Links & Contents I Liked 185

Hi all,

Angelina has kept me busy as you can see below, but obviously I have come across a few more interesting readings for your weekend pleasure and critical reflection.

So what questions do you want to engage with this week?

Development news:

Is the fishermen-use-mobile-phone ICTD success story a myth?
What kind of new NGOs do we need post-WHS?
Why do we need ICT in evaluation?
Why doesn’t UNDP like critical staff members?
Why do super-highways contribute to inequality?
Does anybody care about Clintons’ flawed engagement in Haiti?
Is OK to have orphan hero shots in your NGO communication?

Digital lives:
How should you blog development?
Academia:
Should academics be expected to change policy?
Should you provide expert input for free?
Should professors decide about textbooks?

Enjoy!

New from aidnography

Call Me Professor Jolie Pitt: The Buzz About Her New Job

Since the announcement, quite a few academics, from human rights lawyers to professors of international politics, have shared critical comments on the appointment. Some are concerned that higher education institutions are "selling out," while others worry celebrities may have a negative impact on important aid work. Here's a selection of viewpoints on and reactions to Jolie Pitt's appointment, from around the global development blogosphere
10 must-reads on the Angelina Jolie-LSE-professor debate
More links that inspired my short piece for NPR (see above)

How to avoid awful panel discussions? Organize and attend fewer events!

Why not curate five great recorded presentations, blog posts or op-eds on the topic on your website instead-and being explicit about not wanting to organize a new event for the sake of it?
In the meantime, the academic conference summer season is about to start and thousands of people will spend millions of dollars traveling around the globe because of the rituals of academic self-affirmation: I present, therefore I am...
Development news
Surprise! Fishermen Using Mobile Phones for Market Prices is the Largest Lie in ICT4D

In a stinging critique, Dr. Jacques Steyn, Head of the School of Information Technology at Monash South Africa, demolishes Jensen’s claim that mobile phones improved the economic welfare of Kerala fishermen using ideological, paradigmatic, methodology, logical, statistical, and semantic arguments.
A Critique of the Claims About Mobile Phones and Kerala Fisherman shows that the fisherman using mobile phones for market prices myth must be buried and forgotten – except to serve as an example of how research in complex social systems should not be conducted.
Interesting and important research summary from Wayan Vota-and I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this debate...

Addendum: The Three NGOs We Need

This blog adds detail to my post-WHS argument for three new INGOs, which should not be confused for either a general call for more INGOs or a lack of recognition that such NGOs may exist, though on a much smaller scale than necessary.
Marc DuBois on how to turn WHS debates into three new fictitious news humanitarian organizations.

ICTs in Evaluation Practice

There are 2 core reasons that evaluators should care about ICTs. Reason number one is practical. ICTs help address real world challenges in M&E: insufficient time, insufficient resources and poor quality data. And let’s be honest – ICTs are not going away, and evaluators need to accept that reality at a practical level as well.
Reason number two is both professional and personal. If evaluators want to stay abreast of their field, they need to be aware of ICTs. If they want to improve evaluation practice and influence better development, they need to know if, where, how and why ICTs may (or may not) be of use. Evaluation commissioners need to have the skills and capacities to know which new ICT-enabled approaches are appropriate for the type of evaluation they are soliciting and whether the methods being proposed are going to lead to quality evaluations and useful learnings.
Linda Raftree present and summarizes her latest work on ICT4D and evaluation practice

U.N. Secretary-General Front-Runner Faces Internal Uproar

“UNDP has it tragically backward, apparently retaliating against a staff who helped document the U.N. failings in Sri Lanka, while promoting staff who were actually responsible for those failings,” said Philippe Bolopion, the deputy director for global advocacy at Human Rights Watch.
Bolopion claimed UNDP has resisted Ban’s efforts to strengthen the U.N.’s human rights advocacy and that the Sinha case sent a chilling message to any U.N. employee who might be tempted to speak about the world body’s human rights failings.
Column Lynch with more fascinating insights into the UN system-although the headline is catchy in the current debate about the next UNSG, the story seems to have less to with Clark than with other parts of the system.

Thika Road, a legacy in inequality: UN Under-Secretary

The Thika ‘superhighway’ has long been heralded as a symbol of Kenya’s economic progress but that’s not how United Nations Environment Programme Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary Achim Steiner sees it.
He sees it instead as, “yet another symbol,” of the inequality on the continent as governments seek to emulate the path taken by their developed counterparts.
A path he says they would be mistaken in taking given the price the continent is already paying for the fossil fuel driven industrialisation of the West.
“If you spend all your money on building more roads, widening roads, speaks to an equity issue. The mass of the working population either has to walk on a mud track next to the paved million dollar road because there’s no pavement to allow people to walk safely or cycling lane so cycling to work is a life-threatening risk and above all they don’t have comfortable public transport. Thika Highway is an example of where we invest in serving a minority,” he said during the United Nations Environment Assembly on Tuesday.
Olive Burrows on a very outspoken UNEP director Achim Steiner and how the replication of Northern/Western approaches to transportation and infrastructure creates more/new inequalities, e.g. in Kenya.

Clinton’s Long Shadow

In retrospect, the Clintons’ bold, new vision for Haiti looks more like a mirage. The “new” approach was the same old “sweatshop model of development,” pursued by the United States since the Duvalier days, in a slick new package, and it had the same disastrous results.
A multi-million dollar industrial park the Clintons promoted as Haiti’s economic salvation was a flop on its own capitalist terms, generating only one-tenth of the promised sixty thousand jobs.
Meanwhile, mammoth new slum areas have sprung up north of Port-au-Prince, a testament to the mind-boggling decision to prioritize building luxury hotels for foreign tourists, NGO workers and businesspeople over permanent housing for the over one million Haitians made homeless by the quake.
Six years later, there is no hiding the fact that the Clintons have not helped many ordinary Haitians.
Nikolas Barry-Shaw whose book on Canadian development NGOs I reviewed here on the blog, reminds us again that foreign policy problems are rarely playing a role in US election campaigns.

Posing for ‘poverty porn’: The murky ethics of NGO fundraising ‘hero shots’

But a focus on an individual story – described in the industry as a “hero shot” – requires more than a signature, McKeon said. “You need to sit down with the family. You have to explain the wording, and what the impact would be for them,” she said. And if the paid model in the photo benefits from the organisation, things become more complicated. “Yes, it’s informed consent, but ethically it’s a minefield,” she said.
The identity of the kids in Sunrise’s campaign remains murky. Perry described them on Twitter as “paid models”, “real people” and “internal resources”. In an email to Post Weekend yesterday, she confirmed the “models” were children who live near a Sunrise orphanage and healthcare centre.
Sunrise Cambodia’s own story is rooted in the 1990s, when Australian Geraldine Cox “took in” a group of children she met along the Thai border. Sunrise is the kind of influential organisation from which local ones might take cues, according to McKeon.
Audrey Wilson on murky ethics and the murky industry around 'orphans' in Cambodia.

Our digital lives
Three books worth of blogging (plus ten rules)

I’ve never been interested in blogging as a job, but it’s been indispensable for my career. It’s a channel for clarifying my own thinking on issues that are related (however tangentially) to my work. That becomes a reflective practice, helping me see how my own thinking evolves. It’s also an accountability mechanism for making solid arguments, because what you write is out there for everyone to see. And it’s a powerful way to connect with like-minded people: an important segment of my professional network is composed of people who I first met through blogs, twitter, or other social media.
Dave Algoso reflect on his development blogging 'career' with 10 great practical tips on how to do it (or continue doing it).

Academia
Should academics be expected to change policy? Six reasons why it is unrealistic for research to drive policy change

central to policymaking and related debates are policy narratives: the ‘stories’ that resonate with decision makers about the choices before them. Research findings are not policy narratives, and helping more research achieve policy change will require more focus on how research findings are presented as policy narratives.
Finally, more thought is required about the role of academic researchers as policy actors, or ‘policy entrepreneurs’. For a range of reasons, it is far from clear that academic researchers are well placed to be the policy entrepreneur that uses their research to drive policy change. This means more attention needs to be given to the other policy actors available, who participate in and drive policy debates.
I'm not sure I agree with James Lloyd on many of the issues he raises. It's academics who need to become more like 'real' policy-makers, change and adapt-not the other way round. First, 'we' needed to present 'evidence', now we need to use the evidence to do more work and feed it to policy-makers properly...

On parasitic professionalism

But the kind of knowledge these reports contain is often diluted through a process of what I would call parasitic professionalism: It is knowledge that is being generated by one academic living off the expertise of another academic. The first academic is working for the gross benefit of a third, often corporate, actor who only has to initiate the knowledge extraction at the very beginning in order to then lean back and wait for the results to come in.
Judith Beyer on yet another moral dilemma when working in the academic industry. But I wonder whether we (presumably full-time academics) have to be a bit more nuanced in our approach to working ‘for free’. Building your personal ‘brand’ through a short expert testimonial in a commercial consultancy report could be as valuable as reviewing a manuscript for a journal. Properly cited, that report may even qualify to demonstrate ‘impact’ in whatever metricized system one operates. So a short amount of free time may actually yield benefits. I guess my main point is that free time has always been part of academic activity (a medical researcher or law professor also works a lot for free as opposed to the doctor or lawyer mentioned in the quote) and that building a strong ‘brand’ can be very helpful for long term endeavors in academia.

How the Textbook Industry Tries to Hook Your Prof

Another crazy part of this textbook adoption is that the publishers must market to instructors. This means that they must include things that teachers like, not necessarily stuff that students want. Ideally, the instructor should be able to choose what’s best for the student—but clearly this doesn’t always work.
Even though textbooks are less of an issue in Europe and certainly not in my area work, Rhett Allain presents some interesting food for thought on the slightly paradox textbook sales industry.

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