Links & Contents I Liked 216

Hi all,

Just pretend it's a normal Friday...at least there are plenty of interesting stories that should distract you from other news today...


Development news: Capitalism created charity 'fat cats'; what can DFID do about aid contractors? The ‘aid in reverse’ debate; Oxfam’s inequality data; OCHA receives bad news; activists are disappearing in Pakistan; women at the negotiation table; mapping sex work laws; female militias are not so empowering; participatory video in Nicaragua; how change happens; 23 tell-tale signs that you enjoy development listicles too much…; expat life; employee advocacy; the 15% overhead myth.

Our digital lives: How important are ‘fake news’ really? Behavior science, community engagement and inequalities in Flint; #allmalepanels 

Publication: New book on Politics, Protest, Emotion

Academia: Studying poor people in India

Enjoy!

New from aidnography
‘Stealing from earthquake victims’-a tale of laptops, overheads and journalism from Nepal

Yes, spending more than 500.000 Euros on salaries and allowances sounds like a lot, but it misses the time-frame, number of recipients and individual salaries.
As more and more young, well-qualified Nepali professionals enter the development sector they should be able to work in an environment of constructive debates-not one of mistrust and jealously. The development sector is an important aspect of Nepal’s economy and it deserves local professionals who can build a career in the industry, rather than looking for well-paid employment elsewhere-including outside the country.
Development news
Blame capitalism, not corrupt aid, for fat cat charity chiefs

Overseas aid then functions as a pressure valve for the consciences of those who benefited from capitalism, redistributing tiny amounts of capital in order to avoid the much larger redistribution that would be needed if justice rather than compassion were the priority. This was particularly true during the Cold War, when aid was specifically used to exert soft power.
Aid is in crisis at the moment partly because these factors have fallen away. There is less incentive for redistribution: people in rich countries aren’t so rich any more, while many people in poor countries are much less poor. Once the Cold War was won, aid was no longer needed to demonstrate the superiority of liberal democracy, leaving aid budgets an easy target for rightwing pressure.
Paul Currion for the Guardian with a more historical perspective on the Daily Mail attacks on overpaid charity executives, a topic that I tackled just before the holidays: The corporatization of aid enables greedy consultants and high executive salaries

Aid Contractors: What should DFID do?

NGOs are a possibility, but they don’t have the spending capacity of the big contractors; and the more they take multi-million pound grants, the more they begin to resemble contractors themselves. UN and World Bank are another possibility, but if anything they are less transparent and more expensive than contractors. In this environment, there’s not much that aid workers can do beyond making the case for government to government transfer – an argument that seemed to be won not that long ago – and continuing to defend cash transfers as the best way to get aid directly to the people who need it.
Aid Leap also joins the debate on 'aid is a waste of taxpayers' money', wondering what better solutions are practical and politically feasible.

Time to stand up for foreign aid

We must look at the UK’s global engagement in tackling international issues such as poverty, inequality and tax avoidance and evasion. When it comes to dealing with these last two seemingly intractable issues, foreign aid can be an incredibly valuable tool. We are currently in the absurd situation where wealthy and corrupt politicians and businessmen—from countries that receive aid from the UK government—flout international tax laws and are able to purchase property in the UK with the wealth they have amassed.
Kate Osamor for Prospect Magazine with a more principled defense of foreign aid-given that the owner for the Daily Mail benefits from tax heavens himself this is probably not an argument that will gain traction in conservative circles...

Aid in reverse: how poor countries develop rich countries

The aid narrative begins to seem a bit naïve when we take these reverse flows into account. It becomes clear that aid does little but mask the maldistribution of resources around the world. It makes the takers seem like givers, granting them a kind of moral high ground while preventing those of us who care about global poverty from understanding how the system really works.
Poor countries don’t need charity. They need justice. And justice is not difficult to deliver. We could write off the excess debts of poor countries, freeing them up to spend their money on development instead of interest payments on old loans; we could close down the secrecy jurisdictions, and slap penalties on bankers and accountants who facilitate illicit outflows; and we could impose a global minimum tax on corporate income to eliminate the incentive for corporations to secretly shift their money around the world.
It's not aid in reverse, illicit financial flows are more complicated than that
This does not mean, however, that corruption and organised crime are not serious problems. Hickel is right to argue that grand corruption and organised crime are real barriers to development in many countries, and that often the loot is stashed in rich countries. Customs fraud is one route, and it is also a method used by those evading taxes as well as by drug traffickers and other criminals. However, it could be argued that this channel has been overemphasised because of the large estimates attached to it. Kleptocrats tend to use the simpler method for hiding the proceeds of grand corruption; they wire the money directly to accounts set up in the name of anonymous shell companies.
Jason Hickel's piece in the Guardian was by far the most widely shared in my networks this week. But Maya Forstater's response should definitely be read in this context as well. Things are complicated and the quest for a neat statistic or data visualization may sometimes hide the fact that reliable, global data is often not available. Interesting food for thought and debate!

What the critics get wrong about inequality and Oxfam

It is meant to shock, to spark conversation and to enable us to be heard when we push for specific changes in our political system and economy that will reduce poverty. And the evidence is that this stat is extremely effective at accomplishing its goal. It is by far the most attention-getting single piece of information that Oxfam publishes, and it helps mobilize hundreds of thousands of people to take-action around the world.
Oxfam also puts out hundreds of thousands of words of research in gloriously wonky detail every single year about the underlying causes and solutions to poverty and inequality, but this single stat dwarfs them all when it comes sparking discussion. It’s probably why Salmon is more apt to focus on it than the other 36 pages in the report, or anything else we publish.
Salmon is 100 percent correct that this stat does not on its own tell us everything we need to know about poverty and inequality. No stat is perfect, this one is no exception. But it happens to be immensely powerful in pushing people to pay attention and act. It’s also factually correct. So what’s the problem?
Ben Grossman-Cohen from Oxfam America responds to the other widely-shared story this day about global inequality. Again, interesting and relevant food for thought and debate beyond the headlines.

EXCLUSIVE: UN humanitarian wing OCHA lays off 170, starts overhaul

The report identified several issues undermining OCHA’s work: competing centres of power at offices in New York and Geneva and between the organisation's leadership; fragmentation and duplication of positions across teams; and a failure to capitalise on economies of scale.
A “Change Management Unit”, led by Bruce Aylward, was established after the report. Aylward had already led a reorganisation at the World Health Organization after heading its response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
While acknowledging OCHA’s “inherently complex portfolio”, the Boston Consulting Group report included scathing criticisms of the way it is run.
“The leadership team does not work well together,” wrote the consultants. “There is entrenched polarisation and a lack of trust among many of OCHA’s senior managers, who do not see themselves as part of a single, unified team.” Shortcomings in the management model, the report continued, “have led to widespread organisational dysfunction.”
Samuel Oakford for IRIN. I am pretty sure that similarly-worded reviews have been made for most UN agencies in the past 10, 15 or 20 years. I don't mean in it a 'the UN system is a waste of money so let's get rid of it' way, but I wonder whether there are structural elements of running an international organization that will almost always produce sub-optimal outcomes, because of political, diplomatic or funding constraints. The other important aspect that most of these reviews reveal is that leadership and personalities matter-so one has to be careful to blame 'the system' immediately...

Digital Activists Are Disappearing in Pakistan

In a troubling start to the new year, reports are emerging from families and civil rights organizations that as many as nine Pakistani bloggers went missing within the first week of 2017. Four of the missing activists are known for their secular and left-leaning views.
Qurratulain Zaman for Global Voices with worrying news from Pakistan.

Where are the women? Sweden's top diplomat wants to know

Having women at the negotiating table increases the chance of a peace agreement lasting 15 years by 35 percent, according to U.N. Women.
"You cannot have sustainable peace if you exclude half of the population," Wallstrom said.
"It's still the unfinished business of our time to make sure women have their rights and their representation and their resources looked after."
She pointed to the work of the Nordic Women Mediation Network, a year-old effort that links women from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and trains them to participate in peace processes.
"We want to expand that to other parts of the world," Wallstrom said. "We don't want to hear the argument again that there are no women mediators or negotiators."
Ellen Wulfhorst for Thomson Reuters Foundation with an important reminder that #allmalepanel are more than a hashtag phenomenon, but have real consequences for peace and development!

Mapping sex work law: tendencies and trends

In 2015 Cheryl Overs began developing a global map of laws on commercial sex globally. The Sex Work Law Map describes the law in each country and provides an index to enable users to locate and compare legal approaches to female sex work. Here she discusses some of the patterns that emerge from the Map.
Cheryl Overs for IDS presents recent trends in governing female sex work.

Female Militias Are Just Another Bad Idea

And so they’re doing what people with access to guns do when faced with guns ever since the Americans said “Thanks, King George!” and dumped tea into Boston Harbor. Only this time it’s a lot of automatic weapons and it’s moms and grandmas which is only going to end poorly for someone. Probably the moms and grandmas.
It would be easy to herald this as local heroism, when what’s happening is a not-so-subtle fuck you to the government in Kabul. Coming as it does from the home base of Afghanistan’s most notorious vice president, this does nothing to make it easier to reign in the Shipping Container King.
It’s another case of good intentions ending in bad things. One more sign that things are not going well in Afghanistan. And in the graveyard of common sense, the way of the gun is still the only way in Jawzjan.
Gary Owen for Sunny in Kabul on the complexities around female militias - and that they are an indication of how bad things are in parts of Afghanistan rather than a sign of female 'empowerment'.

“We are not alone”: Nicaragua’s rural youth tell their story

During this workshop, participants bonded over dynamic and often emotional moments derived from mastering new skills, observing their livelihoods from diverse points of view, and gaining the confidence to influence change in that situation. PV created a safe space that affirmed and validated the perspectives of a vulnerable group, linking intellectual and emotional reasoning by fostering a dialogue around the impact that personal actions can have on the environment and on the potential for collective action in the communities.
Shadi Azadegan for the CIAT blog features an interesting example of Participatory Video engagement in Nicaragua.

Thinking About Going To A Rally? Read This Activist's Advice First

You have to understand the system — those who set the rules of the game, like governments and police forces — and be curious about it. That's quite hard.
You have to be an activist and a "reflectivist" at the same time. That's someone who reflects on the systems evolving, how these institutions are structured. You have to understand the system to know who might be your ally. And there has to be a little part of you that acknowledges doubt, ambiguity and uncertainty. You have to have room to change direction.
What does that look like in the real world?
Martin Luther King Jr. knew when to compromise — and when to dig in his heels and make things stark and painful. He was thinking about how to work the system by talking to people in power. He made alliances, coalitions and had meetings at the White House.
Malaka Gharib interviews Duncan Green for NPR Goats and Soda about his latest book and more.

23 tell-tale signs you've worked with MSF (or will do someday)
Emma Pedley's piece for MSF UK was also widely shared this week-a great example of how organizations can communicate in an engaging way, without over-doing the listicle format...

The expat life is full of adventure — and loneliness

The degree of my grief is matched only by my guilt. I shouldn’t be allowed to be so sad. Craving some sense of connection and validation, I log on to Facebook, eager to feed off its addictive false intimacy. I search for Vince’s Facebook page, only to remember that I hadn’t yet added him as a friend.
I cry. Not for the memories we shared, but because I, too, am an expat. And because the sense of mystery that makes my life seem exciting to some also pushes us away from others who are more rooted than we are. I wonder if my own memorial service will be filled with acquaintances instead of friends, or if it will even be full at all. I cry for the memories I am not making with my family who live on another continent. Although my life is filled with wonderful, colorful people, they are temporary people.
Jessica Levy for the Washington Post on the opportunities and sacrifices of the expat life.

Can you get your staff to say nice things about you?

Secondly, you need to empower your staff to talk about their work on social media! There are still far too many organizations that tell their employees that only the media team is allowed to talk about the organization on social media. Of course, it is easier to tell new employees “don’t post on social media”, rather than to show them how to do it properly, but that just means that you are neglecting your responsibility to train them properly. I am amazed at how many organization still don’t have meaningful social media staff guidelines. If you are looking for a good place to get started, check out the IFRC’s social media staff guidelines that I wrote eight years ago.
Of course, I realize that an inappropriate post by the field staff of an international organization can have bigger consequences than that of an online shoe shop, but social media is part of the world we are living in and the best ways to mitigate this risk is through training. Besides, if you can’t trust your staff to post on Facebook without getting you kicked out of the country, then you have problems with your hiring practices and management that go far beyond social media.
Timo Luege with an important reminder on empowering people to be organizational advocates.

Ten reasons why the 15% charity overhead myth prevents any social change

Ask anyone on the street the one thing they know about what makes a deserving charity and they are likely to say it’s the one is spending less on overhead, “like uh, 10 or 15 per cent or something like that.”
Left unchallenged, the myth of the 15% means Canadian charities will lead the charge on absolutely nothing—not climate change, a cure for cancer or world hunger. And here are the ten reasons why
Gail Picco for Charity Info. We are back where we started: Overheads and the myth and stereotypes around the-whether in Nepal or Canada...

Our digital lives
Stanford study examines fake news and the 2016 presidential election

Gentzkow and Allcott show that social media wasn’t the major source of political news for most Americans in 2016; only 14 percent say they relied on Facebook and other social media sites as their most important source of election coverage.
“Social media was an important but not dominant source of news in the run-up to the election,” the authors write. Television, it turns out, remains the go-to place for political news.
Krysten Crawford for Stanford News present a new research study that reminds us that we need to be much more cautious before blaming anything and everything on 'fake news'...

Can Behavioral Science Help in Flint?

Shankar understood that Flint’s water crisis went beyond the challenge of protecting locals from lasting bodily harm. It also meant repairing trust, or earning it anew, among residents who’d been told by government officials—often repeatedly, and emphatically—that Flint’s water was safe to drink. As the city’s lead issues evolved, the responsibility for obtaining safe drinking water had fallen in no small part on residents. Many neighborhoods were still waiting for their old lead pipes to be swapped out, and some people perceived inequities in the replacement process. (Only in mid-December did Congress agree to a hundred-and-seventy-million-dollar relief package to help speed up those repairs, and Flint’s recovery as a whole.) In the meantime, residents would have to keep drinking bottled water, or else install special filters at home, which required vigilant maintenance.
(...)
Kent Key, the director of the Office of Community Scholars and Partnerships at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, said, “What the narrative has been about Flint is that we were this little poor, docile black community that didn’t have a voice, and needed someone to come and fix it for them.” On the contrary, he stressed, locals had been fighting the switch in the water source long before it happened. “When a community does everything right by the book,” he went on, “and your voice is still disregarded? To me, that speaks to a larger historical, systemic issue of the disregard for communities, particularly communities of color.”
Sarah Stillman for The New Yorker with a long-read that is relevant for all of 'us' academics and/or those who work in development on how complicated community engagement can (and should) be, how important it is to keep broader and wider inequalities in mind and to collaborate with a knowledgeable community.

All-male panels lack diverse perspectives, limit quality of message

Having a more diverse group of panelists offers a wider perspective of opinions. In addition, more diverse panels provide young women in the audience with role models. All-male panels suggest that women’s perspectives aren’t important, and they reinforce the perception that women don’t have the skills or expertise.
Despite these considerations, the director of the Sacramento Business Review responded with a list of reasons why he felt that their decision was sound. While acknowledging that diversity issues exist, he attempted to justify the decision by stating the purpose of the event is to present an economic forecast, not to have a social discussion. Furthermore, he added that there were other team members who were interested in delivering presentations but who had decided to “simply yield politely,” implying that I was neither yielding nor being polite.
Unfortunately, all-male panels are still common. Less than two weeks ago, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas hosted an all-male panel on tech wearables discussing fitness trackers in sports bras. How much sense does that make?
Jessica Kriegel for SacBee with a familiar story around #allmalepanels.

Hot off the digital press
Politics, Protest, Emotion: Interdisciplinary Perspectives. A Book of Blogs

The Book of Blogs features contributions from 37 academics across the globe. It presents a range of disciplinary perspectives on politics and emotions, including the fields of computer science, (digital) media studies, journalism studies and political science. Drawing on a range of case studies including the 2016 Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament march in London, the movement against TTIP-TAFTA and health activism such as “I Want PrEP Now”. The contributors provide new insight into the affective turn in protest and social movements.
Anastasia Veneti, Paul Reilly and Dimitrinka Atanasova edited an open access 'book of blogs'.

Academia
Studying growth in low-income nations: Q&A with economist Mark Rosenzweig

People enjoy telling you about their stuff. I’ve surveyed a lot of farmers in India and they want to show you everything. They enjoy it.
People there value their time differently than we do. In most villages there are no cinemas or shopping centers there. There’s no television. They enjoy talking to people. That’s different than here. We all have better things to do than sitting down and answering silly questions over the phone, let alone allowing somebody into your house. Sitting down and talking to people is an interesting activity for these folks.
My favorite example is the guy who was doing well, and he showed me his proudest possession in his newly remodeled house. It was a Phillips TV still in its box because his village had no electricity — it was a failure of the government.
And they’re not bashful about talking about their money. In the U.S., people would rather talk to you about their sex lives than their finances. The data we get is surprisingly accurate.
Mike Cummings interviews Mark Rosenzweig for Yale News and for some reason the interview rubs me a bit the wrong way-although I am not entirely sure why. Friends on Twitter were a bit skeptical about the 'valuing time differently' statement.

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