Links & Contents I Liked 81

Hello all!

This week's link review kicks off with a section on humanitarian standards and development HR topics-from identifying decision-makers to networking and why organizations are 'people places'; Oxfam reflects on Jim Kim's first year at the Bank and laptops and schools in Kenya are part of the review. For anthropological summer reading check out the latest issue of HAU-and finally, the old question whether academic cooperation can change elites is asked in the context of North Korea!

Enjoy!

Development
Setting standards for the aid industry

“Over the last 20 years, the humanitarian sector has grown into a multi-billion dollar enterprise. While the early 1990s saw an absence of standards, the current situation may pose the opposite problem, with over a hundred standards initiatives now in existence in the humanitarian sector. Field workers and others have experienced a challenge in combining and implementing the number of standards in an efficient, complementary and effective way,” he said.
An excellent summary note from the Humanitarian Standards Forum that took place last week in Geneva.

Improving impact: do accountability mechanisms deliver results?

The report draws on the experiences of communities in Kenya and Myanmar as well as documentation from 15 other agencies. It presents compelling evidence of the contribution of accountability mechanisms to project relevance, effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability, and in addition it offers a tried and tested methodology for other agencies to adopt in order to increase the evidence base around accountability practices with the view of improving impact across the sector
Interesting new research in the context of enhanced humanitarian accountability.

Who are the Humanitarian Decision Makers?

During this work, it became painfully clear how large and diverse the range of decision makers are in humanitarian response. In an effort to define out these decision makers in a generalized fashion, I have started working with Quentin Nicaise to develop a first draft of a Decision Makers Taxonomy. It will be generalized down to roles within different organization types and locations.
Interesting to compare the broader discussions from Geneva with the requirements of colleagues working with humanitarian decision-making 'on the ground'.

Promoting professional networks at work

Why don’t organizations do more? I think it’s partly because the value of networks in our work is hidden and so we are rarely conscious of it as being an important enabler to our work. Networking is seen as something social and intangible or even unproductive and we are encouraged to be task focused i.e. don’t waste time chatting, get back to work!
Yet in practice networks are critical to quickly getting answers and advice for individuals. But they are also of benefit to the organization itself. Not only do they allow staff to be more efficient and to learn from one another – but they also provide an unofficial source of “help-desk” support, as well as being a store of institutional memory. This interesting post from orgnet looks at what happens when someone leaves an organization and how their absence is felt across the organization through their network. But what can organizations do to help?
Ian Thorpe's latest post is related to the previous discussion as he reflects on professional networks and what happens to them when you leave/change your job.

Your people are your organization

Take all the computers away, throw the policy manuals in the garbage, and we could be back at 90% capacity in a few months. But if you take away our people, or even if you replace them with equally skilled outsiders who lack the relationships they’ve built — then we’re in trouble. The lag on output will be palpable. Your people are your organization.
So why doesn’t it always feel that way? Why are HR and recruitment — not to mention retention — so undervalued in the sector? I’ll share my theories in a future post. In the meantime, why do you think that’s the case?
Dave Algoso's latest post rounds off this week's informal section on 'development HR' issues.

Pretty good so far, what’s next? Jim Kim’s first year at the World Bank

But as the bank’s own refrain goes, results are what count, and that is what Jim Kim will be judged on: the results he can deliver for the poorest in the world. He has laid out a progressive vision and made a lot of promising statements but as one of my colleague likes to say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” – the details of practical implementation are yet to be seen. Success or failure will hinge on whether he can mobilize the institution and its shareholders behind his vision. Not easy in an institutional behemoth, seamed with entrenched ways of working and old-era thinking. But that is what will make the difference between empty promises and a true change at the bank.
Oxfam's Nicolas Mombrial on Jim Kim's first year at the top of the Bank. Adds some great policy details to my modest earlier attempt to reflect on his leadership.

Global Drug Policy V: Drug policy reform momentum: where is the international development community?

Of particularly concern for development agencies should be that there are indications that the effectiveness of development programmes may be undermined by not integrating drug issues. A few non-governmental development organizations and research centers are just beginning to grasp some of these inconvenient truths.
What explains this reticence on the part of the development community to engage with drugs issues? Why is there so little interest in spite of the fact that in a growing number of countries reducing poverty, strengthening governance and curbing corruption is also dependent on tackling complex drugs and drug policy problems?
As long as the illegalisation and militarization of (anti-)drug efforts continue, development agencies, dependent on public money, will do their best to stay out of 'trouble'...even if drug problems undermine your programmes, you as organziation are likely to get away with it as the donors are afraid to ask hard questions with 'impossible' answers.

Kenya's laptops for schools dream fails to address reality

Irrespective of how many stories we hear about the effectiveness of laptops being dropped off to villages in rural Africa – the approach adopted by One Laptop per Child's Nicholas Negroponte, for instance – technology alone cannot provide an education. Among other things, children still need functioning schools, electricity and, crucially, trained teachers – tens of thousands are required, according to the Kenya National Union of Teachers.
Second, information and communication technologies are an amplifier of capabilities, skills, and social and economic positions. Supporters of education projects based on laptop distribution often point to their success in connecting the previously disconnected. But while information technologies and the communication networks that link them are fantastic tools for people with the existing knowledge, skills and social networks to take advantage of them, they are less useful to those starting from a less privileged position. It is hard to see how the programme could do anything to address inequality without tackling its deeper roots.
Excellent piece from the Guardian's Poverty Matters blog!

Anthropology
The Newest HAU: An Embarrassment of Riches

The reason there are so many authors is because many of the pieces are short. The reason the pieces are so short is because the journal, like Gaul, is divided into three parts: the first is a selection of articles organized around the theme of value, organized by Ton Otto. Otto is responsible for the important (and unfortunately over-priced) Experiments in Holism edited volume as well as a few other collections — he does a good job of rounding up talent. The next two sections are new book review forums: each one features a series of two to five page comments on a chosen book. This is not the first time this format has been tried — the journal Pacific Studies has given this sort of treatment to Pacific books for some time — but it is the first time in a while that it has become a regular feature of a major journal with a general audience. And of course, if Webb Keane, Veena Das, Michael Jackson, Tanya Luhrman, Steve Sangren, Tobias Kelly, et. al. have taken the time to write about a book then you probably have a good idea of what should be on your bookshelf, shouldn’t you?
A great review of the latest issue of HAU-The Journal of Ethnographic Theory - open access reading for your summer reading list!

Academia
Can a university bring change to North Korea?

Yet only two years later, the very North Korean official who had arrested Kim made an interesting offer: Could be build a technical university in Pyongyang, just like the one he had founded in China? Kim agreed and started to travel the world to raise funds for the university. Still at the height of Sunshine Policy, the government in Seoul gave $1 million to the school. Many individual groups, particularly Evangelical Christian movements from China and the United States, gave large amounts of money. Originally scheduled for launch in 2003, the project was delayed for several years, but finally $35 million were found and operations began in October 2010.
(...)
Yet during my visit, the faculty members seemed upbeat. Teaching at PUST, one argued, was a unique opportunity to put North Korea's future elites in touch with the outside world. Teaching international economics, another says, will eventually turn the students into change agents. Their optimism and energy is admirable. Every year, they attempt to take further steps to provide the students with fresh ideas from abroad. Since last year, PUST students can spend a semester in Europe, studying either at Westminster University or at Uppsala University in Sweden. Faculty members are tirelessly traveling the world to convince other universities to engage with PUST.
Oliver Stuenkel writes about his recent visit to North Korea. As interesting as these exchange projects are and as naturally as it is for academics to believe that (academic) education will foster enlightened leaders in the future, these entry points into the elite will probably disappear quickly once the system in North Korea implodes. Many of my peace studies colleagues fondly remember the exchanges at the Inter University Centre in Yugoslavia in the 1980s, but I'm not sure how instrumental they were once the Eastern bloc collapsed...

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