Links & Contents I Liked 60

Hello all,

It's always neat when the weekly link collection ends up with some kind of theme or thread guiding my collecting and commenting and hopefully your reading, too...I guess this week is all about some of the great (new) ways a diverse range of women are contributing to what it means to be professionally involved in 'development'. Rosalind Eyben contributes to the evidence and impact debate that is taking place at Duncan Smith's blog; Mary B. Anderson's new project on 'Time to Listen' is included, so is Alanna Shaikh's post on the current state and hopefully better future of aid coordination. Marianne 'Zen peacekeeper' Elliott talks about yoga, well-being and the power of narratives whereas Janine di Giovanni reflects on being a frontline war reporter.
Last not least, Leila Janah shares some insights of managing a successful social enterprise-and why being 'the woman' on a conference panel may actually be a good thing...and there is more interesting stuff to explore-some of it involving men, too ;)


New on aidnography

To give my review a better focus, I will highlight three themes that I found particularly interesting and that made the book an engaging and very worthwhile read beyond the factual content of how post-disaster aid did and did not unfold.
First, and maybe least surprising, Jonathan Katz highlights time and again that aid has always been political and that Haiti in 2010 and beyond is not different. Second, due to his professional lens as journalist he is in an interesting position to engage with the topic of celebrity activists and their involvement in Haiti. And third, as someone who enjoys reflective writing, Jonathan Katz’ style is an excellent example of how journalism and critical writing on the aid industry can be brought together with an involved, reflective approach that does not turn a critical journalist automatically into a ‘frontline hero’. 

Evidence and results wonkwar final salvo (for now): Eyben and Roche respond to Whitty and Dercon + your chance to vote

Chris and Stefan suggest ‘the commitment to evidence has opened up the space fundamentally to challenge conventional, technical approaches to aid.’ We would agree, but it would seem that the exception to this is when it comes to addressing the power of donors such as DFID, being honest about the domestic political pressures they are under, and assessing the possibility that their behaviour (including how evidence-based approaches are managerialised) may on occasions be undermining processes of development and social transformation. Is DFID drawing upon anthropologists or ethnographic researchers, as the Police in the UK have recently done, to understand how its policies on, for example, results or value for money change behaviour in the agency, and its relationships with others?
Unfortunately, the title of the post masks an excellent exchange over at Duncan Green's blog on the construction of 'evidence' and the politics of measuring development outcomes.

Report calls on aid agencies to listen to, work with, beneficiaries

The general message was that if beneficiaries had been included in discussions, they could have helped make the aid much better - better targeted, less wasteful and more transparently delivered. If aid agencies and NGOs were more open about their budgets, recipients would be less suspicious that funds were being misappropriated. And if they knew when a project was likely to end, they could plan for the future and not feel abandoned.
Brown and her colleagues found few people demanded more aid, and many asked for less. Recipients also wanted aid staff to return to see the longer-term effects of their work, both good and bad. Too often, projects are seen as finished once the last of the money is spent, and they are considered a success if they are completed on time and on budget, regardless of whether they lead to genuine development. The report dryly notes, “Just because something is measurable doesn’t mean that it is what should be assessed.”
Maybe I needed an article about the 'Time to listen' project to realize that somehow, somewhere the idea of 'listening to people' still needs some kind of empirical 'proof' that it's actually useful which says a lot about aid discourses and organizations...

Out of touch

People I know who work in various aid sectors sometimes ask me: “What’s up with Nepal? Nothing ever seems to improve, but all that aid money keeps pouring in.”
I usually tell them you could sum up the foreign-aid culture in Nepal by looking at the ICIMOD building at Khumaltar. It’s about the size of the royal palace, occasionally shows signs of life, but generally seems to get things done—generally. To me, it is the face of a big, top-heavy, foreign aid presence in Nepal.
This is the fatal flaw of Big Aid. Small to medium-sized local agencies with a good track record are not sought out as resources. Those seeking UN partnerships are given a gauntlet of bureaucratic obstacles before they can be considered acceptable under UN standards. The spirit of people wanting to help themselves is thus often squashed.

For us, the act of simply getting someone to listen became quite a quest.
These impressions from Nepal make an excellent 'reality check' why 'time to listen' is still not the norm and why large aid organizations need to be included and researched in the debates on how to measure policy, projects and impact.

The Future of Donor Coordination, Part I

It’s entirely possible that the future of aid coordination looks exactly like the present. A lot of well-meaning actors trying very hard to coordinate in a system that undermines those efforts. There’s a chance, though, that we can do something different.
Alanna Shaikh on 'coordination', one of the hottest buzzwords in the development lingosphere...

The Truth About Disruptive Development

This local talent is gradually acquiring the skills, resources, and support it needs to take back ownership of many of its problems—problems of which it never took original ownership because those skills and resources were not available. Well, now they are.
The ICT4D community—educational establishments, donors, and technologists, among them—need to collectively recognize that it needs to adjust to this new reality, and work with technologists, entrepreneurs, and grassroots nonprofits across the developing world to accelerate what has become an inevitable shift. Or it can continue along its present path, and become increasingly irrelevant. “Innovate or die” doesn’t just apply to the technologies plied by the ICT4D community. It applies to the ICT4D community itself.
The death decline of big, Northern-based aid organizations that facilitate projects in the developing world has been predicted before. So has the involvement of international aid workers in local projects. Both trends are still very much alive and kicking and I predict that the ICT4D community will be around for a while, too (whether or not it will be 'relevant' is a completely different discussion...)

A journey to do good

“I’ve always been really attracted to narrative as a way to learn about the world – I’m much more likely to pick a memoir or novel to learn about the world than a non-fiction account.
“Narrative to me is also at the heart of good legal work – if you can really tell the story of what happened to your client, that’s when people will be moved and things will shift. The power of narrative is a big thing I learned when I worked at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission – I learned that if you need to convince someone to get interested enough in a problem or an issue to make change you need to tell them a story."
Sacha Kenny interviews Marianne 'Zen peacekeeper' Elliott. This is a fascinating discussion which really says a lot about development and well-being and how the purpose of aid work and dealing with it has been shifting and changing - and that these changes have been driven by women like Marianne.

War stories: Read Janine di Giovanni’s powerful coverage of conflicts around the world

In 2004, di Giovanni had a son. And in this talk, she explains why she opted to cover the war in Iraq despite having a baby at home. She also shares why, less than a week after speaking at TEDxWomen, she headed back to Damascus to continue covering the conflict in Syria.
“I believe it needs to be done. I believe a story there has to be told,” she says. “What I see is incredibly heroic people fighting for things — like democracy — that we take for granted every single day … All I am is a witness. My role is to bring a voice to people who are voiceless … To shine a light in the darkest corners of the world.’”
This fascinating Ted-talk, journalist Janine di Giovanni has a completely different take on the topic of 'how women are using different narratives to influence policy-making, peace and development'...

Press Release: The European Journalism Centre Announces Journalism Grants for Innovations in Development Reporting

The Centre will provide a selection of innovative reporting projects with the necessary funds to enable journalists, editors, and development stakeholders to perform thorough research and to develop entirely new and experimental reporting and presentation methods. They will also be able to use multi-platform approaches and to think laterally across disciplines and techniques of journalistic storytelling. Award decisions, based on journalistic quality and merit, will be taken in complete editorial independence from the Gates Foundation.
The programme will launch three rounds of open calls for proposals and, in parallel, proactively solicit proposals from eminent media outlets focusing on the eight European countries with the highest development spending, namely France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
And if you have the narrative skills to report on innovations in development in your European home country, Bill & Melinda may be able to help you.

The essential social media for Kenyan journalists

I’ve also intentionally excluded a few groups. I didn’t include any politicians, though some maintain blogs, FB pages and Twitter streams. I figure anyone can select the politicians they want to follow. I’ve also not included any of the tech blogs, which are some of the most prominent blogs in Kenya. Still, I feel they are not necessarily essential to journalists. There are also lots of creative and intellectual blogs that – interesting though they may be – I wasn’t sure could be considered essential for journalists either. Perhaps I’ll add this list anyways.
My friend Nic Benequista on compiling social media resources in Kenya-I'm not an expert, but if you have an idea, I'm sure Nic appreciates your comment!

In search of ‘African redemption’

At first glance their endeavor might seem pretty standard: three young westerners looking for an adventure. But a closer look reveals the initiative is in fact yet another product of the Western ‘sustainable development’ discourse.
What better way to convince people of your message by having them watch and share YouTube videos of their peers meeting people on the ground affected by the ways of living in the West? African school children still proof to be the best prop.
Now that the trio has reached its final destination and a fresh duo is about to embark on a new journey, we wonder whether the trip will also answer why ‘first world’ Western documentary makers can’t stop using ‘Africa’ as a blank canvas onto which they can project their experiments/hopes of “finding themselves,” whilst reproducing the stereotypical image of a poor continent?
From the 'reporting on development-you are doing it wrong, guys' department (and yes, this 'development' effort is led by two young men...).

International development: big questions, small answers

While the questions in development are getting bigger, the professional and intellectual scene has never been so fragmented. It will take a formidable alchemy to forge strong solutions here. One thing is clear: wasting years on a technocratic debate about goals which are for advocacy more than anything else – and likely drawn up without reference to such fundamentals as political rights – is not a serious response to the dysfunctional summitry, procrastination and missed targets of recent years.
Five Lessons from Four Years at Samasource
Use what you've got. Every week I get a lot of requests to speak on panels and at conferences. About two years ago I finally realized that people weren't always calling on me because I had brilliant things to say -- they were trying to include more young women and nonprofit leaders in their events. I was a diversity card. This made me feel awkward, resentful, and tokenized. I briefly contemplated a conference hiatus. And then I looked at our sales deals -- ten of the twelve top contracts we've signed have been through connections I made at conferences. Does it matter why I was invited? Not really. What matters is the end result. I just had to get over it.
Leila Janah's reflections from four years of running her nonprofit are another great and hands-on example to round off the unofficial 'women doing great stuff in development' theme and an somehow unofficial 'reply' to the challenges pointed out in the Guardian piece about 'small answers'...

Piecing it Together: Post-Conflict Security in an Africa of Networked, Multilevel Governance

How do, could and should institutions responsible for security and the management of conflict in Tropical African societies respond to violent conflict? This IDS Bulletin is built on the observation that all governance (especially in Africa) is multileveled and networked – from the village to the international organisation, well beyond what is specified in formal government structures.
Thus the focus must be not only on the ways in which key conflict-management institutions evolve themselves but also on the changing ways in which the networks where they are embedded actually operate. This issue is about post-conflict reconstruction and the rebuilding of shattered states and societies, presenting fieldwork from articles covering the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Somalia.
The great new IDS Bulletin is available as open-access publication, i.e. full articles can be downloaded for FREE!

Update 23 January 2013 – Anthropology of Development & more!

Great links curated by Jason Antrosio and I add as full disclosure that he included my 'Big Truck' review which I really appreciate ;)!

The Neoliberalized, Debt-plagued, Low Wage, Corporatized University

The goal of this site is to explore contemporary anthropology through essays, short articles, and opinion pieces written from diverse perspectives.
A great collection of essays and excellent entry point into the current debates of for-profit higher education, universities as work places and the state of the academy-all in a very reader-friendly, jargon-light format.

Why We Blog: An Essay in Four Movements

This essay comprises four parts, each by one of the co-bloggers at In the Middle
Karl Steel argues that the benefits of academic blogging outweigh its potential humiliations, and that academic conferences should post their papers publicly and allow for comments so that conferences, in a sense, never end. Graduate students and junior scholars should be encouraged to blog to help build a community and a trade in ideas, and to accustom them to the feelings of exposure and humiliation common to all writing, which will thereby train them to become more confident scholars. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen examines some of the difficulties posed by the age of e-medieval: an internet culture of negativity. Blogging entails finding strategies for man-aging harsh or off topic comments, as well as for coping with unwanted attention. Drawing on the pedagogical distinction Nancy Sommers makes between process and product, Mary Kate Hurley examines the role blogs might play in creating a communal space in which to share unfinished ideas. Blogs might be an ideal medium for the process of thinking, rather than the finished work of having had thought. Eileen A. Joy argues there may be more value in thinking and ‘‘working through’’ our scholarship online, in an ‘‘open’’ environment that promotes and invites democratic,catholic, and convivial support, as well as the accidental tourist and silent voyuer, than there is in the traditional ‘‘finished product’’ of a journal article or book. It pleads, further, for a better awareness of the fact that intellectual property is always co-extensive and communal.
Great piece on academic blogging!


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