Links & Contents I Liked 26

Hello all!

In the end, quite a bit of interesting material assembled in my Inbox this week...From aidworker reflections from Haiti, university teaching insights from Mali, to travel tips for international moms and the challenges of internships, this week's link collection turned out to be a bit of a career issue...and if you are interested in international adoption I recommend my latest book review.

Take care!

New on aidnography
Finding Fernanda – A compassionate story about the adoption industry in Guatemala highlights core development dilemmas

First NOVAFRICA Conference on Economic Development in Africa
Paul Collier, Professor of Economics at the University of Oxford and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE)
Dean Karlan, Professor of Economics at Yale University and Founder of Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA)
Roger Myerson, Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and Economics Nobel Prize Winner 2007
Early September, Lisbon/Portugal...the perfect time and place to enjoy a quick break before the stressful new academic year starts...maybe that helps to explains how three male, white professors are schedulded to talk about Africa's future. They are great academics, of course, but a 'Nova Africa' needs innovative approaches and local insights-right from the beginning!

Aid Worker Leaves Haiti With A Sour Taste
Something I really didn't know too much about until I got here and then realized that I kind of played right into, which is something I think about a lot when I'm here. But, yeah, what he was saying is very true. It's this idea again of - I read that first in an article by Teju Cole, who's a writer. And following the Kony video, he posted up stuff on Twitter and said that, you know, the white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon and, you know, receives awards in the evening. I think that might be a little bit too harsh. I certainly don't intend to try to support any brutal policies, but I certainly think that there is a level of, like, yeah, we're just going to come in here and we're going to fix this. And don't worry, we know what's up, and we're going to do things.And the reality is, if you don't take the time to really learn about the people and let them take the lead on helping themselves - maybe you can provide some resources that are hard to get in developing countries, and some expertise that might be hard to find, but you really can't come in on your high horse and tell them, this is how it's going to be done. It just doesn't work, and it's going to breed an incredible amount of resentment.
In an ocean full of simplistic journalism, NPR once again provides a life raft for those who care about development and its complexities!

On teaching, and not teaching, in Bamako
The university system here faces a host of challenges. One is the lack of resources: there are over 100,000 students in the various branches that used to comprise the University of Bamako, but fewer than 1000 faculty members and nowhere near enough classrooms. With such outsized classes, the only way to evaluate students is through exams, and with hundreds to grade for each class, and no assistants to help, instructors often give one final exam in which students must synthesize what they learned from the entire course into a few hundred words.Forget about PowerPoint or showing films to your students: instructors are limited to a blackboard, chalk, and if they’re lucky a microphone that works. Forget about computer labs and printers: students must usually rely on private cybercafes. Forget about bookstores: even if the books were here, hardly anyone could afford to buy them. Oh, and one other thing you can forget about: the University of Bamako has been without a working library since its establishment in 1996. In a way, pedagogy here works like it did in Europe before the advent of the printing press: the instructor lectures, students take notes, then memorize those notes to reproduce on the exam. (Luckily we can assign short readings for students to photocopy on their own dime, so it’s a strange pre-Gutenberg, post-Xerox age we’re teaching in.)
Bamako Bruce's reminder about higher education realities in Mali. Sending tablet PCs or granting free access to academic journals, as useful as they can be, are lightyears away from the day-to-day realities of chronically underfunded university systems in many places across the globe.

Kenyan TV show ploughs lone furrow in battle to improve rural livelihoods
Mungai's farm was given a "makeover" in the first episode, aired in March. He told the presenters he had a problem with maize storage, and said his cows were skinny because feed was too expensive. His wife Lucy complained that the chickens entered the kitchen and ate the food, and his children said they couldn't do their homework because the kerosene lamps ran out too quickly. One daughter wanted a shelf to put washed dishes on.Presenter Naomi Kamau looked to her co-host Tonny Njuguna, a well-known actor, and he nodded and said: "Let's go do it!" A soil test was carried out, fertiliser was recommended, a chicken coop was built, maize storage was improved, solar lamps provided and kitchen shelving built.
If it's part of local TV and communication cultures, programmes may be able to fulfil 'edutainment' requirements. But please, please don't send a) 'experts' from the North to Kenya, b) any type of 'celebrity' to make this into a 'proper' make over show.

MBAs of the Future: Sustainability and What It Means For African Nations
Profitable, eco-friendly African businesses have been historically rare. But as sustainable business practices are explored worldwide, companies and academic institutions are working to bring this relatively new corporate philosophy to our planet’s most impoverished continent. After centuries of economic struggle, many experts agree that these steps may finally catch Africa up with the rest of the corporate world.
After all, maybe you should get an MBA to save the world ;)?!

More questions on the ‘clean cookstove’ movement, and private aid
And so claim many private “social enterprise” business and other organizations (many of them here in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest). This has led to a lot of enthusiasm and funding for clean cook stove initiatives.The problem, say some experts, is that the evidence so far doesn’t appear to indicate getting new, cleaner cook stoves is actually helping the poor: New studies poke hole in cook stove claim or the limits of technology.
I saw a few postings on the 'clean cookstove' debate this week. I haven't read all the details yet, but it's not a big surprise that something that is supposed to 'change the lives of billions of people' is faced with some challenges once the implementation is rolled out...

Africa's First HDR on Food Security Fails to "Put the Last First"
But it is depressing to see the the last chapter in a good report (yet again) be about "Empowerment for Justice, Gender Equity and Food for Everyone".
It should be the first chapter, not the last. It should set the stage for everything else in the Report.It should show us how food insecurity comes about because of the choices made by those with power, the interplay of competing interests, and the way the existing rules of the game are set up. In other words, politics. The scope for doing this in a regional report is surely greater than in a more generic global one.We should then have an agenda for what can be done to change the dynamic and the outcomes. What are the ways, methods and strategies in which voice, accountability and transparency can be promoted in the spheres of policy, technology, spending, training, communicating and framing.
Comments on global reports seem to be become more and more important as large organisations continue to deliver standard documents and standardised recommendations.

Working Moms in International Development (Part 1: Surviving Travel)
Why have I put this series together?For those of you who are working moms in aid & international development, I hope this series will serve to encourage you – you are not alone!
For those of you who are potential/future working moms in development and wondering how you could possibly raise a family while working in this field, I hope this series will give you some inspiration and ideas – it’s not easy, but it can be done!
And for those of you who are not now, nor will ever be, working moms in international development, I hope this series will still provide some interesting insight into the challenges that your colleagues/staff/boss/friends may encounter.
Shana Johnson's Development Crossroads offers tons of great advice! Must read!

What’s the connection between power, development and social media?
Final thoughts? For the technophiles like those gathered in Berlin, the key thing is to remember, however platitudinous it may sound, that ICT is a means not an end – are you clear what the end is? What is your theory of change, beyond scattering new kit everywhere?In developing countries, the key is how poor/excluded people adopt, adapt and use technology: start there, and you’ll find exciting possibilities (see Twaweza in East Africa). Be too tech-led, and you may well end up in a dead end.
Duncan Green on the re:campaign conference in Berlin. I guess part of the challenge is that you actually need to know what a 'theory of change' is rather than just saying that you got one and it somehow involves great insights from 'systems theory'...

BREAKING: HISTORIC JUDGMENT. Bush & Associates Found Guilty of Torture
The five-panel tribunal unanimously delivered a guilty verdict against former United States President George W. Bush and his associates at the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal hearing that had started on Monday, May 7th.
A thought-provoking piece. Some of it almost reads like a piece from a still-to-be-invented Development Onion (A U.S. President found guilty by an international institution!), there's also a fair bit of ideology involved (apparently, Iran published the verdict in its state media), but at the end of the day I was really thinking for a while why the notion of a politically-driven international court sounds absurd once you substitute the current most wanted list with politicians from Western countries and how firmly the political discourse around these allegations is embedded in our thinking of what is 'right' or 'wrong'.

Sonoma State University Graduates and Faculty Protest Honorary Degree to former Citgroup CEO
Dozens of Students and Faculty stood quietly and turned their backs when Sonoma State University President Ruben ArmiƱana presented the former CEO of Citigroup, Sanford (Sandy) Weill, with an honorary doctorate during commencement May 12, 2012.(...)Weill brought casino finance into the mainstream—exactly what Glass-Steagall was intended to prevent—resulting in the economic collapse of Wall Street in 2008 hurting millions of Americans and resulting in massive home foreclosures.
Sky's the limit for cash-strapped universities and their ideas on how to sell out

Internships, from the Other Side
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice that what we used to call “workplace-ready” is now being called “internship-ready.” It’s getting harder to find places to make rookie mistakes. Minimum wage jobs may teach some level of promptness, but they don’t do much in the way of teaching the kind of communication skills expected in a white-collar workplace.
'It’s getting harder to find places to make rookie mistakes.' That's probably my 'sentence of the week' so to speak. Community College Dean Dad's reflections on internships is carefully taking both sides into consideration. By and large, I agree that universities are expected to do more and more 'preparing' (training) students for the 'real world' so companies don't have to do it. It's particularly tricky with white collar jobs. Neither your academic training nor 'work experience' (there are limitations as to what you can learn from your coffee shop experience...) really helps understanding office routines and dynamics. The problem is that many universities don't have the resources to think about it strategically, approach local employees and create long-term relationships. And yes, employers need to be prepared for young graduates who at 22 or so are not fully developed and productive right from the moment they start (and a 6 months internship may not be a great incentive, too...).


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