Links & Contents I Liked 41

Hello all,

In addition to two new blog posts quite a few interesting stories ended up on my link list this week. From great collections of resources for studying/reading development to immersions, everyday lives of aidworkers, networked organisations and some other links that made me wonder in the end whether I am/we are a bit self-absorbed sometimes in development land ;)! Anyway...

Enjoy, share and be happy!

New on aidnography
Reflections on #virtualapsa & using HangOut for academic events
Last week, a core group of participants of the original APSA panel 40-3 'Issues of and responses to Internet governance' decided to take advantage of modern technology and try out a virtual panel via Google Hangouts.
I just want to take the opportunity and share a few technological, practical and academic reflections on the event.

The role of graduate studies in the 'flawed development system'- a reply to Karen Attiah
As development students submit their theses and finish their programs, Karen Attiah’s post ‘Who Gets to Criticize the International Aid System? Not Grad Students, Apparently’ is an interesting reminder about some of the core challenges that many new graduates are likely to face in the coming months.

Sweden grants 59.4 mln USD aid to Cambodia for social development

The Government of Sweden on Wednesday signed up to provide 400 million Swedish Kronor (59.4 million U.S. dollars) to Cambodia for causes of democratic development, human rights, education, and climate change for two years, said a Cambodian senior official.
You may be wondering why this is actually a news item...well, it's quite an old-fashioned example of providing aid for the right foreign policy. Because just a few days prior to the agreement, Cambodia arrested and agreed to deport the founder of the file-sharing site 'Pirate Bay' who was hiding in their country:

Pirate Bay founder will be deported from Cambodia, police say

So complying with the international copyright industry's demands leads to development rewards...

Personal coaches help Haitian families try to get out of poverty

Half of the commune’s 10,000 households are being assigned a “household development agent” — a neighbor who will work as a health educator, vaccinator, epidemiologist, financial analyst, social worker, scheduler and advocate all at the same time. With the agent’s help, a family will assess its needs and come up with a plan to make things better.
“The idea is to forge a relationship from the get-go,” said Maryanne Sharp, an official at the World Bank, which is overseeing the $4 million project. “We want the family to say, ‘Yes, we own the plan, and we will work on these objectives on this timetable.’
This sounds like an interesting project, but I don't feel entirely comfortable with it. I wonder whether this could essentially be an 'Oprah approach' to systemic development issues: Rather than focussing on root causes and broader systemic complexities you adopt an approach similar to Oprah Winfrey's discourse: Don't address political or social problems but individualise problems and send in an expert who teaches families 'good behaviour'. It would be fantastic to see that the families' situation will improve, but a personal coach is not a panacea to address deep rooted problems around poverty.

Robert Chambers – why don’t all development organizations do immersions?

Following on my review of Robert Chambers’ new(ish) book, ‘Provocations for Development’, I’m posting a couple of edited-down excerpts that caught my eye. Today, immersions – written in 2007 and a nice illustration of how Robert combines both the politics and practicalities of aid work.
Duncan's blog is an excellent place to learn more about Robert Chamber's work!

Development Work: A Labor of Love…and Paradox

The nine authors in this volume demonstrate how Aidland is characterized conflicting relationships among various aspects of the “system” that development workers do indeed navigate on a personal level, on a daily basis with examples from Ghana, Madagascar, Indonesia, Macedonia, Cambodia, and Nepal. Below in the tables are just a few of these aspects that are highlighted and discussed in Everyday Lives, vacillating between altruism and egoism, pleasure and duty, and reason and emotion
Jennifer Lentfer's review of 'Inside Everyday Lives of Development Workers' is a neat short post to reflect about some of our own everyday challenges of working in the aid industry...

Talk Point: why study development – and what are the best resources?
Back to School: Resources for Development Educators and Students
Both the GUARDIAN and the CGD are providing great introductions into more development-related readings and resources-perfect for the start of the academic year!

Introducing MRUniversity (spread the word)

That’s Marginal Revolution University, MRU, or I suppose to some “Mister” University.
We think education should be better, cheaper, and easier to access. So we decided to take matters into our own hands and create a new online education platform toward those ends. We have decided to do more to communicate our personal vision of economics to you and to the broader world.
Interesting idea to expand your academic brand recognition...See also:

Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey

Nor had I imagined the virtual and real-time continuous interaction among the students. There were spontaneous and continuing in-person study groups in coffee shops in Katmandu and in pubs in London. Many people developed dialogues after following one another's posts on various subjects, while others got to know those with a common particular interest, such as racial differences in IQ, the prisoner abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib, or ethnocentrism—all topics covered in the lectures.
As one of hundreds who posted in the past few days wrote, "It has been an incredible experience for me, one that has not only taught me sociology, but the ways in which other cultures think, feel, and respond. I have many new 'friends' via this class. ... "Another wrote, "It started as intellectual activity but it's ending in an indescribable emotional relationship with all my classmates."
Right now, most of these online courses are uncredited courses, but participants seem to enjoy them. Maybe right now such courses are the equivalent of a blog post or an open access journal and the question in the future will be to see how and whether they change the academic industry and the longer-term impact on students on how these courses make education more accessible...

Becoming a Networked Nonprofit

A network mindset exercises leadership through active participation, openness, decentralized decision-making, and collective action. It means operating with an awareness of the networks the organization is embedded in, and listening to and cultivating these networks to achieve impact. It means sharing by default and communicating through a network model, rather than a broadcast model—finding where the conversations are happening and taking part. It isn’t always easy or fast to do, as CEO of San Francisco Goodwill Debbie Alvarez-Rodriguez shared in a recent presentation about becoming a networked nonprofit.
A very interesting article...I'm just a little bit concerned that it may overwhelm staff and partners.
Redesigning your nonprofit organization to become more participatory, open, authentic, decentralized, collective, and effective—via social media, networks, and beyond.
I absolutely agree with all these elements, and yet I'm wondering when your networked organisation actually gets some real, old-fashioned work done...

Blogging and the workplace

Here are a few quick rules on writing a critical piece stemming from a conversation with my friend Ted, a young entrepreneur who writes prolifically.
- Protect the innocent - naming names isn’t usually necessary for making a point, even if the post is being critical. The damage it may do to the blogger, generally outweighs the positives.
- Pass the “rant” test - ask yourself, is this piece something I’m proud of, that I’d want others reading? Writing can be cathartic, but writing while emotionally charged can have consequences as well that are only visible after the damage has been done.
- Focus on yourself - what you learned, how it made you feel, and be honest about triumphs, and failures.
- Bolster your points by citing data, research, other authors, etc. Even opinion pieces can need more than just energy behind them.
Talking about the networked organisation...some pretty straightforward advice on professional blogging from Justin Koufopoulos
Hipstamatic Revolution

Perhaps the iPhone does trivialize—but in the case of contentious representations of everyday Africa, this is not its weakness but its strength. And for all the reasons that the iPhone fails at traditional photojournalism, perhaps it’s the most radical approach we can use to rethink the way we represent Africa.
Great pictures and reflections on photography on/from Africa!

writing from the PhD thesis: letting go

One strategy therefore is not to think about writing one article with all of its attendant problems of letting go and undoing. Rather, plan right at the start all of the possible articles that could be written. This means that you don’t have to worry about leaving some things out, because you know they will be covered in future articles.

So two steps to letting go.

Step One

It’s helpful to start the process of thinking of all of the articles to ask yourself some questions:
• Have I got anything to say about methodology or methods that isn’t already in the literature?
• Did I make a particular theoretical move in the thesis that I haven’t read about yet? Did I combine theories in a new or unusual way?
• Did my literature work reveal any patterns that deserve commentary?
• What was the single most important finding of the thesis? What was the close runner up?
• Was there something that I couldn’t spend as much time on as I wanted because it wasn’t directly germane to the question I was asking?
• Was there something unexpected that happened or that I ‘found’?
• Is there a taken for granted assumption in my area that my research really challenges?
I stumbled upon Pat Thomson's blog by chance and really enjoyed her hands-on practical publication advice!


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