Links & Contents I Liked 107

Dear all,

This week's review is slightly belated again, but I spent an interesting day in Copenhagen yesterday and focused my energy 'offline'.
As always, some new resources, a great discussion on Swedish colonialism, an important reminder why politics still, always matter in aid and me disagreeing about the power of personal stories in development. I also disagree with a very positive assessment of civil society peace making, with the 'giants of online education' and lastly with the Internal Studies Association's silly idea to ban journal editors from blogging. But other than that I'm actually in a happy weekend zone ;)!

Enjoy!

New on aidnography
Tech4Rural, box thinking & reflections on innovative ideas meeting development challenges
I participated in a very interesting and in many ways insightful event in Copenhagen yesterday, organized by colleagues from the Technical University of Denmark, DTU. This was a modest event aiming at bringing together technological knowledge, entrepreneurial ideas and development expertise. As an academic participant-observer I got some very
interesting first insights into some of the broader challenges when innovation, technological ideas, business cases and ‘development’ meet.

Development
Verification Handbook: homepage

The Verification Handbook is a groundbreaking new resource for journalists and aid responders, which provides step-by-step guidelines for using user-generated content (UGC) during emergencies.
In a crisis situation, social networks are overloaded with situational updates, calls for relief, reports of new developments, and rescue information. Reporting the right information is often critical in shaping responses from the public and relief workers; it can literally be a matter of life or death.
The Handbook prescribes best practice advice on how to verify and use this information provided by the crowd, as well as actionable advice to facilitate disaster preparedness in newsrooms.
While it primarily targets journalists and aid providers, the Handbook can be used by anyone. It’s advice and guidance are valuable whether you are a news journalist, citizen reporter, relief responder, volunteer, journalism school student, emergency communication specialist, or an academic researching social media.
This is a great and timely resource!

One Problem, Many Dimensions: Tips on Covering Poverty
Pay attention to people released from prison: Former inmates are often among the poorest of the poor. Think about what is being done to help them return to society. Are they getting help to find a job? Were there education opportunities in prison? What type of healthcare is provided while behind bars? Due to poor conditions, prisoners may contract HIV, TB, or hepatitis and, without proper counselling, may pose a risk to society when released.
This is an excellent introductory resource and overview of good reporting practices around poverty and development; it's actually a shame that some of these common sense tips actually need reminders in 2014...

When Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie met Sweden
(Swedish film critic Jannike Åhlund) declaring that the actress Thandi Newton, who played the female lead in the film version of Half of a Yellow Sun, is “really white being the twin-sister of Olanna,” prompting Chimamanda to deliver the phenomenal mini-lecture “The Different Ranges of Colour in which Black People Come” (12:45) and JÅ objecting to Chimamanda bringing up Sweden’s colonizing past, prompting another brilliant lecture on Europe’s inability to talk about the legacy of colonialism in an honest way (47:25).
I started watching it and thinking how to incorporate this as a teaching resource...

Toward Political Intelligence in Aid
Oxfam’s Duncan Green recently used the term of “political sterilization” to describe potential channels for aid to have benefits without disrupting politics. I’m doubtful that such channels are possible. Worse, I’m worried that the very real effect of fooling ourselves into thinking that aid can be apolitical—which happens in social service and cash transfer programs—is that we fall victim to someone else’s political priorities. Even no aid at all is a political choice.
Dave Algoso shares some excellent reflections. I really think that there is a growing (?) group of people, maybe even an entire new generation, who perceives aid and poverty (reduction) merely as technical challenges. When you think about the origins of 'development' and the five decades from the mid 1940s to the late 1980s at least the idea that aid could be apolitical sounds absurd. We need to remind younger development enthusiasts about the political economy and history of aid before we start 'solving' seemingly obvious problems.

Is the British development bubble a good thing? Reflections after another session at DFID.
To which I would add, who is in the room at DFID? Because on a quick skim, I saw 50 white faces, not one black or Asian one (the gender balance was OK). If the British Bubble leads to that kind of skewed ‘voice’, that’s pretty worrying, not least because the of the post colonial baggage that goes with being ‘Great Britain’.
(...)
And one other rather intriguing suggestion (didn’t catch the name of the member of the audience from whom it came): the current way of exchanging knowledge is very vertical – gurus like the panellists speak, write, blog, and their wisdom supposedly percolates down to the grateful footsoldiers of the aid business and academia (maybe even beyond). Instead of panels, why not ask the panellists to do an online surgery, where people who are actually working on this in the field (maybe even some beneficiaries…) can ask for guidance and suggestions on how to improve their work.
Duncan Green reflects from the inside of the development industry and the ritualized performance of the industry talking at/with itself...

Why personal stories trump numbers in global development
This is why ideas like Sachs’ Millennium Villages, although easy to criticize, received so much support from the United Nations and other funders. Not because they are rigorous and scientific, but because they are case studies involving people. Until we recognise that human beings have a bias towards seeking particular stories that we can identify with, we will not be able to convince people of where resources should be allocated.
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Even though we push for statistical information to demonstrate to the public the net effect of what works, and what doesn’t, or talk about the need in terms of numbers of people, we still need to keep the message centered around human beings. Without a human story, our ability to empathise and understand is severely hampered.
I am a big WhyDev.org fan and happy to disagree with Weh Yeoh in many ways. Jeffrey Sachs and similar experts get money, because they have powerful academic institutions behind them, have impeccable academic careers-and most importantly, they have been funded before. It may sound rough, but the UN does not have the academic clout to engage with Sachs and they are happy to have him on board. It has less to do with compelling personal stories. I also have very little doubt that any large development project relies first and foremost on numbers. There may be a small element of story telling involved when the tokenistic social scientist contributes a few 'case studies' to the overall progress report, but any large donor wants numbers. It may be slightly different for fundraising or public engagement, but given the miniscule budgets for 'development education' it is a sideshow to keep 'the taxpayer' happy. But it is a great debate-even if we agree to disagree ;)!

Yukon Government Opens Vast Wilderness to Mining
"How can they even call them 'protected lands,'" asks Baltgailis, "when the plan allows mines and all-weather roads for industrial development right along rivers that are major tourism destinations? Given that most of the Yukon is already open for development, do they not see the need to protect some large, last great wilderness areas?"
"We don't feel it would be responsible to take [most of the Peel region] off the table for any mining activities at all," says Dixon. "Yukon protects more land base than any other province or territory in Canada. And that 29 percent is more than two Yellowstones."
First Nations and conservation groups contend that the government has violated the land claims treaties, and they plan a legal battle. Thomas Berger, one of Canada's most renowned aboriginal rights lawyer, announced today that he will represent them. "The government is not entitled to say, 'All that consultation was interesting, but it really means nothing and we're still allowed to do whatever we want to do,'" says Berger. "They can't open up the whole thing again."
Just in case anybody still thinks that Canada is still one of the good guys when it comes to domestic or international 'development'...

A NICE International ICT4D Failure
In spite of the new funding things went downhill quickly. The next NICE country program (Tanzania) never materialised, the profit of the Gambian centres dropped and local owners of the NICE Centers did not behave as a entrepreneurs but more like employees of NICE. Combined with the rise and maturation of the mobile market, telecentres quickly became obsolete and NICE international had to close its doors.
It is always sad to see ICT4D projects go down especially when it are social enterprises working with appropriate ICT. However, it is important to reflect on whether the project was viable from the start and how we can learn from what has happened to NICE International.
Important story and two thumbs up for sharing the failures; they sound like typical problems for ICT4D and need to be discussed more in detail.

Beyond Diplomacy
The growing use of national peace structures, along with the increasing reliance on national peace facilitators, exemplifies how civil society organizations, working in collaboration with national and international partners, are introducing new approaches to peacemaking. In many cases, these approaches complement both the official mediation efforts of international diplomats and the advocacy efforts of activist groups such as the Save Darfur Coalition. Yet the true power of civil society organizations lies in their ability to support the indigenization of the peacemaking process by building long-term social capacity within conflict-prone nations.
I think that Derek Brown overestimates the power of civil society organizations in peacemaking and promotes a vision of civil society engagement that emerged right after the end of the Cold War, circa 20-25 years ago. Since I know the situation in Nepal a little bit from my research, I have doubts as to what the civil society coalitions achieved-they certainly did not make the peace process worse, but I still believe it was elite-driven, included many irresponsible politicians and promoted a very Western notion of peace and harmony that may not be in tune with local realities of change and deep-rooted underdevelopment.

Anthropology
Tribute to Jane Cowan for her 60th Birthday
Jane Cowan is Professor of Social Anthropology at the Department of Anthropology of the University of Sussex, and on the grand occasion of her 60th birthday we want to honour her tremendous contributions to the discipline via highlighting her most important scholarly work, as well as via statements of appreciation and affection forwarded by her long term colleagues, friends, supervisors and supervisees including, among others, Michael Herzfeld, Yael Navaro-Yashin and Marie-Bénédicte Dembour.
Finally some good news from Sussex! Anthropology is still going strong and Jane is an excellent representative of their scholar- and mentorship!

Academia
Two giants of online learning discuss the future of education
And we go around companies and ask that same question, especially in startup-land, and we very frequently hear that the attention that’s being paid to degrees is being diminished. That is, more and more people are being hired on their work samples, on the projects they’ve done, the type of portfolios they’ve developed, and that’s something that’s very easy for Udacity students. And we hired a whole bunch of people ourselves from our network, completely oblivious to their degree but based on their ability to solve problems and socially interact with other people in our discussion forums.
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That’s a unique thing you can do online. For any A/B test we run, we can get an answer within 24 hours. That to me is a great opportunity for the future of education, because now we can use data-driven analytics to understand how education works best, not just the innate skill of the teacher.
Sebastian Thrun and Salman Khan get the full TED PR treatment to promote online education. Interesting that despite the talk of how much data they have their statement that 'degrees matter less and less' is not based on talking to Fortune 500 companies, or large non-profits, or top universities-but on talking to the start-up community...but investors are looking for their returns so they keep promoting many unproven assumptions around online education.

Are Blogs Inherently UnProfessional?
I was surprised to find a proposal that would force those who are involved in the editing of any of the various ISA journals to cease blogging. Why? Because it seems to be the case that blogging is inherently unprofessional.
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Social media is so much more commonplace these days that I would not think that zero tolerance kind of rules would be applied, especially to those willing to sacrifice considerable time and effort to help the association through the relatively thankless task of journal editing
The real issue is not about blogging but responsibility. You want any editor to be professional and responsible, regardless of the media through which they choose to communicate. So rather than saying editors cannot blog, why not just ask them to be professional? And if you cannot trust your editors to be professional, then study some principal-agency theory to figure out how to delegate and then oversees.
Vote Now! Demonstrate the Blogging Contributions to IR Scholarship
One of the best ways to respond to the ISA Executive Committee proposal is to demonstrate the professionalism and the significant intellectual and scholarly contribution that blogging makes to the IR profession. We’ve assembled a slate of impressive nominees in four categories for outstanding On-line Achievements in International Studies (OAIS) Awards for this year. If you haven’t already done so, please take a moment to cast your ballot. If you haven’t received one or would like one, please email us for a ballot. We’ve had an impressive response thus far and we’d like to do better.
I don't think this debate is really about blogging, social media or professional conduct of editors/academics. Associations like the ISA have cozy relationships with for-profit publishers and generate huge amounts of income through mega, offline events. One of the reason why they probably don't like blogging is that they don't want 'uncontrolled' spaces where debates emerge, new issues are discussed and pre-printed versions of articles are shared. Plus, today's bloggers are tomorrow's Google Hangout organizers and next thing you know those mega conferences with 579 panels become less and less appealing...academic dinosaurs that still have too much power...

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