans what they can or cannot do. This is part of the American psyche and has been since 1776. So, since UNEP does not put legally- binding restraints on the U.S., the U.S, in turn, has no problem being a constructive leader in the effort to preserve the international environment.


Falkner, Robert. 2005. “American Hegemony and the Global Environment,” International Studies Review4:7 (December), pp. 585-599.

 Hoffman, Stanley. 2002. “The United States and International Organizations,” in Robert J. Lieber, ed. Eagle Rules: Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the Twenty-First Century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, pp. 342-352.

Paarlberg, Robert. 2002. “The Eagle and the Global Environment: The Burden of Being Essential,” in Robert J. Lieber, ed. Eagle Rules: Foreign Policy and American Primacy in the Twenty-First Century. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, pp.324-341

CNN.    “Obama to attend Climate Change Summit”. Whitehouse. November 25, 2009.