Links & Contents I Liked 28

Hello all!

Quite a busy week link-wise...the core topic is Western perceptions of 'development' and how the discourse often clashes with the realities...Akhila's post on 'westernized' social entrepreneurism, campaigns against working conditions at DHL and T-Mobile and two long essays about the 'missionary work' of Bill Gates and the 'militarisation of poverty' in Africa all show the links between capitalism, underdevelopment and development discourses...luckily, there are also a few lighter readings sprinkled in...try out the 'Philantrophy Jargon Generator', treat yourself to new good books or enjoy a hopeful commencement speech for the 'Generation DIY'!



The westernized nature of the #socent industry, by Akhila Kolisetty
Most social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders today who are granted awards by prestigious foundations, who are praised for their work by news outlets, who market their organizations effectively both online and off-line are like me. They have a distinct advantage.
But community leaders and activists across Africa, Asia, and Latin America are doing just as much as American social entrepreneurs – if not more – to lift their communities out of poverty, to protect human rights, and to change the status quo. And yet, Southern activists gain little publicity in comparison to the many Western entrepreneurs who easily gain recognition after traveling abroad to do good. The difference is that Southern leaders face numerous barriers to raising funds and publicity for their work – barriers that their more privileged Western counterparts simply do not face.
This is a great post to kick off this week's links round-up!
I agree with Akhila, of course, but I also wonder to what extent there is a bigger picture vis-a-vis the expansion of capitalism behind parts of the social enterprise discourse. We need to research and question more some of the motives behind the expansion of DIY aid efforts: Is it about jobs and careers for highly-skilled Western youth who often find it difficult to get an exciting and fulfiling job in their native country? Is there a broader change happening at the moment away from traditional development funding and more towards private resources, and what does that mean for the 'industry'? Yes, it's a 'Western' concept, but to me it also seems firmly rooted in North American charitable history, rather than, say, German, Italian or French discourses. So lots of interesting questions that need more attention!

Respect @ DHL!

Global trade unions will unveil a report into how Deutsche Post DHL treats its workers, at the company’s AGM in Frankfurt today. They will launch a white paper entitled Corporate Irresponsibility, Deutsche Post DHL’s Global Labour Practices Exposed, which exposes a shameful track record of union avoidance outside of Europe and overuse of temporary or agency workers. Shareholders are being urged to help clean up the logistics multinational, and ensure that high standards are met throughout its operations.
This is only indirectly related to either 'development' or the previous link to Akhila's post. But there is a link. This week I came across two campaigns against to multinational companies with roots in Germany, DHL and T-Mobile. In short, like many other multinational companies DHL and T-Mobile are not exactly 'best practice' leaders when it comes to working conditions or unionisation-especially outside of Europe. Rather than just claiming that 'Corporate Responsibility is integral part of our strategy', big multinationals need to realise that some of their biggest positive contributions to 'development' could come from decent work conditions, salaries and accountable structures, rather than charitable PR add-ons...

Help Build a Network of Support for International Development Professionals

Annette was feeling isolated – with no peers within her organization at close reach, and the only foreigner in the office. She hired me a few years ago to coach her through this and other career issues. At the time, she could have benefited from a peer coach – someone who understands her context as a development professional, who will listen to her without judgment, provide some encouragement, ask good questions to spark Annette’s thinking, and help her come up with action steps to move her forward rather than simply spinning her wheels.
It's great to see the peer support idea gaining momentum...there's even a short video on YouTube now to explain the concept! This is an exciting project!!

Microfinance as an allegory for aid

As in the case of microfinance, the aid industry tends to over-promise and under-deliver. Everyone wants individuals and countries to be able to stand on their own two feet, and not depend on hand-outs from others. But it does not follow that microfinance can bring this about for individuals, nor that aid can bring it about for countries.
I tend to agree with most of Owen Barder's latest post, but I'm not sure that I would solely blame 'the aid industry' when it comes to promises and deliveries. Interestingly, Owen starts his own post with a link to a FT post on the benefits of microfinance-and the FT is usually not considered part of the 'aid industry'. I think that often there is a 'discourse industry' at work that relies on (mainstream) media, academics, Think Tanks, donor organisations and in a narrower sense the 'aid industry'. Many development experts would probably agree that microfinance is no panacea for 'development' and that the story is more complex-but similar to the current hype around 'RCTs', an issue develops a certain momentum and suddenly 'everybody' talks about it, gets research money for it and writes blog posts about the topic...if you listen carefully to on-the-ground, long-term, mindful aid workers and projects you would probably find fewer promises and less under-delivery...

Another missionary in Africa: the Bill Gates myth

Gates’ retirement from Microsoft allows him time to focus more intently on his image, his sales pitch and Africa. By contrast, the ‘Red’ campaign of Gap, Apple and a few other retailers, requires you buy the product to contribute to fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. The emphasis is always on buying and selling, not on the disease. So, if you buy a pair of Gap jeans with the red label, a portion of that money goes to the fund. The project, founded by U2’s Bono, is intended to capitalize on what we do anyway - buy stuff. Generally, no one argues against helping Africa, right? But with all the riches these corporations and individuals earn, why do we still have to buy something before they give something? Much of these earnings were as a result of raw materials sourced in Africa: even its music. Unlike Red, Gates requires no purchase from Microsoft, at least not directly. But we can’t separate Gates from Microsoft and its products.
Clairmon Chung's interesting piece is long, political and historically informed - simply the stuff good critical writing is made of.

The militarisation of poverty in Africa

Over the past year, Africa has seen the decomposition of states from coast to coast. A belt of war, coups and large-scale spontaneous demonstrations has emerged across the Sahel, from Guinea-Bissau to Somalia. The situation represents a significant global security threat, which for some will justify the increasing militarisation of the continent. These political processes have a variety of localised causes, yet they have some commonalities. All of them emerge in a context of failed agricultural markets and a boom in mineral and oil extraction. Fundamentalist Islam is merely a complicating factor: not a cause, so much as a response to the destabilisation we are seeing.
Another long article on Africa-this time by Toby Leon Moorsom. It's very densly packed with nuggets of information and analysis and almost impossible to summarise (some of the great Aljazeera op-eds are sometimes a bit over-ambitious...), but worth the read.

Zen, mindful emails and world peace: a review of ‘Search Inside Yourself’

One section I really liked was where Meng refers to Patrick Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results. The only way to change this, says Meng, is starting off with sincerity, kindness and openness and with 3 assumptions: that everybody in the room is there to serve the greater good until proven otherwise; that no one has any hidden agenda unless proven otherwise; and that we are all reasonable, even when we disagree, until proven otherwise. Also helpful, he says, is ‘empathetic listening’ and ‘political awareness,’ eg., the ability to read an organization’s emotional currents and power relationships.
Linda Raftree reviews Search Inside Yourself-looks like a very interesting book for mindful aid workers!

Be Outraged: There are alternatives

An international group of economists and social scientists argue in this book that austerity is bad economics, bad arithmetic, and ignores the lessons of history. They are outraged at the narrow range of austerity policies which are bringing so many people around the world to their knees, especially in Europe. ‘Be Outraged’ argues that austerity measures and cutbacks are reducing growth and worsening poverty and that there are alternatives – for Britain, Europe and all countries that currently imagine that government cutbacks are the only way out of debt.
Great new book from Oxfam for free download!

Philanthropy Jargon Generator

1. Click the "Create Jargon" button.
2. Watch useful phrases appear in the box.
3. Repeat as needed, until grant application or annual report is completed.
The instructions speak for themselves ;)...


Neil Gaiman – The Best Commencement Speech You May Ever Hear (20 Minutes)

You get work however you get work, but people keep working, in a freelance world - and more and more of today's world is freelance - because their work is good, and because they're easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. People will forgive the lateness of your work if it's good and they like you. And you don't have to be as good as everyone else if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.
Interesting speech-although I'm not fully convinced. Some of my skepticism about the bright, creative freelance future was posted in my review of Lynda Gratton's book 'The Shift'.

Development Studies as a degree in translation

The answer, then, is perhaps not a demand-driven degree, but instead an academic program that engages and cultivates relationships across the implementation world to remain responsive to need and demand, while at the same time helping to shape that demand through research, writing and a flow of well-trained students into development practice. This will require a very different sort of staffing than most new programs have on hand – it will require identifying not only talented academics, but also those willing to leave the world of implementation to teach (or development studies is going to have to cultivate a lot more people like me with experience in both worlds). Once the staffing problem is sorted out, there will be a cultural problem – how to build rapport between critical academics and thoroughly modernist practitioners such that the program has intellectual coherence (it doesn’t go very well when faculty contradict one another course to course) and might actually generate new and exciting research and teaching. It will be interesting to watch the new programs, as they emerge, negotiate these issues . . .
Great post from Edward Carr-must read for everybody who teaches international development studies!


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