Links & Contents I Liked 53

Hello all,

This week's links focus is on a slightly broader range of development-related topics from fighting censorship to unpaid care-giving, another new development professional network, Canada's policy shift to 'mining for peace and prosperity' (actual title of the policy document may be different), foreign policy lobbying in the U.S., a slightly unsatisfying TedX talk on listening, how the Avon model is reinvented in developing countries, the burning question of what consultants do ('
fifty percent of the job is nodding your head at whatever’s being said, thirty percent of it is just sort of looking good, and the other twenty percent is raising an objection but then if you meet resistance, then dropping it')....and L-O-V-E ;)!


New on aidnography
Book review: The Golden Fleece-Manipulation & Independence in Humanitarian Action

We Fight Censorship (WeFC) is a Reporters Without Borders project that aims to combat censorship and promote the flow of news and information.
Stories from Vietnam, Chad and Eritrea are among the case studies WeFC has published so far. This really has great 'development-' and transparency-related potential. I have not read about this incident in Chad elsewhere:
To protest against this judicial censorship, all of Chad’s independent and opposition print media suspended publication for a week and prepared a special single-issue “Newspaper of Newspapers” in support of Nékim with “We’ve had enough” as its title and a print run of 5,000 copies.
The entire issue was seized from the printing press on the orders of the public prosecutor, who – after some hesitation – said he had taken this action because it lacked the High Council for Communication’s permission and the certificate normally issued by the prosecutor’s office for this kind of publication.
What Next Volume III: Climate, Development and Equity
This 360-page new What Next Volume includes more than 20 articles by some of the world's most far-sighted commentators, researchers and activists.
It presents voices from across the North and South, addressing the combined challenges of climate, development and equity. It highlights the urgency of taking action, but also shows why any attempt to tackle climate change must be grounded in equity. How will humanity fairly divide the rapidly diminishing global carbon budget, while allowing billions of people in the global South (and North) the means for economic, social and environmental well-being? How can United Nations negotiations move forward, and what are real and false solutions? The publication covers the scientific and equity context of climate change, the UN negotiations, real and false solutions and discussions on movement towards change and the role of civil society.
Great range of resources as the debates in Doha unfold...

The Hegemony Cracked: The Power Guide to Getting Care onto the Development Agenda

This paper uses power analysis and the notion of hegemony to enquire into the historical neglect of unpaid care in the international development sector. In the light of that analysis the paper looks at how to exploit the hegemonic contradictions that provide openings for getting care onto development policy agendas. Addressing feminist practitioners and scholar-activists, the paper proposes a strategy of a succession of small wins in naming, framing, claiming and programming care. These can contribute to a change of mindset among citizens, think tanks and policy-makers about the significance of care.
Interesting new paper from IDS on a topic that has not been on the development agenda as aging and care become a bigger issues everywhere.

Global Development Professionals Network: a new beginning

The aim of the new network is to offer a space where professionals can network as well as share knowledge and expertise. We hope to achieve this through a blend of comment, analysis, online discussions and offline events, recognising that the day-to-day lives of development professionals are constantly in flux as a result of changes in technology, policy and collaborations across the public and private sectors.
The Guardian is committed to open journalism, recognising that the best understanding of the world is achieved when we collaborate, share knowledge, encourage debate, welcome challenge and harness the expertise of specialists and their communities. That is particularly true of development, where professionals working across the world, sometimes in remote locations, hold great stories of knowledge and expertise that too often go unheard.
From a journalistic point of view I totally dig the Guardian's approach. I always appreciate it if traditional news media recognize that there are many experts on any given topic out there that can greatly enhance journalism. The Guardian's coverage of development has definitely been a good example so far. However, I am not entirely convinced whether this approach really requires a new network. It could become some form of duplication of AidSource and I wonder whether teaming up with an existing network would have been the better alternative. But this is definitely a space to watch...

Love actually…is all around the aid world

But, when compelled by one type of love to take a field-based position to assist in the fight for various egalitarian ideals, are we exposing ourselves to an inequality and disadvantage in life? Of finding that most prized and sought after type of love which makes the world go round – romance?
What is romance? What is romance between humanitarian workers? What is romance in the field?
So, if the lack of partner availability turns out to be a real, not perceived, issue, it could have important implications for international development. We may need to recommend to donors that to achieve better outcomes in the field, they may have to direct funding towards recruitment campaigns to bolster the quantity of potential partners for aid workers in the field; particularly of men. It could be considered a gender mainstreaming activity. At the very least, we could hold UN Speed Dating Coordination Nights (UNSDCN) and host a dating reality TV show called ‘Beneficiary of Love‘.
Combining a serious development topic with initial 'research' and a good deal of tongue-in-cheek humor is when the folks of are at their best :)!

Canada’s foreign aid doesn’t exist to keep NGOs afloat, Fantino says

The minister’s comments come less than a week after he delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada outlining CIDA’s plans to align itself more closely with the private sector and work more openly at promoting Canadian interests abroad. CIDA already funds several non-governmental organizations to work on development projects with Canadian mining companies – a move that has raised concerns for some development agencies.
He also announced $25-million in funding for a new extractive industry institute, to be hosted by the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University. The institute is expected to provide policy advice to developing countries with mining industries.
Apparently, Australian aid is moving into a similar direction (supporting 'mining for development'). In other news:

The billion-dollar question: Where is Angola's oil money?

But advocacy group Human Rights Watch has contended that tens of billions of dollars of oil money has skipped Angola's central bank entirely and disappeared. The International Monetary Fund says Sonangol spends billions off the books.
Isaac said oil revenues have created an enormous slush fund for the country's elite.
I'm sure Canadian or Australian institutions will be happy to provide 'capacity-building' to Angolan companies and institutions...

How law firms, arbitrators and financiers are fuelling an investment arbitration boom

A small club of international law firms, arbitrators and financial speculators are fuelling an investment arbitration boom that is costing taxpayers billions of dollars and preventing legislation in the public interest, according to a new report from the Transnational Institute and Corporate Europe Observatory.
Profiting from Injustice uncovers a secretive but burgeoning legal industry which benefits from these disputes – at the expense of taxpayers, the environment and human rights. Law firms and arbitrators, who are making millions from investment disputes against governments, are actively promoting new cases and lobbying against reform in the public interest.
Interesting report with potential 'development' implications.

The Privatization of US Foreign Policy: An Interview with the Author of The Foreign Policy Auction

So, how do we decide where to send our weapons? The countries that lobby for them. I looked at all the countries receiving military aid from the US during a five-year period and found that only one country (Haiti) wasn't given any weapons. This pattern is perfectly clear - foreign leaders know to send their money to K Street; we then send them weapons. The worst part is that the US, which was already the leading arms distributor in the world, doubled overseas arms sales in the last four years. With Pentagon budget cuts looming, the big defense contractors have already announced that they're looking to foreign markets to keep sales up. So, all signs point to increasing foreign military sales, and we'll be selling to whoever has the best lobbying or public relations teams working for them.
But lobbying isn't the only service foreign governments need. Dictators often hire public relations firms for "image management." Translated from public relations speak, this means they're looking to convince the US that, despite all the messy torturing and violating of human rights, they're actually great guys that the US should be friends with!
Whether a foreign government is looking for lobbying, "image management," or both, the money comes directly from the government. And a disproportionate amount of money comes from regimes that aren't exactly the Boy Scouts of the international arena. Libya, Egypt, Liberia, Sudan, Iran and even North Korea have had agents working on their behalf in the US. Often, when relations with the US sour, a country will dramatically increase its lobbying efforts, like Pakistan's advocates did after the death of Osama bin Laden.
Definitely a book to look out for...and yet another reminder that we need to look beyond our own filter bubbles when we want to assess the impact of policy and 'non-development' issues on developing countries and their political systems.

Kosovo, Europe's cultural ghetto

"It's really frustrating when you come from Kosovo but want to belong to the world. You're isolated and feel like you're not a part of things and the world makes it clear that you don't belong - every time to express your wish to be a citizen of the world," said the young Kosovar film director Blerta Zegiri.
And interesting article of what it feels like to live and work in a 'fragile state' that is not recognized and integrated into the international community.

The Power of Failure

Any organization still around after realizing a failure in its earlier model was obviously either well enough equipped to survive a major failure, or the failures it is discussing with the public and with other organizations only represented small losses to the organizations' overall funding.
The many, many nonprofits who never get off the ground and who never achieved any real or lasting success before going under are very unlikely to be available to share their failure stories--Despite the likelihood that some of these organizations' lessons on failure might be the most helpful and most important ones for other non-profits to learn about.
If you are around at all to talk about past failure, as an organization, it is precisely because your organization as a WHOLE has been an ongoing success, despite any and all failures to individual initiatives and projects that you may have encountered on the way.
If people really want to benefit from the failure of other organizations, they need to invite the leaders from now defunct non-profits, NGOs and charities who had good ideas, who did not go under from fraud or theft or embezzlement by top executives, and who had adequate initial funding, and yet still never made it through to the other side.
The post on 'Admitting Failure' and similar initiatives provides a great overview, but, in the spirit of the Guardian journalism mentioned above, I'm quoting from 'Psychedelico's' comment.
I agree that at the moment those who are bold enough to step forward and admit 'failure' are mostly new, innovative and 'sexy' organizations that can afford to speak publicly about 'failure'. I'm looking forward to seeing the first for-profit consulting firm, security contractor or bilateral donor coming forward and admitting failure, potentially (shock, horror!) having wasted taxpayers money on a development project!!

What is expected of a consultant

Fellow consultants and associates . . . [said] fifty percent of the job is nodding your head at whatever’s being said, thirty percent of it is just sort of looking good, and the other twenty percent is raising an objection but then if you meet resistance, then dropping it.
Instead, when I got to the meeting they seemed to want me to stand up and talk. So I did so for awhile. I told them about multilevel regression and poststratification and how great it was, also I gave some suggestions about improving the exit polls. Eventually I stopped. Somehow I’d talked for about 2 hours. There was silence. I said, Do you want me to leave now? Someone said yes. And that was it. They did pay me. But I never quite figured out what they wanted from me. Maybe just a rubber stamp? I have no idea.
These scenarios obviously only happen to economists and statisticians ;) scientist development consultants are known for their critical input that will almost always be taken on board, especially if insights were gained during a week-long 'mission' and in a near endless succession of meetings and workshops...
This year, instead of ranking think tanks lets think about them more carefully
Location then is a key unit of analysis; and a methodological issue that is absent from CGD’s list above. When comparing think tanks we should think hard about the space that these organisations share. Comparing think tanks in Indonesia would be better than comparing think tanks in South East Asia. But comparing regionally focused or foreign policy think tanks in the region may be better than just looking at these in a single country. Similarly, comparing sub-national think tanks to national think tanks may not be a straight forward affair. While their strategies may be the same their policy audiences are likely to be different and the scale of their influence incomparable: sub-national think tanks are more likely to focus on influencing policy at the provincial or state level while their national peers would be expected to operate in national or federal spaces. As a consequence the visibility and overall influence of the national think tank may be much greater than the sub-national one: but it would not be appropriate to rank one before the other.
Instead of buying into a ranking that they know is flawed (and they should; after all they are supposed to be all for quality research) they should respond by challenging its flaws and searching for more appropriate alternatives and a better use of the information that is now more readily available than ever.
Enrique Mendizabal reflects on efforts to improve Think Tank rankings that would actually require research, knowledge of local policy spaces and saying good-bye to simple numerical rankings...I'm afraid that this is still not on the menu when flawed, but easily sharable and commentable rankings can create digital buzz...

Selling sisters

Another advantage of the Avon model is that it is based on trust. “By having people at their doorstep from the local community, people they can relate with, telling them about this new product, they’re more likely to consider it,” says Shivani Siroya, founder of InVenture.
Women entrepreneurs can also top up their income—and decide themselves how much they want to make. “Solar Sisters”, for instance, are not pressed to sell as much as they can. If a sister’s needs are met by selling four solar lamps that month, she does not need to sell more, says Katherine Lucey, the founder of the charity.
How the Avon cosmetics model can work in the 21st century for women in developing countries...finally some positive news in this week's link-roundup :)!

Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

When most well-intentioned aid workers hear of a problem they think they can fix, they go to work. This, Ernesto Sirolli suggests, is naïve. In this funny and impassioned talk, he proposes that the first step is to listen to the people you're trying to help, and tap into their own entrepreneurial spirit. His advice on what works will help any entrepreneur.
I don't want to be rough, but I suggest you skip the first ca. 7 minutes where Ernesto talks about failed development projects in the 1970s. Focus on the remaining 10 minutes instead. There are some important nuggets of wisdom for anybody in development, e.g. 'Let me tell you a secret: There's a problem with community meetings...the smartest people of the community do not come to your public meetings' or 'I do something very difficult...I shut up and listen to THEM'. I also like the analogy of being a 'family doctor of enterprise' to activate communities. Ernesto also stresses
'confidentiality, passionate service and the truth of entrepreneurship: Fantastic product, fantastic marketing, fantastic financial management-no human being has ever achieved this'.
His reminder that 'nobody started a company alone' and that he sees his work as a 'dedicated buddy' to activate local entrepreneurism are also important points to take away from the presentation. And yet, at the end of the video there was this moment of satisfying superficiality that only TedX can provide...

7 free and useful data visualization tools reviewed

I just finished a short project for the Tactical Technology Collective where I reviewed seven free tools that can be used to manipulate or visualize data.
A short, but useful primer on data visualization tools.


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