Links & Contents I Liked 164

Hi all,

A busy week on aidnography featuring two new posts on conferencing in the digital age and media representation of development in the context of CNN’s Hero of the Year event.

In Development we have the best aid donors (according to a survey); citizen engagement; the surprising strength of child sponsorship models; how the ICC can communicate better; the militarization of business and communication; big NGOs moving to the South; teaching development economics in developing countries.
Being on the road as a career activist; new publication on Latin American digital struggles; Oxford University Press shares insights from its open access monograph publishing trial.

Enjoy!

New from aidnography

If you want more diverse conferences & panels, make technology part of your diversity strategy
To make conferences and panels more interesting, meaningful and diverse, gathering everybody physically in the same room at the same time should become a strategy of the past.
And since I can already see this burning question emerging: Yes, I WILL talk about coffee breaks where all the important networking is supposedly taking place...
CNN Hero of the Year event offers a glimpse into today’s depoliticized charity industry
While many of the projects are commendable efforts that certainly have made an impact on vulnerable people’s lives, the award is a celebration of the American charity hero figure. It is a well-rehearsed display of how individuals can make small differences-without rocking the social boat or engaging with root causes or systemic problems. Firmly embedded in notions that outside ‘heroes’ will bring ‘change’ and ‘fix’ peoples’ lives the award is essentially a celebration of the North American non-profit industry model.
Development news
Which are the best aid donors? Governments have their say
So who wins? Sorry DfID and USAid, but the report finds that host government officials rate multi-laterals more favourably than Development Aid Committee (DAC) and non-DAC development partners on the three big performance indicators: usefulness of policy advice, agenda-setting influence, and helpfulness during reform implementation. “The Global Fund, the Gavi Alliance, and the World Bank rank among the top 10 development partners on all three of these metrics,” says the report.
Duncan Green's comment is more an exercise in how to spread information and make reports accessible and key findings shareable than commenting on the actual report that identifies more or less useful aid donors...

Citizen engagement – time for a reality check
Our recent evaluation of the efforts of Swedish civil society organisations (CSOs) and their partners in Nicaragua, Pakistan and Uganda illustrates the challenges posed by, what we describe as, citizens’ "rational passivity”. The two-year study of Sweden's civil society strategy sheds light on why people seemingly accept norms that are against their interests, limit their engagement as citizens, and seek other ways to meet their needs.
Jethro Pettit sumarizes recent IDS/sida research on citizens engagement-commentator Jane Carter's response is interesting, too:
The findings of the "reality check approach" do not surprise me at all. What is saddening is that spending 3-5 days living with poor and marginalized families, twice, is enough to draw such significant conclusions - and at the same time would be considered by many working in development as a lot of time to spend in such conditions. Time is money; we swoop into villages and swoop out again, rarely staying a night.
A discourse on Fundraising: Child Sponsorship
Cringeworthy as that memory is, I assumed the world had matured in the way it viewed development and poverty since then, in the same way I had in the intervening decades. In the same way that no sane person can believe that “Do they know it’s Christmas time?” was once considered an appropriate sentiment to utter in public let alone to release on record, I assumed we’d left child sponsorship largely behind in the big box of stuff marked “ignorant, reductionist pseudo-colonial bullshit” and gotten on with the task of actually trying to make the world somewhat more equitable by addressing the present day inequalities that we all recognise as symptomatic of historical injustice.
Ben Francis, a recent development studies graduate, is surprise how alive and well child sponsorship still is in age of supposedly doing development better...

Seven Things the ICC Could Do to Improve Its Communications and Standing
Last but certainly not least, the ICC should establish a communications team that is allowed to be courageous and bold with regards to its conduct and engagement. To do so, such a team would have to be insulated, indeed even separate, from the ICC Prosecutor’s office.
(...)
It should also be mandated to inform and perhaps coordinate most, if not all, of the above strategies, and should be able to travel and engage, almost like a roving entourage communicating the importance of the ICC effectively and accessibly. Every court should have its jester and the ICC is no different.
I strongly agree with Mark Kersten that every international organization should engage proactively with social media and digital communication! You need a presence, maybe even a 'brand' even if you are working on complicated legal issues; be creative!

The Enloe Strikes Back at the Phantom Menace of Business Militarization
Watching the militarization of the fast-food industry over the last 15 years, they have grown increasingly militarized due to their massive contracts with the US Military. To what extent, Prof. Enloe asks, do company strategists think whether a company’s military contract is good for their country’s long-term future as well as their company’s role in society’s life? This dependency changes the nature of say, Pizza Hut’s role in American society even if most consumers are not aware of it. The militarization of a company, therefore, changes not only consumer dependency but also the nature of the society from which the company profits.
A good summary of Cynthias Enloe's lecture about the militarization of society.

Propaganda contractor dumped by U.S. Army
The Pentagon’s top private propaganda producer in Afghanistan is protesting the loss of its contract after being paid more than $423 million since 2008, records show.
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Government auditors have questioned the effectiveness of the Pentagon’s propaganda programs, also known as information operations. In 2013, the Government Accountability Office found the programs were inadequately tracked, their impact was unclear and the military didn’t know if it was targeting the right people with its propaganda leaflets, website and broadcasts.
I never get tired of posting stories of how the military-industrial complex burns public money; there go you 'evidence-based policy' buzzwords; and always remember to highlight articles like this when a friend starts talking about the 'waste' that is happening in development and humanitarian funding...

The elusive search for a knowledge to policy framework
Organisations wanting to inform and influence policy and public debate need to:
know how to do good research;
know how to present and package their research findings for different audiences;
know how policy-making systems work and be willing to engage with it; and
be involved in networks that can help to join forces and channel policy advice and evidence.
This simple framework shows that, while strategic communication is important, it can’t be seen in isolation. It’s part of a process that involves good context analysis, stakeholder analysis, planning and networking.
Arnaldo Pellini adds to the debate on Knowledge to Policy (k2p) frameworks; I have general doubts that 'evidence' can really influence policy-making, but I agree that researchers need to do better to engage with existing systems, rather than dismissing them easily as old-fashioned or bureaucratic.

Big NGOs prepare to move south, but will it make a difference?
In essence, says Shetty, the arguments for moving to the global south are “a no-brainer”: it makes NGOs more authentic, more efficient, faster, better informed and more accountable. It is also fairer, and more sustainable in the long term. So why are so many still waiting to implement the change? “They’re watching Amnesty now, just as they’ve watched ActionAid,” says Shetty. But it’s clear that from where he’s sitting, they can’t just go on watching. “They have to bite the bullet, act and follow suit.”
Joanna Moorhead and Joe Sandler Clark on Oxfam's and other NGO relocations to the global South. I agree with the moves in principal, keeping the global North engaged in development will be one of the big issues in the next decade-and maybe social and digital media are advanced enough that it doesn't make that much of a difference where your HQ is located?

Desert Rose
Desert Rose provided UNHCR with a detailed report of each of the innovations it deemed the most promising to improve life in Dollo Ado, as well as an “idea hopper” of a bunch of other initiatives that deserved additional tinkering.
(...)
In this way, the potential to scale this type of in-depth listening, relationship-building, analysis and recommendation process could be global, just as the solutions it helps develop are uniquely, and perfectly, local.
I felt a bit sad after reading this post, because you realize that such approaches and projects still fall under 'innovation' although they keep confirming 4 decades-worth of participatory research best practice...why can't actual practice change?!

How is Development Economics Taught in Developing Countries? What we learned from looking at more than 200 courses
The field of development economics has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. This is reflected in changes in the topics that command most research attention, and particularly in the rapid growth in data availability and empirical analysis. Our survey of how development economics is being taught in developing countries suggests that many classes have not kept pace with this change, and are not meeting key student learning goals of teaching students to be critical users and analyzers of data to answer economic questions. This is important since the next generation of policymakers responsible for implementing key development policies are likely to have their views of what policies they should pursue heavily influenced by what they have been taught.
The Bank's David Mckenzie looked at economics teaching in developing countries and found them to be traditional, boring and apolitical as he explains in one comment:
While we did come across a bit of dependency theory, one of the perhaps surprising things was how non-ideological the content seems to be. Perhaps economics courses are the wrong place to be looking for existential debate here, but really the thing that struck me was how boring these classes are in a lot of countries: week 1, read textbook chapter 1 and learn what a poverty index is, week 2, read textbook chapter 2 and learn what the idea behind the Solow growth model is, etc. This is where the lack of actually looking at data and trying to apply the ideas to see what is going on in one's own country strikes me as a missed opportunity.
Our digital lives

It's been a blast, #opencon! But it's always hard to part. Saying goodbye with my fav quote from @doctorow. pic.twitter.com/1ivwVtgJTQ

— Erin McKiernan (@emckiernan13) November 17, 2015



Great reflections from the 'road'...

Hot off the digital press
Latin American Struggles
The latest issue of the International Journal of Communication features a range of open access articles on digital battlefields in Latin America

Academia
What exactly is a professor these days?
I certainly subscribe to the view that the best professors treat students as individuals, not numbers. They go the extra mile in helping students and in responding in a timely and constructive manner to study queries; they not only know their stuff but also know how to communicate it, in an engaging and inspiring way.
Professors should go way beyond the academy and talking in huddles through journals that have limited readership. They should not be presenting articles in arcane language and publishing findings a year or so after the event.
I agree with James Derounian that communication is an important aspects of academia-and that it is neither rewarded nor its absence punished; In an age of measurements and metrics the 'impact' of being a good communicator is almost impossible to measure-and in many disciplines nobody cares about the communication skills of tenured staff as long as they 'deliver' research publications and bring in external funding.

OAPEN-UK: 5 things we learnt about open access monographs
When an author blogged or tweeted about their free book, the usage levels rose significantly. This is interesting both in terms of engaging communities of concern but also in recognising that the scale of the project means it’s difficult to infer how purchasing and usage behaviours would change if the model were more widely-established. 
Alison Jones' post is an indirect addition to my own post on the limitations of open access publishing; I appreciate OUP's experiment, but the numbers of downloads are quite low and without active engagement from authors/academics they would be even lower; it seems to confirm that there are no digital hordes of people who a thirsty for open access OUP titles...questions of relevance are a central theme and journal articles and monographs are simply not the most relevant way to discover content.

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