Links & Contents I Liked 27

Hello all!

I'm back from Germany and although this week's links collection is still a bit off schedule, regular blogging has resumed. Most of the links are 'new', but I feature a few slightly older articles that still seem worth reading!


New on aidnography
The Non-Linearity of Peace Processes-Peacebuilding theory and the challenges of the self-help discourse
The book, based on a project at the Berghof Foundation, outlines many interesting facets of constructivist theory around systemic thinking, complexity theory and action-research in the context of international conflict transformation work. It is a powerful confirmation (if one is still really needed) of the value of qualitative approaches to better understand conflict and peace processes, aiming for more reflexivity when it comes to analyse ‘our’ role in peace negotiations and peacebuilding. However, as I will outline more in detail in my review, the book also raises important questions about contemporary discourses of peace research, peacebuilding theory and the globalised modernisation agenda.

Making World Bank Open Data Usable: An Important Next Step
Tobias Denskus suggests that, one day, an independent monitoring foundation could work with local anthropologists, statisticians, and social media experts to put the data in context and make it come alive. He could imagine the Google Foundation getting involved in the open data movement by funding such a platform, “or, maybe, when Bill Gates is done with malaria…” It’s not a bad idea: the potential to improve lives through the efficient use of huge amounts of accessible knowledge would be great, indeed.
Yes, it's a bit of self-promotion going on here ;)...but nonetheless an interesting piece on the Bank's latest initiative to publish reports under a Creative Commons licence.

The truth about USAgain – every donation supports a network of tax haven companies and a man wanted by police!
Donate old clothes to USAgain, and you are supporting a cult, and a man wanted by the police
An interesting citizen journalism project that sheds some light on fraudulant used-clothes charities.

A Cautionary Tale of ICT4D Failure at Scale

I really admire the JLink team for deploying a municipal network in Afghanistan, its certainly a technical challenge to get multiple nodes up and running even with professional equipment, much less homebrew electronics. Yet in reading the article and reflecting on Inveneo's work deploying WiFi in Haiti, there are two aspects of JLink which may be key factors in its impending downfall - neither of them technical.
Wayan Vota on a great IT idea that has been faced with local realities.

Voluntourism: What Could Go Wrong When Trying To Do Right?
While joining and leading volunteer programs in Asia for the past decade, I have seen many of the same mistakes repeated over and over again when it comes to international "voluntourism." Here are some of the common problems I have seen in the voluntourism market and some tips for travelers on how to choose the right program.
Daniela Papi's critical introduction to voluntourism deserves more's a great primer on things to look for if you decide on going abroad.

Should aid workers lead comfortable lives?

Some consultants are paid far too much for example. Or, in the case of Honiara, a reasonable number of short term aid workers end up in the city’s most expensive hotel, when they could be accommodated just fine in other nearby hotels for quite a lot less. Nor do my justifications in the second half of this article mean that the sources of discomfort that I raised aren’t real. They are. But I guess that this is – for the most part – an inescapable aspect of the deeply unequal world that we live in: the fact that even attempts at doing good often bring with them huge inequalities of their own.
I like this post-but I also think that the debate needs to be extended. In-country lives are only one aspect of aid worker professionalism and student debt, extra insurances, school fees for children or additional moving expenses should also be taken into consideration, before one makes statement likes 'every dollar that is spent on residences for aid agency staff could, in theory, be spent on vaccinations, or roads, or nurses, or teachers or other actual end products'. Professional aid workers deserve an adequate compensation package and simply demanding that they should live like locals is not enough. It would be great to see more flexibility in the future-long-term pension contributions vs. the stereotypical jeep or lower salaries, but contributions to student loans or mortgage payments back 'home'.

Why TED Is a Massive, Money-Soaked Orgy of Self-Congratulatory Futurism
To even attend a TED conference requires not just a donation of between $7,500 and $125,000, but also a complicated admissions process in which the TED people determine whether you’re TED material; so, as Maura Johnston says, maybe it’s got more in common with Harvard than is initially apparent.
Strip away the hype and you’re left with a reasonably good video podcast with delusions of grandeur. For most of the millions of people who watch TED videos at the office, it’s a middlebrow diversion and a source of factoids to use on your friends. Except TED thinks it’s changing the world, like if “This American Life” suddenly mistook itself for Doctors Without Borders.
An interesting critical article on TED which reads at points a bit like a critique of the evolution of 'development discourses' throughout the years and decades...

How Government and Corporations Use the Poor as Piggy Banks

It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license. And if that seems like an inefficient way to make money, given the high cost of locking people up, a growing number of jurisdictions have taken to charging defendants for their court costs and even the price of occupying a jail cell.
Barbara Ehrenreich is one of my favourite writers-and she may actually be more of a 'development' person than 'just' a writer on US current affairs as many of her writings are also applicable in the context of 'poor'people around the globe.

New Publication: The Management Handbook for UN Field Missions
The Management Handbook for UN Field Missions introduces critical concepts of management theory while offering practical tools and real-life examples of good management practice from UN field missions. The principles, tools, and tips of the handbook are to serve as baseline resources for every civilian in the field who has struggled with management tasks – be they at the bottom or the top of the organizational hierarchy.
Featuring twelve chapters, the handbook opens by examining management issues at a strategic level: organization & coordination, leadership, and planning. The next section covers the set of management skills that any successful manager has learned to master: communication, managing people, decision-making, and time management. The final chapters – on knowledge management, security, financial management, project management, and evaluation – outline how an organization is run prudently, efficiently, predictably, and with maximum impact.
I haven't been able to read through it yet, but I know some of the authors and their previous quality work


Samir Amin and Socialism in the 21st Century
Professor Samir Amin, one of the leading Marxist thinkers in the world today, speaks about the implosion of contemporary capitalism. He articulates the need for the radical left, in the North as well as the South, to be bold in formulating its political alternative to the existing system. It is time for the left to articulate a new socialist agenda, not merely as a repetition of the 20 century socialism, but recreating it in light of the lessons learned from the past and the changes we are seeing in the world today.
It's an intensive 43 minute lecture that Samir Amin delivers, but time worthwhile spent to get a comprehensive roundup on the whole 'financial crisis' thing.

Qualitative Computing and Qualitative Research: Addressing the Challenges of Technology and Globalization

Qualitative computing has been part of our lives for thirty years. Today, we urgently call for an evaluation of its international impact on qualitative research. Evaluating the international impact of qualitative research and qualitative computing requires a consideration of the vast amount of qualitative research over the last decades, as well as thoughtfulness about the uneven and unequal way in which qualitative research and qualitative computing are present in different fields of study and geographical regions. To understand the international impact of qualitative computing requires evaluation of the digital divide and the huge differences between center and peripheries. The international impact of qualitative research, and, in particular qualitative computing, is the question at the heart of this array of selected papers from the "Qualitative Computing: Diverse Worlds and Research Practices Conference." In this article, we introduce the reader to the goals, motivation, and atmosphere at the conference, taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2011. The dialogue generated there is still in the air, and this introduction is a call to spread that voice.
The latest issue of FQS brings together technology and qualitative research and is definitely worth a look!


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