Links & Content I liked 10

Hello all!
This week's over- and review has turned out to be a bit of a 'voting issue'-but for interesting and relevant projects! For the academically-inclined reader there are fewer items in this week's digest, but I do recommend a look at my latest post on the PhD process and maintaining a professional development identity.
When you sign-up for a Ph.D. in most cases you are for all practical and technical purposes a ‘student’ again. Most institutions don’t really know what to do with your professional life before the Ph.D. and that often leads to finding validation elsewhere – with the potential negative side effect that the Ph.D. process takes longer and becomes more tiresome.
The voting lines are open for the 9 finalists for our pilot grants. Check them out and vote today
Tom Murphy and Mark Goldberg have not only selected a great group of finalists, but their detailed presentation of their previous work and proposed project for the DAWNS grant are also a really interesting read, great way to update your blog and Twitter list and, most importantly, present very interesting candidates with even more interesting projects. I also like the transparency of the project. I you only have time to read one longer piece from the development blogosphere this week, make this your priority!
After collecting your responses, it is now time to vote for the best in aid blogging across 12 different categories
I know...Tom *again* ;)?! The ABBAs have already become an institution in the annual development blogging cycle and this is another great way to get a great overview over interesting people, topics and developments in the blogosphere.

Peer coaching: is that something we can interest you in?
Whether you are studying, beginning your career in aid and development, or a seasoned professional, it’s great to work one-on-one with a coach who can help you identify blind spots, gain clarity on your priorities, and help you design actions that will bring about desired changes.
The guys at are asking for your input to a great new initiative to connect and learn...a potentially great way to take 'mindful' aidwork further.

AlertNet AidWatch - The global aid system: better the devil we know?

The most common proposal - mentioned by eight agencies - was to reform the United Nations in some way, including reducing the amount of funds channelled through it and cutting its bureaucracy, overheads and transaction costs.
"More and more money has gone into the U.N. system over the last ten years with little being subsequently available for projects to serve the people for whom it was intended," said one humanitarian director.
"We need to increase competition and create an aid 'market', where donors don't need a budget breakdown but rather a set of outcomes they will pay for based on how many are achieved," said Francesco Paganini, director of disaster response for World Relief. Another U.S.-based agency echoed the need for a hard-nosed, performance- based approach. "If our industry could find a way to create a compensation system that provides personal financial reward for results -- as is found in for-profit businesses -- it could radically alter the approach to delivering value to beneficiaries," said one programme manager, who declined to be identified.
To round off the survey- and number-crunching part, I found the AlertNet survey on the future of the aid system - and the two different foci that AlertNet and the HuffPost chose - quite interesting, but not very widely discussed so far. I haven't read the detailed survey results yet, but it's interesting that UN reform was mentioned as the most common proposal to reform the system. I don't disagree in principle, but isn't it a bit cheap to point the finger at the 'bad UN'? Why not be more modest and critical with the humanitarian system and talk about admitting to and learning from failures, for example? The HuffPost focuses on creating a better 'market' for donors and, gulp, personal financial rewards - things that are working so well in the famous 'private sector'! I doubt that 'more of the same' performance- and results-based management approaches will really 'improve' the system. The humanitarian system is likely to remain an imperfect offer, but more modest approaches to openness, learning and admission to failure have clearly not entered the mainstream of big INGOs yet.

Digital mapping and governance: the stories behind the maps

The importance of telling the stories behind the maps
One important component to mapping work is to tell the stories behind the map. The three groups in Kwale are working to build platforms to amplify their grassroots level work in order to share stories and lessons learned. The information documented on the various platforms will develop over time and contribute to a greater understanding of the processes at a local level where youth as young leaders can intervene to begin to change the dynamics of community development.
Linda Raftree's guest post shares some detailed, practical insights into digital mapping and governance that PLAN Kenya undertook with youths from communities. After all those surverys and data, I really liked the notion of 'telling the stories behind the maps' or any other aggregated data source.

Oprah Winfrey’s expensive South African education
There are many other questions about the school and many other reasons to celebrate the various accomplishments of its students, alumnae, and staff. But where does OWLAG fit, or sit, in the landscape of South African education? You won’t get that answer from The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, ABC News, or CNN.
Their story is more or less the following. Once upon a time a woman named Oprah Winfrey had tea with a man named Nelson Mandela. He persuaded her to care. She invested money, lots of it, in a school for ‘underprivileged’ girls, girls who had suffered terrible hardships, in particular sexual violence. The school had its ups and downs. Now, the class is graduating, Oprah beams, cries and is really a very “proud mama”. The end.
Context is not that much work. Why couldn’t we get some?
Al Jazeera’s coverage was spot on. Here’s their version of the story: The school has much to celebrate. South Africa, on the other hand, has much to worry about. Even though matric passage rates this past year were at a record high, the passing grade is quite low. Many schools are without water, electricity, books, teachers, buildings. Yoliswa Dwane, of Equal Education, explains that the situation in rural and township schools is catastrophic, and that it’s the fault of the State, that has persistently refused to address inequality in education … or anywhere else.
Celebrities and development-a never-ending story. Last year I wrote a piece about Oprah (What The Oprah Magazine can teach us about development) and this more detailed piece from South Africa confirms some of my more general problems I have with Oprah's approach: It's never political. She doesn't get involved with 'the system', e.g. education in South Africa, but would probably argue that 'her girls' one day may rise to powerful and influential positions and then change the system from within...which is not impossible, but as always moves the responsibility from 'the society' to an individual level with a consumerist twist: Pay for a good school and the sky's the limit...

Psychologically Equipped?

Over the last months I have been collecting stories, reflections and suggestions from humanitarian professionals on the importance of staff-care, pre-deployment psychological preparation, burnout prevention training, field support, coaching and mentoring and post-deployment care. HQ and field-staff have lent their voice to this white paper series, which provides an analysis of the needs in the field, as well as the types of interventions that could be of help, including mindfulness training. Encouraged by my dear friend Jennifer Lentfer at the first chapter of the White Paper Series on the psychological health of the precious people who work in aid is now out! It provides the background and purpose of the whole series. I have chosen to release the twelve papers over several weeks, in order to give readers the time and space to process the material and reflect upon it.
This is definitely an important subject and I look forward to reading more on working on the psychological health of aid professionals. A great space to watch!

To My Old Master
In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Big Spring, Tennessee, wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, and requested that he come back to work on his farm. Jourdan — who, since being emancipated, had moved to Ohio, found paid work, and was now supporting his family — responded spectacularly by way of the letter seen below (a letter which, according to newspapers at the time, he dictated).
A fantastic read (- although this is the Internet and there is small chance that the letter isn't really authentic)

Empowerment: A Journey not a Destination

We are pleased to announce the launch of 'Empowerment: A Journey not a Destination'. This Pathways synthesis report presents the findings and key messages from our research from 59 projects in 15 countries over 5 years.
Great new work from IDS. Some of the 'key findings' seem a bit general, but the links to the papers and stories behind them really give you an idea about the full-scale of the project and the context of the findings.

Forum: Qualitative Social Research - Participatory Qualitative Research

FQS is a great open-access journal and the latest issue is rich in theory, but also contains a fascinating range of case-studies from health, education, researcher-relationships in practice, gender and the emergence of non-Anglo-Saxon approaches to participatory research.


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Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa