Links & Contents I Liked 71

Hello all,

It really pays off to be part of a vibrant network of development blogging friends and colleagues! Whether on Madonna's visit to Malawi, the use of consultant's in development projects, a fascinating report on Colombia's 'University of Resistance' or a recap on participatory video-many friends really are at the frontiers of different debates! There are also some critical reflections on latest reports published by IDS and other research institutes as well as links to a scientific conference on the Fukushima
nuclear disaster and Richard Florida's admission that the 'creative class' may not have that significant of an impact after all-you will get the development relation when you scroll down...Finally, anthropologist graduate Sarah Kendzior reflects on the challenging post-PhD transition and a political scientists explains why his article on blogging was in the journal publication pipeline for almost two years.


What Matters Most? Evidence from 84 Participatory Studies with Those Living with Extreme Poverty and Marginalisation

This Participate report draws on the experiences and views of people living in extreme poverty and marginalisation in 107 countries.
It distils messages from 84 participatory research studies published in the last seven years. Forty-seven of these studies are based on creative material coming from visual participatory methods (see Bibliography for full details). A development framework post-2015 will have legitimacy if it responds to the needs of all citizens, in particular those who are most marginalised and face ongoing exclusion from development processes. The framework has to incorporate shared global challenges and have national level ownership if it is to support meaningful change in the lives of people living in poverty.
New research from IDS.
To be perfectly honest, I find the report quite uninspiring which may have to do with the topic rather than the methodology and presentation. There are just a lot of policy-speak and buzzwords involved that seem to make it difficult to have a meaningful debate about the 'post-2015' discourse.

What is the point of the European Report on Development 2013?

If you read the ERD as a thinktank document, it is pretty underwhelming. The 20 page exec sum (which is all they sent me in advance) contains no killer facts, no big new ideas and not much new reseach. When I asked one of the report’s authors for his 30 second elevator pitch on what was new, he couldn’t answer. So far, so bad (and they really need to get some media people involved on that elevator pitch).
Instead what you get is a decent overview of progressive thinking on inequality, migration, trade, domestic resource mobilization and the role of aid. And a lot of developmental platitudes: the ‘key conclusions’ include ‘a transformative agenda is vital’, ‘national ownership is key’, ‘the children are our future!’ (OK, I made that last one up).
But weirdly, no mention of the Eurozone crisis, and its likely impact on aid, trade and every other aspect of Europe’s relationship with the rest of the world.
Looks like Duncan Green had a similar experience with the European Report on Development. I mean seriously, who needs/reads let alone acts upon those things (anymore?)?

Dialogue Series No 10 - Peace Infrastructures - Assessing Concept and Practice

In the Berghof Handbook Dialogue Series No.10, Ulrike Hopp-Nishanka, Oliver P. Richmond, Hannes Siebert and Borja Paladini Adell add on to the debate on peace infrastructures from different perspectives, aiming to lead the debate forward on the emerging practice and theory. The authors each give examples of peace infrastructures that they have been involved in as practitioners and/or academics, inviting for joint reflection on past experiences and possible practices for the future.
Drawing from examples from Sri Lanka, Nepal, South Africa, Colombia, Lebanon and Cyprus, to name a few, the authors discuss whether and how peace should be given “an address”—and if so, how we best can support peace infrastructures while avoiding pitfalls.
Publications from Berghof are usually worthwhile reads, including their latest book publication The Non-Linearity of Peace Processes – Theory and Practice of Systemic Conflict Transformation which I reviewed some time ago.

Palm Oil for the West, Exploitation for Young Workers in Malaysia

In the wilds of Malaysian Borneo, the high cost of logistics inhibits the construction of more learning centers, giving children no alternative to palm oil work. For all Venning's efforts, Humana and its partners take care of only one-fifth of the children estimated to be living on Sabah's plantations. Even those lucky enough to receive some degree of education have little to no mobility once they become adults.
The toll of labor migration on the 'next generation'. Always great to read about development-related issues in 'mainstream' outlets like The Atlantic!

Teaching Peace: The University of Resistance in Colombia’s San Jose de Apartado Community

The community’s response was to organize volunteer teachers to give basic classes. However, members soon began to realize that while the lack of a formal education system was a major challenge, it also presented an opportunity. “We began to realize that we are the owners of our education,” said Tuberquia. Meetings were called for representatives from all 11 villages along with teachers, parents and the children themselves to discuss what this new education system might look like.
The result of those meetings was a revolutionary new system referred to as the “Campesino University,” or the “University of Resistance.” The names reflect the core values that guide the education process, where campesino culture and the community’s declared principles of resistance, solidarity, plurality, transparency, freedom and justice are taught hand in hand with core subjects such as literacy and math.
As well as learning about the community, educators encourage children to participate in it. For one of their projects they have a hectare of land, where they not only learn about the crops the community grows, they also experiment with sustainable and organic agriculture and how to get the most out the land without exhausting or contaminating it. “The school is shining a light on these ideas that help the community,” said Tuberquia. “The schools are active, they are participating in everything that happens in the community and are integrated into the rhythm of the community.”
This fascinating piece from Colombia by my friend James Bargent is definitely one of this week's must-reads!
Madonna visits Malawi to check on charity, leaves in a huff over lack of VIP treatment

It is not know as to whether the president received the informal letter from Madonna, but it is clear that she was not happy by the celebrity’s visit.
She told a journalist, ”She just came unannounced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her. And immigration officials opened the VIP lounge for her just because previously she enjoyed the VIP status.”
Tom Murphy summarizes the kerfuffle around Madonna's not-so-VIP visit/treatment in Malawi which makes me wonder how much time and energy everyone has been spending on a little bit of poverty-PR. Serious, but slightly rhetorical question: Would it be completely impossible for celebrity philanthropists to hire/consult normal professionals from the aid industry to help her with her mission/project/whatever?!

Video in #Eval Week: Soldedad Muñiz on Participatory Video for Monitoring & Evaluation
Experiential learning is at the core of PV M&E. Our motto is “Mistakes are great” and the process is guided by InsightShare’s values & core charter. This encourages participants to feel safe and own the learning space, lose fear of equipment, work at their own rhythm, have fun and enjoy the learning journey. The suite of tools employed include; PV games, editing games, Participatory Learning in Action exercises, visualisation techniques, Theatre of the Oppressed games, role-play and various art exercises.
It is great to see Soledad Muniz' post on participatory video prominently featured on the American Evaluation Association's blog!

PPP consultants: blessing or curse?

Not quite. The study reveals that the key question is not whether but how consultants get involved in PPP projects. Projects that are initiated and driven by consultants tend to be narrow in scope, repetitive and limited in their regional and global impact. This is because consultants tend to choose project domains that are agreeable to all parties, likely to succeed and repeatable. By contrast, project ideas that originate from internal members of development agencies and/or business partners tend to be more ambitious and often do not resemble established templates. This was the case when a GIZ agriculture expert and Kraft Foods representatives began talks in the mid-1990s about joining forces to promote high-quality coffee production in Peru. However, in order to implement their project idea they brought in a consultant at a later stage to support proposal writing, negotiations with local partners and project execution. As another example, an Austrian beverage producer once initiated a project with ADA to promote sustainable pomegranate cultivation in Bosnia. To secure seamless and professional project implementation, an external consultant was hired later in the process.
Another interesting post by another friend: Stephan Manning on the complexities of bringing in an external consultant at the right time of the project cycle.

Two Years On, Fukushima Raises Many Questions, Provides One Clear Answer

"No one died" equals "safe" or, at least, "safer." Q.E.D.
But beyond the intentional blurring of the differences between a so-called "accident" and the probable results of technical constraints and willful negligence, the argument (if this saw can be called such) cynically exploits the space between solid science and the simple sound bite.
"Do not confuse narrowly constructed research hypotheses with discussions of policy," warned Steve Wing, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health. Good research is an exploration of good data, but, Wing contrasted, "Energy generation is a public decision made by politicians."
A public decision, but not necessarily one made in the public interest. Energy policy could be informed by health and environmental studies, such as the ones discussed at the Fukushima symposium, but it is more likely the research is spun or ignored once policy is actually drafted by the politicians who, as Wing noted, often have ties to the nuclear industry.
Although this article is about Fukushima and nuclear energy/policy I found the scientific debate quite relevant for many development-related discussions on policy and practice: 'Evidence-based policy-making' sounds attractive and inclusive, but in many areas it is and likely will be an imbalanced discussion when corporate, short-term political and 'softer', long-term health/safety interests are involved.

Richard Florida Concedes the Limits of the Creative Class

Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, he notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”
This is another, not-so-strictly-development-related post: As much as we need to engage critically with 'creative class' in American cities, we also need to engage with the global creative class which is increasingly attracted by the aid industry. It would be fascinating to research more in detail of how global creative citizens are engaging with and replacing local culture, e.g. through the Yoga-, Tango- and Sushi-ization in urban areas/capital cities in developing countries...

Transition Q & A: Sarah Kendzior

Sarah Kendzior earned her PhD in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is
now a columnist for Al Jazeera English, a public speaker, a researcher and a consultant.
By the summer of 2012, I was in an unusual position in terms of employment. I had become well-known enough that I was frequently being asked to give guest talks at universities. I had interest from corporations and think tanks—I spoke at Google’s “Internet at Liberty” conference, at the New America Foundation, and other venues. I was starting to get interview requests from the media. I was publishing constantly and winning awards and recognition, but none of this made any difference in terms of finding an academic job. Because the only thing that really matters in academia is whether you have money.
What I realized during my year on the job market is that having a traditional academic career is not as important to me as participating meaningfully in public life—and that the former actually precludes the latter. If I had an academic job, all my work would be behind a paywall. I would lose my audience and my integrity—because I would be working only for myself, only to meet tenure requirements, and I like to engage with the world. I speak to the public.
We live in precarious times. I have no idea what is coming next. What that means is that I can’t waste my life living for the future. I only know what opportunities I have now, so I work as hard as I can.
Great insights on the PhD-to-career transition and the challenges of engaging in public debates when you decide (not) to become a career academic.

Anthropology Blogosphere 2013 – Ecology of Online Anthropology

The Anthropology Blogosphere and online anthropology ventures have grown tremendously in the last few years. In preparation for a workshop about taking anthropology online, reviewed the big list of Anthropology Blogs 2013, as well as some of the various social media, electronic media, and other online anthropology arenas. This is towards an ecology of online anthropology
Great overview over 'must bookmarked' anthropology-related blogs.

The Political Scientist as Blogger

If you are reading this article in PS, the article has gone through a vetting and editing process that has probably lasted at least 18 months. This process undoubtedly improved the quality of the article, but it also substantially delayed its entry into the debate. Had I simply posted this discussion as a blog response to Sides, it probably would have taken me three or four days to write and edit it. I would have included multiple hyperlinks, effectively “citing” not only Sides article but a plethora of different pieces on blogging and the academy. The article could have been viewed by some 4,000 regular visitors to Lawyers, Guns and Money, plus another 8,000 or so subscribers. Any one of these subscribers could have responded (helpfully or unhelpfully) in our comments section, likely generating a long debate both on the merits of the article and on the merits of the author. Sides could have responded within a day, and a multitude of other political science bloggers might have chimed in during the ensuing weeks.
Instead, I published the article here in PS, giving up all of that in return for a line on my CV with the “peer review” annotation.The delay of this article, the loss of all of the interactivity that the Internet provides, and the substantial reduction in the number of people likely to read the piece buy me a slightly improved chance at tenure and promotion.
Robert Farley on the paradoxes of combining blogging, research on blogging and academic journal publishing; you are likely to read a similar post soon when my article on development blogging will be published in Development in Practice...

Angela Davis, Freedom and the Politics of Higher Education

Angela Davis is one of those exemplary activists and public intellectuals.
She has struggled bravely and with great dignity for decades to demonstrate that education is a form of political intervention in the world and that learning is not about processing received knowledge but actually transforming it as part of a more expansive struggle for individual rights and social justice. She has worked in difficult and shifting circumstances to remind us of the power of education as a central element of inspired self-government. Her scholarship and activism demonstrate the educational force of political and intellectual commitment in its attempts to enlighten the mind and create powerful social movements against a wide range of oppressions. What is particularly crucial about her legacy is that it not only focuses on specific issues, but it also addresses society at large, flatly rejecting identitarian politics. Her work advances, as Robin Kelley points out, a democratic notion of freedom, one that moves far beyond the narrow liberal notion of freedom that enshrines the right of the individual to do what he or she wants unchecked by any impediments, moral or otherwise. Instead, she combines individual rights with social rights and argues that any viable notion of agency is impossible without providing the economic and social conditions that enable people to exercise their political and individual rights.
Henry Giroux's intellectual rants essays have some common themes, but this one highlights the works of Angela Davies as a public intellectual.


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