Links & Contents I Liked 322

Hi all,

I'm on my way to Copenhagen for two great events with David 'socialmedia4D' Girling and Olivier van Beemen's talk on his book Heineken in Africa.

Development news: 'More Than Me' founder steps down; ICT4Bad playbook for Sudan; climate change inequalities; corporate water sustainability goals BS; UN scandals & bureaucratic culture; the WTF of 'immersive poverty experiences'; the complexity of private education; the missing billions of African gold revenue; NGO language barriers in Lebanon; is 'Volungearing' sustainable? Netflix all-female comic superheroes; decolonizing the return of ancestors from British museums.

Our digital lives:
Solutions journalism; TED-tech-industrial complex; inside China's live streaming culture.

Publications: Core funding is great!

Enjoy!

New from aidnography
Cross-Border (book review)

I am basically repeating my previous praise for J’s writing. Cross-border is an entertaining read during your next ‘airport purgatory’, a thoughtful reflection on contemporary challenges in humanitarianism that students (and researchers!) should discuss and the continuation of friend’s literary journey that I have been fortunate to accompany from my academic sideline!
Development news
More Than Me Founder and CEO Katie Meyler Resigns

Katie Meyler, the CEO and founder of More Than Me, has resigned six months after a ProPublica investigation revealed her charity missed opportunities to prevent the rapes of girls in its care by a senior staff member, Macintosh Johnson, with whom Meyler once had an intimate relationship.
Meyler, who founded the charity in 2009 to save vulnerable girls from sexual exploitation, had been on a leave of absence pending the results of three separate inquiries by the charity and the Liberian government into ProPublica’s report, which outlined that Meyler and charity officials gave Johnson significant power over vulnerable students, were not transparent about the extent of his abuse and failed to make sure that all of his potential victims were tested after it came to light that he had AIDS when he died.
The findings of these inquiries have yet to be made public, but Meyler announced her departure Friday evening on Facebook:
Finlay Young for ProPublica with an update on the More Than Me story from Liberia & a great example of the power of independent investigative journalism!

Fake news and public executions: Documents show a Russian company's plan for quelling protests in Sudan

Multiple government and military sources in Khartoum have confirmed to CNN that Bashir's government received the proposals and began to act on them, before Bashir was deposed in a coup earlier this month. One official of the former regime said Russian advisers monitored the protests and began devising a plan to counter them with what he called "minimal but acceptable loss of life."
While the documents do not come from official Russian agencies, they were essentially a blueprint for protecting the Kremlin's interests in Sudan and keeping Bashir in power.
Tim Lister, Sebastian Shukla & Nima Elbagir for CNN. This is a must-read for the ICT4D community to get a rare insight into 'ICT4Bad' efforts and how different interest actively work against positive social change-this time luckily without much success...

Climate change has already made poor countries poorer and rich countries richer
Poorer nations have suffered harsher effects in part because they’re concentrated in already hotter parts of the world, like Africa, South Asia, and Central America. In such places, a tick up in temperatures can quickly cut labor productivity and agricultural yields while increasing levels of violence, crime, suicides, illness, and mortality. These effects have been identified in many studies, including earlier work by Burke (see “Hot and violent”). In addition, the same countries often don’t have the money to invest in tools, infrastructure, and programs to address these dangers.
James Temple for MIT Technology Review. This is not exactly news for the #globaldev community, but still an important reminder that climate change will be at the core of anything we will do in the name of #globaldev (and, yes, we need to talk about economic growth and productivity as the yardsticks to measure it...).

Corporate water sustainability goals are mostly just talk

Yet, when it comes to actually doing something to meet those goals, many companies have thrown up their hands. Almost half of the companies surveyed, or 44%, had no plan in place for how to reach water-savings goals.
Zoë Schlanger for Quartz with your weekly reminder that most of CSR talk is BS. & that industrial agriculture is one of the most destructive global industries...

With Scandals Rife Across the UN, Are Managers at Fault?

Many allegations involve financial improprieties, management inaction or sexual assault — or sometimes all the infractions wrapped in a single case.
One UN official who wanted to remain nameless called the problems “endemic” and getting worse.
When the underlying factor of a controversial political appointment kicks in, usually for a prestigious and career-building job demanded by a UN member government or regional group, capable international civil servants suffer. They talk of being forced to work under the imposed and often unqualified overlord who may have neither experience in the field nor respect for UN rules.
Barbara Crossette for PassBlue with an excellent overview over various recent scandals at different UN organizations; one common denominator is that the mid-20th century system is pushed to its 21st century limits and most people are afraid to touch anything because it could undo the entire system...

Immersive poverty experience visits Birmingham for the first time this month

An immersive poverty experience is coming to Birmingham this month allowing both adults and children to experience the sights, sounds and smells of a developing country.
Kyle Moore for Birmingham Updates.
See tweets & comments below. Golden rule: If an organization refers to 'Jesus' in their Twitter profile best to stay clear of their #globaldev work...

What’s New in the Private Education Pandora’s Box? A look at developments in the Global South
Unfortunately, the Special Report offers no organising framework for readers to make sense of the mechanisms in the management, regulation, financing, or delivery of the various services or arrangements it presents. It offers little in the way of assessing potential causes from effects or confounding variables (I can’t believe I’m saying this — I’m not an economist!). It sidesteps issues of equity explicit in SDG4 by suggesting governments have a somewhat necessary (but potentially inefficient) concern to cater for the public good, while also citing, in parts, that private schooling may be inequitable.
All this left me perplexed.
Prachi Srivastava for fp2p is guiding us through the dense jungle of private education in response to an Economist special report.

Gold worth billions smuggled out of Africa

Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East – a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond – a Reuters analysis has found.
(...)
Much of the gold was not recorded in the exports of African states. Five trade economists interviewed by Reuters said this indicates large amounts of gold are leaving Africa with no taxes being paid to the states that produce them.
David Lewis, Ryan McNeill & Zandi Shabalala for Reuters. Not surprising, but an important investigative piece anyway to confirm how Africa does not benefit from her resources as much as she could...

Flood response in the Bekaa valley in Lebanon – what have we learnt?

The active role of local NGOs in flood response also exposed language issues in coordination. Many coordination meetings are still in English in Lebanon, in a country where English is not an official language – which is somehow puzzling. My own reading of this is that Lebanese local NGOs are too polite to ask – and that expats have, somehow selfishly, normalized the situation, perhaps not realizing that local NGOs vote with their feet and just stop coming to meetings when not feeling welcome. Realizing this, we have now in the Bekaa a bilingual interpreter in all interagency meetings, so that everybody can express themselves in the language they feel more comfortable with.
The language gap also runs inside the local NGO community. Big Beiruti NGOs, as well as Lebanese NGOs set up by the educated Syrian diaspora, manage themselves very well in English. This is, however, not the case for long-established, smaller local NGOs in the Bekaa. This does not mean that they have less effective transnational connections – just that in many cases, they are not necessarily with the Western world.
Josep Zapater shares reflections from Lebanon and highlights the challenges of civil society work that have been persistent in discussions for many decades now...

Volungearing: A New Way to Do Good

TribesForGOOD aims to provide a more sustainable solution to volunteering by pairing participants with social enterprises, enabling skills development and first-hand experience in the philanthropic and impact-driven arena. The concept of ‘Volungearing’ was birthed in 2018 to distinguish a new, sustainable type of volunteering experience.
Bianca Caruana for World Footprints. It's good to see Indian organizations and women in the driver's seat, but I need more convincing about the sustainability of the idea...and what's with all the 'impact' talk these days anyway ?!?

Netflix’s first children’s animation from Africa is an all-girl spy team written by women

“Now, like never before, it is so important to have strong female lead characters who are emotionally connected to their world and who can choose to change their world,” she said. “So to me, selecting an all-female writing team was a natural fit, because who better to create and connect to those characters than females themselves.”
Lynsey Chutel for Quartz with good news on Netflix' programming localization/globalization efforts.

‘They’re not property’: the people who want their ancestors back from British museums

The process of deciding what to ask for, and gathering supporting evidence, is hugely labour-intensive for indigenous communities and even national governments, so a torrent of claims is unlikely. Calls for restitution are nevertheless part of a modern museum’s workload. “We absolutely acknowledge where our collections are from,” says Dugdale. “And if you do that, you have to be open to having some different conversations. But it’s not going to be the case that suddenly all museums are going to be denuded of everything. That’s just not realistic.”
David Shariatmadari for the Guardian with the latest on decolonization efforts within the context of European museums.

Our digital lives

Dateline: When Traditional Reporting Isn’t Enough

International reporters today are frustrated that they can’t get Americans to care about the rest of the world. Part of the reason may be that coverage of places like Haiti or East Africa is either shallow or relentlessly negative, often portraying people as passive victims. Solutions stories restore agency to the people we cover because they often show people solving their own problems. Solutions stories tend to be surprising and counterintuitive. And they are by no means some fluffy alternative to hard-hitting reporting. To the contrary, they seek to replace a type of lackluster international reporting that paints any half-baked idea as a magic cure to poverty or disease. Solutions journalism leads us to critical questions about the status quo: why, for instance, do international charities continue to spend so much money on disaster relief when scientific evidence suggests it’s far more cost-effective to save or improve lives through preventative interventions such as distributing anti-malarial mosquito nets–or even just handing out cash?
A few years ago, Ryan Lenora Brown reported for the Christian Science Monitor how unconditional cash transfers were not only giving low-income Africans in Lesotho control over their own lives, but were proving more effective than other types of aid. In true solutions journalism fashion, she also examined cash transfers’ limitations– namely, that most research on cash transfers has focused on short-term benefits. And she painted a picture of where cash transfers were heading: toward government companion programs that might make cash transfers a viable long-term solution to several facets of poverty.
(...)
Solutions journalism demands that we take a critical look at what’s truly working, and why. A new super-medicine? Let’s explain how scientists discovered it and why they think it might work where others have not. A new push to hand out computer tablets to African students? Is there any evidence to suggest that traditional paper textbooks don’t work just as well?
Jacob Kushner for the Overseas Press Club of America with a great introduction to 'solutions journalism' and its potential to change #globaldev narratives.

My TED talk: how I took on the tech titans in their lair
I did tell them that they had facilitated multiple crimes in the EU referendum. That as things stood, I didn’t think it was possible to have free and fair elections ever again. That liberal democracy was broken. And they had broke it.
It was only later that I began to realise quite what TED had done: how, in this setting, with this crowd, it had committed the equivalent of inviting the fox into the henhouse. And I was the fox. Or as one attendee put it: “You came into their temple,” he said. “And shat on their altar.”
I did. Not least, I discovered, because I named them. Because nobody had told me not to. And so I called them out, in a room that included their peers, mentors, employees, friends and investors.
Carole Cadwalladr for the Guardian. This is as much a piece about her interesting talk than the surrounding TED-tech-industrial complex, something we already addressed in our research on TED talks and global development discourses.

Streaming Closeness: A Review of Present.Perfect

In the context of alienation and poverty, their desire to share their lives is gripping, even overpowering. The anchors call for an audience, as if in dialogue. This prompts the question: if the anchors are demanding attention, does live streaming augment our engagement as spectators? Reducing the relation of subject and object in the film to anchor/audience, without the camera’s mediation, the ethical issues that are raised concern the possibility of an active spectator. At the same time, the mass consumerism that often surfaces in the film as a contrast to the anchors’ economic struggles suggests a digitally heightened form of behavioral commerce.
Savina Petkova for Cultural Anthropology with a excellent ethnographic article on China's live streaming industry/movement/...

Publications

Insights on core funding
Core funding is vital as it enables us to maintain our independence – ShareAction takes no money from the corporate sector or the investment industry in order that we can continue to challenge the system and influence the policies that govern it. Independence means we can work alongside our funders to contribute together towards strategic goals. Core funding also enables us to think longer-term and be responsive to opportunities for increasing our impact in a rapidly changing context
Esmée Fairbairn Foundation with an interesting report on why core funding matters for (small) organizations.

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