Links & Contents I Liked 73

Hello all,

This week's review turned out to have a peace, conflict & gender focus, featuring new research on local accountability, violence & disability, results-orientation in peacebuilding, Quaker history & memory, all-male (peace) conferences and a great blog on Zimbabwe. But make sure to leave room for a brilliant 'Letter to a Social Entrepreneur' and more reflections on the end of 'educational cartels'. And for the very brave there's even a 15 minute interview with Aidnography on development HR, generational shifts & the risk of medicalizing humanitarian work risks.


New on/from aidnography
AidWorks 17th April 2013. Tobias Denskus discusses development HR & Generation Z
People in Aid recently released a report on the state of Human Resourcing in development organisations, with results that were less than encouraging. Calling for a promotion of Human Resourcing within aid and development organisations as a specialist skill, the report points to many areas that need improving. Tobias Denskus is a development researcher from Canada who has a strong interest in the issue of Human Resourcing in development organisations, and he spoke with Albion Harrison-Naish about the report as well as notions of Generation Z and their likely attitude to development work.
Critical Anthropology (book review)
Featuring authors like Andre Gunder Frank, Immanuel Wallerstein, Marshall Sahlins, Michael Taussig and Eric R. Wolf, this excellent collection delivers on critical content, but at the same time does not overwhelm the reader and leaves plenty of space for more research, discovery of the authors’ original works and discussions in classrooms, workplaces, organizations, families or where ever such discussions should take place nowadays...
But the absence of ‘local’ voices or the fact that out of 17 authors (including the editor) only two are female (and critically reviewed male anthropologists’ work) as well as the absence of ethnography from inside the institutions that have created and maintain legitimacy and power over people, research and teaching also gives the reader plenty of food for thought about blind spots and work/writing that still needs to be done.

All in all, Critical Anthropology is an extremely useful collection that delivers plenty of critical inroads into the contents and disciplinary aspects of late 20th century anthropology in the context of Marxist critique and the emergence of a broader self-reflective turn.


Local Accountabilities in Fragile Contexts: Experiences from Nepal, Bangladesh and Mozambique
The case studies from Nepal, Bangladesh and Mozambique provide ample evidence of the importance of adapting strategies to local contexts. Particularly in fragile situations, marked by a lack of trust in state representatives, openly promoting public accountability in unaccountable states could be too risky for NGOs and citizens. Promoting transparency by sharing and providing information might be a better strategy.
It would be a platitude to state that supporting development efforts by intervening in 'governance' is a complex issue. Of course this is true, but it also accounts for all other fields of cooperation, be it 'water', 'natural resources', 'education'– you name it. Developed citizen–state relationships should provide the value basis for country specific, complex accountability systems, which integrate domestic institutions, donor interventions, and local populations. This study offers insight into rich experiences that can inspire us beyond the three country cases analysed.
New work from IDS.

Triple Jeopardy: Gender-based violence and human rights violations experienced by women with disabilities in Cambodia
The study found that women with disabilities and women without disabilities faced similar levels of sexual, physical and emotional violence by partners. However, the picture that emerged in terms of family violence (excluding partners) was starkly different. Women with disabilities experienced much higher levels of all forms of this violence. They were much more likely to be insulted, made to feel bad about themselves, belittled, intimidated, and subjected to physical and sexual violence than their non-disabled peers.
These results, building on scarce developing country evidence, speak to the unique vulnerabilities of women with disabilities to violence. There is an urgent need for mainstream services to ensure that women with disabilities can access their services, and for services for people with disabilities that address gender concerns. Similarly, it is critical that discriminatory attitudes which condone and perpetuate violence against women with disabilities are challenged and transformed.
AusAID launched its new Research Working Paper Series with important and under-researched issues around disabilities and violence in Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

Help or Hindrance? Results-orientation in conflict-affected situations
This working paper argues that results-orientation in its currently practiced form is more of a hindrance than a help for achieving better results. Methodological and organizational responses to make interventions in conflict-affected contexts more focused on results are often poorly adapted to grapple with the complexity of these environments.
An excessive emphasis on ‘upward accountability’ puts at risk the learning function of evaluation processes
and testifies to the common power hierarchies in the international aid system. Against this backdrop, this working paper argues that a more thorough application of standards of good practice in this field, more
experimentation with alternative methods, and the creation of learning spaces outside of institutionalized
processes can offer entry points to make results-orientation a more meaningful endeavor.
The paper addresses a complex and ever-growing potentially 'lose-lose' issue for peacebuilding projects: If they continue to with the latest 'buzzwords', organizations may receive funding, but quickly lose sight of transformational power in their actual work-but if they resist and fail to 'prove' impact they may quickly be sidelined by 'sexier' approaches that promise measurable results...

Reflections on day one: politics of evidence
Agency, tai-chi and ju-jitsu: people reflecting on their own positions are not just automatons within a relentless machine. There is agency, and there are possibilities to shape the directions of organisations and the way organisations – or the people they work within – understand the world through measurement and evaluation processes. It’s just that sometimes a little tai-chi – or possibly ju-jitsu – is needed to turn people around.
There is no Big Bad Wolf proposing mindless tools to do people down: there are repeated, deep, systemic issues in play, coming from a fragmented and highly political environment, dealing with difficult problems. Everyone in the room had their own philosophies and their own ways of pursuing development aims within that system.
Talking about buzzwords, discourses and measuring results: The first reflections from the 'Big Push Forward' conference are available as the conference is wrapping up at IDS.

Scoping Study: What Works in Protection and How Do We Know?
The literature review revealed only a few sophisticated attempts at measuring the success of different types of protection interventions. Three main reasons account for the scant evidence on what works in protection across different contexts:
Quantity of information: Reviewed works focus on implementation challenges linked to capacity gaps, coordination issues and other practical matters. Questions of impact are addressed at the margins.
Quality: About half of the different academic works reviewed lack an explicit research design and method, but clarity on design and method is a precondition for generating reliable data.
Comparability: They lack a common conceptual framework to assess success in protection restricts the comparability of the findings that are presented in evaluative reports and scholarly enquiries.
It is generally easier to find negative examples of humanitarian protection efforts than positive ones – a central finding of the review. Analyzing past mistakes may yield important insights on what might work, but it does not provide concrete evidence of the circumstances under which certain types of interventions do prove effective.
Final link to a new report this week. This time Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute reviews existing work on humanitarian accountability.

Woman's Hour - Northern Ireland peace and women today
What difference has 15 years of Northern Ireland's Good Friday Agreement made to women's lives? Professor Monica McWilliams looks back at its signing, the role of the women's coalition and its legacy. Women in east and west Belfast discuss their lives today and given recent disturbances, how they view the future in both communities. Provision of abortion remains strictly controlled, how likely are calls to review legislation to succeed? Acclaimed singer songwriter SOAK performs live. How does the Londonderry teenager, who's grown up with the agreement, view life ahead for her generation?
The BBC Radio piece on women, peace and Northern Ireland is a great multimedia feature that reviews conflict and peacebuilding from women's perspectives.

Rare memorial inspires contemporary Quaker work
Four simple curves of Rutland limestone with benches resembling a Quaker meeting place stand in a quiet grove of trees on the fringe of the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It is a remarkable venture; Quakers are so uncomfortable with earthly show that many of their burial grounds have no headstones and even a man as exceptional as Joseph Rowntree shares the modest curved marker common to all graves in the Friends' cemetery at York.
The choice of the National Memorial Arboretum adds to the surprise. As the trustees of the new memorial say, "some Quakers may initially feel out of their comfort zone here". The site is largely filled with tributes to men and women who died on armed service, and has many military emblems.
The Quaker remember friends' work during and after the Second World War that led to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947. As a Bradford Peace Studies graduate, the Quaker influence has always been an important influence for its teaching and broader academic community.

‘Grandmother of Afghanistan’ Nancy Hatch Dupree says it may be time to move on
Dupree came to Afghanistan in 1962 with her first husband, a U.S. diplomat. She’ll leave, if she can finally make herself do it, as a revered figure who’s been called the grandmother of this country, a title used even by President Hamid Karzai.
During her decades here, she’s been ejected by the Russians, turned down a request for help from Osama bin Laden, guided countless relief efforts, aided refugees, advised journalists, politicians and the United Nations, and written five travel guides and hundreds of articles on topics including Afghan history, archaeology, women issues and libraries.
She also inspired a Tony Kushner play, had a scandalous, adulterous affair with a North Carolina native who was considered the greatest Afghan scholar of his time – whom she eventually married – and poked into almost every corner of a place that remains the very definition of hard traveling.
Another great story about war and peace and women 'making' history.

This won't do - all-male conferences
I chaired a session at a conference yesterday, and unfortunately had to add these remarks to the traditional thanks and compliments to the organisers with which I opened the discussion:
There are 22 panellists and moderators for today's conference, and we are all men. I see only one woman in this room out of more than thirty people. This isn't good enough; in fact it is unacceptable. We are all here because we are experts on today's topic; we all know women who are engaged as deeply as we are with this particular issue; as it is, we are now supposed to have an in-depth discussion in which half of the population will not be represented adequately. I hope that the organisers and the funders will ensure that this never happens again. I will not participate in any future event where this is allowed to happen, and I hope that the rest of you here will commit to do the same.
Nicholas Whyte works on peace and conflict issues in Europe. Questions is, though, is it just a gender male/female issue or are women just smarter and avoid the rituals of conferencing?!

Dodgy data and missing measures: why good numbers matter (part I)
This is not to argue that both our book and Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land don’t have silences, gaps and contestable arguments. Of course. That’s why we publish, encourage debate and urge others to do more research. What we don’t expect is our work – or indeed anyone else’s – to be dismissed on the basis of who they are, rather than what they say.
As I keep pointing out in this blog, it’s not as if we don’t have plenty of empirical evidence to go on these days. This accumulation of insights is getting seriously ‘authoritative’ and pointing, broadly but with important nuances, in the same direction. It’s irritating sometimes that our book is the only one that gets mentioned (and now of course the new one), just because we hit the limelight (not least I suspect because the lead authors of both books are based in the UK, and are white and professors).
I only discovered Ian Scoones' blog around his latest book and research on Zimbabwe recently and can highly recommend it as a great example of academic blogging at the intersection of research, publications and broader debates.

Canadian Freeze of Aid to Haiti, the Precursor to CIDA's Demise
While the NGO sector feigned outrage at the announcement, not everyone was surprised. Julia Sanchez, President and CEO of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, told the news website iPolitics that the absorption of CIDA into DFAIT had been rumoured[viii] for years. Noting that the move offered "clarity" to the Canadian strategy abroad, the head of Care Canada, Kevin McCort, spoke[ix] similarly, saying that “It wasn’t so much a shock as, ‘oh, they have done it’. The conversation has been going on for years.” Recently there had also been indicators that major changes could be expected. In November 2012, Fantino had articulated a new vision for CIDA. Speaking to the elite Economic Club of Canada, the Minister, who had previously been Ontario's Top Cop, introduced plans to have CIDA support Canadian international business interests rather than work with multilateral institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) as had previously been the norm. Following[x] the speech he told the Globe and Mail that;
“I find it very strange that people would not expect Canadian investments to also promote Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy, benefits for Canada. This is Canadian money. ... And Canadians are entitled to derive a benefit.”
A good summary about what has been going on aid policy-wise in Canada. Oh, just on a side-note: If you are interested in Canadian aid politics, you may want to check out my book review of 'Paved with Good Intentions–Canada’s development NGOs from idealism to imperialism'...

Letter to a Young Social Entrepreneur: the poor are not the raw material for your salvation
Each year the socially entrepreneurial Cirque de Soleil sets up its big tent at the World Economic Forum at Davos. Champagne is sipped whilst corporate CEOs, Russian oligarchs and Arab potentates ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the miracles being performed by the social entrepreneurs. The Occupy movement activisits on the other hand are kept a long distance away and canap├ęs are not put out for them. Their diet is tear gas and police truncheon.
Power, class – especially class – and entitlement are three subjects nowhere near high enough up the agenda of Skoll and Davos. It is very fashionable at such gatherings to hear mainstream politics trashed as unable to compete with the whizzy, sexy, genius social entrepreneurs. Yawn, party politics. How boring. How last century.
There is a need for a large dose of skepticism about middle class European and American social entrepreneurs who think they have the answer for the problems of Africa or know what the youth off the housing estates need.


How not to lighten up your research
I walked away with two thoughts. One, the contest lacked sophistication. Many of the competing researchers were nervous and novice public speakers, and few were able to do their thesis justice. Second, and more significantly, almost all the finalists were from the sciences rather than the humanities. As Globe and Mail columnist Russell Smith pointed out, the vast majority are science students “because current advanced studies in the humanities can be more difficult to explain than science, no matter how complex the science.”
The 3MT, the longest running event in the trend to elevator pitch academic research, has spawned preparatory workshops and how-to guides. These include tips on posture, body language, intonation, remedies for croaky throats, how to look your best and how to avoid coming across as an academic (!). University of Melbourne, for instance, coaches would-be contestants to stay away from academic words like “discourse” because it has “virtually no place in the non-academic world.” Or take this offering, from the University of Queensland: “Forget everything you know about giving scientific presentations . . . by all means explain what you’re doing but leave out the detail, thanks!”
An interesting reflection on communicating (complex) research and the fine line between engaging with a broader (non-academic) audience and dumbing down research to fit into 'sexy', shorter presentation formats.

Will MOOC Technology Break the Education Cartel?
For the remote and distant learners I work with, or those in developing countries where university-level education is not universally accessible, it means something even more – being able to study at all, and world-class courses at that. has a good summary here if you need a quick overview of the history of MOOCs so far by the way.
If you want my opinion, and lets face it, you’ve read this far, I see that what is emerging will be courses and schools based on interest not just on the luck of the draw method we currently have thats decided by where you live or postcode, ie. where you happen to live. Once flexible and even user-generated learning content embedded in MOOC’s trickles down to a primary school level, and super-capable mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are deployed widely enough to provide ubiquitous access, its really only the process we use to harness them (especially how to keep some strategic face to face time in the mix) that remains to be solved.
My short answer to the post's title would be 'No!'-but I'm currently working on a more sophisticated response that will engage with the power of academic socialization-and how power relations are not changed in (university) classrooms...for more preliminary reflections on MOOcs & development you could read 'Why MOOCs need to be discussed in development'.


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