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Hello all,

As some of the more political science-minded among you have probably noticed, this week's annual meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA) got cancelled. I wasn't planning to attend in the first place (The Monkey Cage had an
interesting discussion about the whole cancel-not cancel/ attend-not attend scenario), but I took the opportunity and suggested a virtual panel via a Google HangOut and it looks like this will be happening tomorrow, Friday 31 August from 12 noon to 1p.m. EST (drop me a line if you are interested to join but I will also tweet details). The original panel 'Issues of and Responses to Internet Governance' will likely be reduced to two nonetheless interesting presentations: JP Singh (Georgetown University) will present 'Representing Power: Participation and Deliberation in ICT4D Projects and Internet Governance' and Daniel Esser (American University) will present a paper he and I co-wrote together: 'Do Social Media Reproduce or Challenge Global Development Rituals? A Content Analysis of Blogs and Tweets on the 2010 MDG Summit'.
I will also try to record the discussion on YouTube and share it in case you won't be able to join us 'live' tomorrow.

In the meantime enjoy a fresh round-up of interesting links!

How YOU would make aid better!

If you don’t meet qualifications or do a bad job, you should be fired. We fret so much about firing people. But seriously, if you suck at your job, why should you be hired again? In line with this is of course, that organizations should be training their people better. Train people seriously. Look at what their real gaps are and put them in situations where they CAN succeed. Too often we just stick people in positions since the position is empty and it needs a body in there. That is SO irresponsible.
A great overview over a recent blog-up on AidSource and some really good pieces of advice on how to make aid 'better'.

Sachs Doesn't Buy Why Nations Fail's Thesis

What stands out is not so much that argument that Sachs makes against Why Nations Fail, but the way that that argument applies to his own theories. The point on needing more evidence should certainly apply to an intervention that is taking up money to operate. The mention of complexity is a way to tip his hat at not being able to gather every data point on what is working, but it then calls into question his earlier points that the evidence must be overwhelming for the authors.
Tom Murphy comments on Jeff Sachs' review of 'Why Nations Fail'

Oslo Freedom Forum - Andrew Feinstein

Andrew Feinstein is an academic, writer, and former member of the South African Parliament. He is the author of The Shadow World, a behind-the-scenes exposé of the global arms trade that examines the deadly collusion between senior politicians, weapons manufacturers, felonious arms dealers, and the military. He is currently an Open Society Institute Fellow and is a founding director of Corruption Watch in London.
A TED-style 15 minute video on the arms trade-highly recommended!
The trade of arms account for about 40% of corruption in all world trade. (...) Corruption and illegality are built into the very structure, the very DNA of the arms business.
Top 10 Suggestions and Resources for Finding Internships in Intl Development, CR and Related Fields
Many students are interested in finding appropriate internships in the field to help develop their skills and experience. There are a number of suggestions that could be helpful in the search for a great internship that are offered below.
The suggestions are a bit general and won't 'solve' existential problems (e.g. unpaid internships), but Craig Zelitzer's overview is a good starting point

Famine FAIL II: This is how the hell it happened…

So, given the twitter/blog/social media/whatever response to my post expressing shock at my students’ lack of awareness of the Horn of Africa drought, I did a little follow-up with them today.
A summary, for those of you interested in how the hell a bunch of college students/college-bound high school students could have missed a crisis of this size
In short, when we engage complexity, we find there is something that can draw in almost anyone on their terms. After the conversation with the students today, it seems really clear to me that they would like to be engaged in this manner – stop treating them like apathetic idiots who just don’t/won’t understand. Why?
To summarize: I think I was right in my initial post. My students’ failure to recall the Horn of Africa crisis was not really their fault. The messaging went awry in all sorts of ways because it assumed a lot about the audience (they had no interest in the issue, and only wanted simple stories with simple solutions) that was simply wrong. Not everyone is going to care about every crisis – everyone has limited bandwidth – and so bad messaging just fell back into the everyday noise of social and old media, another data point among many, but nothing new or engaging. Good messaging won’t make everyone care about every crisis, but it could engage enough of the right people each time to get us different outcomes, and fewer crises in the future.
Edward Carr's reflections from his classroom experiences with students' knowledge and engagement with the drought at the Horn of Africa are interesting, however they also leave me a bit dissatisfied. First, I think any organisation would find it difficult to have a memorable impact when 'hunger', 'drought' and 'Horn of Africa' are involved. The narrative and images of conflict, starvation, deprivation and dust will most likely only foster stereotypes regardless of the actual situation on the ground. Second, I think that Edward overestimates the ability of 'normal' people (those 99% that are not development experts) to engage with complexity. Some of his students (partly because they have a great teacher ;) may want a more nuanced picture, but most people don't. If you are a humanitarian organisations that has to do fundraising this is a bit of a catch-22: Simple narratives generate emotional responses, but when it comes to the Horn of Africa even that doesn't work anymore, but I doubt that 'complicating' the message will have much success. In the end, everybody loses-especially local people who have been stuck in conflict and misery for decades.

Development Data Challenge: see the projects and code from our hackday

More development data is in the public domain than ever before. Governments have made recent commitments to transparency and open data. And a growing number of donors are publishing data in common formats such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standard. But the debate is quickly shifting from the quantity to the quality of information released.

Two projects over the weekend honed in on the data donors have recently published to the IATI. One tried to explore whether it is possible to track funds from donor agencies through their partners to delivery on the ground (unfortunately, they found, it isn't). Another group worked on tools to examine the quality of data donors have published to IATI (unfortunately, it seems, it isn't always very good).
Great overview over open aid developments from the GUARDIAN hackday.

Development assistance for health by channel of assistance (Global), 1990-2011, interactive treemap

Track the changing trends in development assistance for health (DAH) from 1990 to 2011. You can see how the proportion each channel of assistance allocates to DAH changes over time.
The UN system seems the biggest 'loser' and NGOs and big foundations really have a significant impact on health funding. Neat visualisation!

Opening our anthropological conversations: An Interview with Tom Boellstorff

I had the chance to conduct an email-based interview with Tom Boellstorff during this past month to explore some of his views about Open Access (hereafter OA) publishing in anthropology.
As you note, for graduate students and new Ph.D.s there is “tremendous pressure to publish in order to ‘make it’ in anthropology.” But I do think publishing is very important in many ways and isn’t just a game as such. Whether we end up with employment in academia, nonprofits, government, industry, or other venues (and sometimes movement between them), those who hire people have to have a way to calibrate talent and decide who to hire. This is not just a feature of a hard job market or myths of meritocracy narrowly conceived: we always have to make these decisions. Competitive journals are one way of showing that you are seen as a valuable member of your research community. Another is citation patterns: you can have work published in a major venue that isn’t cited much, and work published in venues seen as of a lower status, but that gets cited much more and shapes conversations much more, and that can be taken into account.
A long and balanced discussion on the future of open access publishing in anthropology.

#virtualapsa2012 Continued

Maybe I will be seeing some of you tomorrow commenting on brilliant papers on Twitter as data, conference rituals and participation in ICT4D projects?


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