Links & Contents I Liked 213

Hi all,

Welcome to the last link review for 2016!

My annual development blogging review will conclude the year next week and in the meantime enjoy some interesting readings as a break from the holiday stress ;)!


Development news: Aid consultants-value for money? Pentagon waste; algorithms can’t replace humanitarians; Jeffrey Sachs is not happy with Economics; humanitarian actors and power players-too close to comfort? Does automation mean the end of development? Helping as ego-stroking; dangerous mining in Colombia; more Nepali men die in their sleep; the Bollywood-feelgood-complex

Our digital lives:
Celebrities fuel the corporate machine; new media brands & environmental journalism; Holacracy is just management BS 


Publications: Doing Development Differently; open innovation; Education in Emergencies; training global health comms professionals

Academia:
Fighting oppression in academia


Happy Holidays!

New from aidnography
The corporatization of aid enables greedy consultants and high executive salaries

As much as I think we need to have discussions about the topics that The Times and Daily Mail reporting highlighted we need to be careful about short-sighted, polemical short cuts or isolating the aid and charity sectors from other parts of society that have all experienced neoliberal dynamics of smaller core administrative functions and costly expansions into ‘the market’ that places profit and benefit of a small elite over bigger societal challenges and possible efficient delivery of services that benefit all stakeholders, including tax payers and partners in international development.

Development news

Interesting discussion on gender and panels in Pakistan at #ElevatePak

Criticism prompts UK to investigate use of contractors in aid programmes
The inquiry by the International Development Committee will examine whether contractors provide value for money and whether salaries, profits and dividends in the sector are appropriate.
It will also look at transparency and whether DFID's procurement processes prejudice against smaller contractors and how well DFID and its partners learn from its contractors.
The UK aid watchdog, the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), said in 2013 contractors were an effective option for delivering aid and that DFID had "selected contractors that have delivered positive results at competitive fee rates".
Emma Batha for Thomson Reuters Foundation on the emerging (and probably not very fruitful) debate on the role of consultants and contractors in DFID programs.

The Pentagon Dumped $183 Million on Afghan Luxury Villas

One year ago, we learned that the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations — the Pentagon’s Afghanistan economic development coordination office, which shut down in 2015 — had spent nearly $150 million on private housing in Afghanistan for its staff, security personnel and corporate visitors the United States hoped would pump capital into the country.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction claimed the Task Force could have saved tens of millions of dollars by using existing U.S. military or diplomatic facilities for lodging.
Instead, the Task Force blew nearly 20 percent of its budget renting and furnishing private villas that resembled five-star hotels.
Neil Gordon for War Is Boring. 'Pentagon' and 'waste' very often show up in the same sentence-and on a scale that no development budget could ever match...

Opinion and Debate: Where is the love?

As we watch conflicts in Syria and Yemen develop in real time, on our computers, we are ever further from them. We react with retweets or perhaps a donation. And this might become the future model: aid agencies, reacting to a computer algorithm which calculates fatalities, numbers of wounded and hungry, and dispense cash electronically. What if there was a war and no internationals came to help?
(...)
The role of international assistance in war and conflicts is of the essence. It shows that there are people who care about the plight of others. Above all, it shows solidarity. Our world is increasingly dominated by algorithms, and by scientific measuring of our work, of our lives, we shouldn’t forget the value of relations.
Sandrine Tiller for MSF UK. I agree with Sandrine that the role of international assistance is changing, but that it goes beyond solidarity and relations. Humanitarian organizations will work at an interesting intersection of delivering aid, advocacy, maybe even journalism to remind people about human suffering, arms trade that enables it or war crimes.

Jeffrey Sachs: Economics is “horrendously misguided” and obsessed with “completely unimportant things”

Our problem is we don’t even know what we want to do as a society. My profession is pretty useless on this, just horrendously misguided in what it spends its time on. Because it spends its time on completely unimportant things and neglects the very important things… it cannot be the most important issue in the world whether the US grows at another 3% or 3.5% or 2.9% a year, when over the last 65 years there’s been no discernible rise in wellbeing and lots of discernible worsening of social wellbeing.
Eshe Nelson with a piece for Quartz. Definitely a lot of food for discussion in this short piece...

Multilateralism and its Discontents

The point, as I concluded in a recently published report, is that humanitarian actors “need to decide how far they are willing to become coherent with the policies, players and multilateralism that help produce the crises of displacement, inequality and war in the first place.” Or perhaps Peter Buffett explains it better: Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left.
I included a link Marc DuBois's paper in one of my recent link reviews. His reflections actually connect with my latest post on how neoliberalism has affected the aid industry in many ways and that simply complaining about 'excessive salaries' does not take root causes into consideration. In a similar way, how can, for example, the UK be expected to 'solve' conflicts when they are enabling Saudi Arabia to fight a nasty proxy war in Yemen?!

Is this time really different? Will Automation kill off development?

And what does all this have to do with development? A lot of the aid business doesn’t seem to have noticed these debates. It bangs away about the need for Industrial Policy and decent formal sector (preferably manufacturing) jobs – an essentially Fordist/Post World War Two agenda.
Duncan Green wonders how the current debates on society and industry '4.0' are related to 'development'.

Sexy interventions and development ego-stroking

Meanwhile, Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean, which won’t be solved by medical teams or food hand-outs for that matter, but by providing education on improved food consumption and hygiene; something I am yet to see one of these teams do. I believe the problem is that they want the “high” that hands on work provides and the very vocal gratitude people give after getting free surgery, but when do we stop to investigate why so many people have hernias?
There are many types of bad aid, and we need to re-evaluate not only cases of bad aid, but also the “meh”-aid, as I’ve written about in previous posts. We need check if what we are doing just feels good, or if we have the data to prove that we are having the impact we hope we are having, and if we are taking the project to the next level. Because, oftentimes, being charitable feels amazing, but that doesn’t mean that we are being helpful.
Ingrid Nanne for WhyDev continues the debate on why good intentions often do not lead to good development outcomes...

Death, extortion stalk workers at Canadian mine in Colombia

Gran Colombia CEO Lombardo Paredes says the company is not aware of extortion in its supply chain, either in the past or currently. However, he did not dispute worker claims that they are forced to pay their own “vaccination” to be allowed to work in Gran Colombia’s mines.
“There are things that escape from our control,” he said in a November interview at Gran Colombia’s Medellin offices. “This kind of extortion we cannot deal with, the underworld and organized crime we cannot deal with. It’s not our problem, it is a government problem.”
James Bargent for the Toronto Star. The only thing that never escapes corporate control is to maximize profits...the mining industry does hardly seem to move forward to make their engagement more 'sustainable' or challenge their value chains beyond CSR window-dressing.

At rising rate, Nepalis working abroad go home in coffins

But now medical researchers say these deaths fit a pattern: Every decade or so, dozens, or even hundreds, of seemingly healthy Asian men working abroad in poor conditions start dying in their sleep. It happened in the U.S. in the late 1970s, in Singapore about a decade later and more recently in China. The suspected killer even has a name: Sudden Unexplained Nocturnal Death Syndrome.
(...)
Authorities in Nepal say their citizens seem to die abroad more frequently than their equally vulnerable Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi and Indonesian co-workers, but the explanation for the increased mortality has been unclear.
Martha Mendoza for AP News with an interesting long-read on deaths of young men in Nepal with a lot of interesting details on working abroad and returning home to one of the least developed countries. 

Best of the blog 2016
A special thanks go out to each and every one of the 156 authors who authored this year’s 250 blog posts and 99 in briefs – we certainly couldn’t do it without you.
Camilla Burkot and Stephen Howes with their annual DevPolicy blog review.
Remembrance of things future

The ascent and swell of Bhojpuri cinema is one of several outcomes of India’s 1991 economic liberalisation. The impact of liberalisation has remained a matter of furious debate, yet what is undeniable is that it created a substantial, cash-rich urban middle class eager to enjoy the ‘good life’. Satellite television, which arrived the same year, further whetted that desire. And demand creates supply. With malls and multiplexes becoming temples of entertainment by the turn of the new millennium, Bollywood needed the right content for an increasingly epicurean audience. This consequently led to an upsurge of ‘feel good’ cinema typified by Karan Johar (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 1998).
Avijit Ghosh for Himal Southasian with an interesting and multi-faceted essay on Indian cinema, the Bollywood industry and social change.

Imbolo Mbue-Everybody Has a Story

“The challenges of being black and working-class in America – my characters didn’t understand that and I didn’t either.” Meet Imbolo Mbue, author of ‘Behold the Dreamers’ – a novel about dreams and struggles across race, class and gender.
The Danish Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presents Cameroonian-American author Imbolo Mbue with more on writing, fiction and storytelling in our times.

Our digital lives
2016 UNCA Awards Winners

The UN Correspondents Association is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 UNCA Awards
This is a good exercise in engaging with and hopefully expanding my 'filter bubble' as I have not heard about most of the journalists and their work that was awarded.

Celebrity isn’t just harmless fun – it’s the smiling face of the corporate machine

The celebrities you see most often are the most lucrative products, extruded through a willing media by a marketing industry whose power no one seeks to check. This is why actors and models now receive such disproportionate attention, capturing much of the space once occupied by people with their own ideas: their expertise lies in channelling other people’s visions.
George Monbiot for The Guardian. I find the references to Trump or the Kardashians less interesting, but wonder what this could mean in the context of development and communication.

How Vice, BuzzFeed And The Huffington Post Report Environmental Issues

The book’s overall conclusion, however, reflects upon the relation between the new, digital-born players and established legacy media, and it holds true in all analysed countries: The results show that BuzzFeed, Vice and the Huffington Post are “beneficial for public debate about complex issues such as climate change, particularly at a time when specialist correspondents on the environment are being reduced in some media organisations” – as they search “for new angles and new ways of covering the ‘old’ theme of climate change and, thus, in sustaining its relevance and interest to a wider public, and particularly to younger audiences.”
Mike S. Schäfer for the European Journalism Observatory provides an overview of a new book on 'new media' brands and science reporting.

Zappos is struggling with Holacracy because humans aren’t designed to operate like software

As it turns out, eliminating “the human element” doesn’t make it go away. Worse, it leads to an undercurrent of resentment. At Zappos, dissatisfaction with Holacracy played a role (though it wasn’t the only reason) in nearly a third of the company walking out the door in 2015. That same year, Zappos dropped off of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work for list” for the first time in years.
(...)
“People become numbers, algorithms become the rules, and reality becomes what the data says,” he wrote, concluding that “empathy is not a buzzword but something to be practiced.”
Aimee Groth for Quartz on how management concepts and the BS around them remain the same in the digital age and other than making a few 'management gurus' rich have a challenging time making organizations 'better' in any way.

Hot off the digital press

Doing development differently: who we are, what we're doing and what we're learning

In November 2014, the doing development differently community got together in Harvard to discuss what successful development interventions look like. Two years on, our community is broader than aid. It's broader than donors. It's about all organisations delivering change, producing real solutions to real problems that have real impact. It's about building trust, empowering people and promoting sustainability.
Over the past two years, the community has been putting these ideas into practice across the world – being honest about what we are learning, including where we are not getting things right.This document aims to be an entry point for anyone interested in doing development differently.
Leni Wild, Matt Andrews, Jamie Pett and Helen Dempster with a new overview publication for the ODI.

Open Innovation in International Cooperation

It is great to see that our publication “10 trends in open innovation ” is now available as an eBook. For this project, I worked together with the GIZ, namely Jan Schwaab, Balthas Seibold and Christian Gmelin, to create 10 exciting chapters, which enlighten the abstract concept of innovation. The various chapters provide an overview and practical advice on how to pursue an open innovation approach.
Christian Kreutz introduces a new publication on open innovation.

Journal on Education in Emergencies - Vol2, Num1

Topics include lessons from a psychosocial and trauma-focused approach in Gaza schools; norms, violence, and girls' education in Afghanistan; and education and citizenship in Mali.
Latest issue of the open access journal.

Training the next generation of global health communication professionals: Opportunities and challenges

Recent epidemics, both within the realm of communicable and non-communicable diseases, have created the need for a diverse global workforce that should master and be able to implement key principles, strategies, and planning frameworks for health communication interventions. Many organizations have come or should have come to the realization that the development and production of unrelated ‘communications' outside of any strategic planning framework and concerted effort are not effective in achieving the kinds of behavioral, social and organizational results that may lead to improved health and social outcomes. There are a number of opportunities and challenges for pre- and post-graduate instruction and training on global health communication. While the list of opportunities and challenges is almost endless, I list below a few that appear to be prominent both from my own experience as a global health communication practitioner and researcher as well as from colleagues at international conferences, workshops and meetings.
Renata Schiavo's article in the Journal of Communication in Healthcare of health, communication and professionalism.

Academia
Why I Am Committed To Fighting Oppression In Academia

In other words, there are two powerful messages that come from my training, the expectations of me for tenure, and my critics. The most obvious is that this work is risky. And, the other is that there really isn’t a problem to address. Academics ask, what injustice? What discrimination? What sexual harassment? What motherhood penalty? What exploitation of grad students and contingent faculty? The latter message has successfully led me to doubt myself. What’s that expression — that if you repeat something enough others will believe it’s true, especially if you talk loudly enough. (It worked for a certain elected official with no political experience and ample experience as a bigot and rapist…) This work, however, is too important to second-guess myself. So, I’m planting my flag into the ground to declare that I am here to unapologetically fight for justice in the academy.
Eric Anthony Grollman for Conditionally Accepted on how to challenge the academic discourses that reproduce inequality.

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