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Hello all!
 
I really enjoyed teaching a class on The lives of aid workers –
Between transnational identities, local realities and conference rooms in 5-star hotels this week and this morning's new post is closely related to the question that many students have on how to engage critically and in a meaningful way with your first field experiences. But, as always, there are also a few other stories that have captured my attention this week.
 
Enjoy!

New on aidnography
Student question: How to use this experience to come as a sort of self-reflective practice of auto-evaluation and awareness-raising?
A recently graduated development studies student wonder how to use his DRC plans as a sort of self reflective practice of auto-evaluation. My reply is dealing with the power of the everyday, saying 'No' and enjoying small successes!

Development
Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth
"We lost our cows and we resorted to hard and risky work in mines, quarries and murram pits. But we have not left the culture of livestock keeping behind. We are working hard to buy animals."
This is one of the findings of a group of young Karimojong men and women who spent November and December investigating the livelihoods of Karimojong youth through action research. The full findings have now been published in an image-rich book, "Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth".
The team plan to give the book to those interested to learn about how life is today for young people in Karamoja and what has caused this to be. It illustrates the strength of the young Karimojong: their respect for others, strength of mind, flexibility, carefulness and knowledge and respect for law and tradition. The team suggests that when 'outsiders' come to work in the region they should read the book and find out what young people have to say.
A really interesting example of participatory action-research with young people with a pastoralist background in Uganda. In addition to their book there is also a short paper with methodological reflections available.

Sudan facts & figures

Since 2006 the Small Arms Survey's Sudan Human Security Baseline Assessment (HSBA) project has produced more than three dozen in-depth reports on aspects of armed violence, small arms, and insecurity in Sudan.
Great resources on different aspects of human security. Recent updates include the Lord's Resistance Army, the Justice and Equality movement and a Darfur peace process chronology.

The Top 10 Books on the Economics of Poverty
I asked for recommendations of books that would provide a foundation for my understanding of development, aid, and poverty. I recently revisited these recommendations as a member of the Opportunity Collaboration, and the following is a suggested reading list to provide a foundation for your adventures.
Interesting list without many surprises. My all time favourite when it comes to understanding development theory and history is Peter Preston's 'Development Theory'.

Fellow Ilaria Allegrozzi reflects on the aid industry.
I am convinced that many humanitarian workers are belonging to the “I-can-be-anywhere-and-I-don’t- care”-category of people, which are those who will conduct the same type of life no matter where they are. Goma, Nairobi, Ndjamena, Dadaab, Haiti, they will keep drinking beer under bomb attacks or post-tsunami affected areas without asking themselves a single question about why they are delivering tents and food to war refugees and IDPs. Many aid workers prefer meeting in fancy restaurants (always available in conflict zones) rather than reflecting on why they’re getting paid 3 or 4 times more their “local staff”. I’ve been told this is a psychological surviving strategy, a way to cope with suffering that people who are not used to it put in place. I don’t necessarily agree with this justification. I tend to blame the lack of curiosity and commitment of human beings. I also believe that many humanitarian workers go to underdeveloped countries, such are some in Africa, to try an exotic experience, to flee from their problems back home or to have living standards they will not be able to afford where they come from. Once they start, they love the money and find the lifestyle cool and fascinating, and they keep on rolling.
An Echenberg Human Rights Fellow writes about her experiences with 'the aid industry' in DRC. I always enjoy detailed, unfiltered, contemporary insights into the realities of aid work and the lifestyles that come with it. Ilaria experienced a reality that often seemed to be many miles away from the 'reflective practice' I and others write about (see my latest post from this morning for example). Her post is a good example of reflective writing - but also at times a testimonial of the helplessness of those who think against the flow and want to change things. It's still a long way until humanitarian aid is changing - if that is at all possible...

The great Nairobi guesthouse swimming pool dilemma – cast your vote now……
So what do you think? Should Oxfam open the pool and take any bad publicity on the chin, or should we stop whining? It would probably cost about $200-300 a month to keep the pool open – if we could find a way to do it without creating an accounting nightmare, we could probably raise that from contributions from guests, and even have money to spare to plough back into Oxfam programmes.
A very practical and honest post by Duncan Green on the related matter of guest house swimming pools (in Nairobi this time). Do check out the comments-they are definitely worth the click & scroll!

Anthropology
Nick Laird: Nepal
In this piece from our Writers Bloc project, our collection of essays about education systems around the world, Nick Laird explores education in Maoist-controlled Nepal.
The West has so absorbed the idea of the individual, that the advertising signs in Nepal are, to Western eyes, funny and crude (A billboard for Royal Stag Whiskey reads, Carve your identity. Make it large. Another nearby, for coffee I think, says, Express your attitude). The Nepalese people are still learning about capitalism, consumerism, and brands, even as the system that underpins these things in the West is shown to be fragile, false, and failing. Private education, with its similarly clumsy branding (New West Point), is part of that drive to Occidentalism. All the private schools I encountered, for example, insist on being “English-medium,” meaning everything—except Nepali classes—is taught in English. It is hard not to come away with a sense that the children are being reared for export. Nepal’s twin oppositional loves—communism and capitalism (and that mock individualism that underpins the latter)—are played out in the arguments over educational systems, and as usual it’s children from the poorer backgrounds who suffer.
A great piece on Nepal's education system. I always enjoy it when non-development experts and writers engage with development-related topics. And his observations are spot-on!

Academia
2011 Global Go To Think Tank Index Rankings
The Think Tanks and Civil Society Program produces the annual Global Go-To Think Tank Index that ranks world’s leading think tanks with the help of a panel of over 1500 peer institutions and experts from the print and electronic media, academia, public and private donor institutions and policymakers.
There are many interesting rankings in the report-and as always there are immeditately questions about methodology or the US-focus of global rankings conducted by American institutions. The top ten (20 more in the report on page 50) International Development Think Tanks are:
1. Brookings Institution – United States
2. Center for Global Development – United States
3. Overseas Development Institute (ODI) – UK
4. Harvard Center for International Development – USA
5. German Development Institute, Deutches Institut fuer Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) –Germany
6. United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research(UNU-WIDER) – FIN
7. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – USA
8. Institute of Development Studies – United Kingdom
9. International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) – United Kingdom
10. Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) – Germany
I don't disagree with the ranking per se, but there are also quite a few institutions included that probably qualify for a separate list of 'Top Think Tanks you have not heard about'. I'm not suggesting that these institutions don't do quality work, but at least for the German institutions I'm not sure how global their impact really is. Good/close relationships with their home governments may be one indicator, but that contradicts the idea of 'global' knowledge and institutions...

Media Practice for International Development
Sussex University is launching an exciting new MA in Media Practice for International Development. With a part-time pathway that focuses teaching in an intensive one day a week, it is perfect for practitioners looking to update or extend their skills in digital media production and for those wishing to immerse themselves in theory and practice for a year in order to learn and apply new skills in a range of digital media for international development and social change.
A new course at Sussex. Almost a year ago I wrote about the idea of teaching social media in the context of development studies and I still hope that this will be part of the course!

Social media for trainers: think differently!

Why is social media so intriguing? I'm convinced social media puts online learning in the hands of the trainer. The traditional e-learning or e-learning1.0 was alienated from the trainings. With social media you can brew a powerful mix. However, the mindset of the trainer is still geared towards the 'trainer in front of the roon' model.
I also recommend Joitske's presentation on the role of facilitators and trainers as 'amphibians' who should move between online and offline worlds.

Rejection
Some methods of rejection are certainly worse than others, but at some level, there’s no way to make rejection not suck. With many qualified applicants for each position, it has to happen. And with the legal climate we have today, meaningful candor from the institution isn’t going to happen. That leaves boilerplate. I don’t like it either, but it’s a rational response to the incentives that actually exist. The best I can offer is that none of it is designed to be offensive or demeaning, even when it feels that way.
A very honest post on academic hiring and rejection (letters). Maybe I'm a bit naive or haven't been exposed enough to the American academic job market, but I was surprised that litigation seems to be a growing problem. Is it about the money (asking for, say, $10,000 which equals temporary teaching work for two years)? Or do applicants really think that this is a way to get a job (as in: 'Everybody, let's welcome John who threatened to sue us so we gave him a post')? We live in brutal times when it comes to finding employment...

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