Links & Contents I Liked 280

Hi all,

I am back in Sweden again with this week's link review features interesting food for thought in all major sections!

Development news:
Aid sector dealing with #AidToo; exploitation & abuse of female farm workers across Europe; UN comms & fake news in historical perspective; women empowerment through the gig economy in Pakistan; lessons from advocating against UK tax havens; humanitarian news survey results; business journalism in Africa; how to work with national staff.

Our digital lives: Conference swag & plastic garbage; op-eds change minds; the algorithmic future of finding jobs.

Academia: Megan Fox & pseudo-archeology on TV; Nepal's largest university is still in ruins after the earthquake; online-only courses may not be that inclusive; how to engage with fragility & injustice in field research.

Enjoy!

Development news

#MeToo sex scandals spur interest in standards for the aid sector

Standards in general are not a barrier to new or small NGOs and newcomers to the sector, Knudsen insisted. In fact, she added, they provide a framework for good practice and comparability.
Knudsen pointed out that standards and certifications only demonstrate whether an organisation has the structure to do quality work. They are “an enabler, rather than a predictor” of quality, she said.
Hauselmann of HQAI said that previous attempts at third-party audits and independent assessments had suffered because of a perception that they are “a tool to sanction”. Instead, he stressed, they should be seen as one of the “most important drivers for improvement”.
However, Nicholas Stockton, former head of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership and a veteran of earlier initiatives to improve standards, doesn’t believe NGOs can achieve effective collective self-regulation.
After revelations of sex-for-aid abuses in West Africa in 2002, there was a “moral panic”, and new initiatives were established, he wrote in an online comment on IRIN. Gradually, however, “business as usual resumed and a growing sense of impunity and hubris grew, and with it the ever-increasing danger of unmanaged moral hazard that has now been blown open.”
Ben Parker for IRIN with an update on the long road that will follow after the #AidToo momentum.

One Of The World’s Leading Food Certifiers Will Investigate The Alleged Sexual Abuse Of Women Farmworkers

Dozens of women reported sexual harassment, exploitation, and even rape by their employers on tomato and strawberry farms in Spain, Morocco, and Italy that sell their produce across Europe.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, union officials in Spain likened the women’s working conditions to “slavery.” The tomatoes and strawberries these women harvest are sold across Europe, including the UK, Germany, and France, as “safe and sustainable.”
(...)
But Lidl did not comment on possible corporate responsibility for the incidents in southern Spain or the possibility of taking action to actively prevent further sexual abuse of workers.
Pascale Mueller and Stefania Prandi for BuzzFeed News report on agricultural exploitation-you will be as surprised as I am that a large supermarket chain like LIDL quickly denies any corporate responsibility...

United Nations staff in Fiji investigated over sexual misconduct allegations

The allegations had been made by up to three female staff members at the WFP in Suva.
Morale had taken a hit in UN circles in the Pacific in subsequent days, with staff frustrated and disappointed, the staffer added.
"I would hope they employ an independent panel to undertake this inquiry."
The UN spokeswoman would not confirm whether the staff members had been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
She also would not give any details about the allegations.
Harrison Christian for stuff with a story developing in Fiji.

Save the Children suspends DFID bidding amid sexual misconduct scandal

Save the Children UK is to withdraw from bidding on United Kingdom government contracts as it falls deeper into a sexual misconduct scandal.
Jessica Abrahams for DevEx with another update on #AidToo developments.

Fake News and the UN: An Item Since 1945

“The way that international relations is conducted is very different from the way it was conducted before, Jacobs said. “And I’m not sure whether this has something to do with the UN being or not being ready for or not made for it.”
The UN can provide straight news on its Twitter accounts, which run from official pages of agency heads to development experts, but how does it create a personality that draws people back, eager for useful, reliable information?
(...)
The UN is also hampered in contradicting fake news coverage by how communications are still handled within Turtle Bay, the nickname of the UN compound in New York. Much of the work of the UN, including by the top brass, is done behind the scenes, creating a veil of silence that harks back to the Cold War and one that no one is eager to lift, despite calls for “transparency.”
The secretive nature of some Security Council meetings — euphemistically, “consultations” — hinder the flow of good news stemming from the Council, which does exist; such as, most recently, the peacekeeping mission in Liberia closing on good terms with its “host” country.
Laura E. Kirkpatrick for PassBlue on the challenges for the UN to communicate in the digital age.

Pakistan’s Gig Economy Helps Smash Obstacles To Women Working
Ultimately, according to women like Asif, the gig economy’s flexible, part-time work model — long derided as precarious and exploitative in West — may prove beneficial, accommodating dual mother/worker roles and allowing women to join the labor force at times when they would usually drop out to concentrate on their families.
“After getting married, I wasn’t working at all because I had a child,” says Asif. Today, she typically sees two to three clients a day and juggles parenting and work. “I don’t need to ask anyone for money because I earn my own money.”
“The entire purpose was to give economic independence,” Shameelah Ismail says. “If we want the economy to boom, we need to tap the women. When they see their mothers are the ones earning and the main breadwinners, their mindsets change. They are more open to women working, and the entire society changes.”
Sabrina Toppa for the Huffington Post reports on some positive aspects of the gig economy-the double burden of care work and employment deserves more attention as demands on women increase to be find a balance between traditional roles, capitalist demands and empowerment.

Forcing transparency on UK Tax Havens: the art of the impossible
I was told, in categorical terms, that this wasn’t legally possible. These territories were independent entities, and would have to make the decision themselves. I shared legal analysis I had commissioned to no avail.
(...)
We should not confuse our job with that of politicians or bureaucrats who think in terms of what is possible. We should deal in terms of the world we want to see, then create the conditions that make it so.
David Mcnair from OneCampaign on how change can happen over time and what broader lessons he takes away from the campaign work.

How business news shapes Africa’s image

The news media is not a simple mirror to the world. News content is a crafted, cultural product. It reflects the priorities and news values of the organisations and journalists that make it. And – crucially – it reflects the economics of the news industry and who is willing to pay for information.
(...)
Indeed, business reporting is a welcome change to centuries of “Afro-pessimism” in news content, and reports that focus on crises, darkness, poverty and white saviours.
There is a problem, however, when business journalism (made with a financial clients in mind) becomes a central source of information for general news audiences. The content of this news tends to sustain what the linguist Norman Fairclough calls a “neoliberal globalization discourse” in which important dimensions of globalization – ecological, cultural, political and societal – are often absent, or presented as subordinate to the global market system.
Mel Bunce for Africa is A Country shares her research on the African business news discourse.

Attitudes towards humanitarian news within the aid sector: Survey results

There is widespread dissatisfaction within the aid industry with the quantity and quality of mainstream news coverage of humanitarian issues and crises.
73% of respondents agreed that mainstream news media does not produce enough coverage of humanitarian issues.
Mainstream news coverage was also regularly criticised for being selective, sporadic, simplistic and partial.
Martin Scott for Humanitarian Journalism shares results from the humanitarian news survey.


National Staff

Supporting national staff to cross the management threshold is a lot of work. We have to actively look for talent, which means time spent with people, knowing their capability and performance, and genuinely helping them develop in areas where they’re weak. Which, in turn, requires planning and methodology. “Local staff capacity building” cannot be just a random sequence of one-off training workshops and promotions. It is not creating unique positions in a structure just for them. Rather, it means looking carefully at resources available and making tough choices about how to deploy those, and then being able to explain rationally why you chose what you chose (because in my experience, investment in local staff mobility is almost always questioned by someone, at some point).
Lucky for us, J. can't seem to live without a blog ;)!

Our digital lives
Tech conferences have a garbage plastic swag problem

Promotional goodies are an inevitable part of any conference. I don’t want that to change (I don’t think anyone does) but it can absolutely be done in a way that’s more environmentally friendly, while offering more value to attendees. From better gifts, to food and experiences, there are a lot of ways forward.
Matthew Hughes for The Next Web describes his conference freebie experience. Plastic waste may less of an issue for academic conferences, but the waste of printed paper is an issue there...

Study shows newspaper op-eds change minds

“We found that op-ed pieces have a lasting effect on people’s views regardless of their political affiliation or their initial stance on an issue. People read an argument and were persuaded by it. It’s that simple.”
(...)
In both experiments, people exposed to op-eds shifted their views to support the argument presented in the piece, with the general public being marginally more persuaded than the elites.
Mike Cummings for Yale News on new research on how op-eds shift opinions-so we will likely see much more of them in the future...

The resume of the future will tell employers who you are, and not just what you’ve done

The resume of the near future will be a document with far more information—and information that is far more useful—than the ones we use now. Farther out, it may not be a resume at all, but rather a digital dossier, perhaps secured on the blockchain (paywall), and uploaded to a global job-pairing engine that is sorting you, and billions of other job seekers, against millions of openings to find the perfect match.
(...)
LinkedIn could build pattern-recognition software that combines such data with insights from companies into what combinations of employees are effective, he said.
“You can imagine scenarios where we ask recruiters, who have visibility into their organization or are trying to find someone new, about what types of people are working well together inside the company, where are there pockets where they’re seeing success,” Roslansky said.
Oliver Staley for Quartz on the brave new world of algorithmic job matching and the promise that if you provide enough data points job will basically search for you-not the other way round...

Academia
Pseudoarchaeology on the Travel Channel: Megan Fox to have a new show and crystal skulls on Legendary Locations

Henry Schleiff, a Travel Channel exec said “when it comes to debunking the myths around some of our greatest historical mysteries, Megan Fox’s passion for discovering the truth is just visceral.”
Carl Feagans for the Archeology Review on the problematic relationship between celebrities and archeology/science in an ever-crowded TV market for (pseudo-)historical investigations.

University still in ruins three years after earthquake

44 other administrative and academic buildings were severely damaged, while 99 other campus buildings suffered minor damage.
Some 54 community colleges mainly affiliated with TU also collapsed in the disaster and 171 suffered damage.
However, three years down the line, only two administrative buildings of TU have been constructed, while just 10 damaged properties have been repaired.
“The government hasn’t prioritised our reconstruction. We will have to wait for years if the process is not expedited,” said TU Rector Sudha Tripathi.
Binod Ghimire for University World News with a sad update on the state of Nepalese higher education.

Online learning isn’t as inclusive as you may think

Even so, modeling values of fairness, empathy, acceptance, kindness, respect, and responsibility to and for other people in an online setting can remain elusive. The same thing can be said for capturing students’ excitement for discovery, satisfaction and pride in their accomplishments. Rather than an inherent characteristic, inclusivity in an online classroom should be pursued in an intentional and ongoing way.
Erin Clow & Klodiana Kolomitro for University Affairs share some their experiences around online courses; based on our teaching in Communication for Development it has been very clear that you need to create an interactive blended learning environment if you want students to stick around for entire degrees. I think that's also one of the reasons why MOOCs haven't been such a disruptive success-the majority of students still likes (classroom) interaction.

Elective Affinities: Fragility and Injustice in the Field

I am doing my PhD research with unemployed youth in Freetown, studying violence in the aftermath of war. I hang out in “ghettos”, I sit endlessly as young men drink, smoke, listen to music, and we talk about “the system”. It’s intense, but rewarding work, I’m learning every day, I think it’s what I have been trained to do, the full immersion experience. Then, one day the violence I am researching comes very close, too close, it rips my world apart.These two short snapshots seem unrelated, but as I lay in my hospital bed in Freetown after Kadiatu’s death in the district hospital, I kept finding myself thinking about what had happened five years before. They were isolated instances in an otherwise happy and rewarding near-decade of engagement in Sierra Leone. However, in both situations I felt utterly powerless and fragile, and in both cases I experienced on my skin the kind of fear and violence that I have explored in my research, whilst becoming profoundly conscious of the ways in which my experience remains nonetheless fundamentally different.
The New Ethnographer with interesting food for thought on how the PhD research and supervision process should incorporate the experiences of fieldwork more into the whole learning process outside 'case studies' or 'vignettes'-or do we risk to overload an academic exercise with too much reflection ?!?

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