Links & Contents I Liked 72

Hello all,

Sometimes the intro feels like more work than the actual link short: as with previous weeks, there's lot of great stuff to discover. It's broadly along the 'words' and 'action' trajectory and different moments when one or the other seems to speak louder/too loud. The humanicontrarian points out how the illusion of political will is maintained through celebrities, summits and inaction on the ground. On the other hand, there are great success stories of reducing open defecation and introducing more efficient stoves in Nepal that are often ignored by the media. There's more on drones and peacekeeping, World Bank corruption and the question of how peacebuilding should engage with homicides & crime in post-war situations. Duncan Green introduces his 'best of blogging' and the UN-ECA's Director's blog proves to be a great new find. A new anthropological project engages with questions of gender and harassment in the field, French science students reflect on the use of academic blogging and a critical post explorer how open access and innovation are unlikely to disrupt academic publishers' business model in the near future.


New on aidnography
Social Entrepreneurship in the Age of Atrocities (book review)
The book is definitely an important contribution to the debate, but tough questions about the underlying ‘entrepreneurial’ social and economic discourses remain as well as the question of how the entire social entrepreneurial ‘value chain’ can be transformed for a more equitable and co-operative global future.
The book is a very interesting and important window into how today’s ‘high potentials’ engage in international development with an enhanced set of skills and a strong entrepreneurial spirit to have a sustainable impact. All of the contributors seem to know a lot about leadership, project management and ‘development 2.0’ which indirectly puts a spotlight on traditional donors and organizations and the many ways they often do not seem to get ‘it’ (yet?). It also raises questions for educators on all levels how to ensure a balanced education that includes critical development, hands-on, and entrepreneurial thinking and skills. As development dynamics are changing rapidly large organizations either need to be more ‘entrepreneurial’ – or they need to communicate better why these models may not be appropriate in a specific context.
From a research perspective, I am wondering whether some of the success stories have been positively distorted by the entrepreneur’s status and positionality: Accessing high-caliber mentoring opportunities and avenues for significant fundraising or publicity may be easier once you have entered certain university- or company-based networks and are exposed to a culture of charitable giving, volunteering, pro-bono work and innovative organizational practices and leadership styles in various industries. It would be fantastic if some of the ideas and approaches could be taken on by grassroots initiatives and a more diverse group of citizens.

World Bank locks out SNC-Lavalin over Bangladesh bribery scandal

The 10-year prohibition was negotiated between the company and the bank and is the largest debarment that a company has agreed to as part of a settlement since the bank began sanctioning firms that seek to corrupt public officials.
Neither the World Bank, nor SNC, would detail what the company is alleged to have done in Cambodia, except to say that SNC has acknowledged corruption as part of its role in a World Bank-financed electric transmission project. That particular project has since been completed, the bank says.
Knowing the Bank's interest in 'open data', I can't wait to see all the documents about these cases online soon...because I vaguely remember a phrase that 'everyone with a laptop' could hold the Bank accountable...but I guess this only applies to 'soft data', not the operational nuts and bolts...

The Illusions of Political Will

The obvious question is this: Why now? It all sounds fine, laudable even. Like progress. Like an important change. Like the powerful nations who control the world are finally going to end this pox. But this is not a new issue. So why now? What does it really mean that the world is supposedly finally getting serious about rape in war?
Another answer is that Jolie has it wrong when she laments the lack of political will. At least since the war in Bosnia almost two decades ago, the world has done everything it knows how to do, if judged by how we typically address this sort of issue. There has been no shortage of reports, symposiums, declarations, news coverage, NGOs, celebrities etc etc. Even a few prosecutions. Rape in war was elevated to the status of a crime against humanity. Aside from not being the issue du jour of the G8 foreign ministers, what level of attention/action has rape in war not garnered?
1. Talk about it.
2. Do a bunch of stuff.
3. Observe that actions do not live up to either our hopes or our publicity.
4. Praise the effort and proclaim to have learned valuable lessons.
5. Start over again at Step 1, with a ratcheted up version of the same recipe. That may sound somewhat depressing. The truth may be worse. Maybe the Hague-Joliesque occasional trumpeting of All New! and Improved Efforts, Strategies & Conviction to Act™ functions as its own failure guarantee. Maybe it is the very act of the G8 press conference that takes the wind out of the sails of political urgency.
Brilliant post by the humanicontrarian. It reminded me a bit about last week's debate around the use of long reports that often seem to be written by Captain Obvious and that somehow seem to have the aim of collective nodding and wishing that something 'could be done about it'.

Counting matters! Statistics are the backbone of proper planning for Africa’s future

As much as we like to hear about Africa’s growth figures we should be also concerned about the quality of the data. Maybe the picture will be even better if we had good data but most likely less glamorous than it looks. The question is, can we verify the numbers behind telecoms, retail, banking, corruption, poverty and the like? What is the statistical basis for putting out these figures? And can they be corroborated by the facts on the ground?
Take the MDGs for example, only 17 African countries have collected data to measure changes in poverty in the past decade and 47 percent of African countries have not carried out a household income or expenditure survey in more than five years.
I wish more senior UN people would start blogging; UNECA's Executive Director Carlos Lopes' blog is a great example of how you can communicate differently and critically so I actually want to come back to read more-and not just press clippings!

Drones could replace peacekeepers in Ivory Coast

"The peace process in Ivory Coast is still fragile, and this is a period of time with three elections that could be significant flashpoints – with Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ivory Coast all going to the polls in 2015," said Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at Chatham House. "Is this really the time to be significantly reducing UN peacekeeping operations?"
"Drones are only as good as the ability to act on the intelligence that they then obtain," Vines added. "Whether a drone monitoring the west of Ivory Coast will be effective without significant numbers of boots on the ground has to be questioned."The use of unmanned surveillance drones as part of peacekeeping operations is controversial.
Drones may ease some of the pressure that peacekeeping faces in the short term while many new ethical challenges emerge that the UN may have a hard time to handle. But the lack of financial support for peacekeeping missions, proper training for troops and sustainable political solutions will limit the impact of any technology (not exactly rocket science when it comes to Africa's development history...).

Conflict Ideas Forum - James Cockayne

James Cockayne, Former Co-Director, Center on Global Counterterrorism
Cooperation, New York, answers "Given that numbers of homicides far outweight numbers of battle deaths, do you think peacebuilding is missing the target?"
Excellent question! The nexus between traditional post-war/-conflict peacebuilding and deadly post-conflict crimes hasn't been explored much. I guess a more tricky question would be to explore whether liberal peacebuilding indirectly even contributes to post-war criminality as societies undergo crucial social and economic transformations to fit into the global capitalist system...

Too good to be true

The media isn’t really bothered much that the government is now on a toilet-building spree and districts are competing with each other to declare themselves open-defecation free. Already women in villages are refusing to marry into families that don’t have toilets. Catalysed by donors, water, hygiene and sanitation campaigns have now moved beyond being just an NGO project. It is a social movement which doesn’t need money as much as a change in mindset and awareness about how little it takes to save lives. When communities are empowered, they don’t need a donor-funded project. They need ideas and affordable solutions.
Last week we carried a story from Dadeldhura in far-western Nepal where mothers have seen the benefit of improved smokeless stoves that have become so popular, metal workshops can’t manufacture the chulos fast enough. The stoves cost Rs 400, but they can reduce a mother’s daily workload by more than half because they use half the fuel wood, cook twice as fast, and pots and pans don’t get as dirty. The women and children don’t suffer chronic eye infection anymore and the incidence of pneumonia has dropped dramatically.
Interesting insights from Nepal (which sound familiar in many other development-related discussions): While most of the media likes to focus on the public political 'action' (which is often really inaction that just looks active) they tend to overlook the slow, but profound changes locally. The reduction of open defecation is probably one of those 'silent' success stories that deserves more praise.

FP2P greatest hits: top posts & comments by theme (ag, inequality, results, education etc) now available

So my long-suffering colleagues Sarah Minty read the lot, and grouped together relevant posts under categories such as Agriculture, Climate Change, Inequality, or Monitoring, Evaluation & Learning. The links take you through both to posts and (just as important) comments.
Pdf with links to posts in all categories here.
Duncan Green's development blogging success stories have now found a proper 'best of' space for re-reading and sharing!

Development news in brief:

New Journal Articles on Refugee Issues (weekly)

The Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging, (CMRB) at the University of East London has a blog with links to tons of interesting resources.

Journal of Sport for Development

The Journal of Sport for Development (JSFD) is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal.
The Journal’s mission is to advance, examine and disseminate evidence and best practices for programmes and interventions that use sport to promote development, health and/or peace. JSFD seeks original submissions from SFD researchers and implementers, including experts and young researchers in public health, education, gender equity, disability, youth development, economics and conflict.
Interesting new journal based in New Zealand.

Volunteering in international development: how to do it well

Join our live chat, Friday 19 April at 1pm BST, to share best practice in international volunteerism
The GUARDIAN Global Development Professionals Network will discuss volunteering tomorrow!

“I had no power to say ‘that’s not okay:’” Reports of harassment and abuse in the field

We have only begun to look at relationships between personal demographics and incidences of abuse for the quantitative work, and some core themes that unite the interviews in the qualitative work.
We heard many reports of women not being allowed to do certain kinds of field work, being driven or warned away from particular field sites, and being denied access to research materials that were freely given to men (and men who were given access were the ones telling us these things). Ultimately, not being able to go to certain field sites, having to change field sites, or not being able to access research materials means women are denied the opportunity to ask certain research questions in our field. This has the potential to limit the CVs of women and given them permanently lesser research trajectories. This can lead to not getting jobs, or getting lower-tier jobs. It also means certain research questions may get primarily asked by one gender, and reducing the diversity of people doing research has been shown to reduce the diversity and quality of the work.
The culture at these problematic field sites isn’t going to change just because we will it. Those of us in power need to implement policies that will protect individuals most at risk, and help create field site conditions that minimize risk altogether. We need human subjects approval, animal research approval, data management plans, lab safety plans, postdoc mentoring plans in order to conduct research. It’s time to require some sort of code of conduct for researchers at field sites, with clear mechanisms to make it easy for people to report harassment.
Anthropology continues its quest into critical self-reflection and addressing important questions that many disciplines are still silent about.

Disruption Ain’t What It Used to Be

It may be disruptive to the vendor that lost the account and it surely is disruptive to people who are dismissed, but the same old business continues on its way, sour expression in its face, receiving 85% of its revenues from academic libraries as it has for years.
Meanwhile, Gold OA is growing and will continue to grow. The traditional publishers can only dream of growing so fast — and that is why so many of them are determined to coopt Gold OA publishing with services of their own. Over the 3-5 year timeframe we have two markets: the traditional one, served as before, and the Gold OA market, which forms a ring around the traditional market, adding to total expenditures but not fundamentally altering the prospects of the larger established firms.
Great reflections on the academic journal publishing industry, the lack of innovation and why 'open access' will not disrupt 'everything' in the near future.

Science Blogs and Your PhD

Blogging also means improving one’s writing skills, editing speed, and scientific analysis, which are all valuable abilities when it comes to writing your thesis. It is also a golden opportunity to take an interest in new subjects. A PhD implies a commitment over a three-year period to two, sometimes three, research subjects. Varying your interests is a way to get a bit of distance from your own work. This can help us analyze the research direction to which we contribute in a larger sense, with a broader point of view.
Blogging on other subjects allows you to increase your interdisciplinary, general culture, which can stimulate innovative ideas. As a matter of fact, there are numerous innovations inspired by other disciplines.
In human and social sciences and in literature, there are still PhD candidates without offices or laboratories or teams to work with. Sophie Le Filleul, a PhD student in performing arts and founding member of the blog for PhD candidates and doctors of Paris West University, explains that she started blogging “in order to escape the isolation, the solitude, and to talk about subjects that fascinated me.”
Some excellent points regarding academic blogging for PhD students/ the way: I will be in Manchester next week (virtually) and will share some of my humble insights with a great group of Geography students.
The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses: Walter Benjamin’s Timeless Advice on Writing

Benjamin offers thirteen essentials of the writer’s technique, touching on familiar themes like the value of keeping a notebook (Virginia Woolf), the incubation period of ideas (T. S. Eliot), the role of discipline (Henry Miller), and the distinct stages of writing (Malcolm Cowley)
The blog is a bit heavy on the advertisement/donation side, but the reflections on Walter Benjamin's advice for writers is quite relevant.


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Dear white middle class British women: Please don't send used bras (or anything, really) to Africa