Links & Contents I Liked 15

Hello all,

Some of you may have noticed that there was another 'Links I like' post earlier this week, but since then quite a few interesting posts, new blogs and intellectual tidbits have gathered in my Inbox.
One piece I found particularly important is Hugh Gusterson's report from inside the Iraqi university system (filed under the Anthroplogy section). In many ways, it's an sad example of how interconnected 'development', 'peacebuilding' and academia are and how the war in Iraq was exactly the opposite of laying a foundation for a a bright, democratic and prosperous future of the country.

I hope this week's second link edition has something worthwhile for you to read as well!

New on aidnography

Links and Content I liked 14
Links I like Monday edition-Canada, mining & good governance; Nepal, community forests & post-war spoils; Kenya, ICT4D & offline advocacy; how to find a job as anthropologist; suing 3 Cups of tea & SpikeTV's worst project yet

Reflections on War Child's 'The Future of Aid: Our Shared Responsibility' panel
War Child Canada organised an interesting panel on The Future of Aid: Our shared responsibility a few days ago featuring Samantha Nutt, Founder of War Child Canada, Ian Smillie, Chair of the Diamond Development Initiative, Sylvester Bayowo of Engineers Without Borders Canada, Sasha Lezhnev, Policy Consultant, Enough Project and Co-Founder of the Grassroots Reconciliation Group and Vijayendra [Biju] Rao, Lead Economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank. I watched the full 67 minute YouTube video and since I have not found much writing on the discussion would like to share some highlights mixed-in with my own comments.

The Genesis of Aid (A Parody)

In the beginning, the Donors said, “Let us make development in our image, and in our likeness, so that we may bring about changes in developing countries”. And other Government Departments replied, “Yes, but not too much change, and not all at once, who knows What might Happen.” And the Donors did reflect upon this, and after a time they did say, “Let there be Aid Programmes”.
Ben Ramalingam's great piece sets the tone for the first part of the development link review as there is nothing better than complaining about aid tongue-in-cheek ;)...

Any good aid program manager worth their salt knows that logframes are not sufficient in and of themselves for project planning and management. A data collection plan and ways to track and compare indicator measurements over time are necessary if there’s any chance of reporting results down the road. Only looking at a logframe when the proposal goes in and then again when the first report is due ends up in lots of “estimated” reporting of project results. (I’m working on an upcoming post on this issue. Hint to donors: It happens more often than you think, and most often it’s due to your impractical requirements.)
The question is—how do we get beyond logframes’ use within the aid industry as merely a bureaucratic requirement? The challenge for aid workers, grant makers, and grant seekers is to ensure we are not just going through the motions with logframes, using them as a claim that we care about results rather than a tool to help achieve them.
I don't work in development management, but judging from the comments on Jennifer Lentfer's post, it is still as widespread and dominant as a few years ago when I started my Development Studies PhD and one of the first things was learning about the shortcomings of logframes...

Seven Deadly Sins of Impact Evaluation

Consider one youth-serving organization we know, which undertook an impact evaluation—at great expense and with high visibility to its funders—only to have the process cut short when the evaluators discovered that the organization’s numerous sites were implementing its program model in wildly different ways. Did that nonprofit have growth potential? Yes. But had its leaders been conducting regular internal measurement, they probably would have realized that their organization was not yet mature enough for the rigors of an impact evaluation.

Pitfalls like this one crop up again and again in our conversations with organizations. In an effort to equip nonprofit leaders with the knowledge they need to make good decisions about impact evaluations, here is our list of the “seven deadly sins” we see nonprofits commit most often.
It's not a rant-type post, but a concise overview over seven areas that should be kept in mind when engaging with the subject of impact evaluations.

How to write winning research funding applications
Recently I’ve been involved in some fascinating exercises in allocating large dollops of institutional funds for research. This has involved reviewing and discussing dozens of applications from different academics. Here’s a quick download of what I learned about the art of writing winning applications.
I'm sure many of us enjoy reading Duncan Green's blog. His list of features of a winning application - mixed methods rock, have serious impact plans, innovation really helps, the Principal Investigator is not just a figurehead, have a clear research question or hypothesis, don’t be greedy, don’t be tokenistic about involving southern researchers, the topic matters, remember you are writing for a mixed audience - are interesting, but at least I found them surprisingly unsurprising. On the other hand, they also sound like features virtually everybody from the most bureaucratic international organisation or biggest foundation to the most innovative donor could agree on. That doesn't make them wrong, but they are indicators of a proposal-writing discourse that seems to be become increasingly professionalised. Again, there's nothing wrong in hiring a grant writing expert or a professional proof-reader, but it also means that proposal writing becomes an incredible time-consuming, expensive endeavour. Fair enough, you want somebody else's money. However, the range of funding that Duncan mentions (GBP 100-300k) is, in the larger scheme of the research universe, not a lot of money. I think that applicants shouldn't be overwhelmed with 'perfect proposal' ideas, but that flexibilty should count in the end- especially if 5 or 10 working days for writing a proposal can make a huge difference for smaller organisations or independent researchers.

If I told you a story, would you believe me?

On the one hand we don’t use stories enough to help introduce people to new ideas and to spark interest and engagement. They could be used more as a tool for experts and researchers to start a dialogue about the applications of their expertise in policy and in politics, and for politicians or advocates to engage an uninformed or weary public on public policy issues. On the other hand, responsible advocates also need to recognize that story telling is a beginning of a dialogue around an issue which needs to evolve into a more nuanced, evidence informed discussion, rather than being a substitute for it.
As always, Ian Thorpe's posts are worthwhile reads. My only comment is that I'm a bit sceptical about the differentiation between 'stories' and 'evidence'. Or maybe Ian an I have different understandings of 'stories'. Stories can and should be part of research, they can and should be part of academic papers and they can and should be starting points for discussions. Edward Carr actually wrote a great paper on the topic: The place of stories in development: creating spaces for participation through narrative analysis.

Reverse Colonization

Like the others, Poggioli’s article settles for the easy irony of angry everyman opinion in place of in-depth analysis. It makes for a quick, four-minute piece with provocative sound bites (and why should I complain, it gave me something to post about?) but lacks anything but the most superficial sense of history.
But what is really at stake here? Is it that the Portuguese fear they will be as badly oppressed by those whom they oppressed? As economically dependent on those who were once economically dependent on them? And all they can do is dress up this primal fact in an Atlantic Charter type discourse about democracy? In the end, the only people they really have to blame are their own, democratically elected, leaders, many of whom are quite close to the Angolan President they are critiquing.
Great piece that critcises superficial reporting on 'reverse colonialism' of the Portuguese-Angolan relationship.

Why Nations Fail
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have started their new blog. Even more interesting than the contents is that book publishers in the academic/development sphere increasingly use blogs and blogging as active marketing tools...

The CSAE Blog - Blogging from the Centre for the Study of African Economies

Welcome to the first post on the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) blog.
To keep things short, I’ll just tell you a bit about what this blog will be about. Not only will we have the standard news and updates commonly featured on institutional blogs, but we also aim to have more in-depth posts which go into more detail about the research that we do and the greater context. On top of that, a great deal of our content will eventually come from our own CSAE researchers, as they both discuss their own work and share their thoughts on work in similar areas.
Another interesting new blogging project.


Old Maps Online

As the name suggests, a superb collection of, well, old maps:

The OldMapsOnline Portal is an easy-to-use gateway to historical maps in libraries around the world.
It allows the user to search for online digital historical maps across numerous different collections via a geographical search. Search by typing a place-name or by clicking in the map window, and narrow by date. The search results provide a direct link to the map image on the website of the host institution.
Arrivals, routines, interviews, field notes and chance connections
Anyway, I think the chance connections and conversations that are floating around out there are pretty amazing. That’s why this whole anthropology blogging thing is pretty cool. Vast networks of conversations pulsing on various continents. Often, with people who haven’t “really met” in the supposed real world. It’s cool–and it’s definitely different from the days of Malinowski, where people stayed connected through sonic dispatches and little handwritten or typed up papers, stuffed into envelopes, that had to literally be “shipped” from one place to another. But then, I do realize that not everyone has a connection to wireless internet in the field these days, unlike some people. The world is anything but flat, no matter what Tom Friedman says. It’s an uneven geography, no doubt. The internet may be far reaching, and full of potential, but it ain’t everywhere–and that includes places all around here where I am doing research.
Interesting reflections on field work and note-taking. I know that I might sound like a bit of a blog snob, but sometimes the posts and Savage Mind are a bit long and, well, anthropological ;)...

Iraq: An Education in Occupation

Those faculty fortunate enough to move abroad became part of the great middle-class exodus from Iraq under US occupation. It is estimated that 10 percent of Iraq's population, and 30 percent of its professors, doctors, and engineers, left for neighboring countries between 2003 and 2007 -- the largest Arab refugee displacement since the Palestinian flight from the holy lands decades earlier.
In just 20 years, then, the Iraqi university system went from being among the best in the Middle East to one of the worst. This extraordinary act of institutional destruction was largely accomplished by American leaders who told us that the US invasion of Iraq would bring modernity, development, and women's rights. Instead, as political scientist Mark Duffield has observed, it has partly de-modernized that country. In the words of John Tirman, America's failure to acknowledge the suffering that occupation wreaked in Iraq "is a moral failing as well as a strategic blunder." Iraq represents a blind spot in our national conversation, one that impedes the cultural growth that stems from a painful recognition of error
This is your read if you only have time to read one long post this week!


Elsevier Withdraws Support for the Research Works Act

We have heard expressions of support from publishers and scholarly societies for the principle behind the legislation. However, we have also heard from some Elsevier journal authors, editors and reviewers who were concerned that the Act seemed inconsistent with Elsevier’s long-standing support for expanding options for free and low-cost public access to scholarly literature. That was certainly not our intention in supporting it. This perception runs counter to our commitment to making published research widely accessible, coming at a time when we continue to expand our access options for authors and develop advanced technologies to enable the sharing and distribution of research results.

Reducing the stress of the job search

Are you sending out applications to jobs for which you aren’t really qualified and aren’t even close? I’m thinking about jobs in your discipline that specify a field that you really have to stretch a lot to say you can teach.
Short and interesting food for thought article on managing your academic job search. I agree with most items, but there is an underlying idea that universities always make transparent and 'rational' decisions that make it difficult to be sure that a 'low value' applications is really just that.

How piracy built the U.S. publishing industry

According to Burrows and Wallace, one of the most successful pirates was the company that eventually became HarperCollins, now owned by News Corp.
It wasn't as if the U.S. government had no copyright laws at the time. The country put copyright protections on the books in 1787. But those only covered U.S. works. The government simply "refused as yet to recognize foreign copyrights," according to the authors of "Gotham."
In January 1842, Charles Dickens visited New York, a city in love with the British author. His stories illustrated the evils of poverty and class divisions and these resonated with a New York population that included large numbers of immigrants who lived in squalor.
(...) Dickens visited this country "partly for sightseeing, partly in a fruitless attempt to promote an international copyright law that would require Americans to pay for the pleasure of reading him," according to "Gotham." How did he fare? Not well. When he wrote about his New York trip, the piece was promptly pirated by U.S. publishers. The government didn't agree to respect international copyright laws for another 40 years.
 A brief reminder about 'history not repeating itself'...I didn't know that Charlie Dickens was a copyright lobbyist ;)!

The Powerful Impact NPR And The New York Times Have On Book Sales