Links & Contents I Liked 74

Hello all,

Welcome to the weekly development & academia link review! Lots to see & read this week: My recent presentation on development blogging and disseminating research is now available in different formats; I disagree (to some extent) with Daniela Papi on 'hero worshiping' in the aid industry, but I enjoyed great reflections on managing aid-related long distance relationships & professionalism; and there's more: Bill Gates looking at stats, cartoons & fights on the Everest and against cast-discrimination - plus an interesting USIP talk on conflict prevention & technology.

m Australia comes an interesting debate whether 'dumpster diving' should be taught in university  - and why critical, maybe even radical pedagogical approaches matter. Plus you are introduced to 'science's biggest con-man' who has currently 50+ retractions of papers to his name...


New on aidnography
Development blogging, disseminating research & building your e-reputation

Last week I was invited to talk about development blogging, social media and research dissemination at an event in Manchester that the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Postgraduate Forum organized. The topic was Publishing and disseminating your research and I shared some reflections on development blogging; the video of the presentation as well as the slides and audio are now available.

Outline of the presentation:
- Development communication: New digital possibilities & old academic rituals
- Understanding contradictions & managing expectations
- ‘Almost everyone will miss almost everything you do on social media’
- Blogging as communication ‘enabler’
- Building your e-reputation
- Approaching the ‘perfect space’ for academic blogging

Not Your Typical Vaccine Conference

This isn’t going to be typical conference. We aren’t going to have breakout sessions or canvas bags crammed with printed reports to take home.
I just couldn't help but thinking that there may be a development-tumblr in the making entitled 'Bill Gates Looking At Things'...

Clash of civilisations on Everest

Mountaineering experts, however, say that the incident highlights the growing clash between commercial expedition-style climbing, and free alpine style climbing on the world’s highest mountains. This year, there are more than 250 mountaineers on Mt Everest including a joint India-Nepal military expedition.
You may have read about this incident in Nepal. I have come across critical/cynical lines like 'isn't there any place where men wouldn't fight?!' or 'Wow...this must be a conflict with the highest altitude'. But as someone who still has a research and personal interest in Nepal I was once again reminded how poorly Nepali authorities tend to manage their precious resources. 'Why think about a sustainable strategy if you can sell permits now' seems to be the logic behind turning the base camp into dump/amusement park...very sad...

I’m an anti-caste junkie: Meet S Anand, the man behind Navayana publishing house

In some senses, Navayana really took off as a serious venture only in 2008. In 2003, we had started Navayana on a whim – the need for Navayana was felt simply because there were publishers engaging with environmental issues, ‘communalism’ (as the Hindu-Muslim question is called in India); there were independent publishers engaging with Left issues, such as LeftWord; you had specialist children’s publishers, women’s movements and feminist publishers, but you did not have anybody in English language publishing saying that caste is an issue that infects and inflects everything in India. So there was clearly what we identified as a ‘gap’ and we decided to try and address this gap with an exclusive focus.
Interesting insights in the world of 'social publishing' in India.

back (and forward) from the 'big push forward' - thoughts on why evidence is political and what to do about it

for me, the two most useful catchphrases were trying to get to “relevant rigor” (being relevantly rigorous and rigorously relevant) and to pay attention to both “glossy policy and dusty implementation.” lots of other turns-of-phrase and key terms were offered, not all of them – to my mind – terribly useful.
there was general agreement that evidence could be political in multiple dimensions.
Some more reflections on the recent IDS conference on 'pushing back' the dominant evidence discourse.

Partnership - The Sphere Project

To this end, the Sphere Project establishes and promotes a series of humanitarian principles and minimum standards in key areas of humanitarian aid (such as water, health, shelter and food). These principles and standards are made available through the Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response. The cartoons focus on the values and principles defined by the Humanitarian Charter , which provides the ethical and legal backdrop to the standards in the Handbook. The campaign will consist of posters and post cards with the cartoons that illustrate the principles defined in the Humanitarian Charter.
I love Manu Cartoons latest contributions to this cartoon project!

Preventing Violent Conflict: How Can Innovative Technologies Aid Peacebuilding?

On April 12, 2013, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), along with the International Peace Institute (IPI), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), held an interactive discussion and the launch of a series of case study reports on the role of new technologies in the prevention of violent conflict.
How can new information and communications technologies (ICTs) support international actors, governments, and civil society organizations to strengthen their voice and action in order to more effectively prevent violence and conflict? With this core question in mind, this joint research initiative has explores how innovative forms of communication, information gathering, information sharing, and information analysis over the internet (such as social media, information mapping, GIS mapping, etc.), via mobile phone applications, and text messaging can be utilized in the service of conflict prevention.
So little time, so many interesting things to watch...this 2 hour panel is definitely on my 'to watch' list.

NGegO and the Waste We Cause by Fueling Aid "Hero-preneurs"

Hero-worshipping in the social sector is actually much more common than in business, as although a corporate CEO or analysts around him might declare his work the panacea of prior problems the company had faced, when it comes to aid work, the media and our praise all to often focuses on the story of the "hero-preneur" themselves, not the work they do. In fact, in business, with a bottom line of profit, required reporting which is more widely understood, and in the case of public companies, a plethora of shareholders expressing their feedback (as biased as that may be!), there is an impetus and a system for monitoring that leader's "success."
As much as I like Daniela's work and look forward to reading her and Kjerstin's book(s) I felt to some extent that they are making a point for the sake of it. Most marketing of products (including the product of 'aid' in its broadest sense) relies on a heroic story of sorts. Donald Trump, Richard Branson or Gordon Ramsey get their fair share of media and prime time television attention. Sheryl Sandberg is a female 'hero' at the senior management of one of world's largest tech companies. Much of professional sports and entertainment are sold through stories of individuals who managed success 'against all odds' or went from 'rags to riches'. News, catastrophes and Oprah all need 'heroes' often to 'sell' a very North American/Western illusion about individual success when systemic problems may be too big or problematic or political to address let alone change.
I agree with Daniela, of course, that aid 'consumers' need to ask more critical questions and that 'heroes' need to be encouraged to tell the whole story, including the failures they have encountered-but keep in mind that we/society like a good 'hero rising from the ashes after defeat' story-ask Lance Armstrong (not yet, but soon), Tiger Woods , Jason Russell or Martha Stewart.
In the end, we need to be able to tell stories about complex aid endeavors without a (often male) first person narrator - and that's a big challenge in our day and age...

Long Distance Relationships: Keeping the Home Fires Burning

And there are genuine challenges with being the one left behind. It can be difficult not to feel as though you are missing out on the adventure. Difficult at times not to detect pangs of resentment, when your life resembles your own version of the set of Groundhog Day. Particularly between the hours of 5-9pm when dinner needs cooking, the kid gets whiney and wants entertaining and feeding and attention and washing and, and, and. And there’s just you with your two hands, one in the sink, the other manning the stove; probably an additional foot artfully applying a band-aid. It becomes exasperating when your kid refuses to sleep alone for the 95th night in a row, but you know they will immediately right themselves upon your partner’s return. Doing those evening stretches alone night after night can be overwhelming and a more than a little lonely. I’m talking specifically about a loneliness that can only be quieted with adult company. That variety of loneliness tends to surface during those marathon evenings, or when an important decision just has to be made without the consultation or inclusion of your humanitarian husband who is in a 6 hour meeting with the United Nations several continents away. A very real exhaustion can set in from doing everything solo, where you had a partnership before.
Luckily, I came across a re-post of this great reflection on making a long-distance aid-relationship work!

Professionalising aid work: the missing links

Professionalising aid work: the way forward
It is a big task, and one which some may argue is not necessary and will only contribute to the growth of the Industrial-Aid Complex. But, here are the main issues I see with going forward:
Inequity in the workplace: both in terms of gender balance and representation in senior management, and between White Saviours and non-White Saviours.
Working together: organisations and governments will need to collaborate with universities (pre-service) to shape and design courses for development studies. The current studies available may not be producing the type of development workers needed.
Brendan Rigby over at shares more interesting reflections on professionalism, competencies and the skills to work in 'the industry'

Civic Engagement in the Digital Age

Social networking sites have grown more important in recent years as a venue for political involvement, learning, and debate. Overall, 39% of all American adults took part in some sort of political activity on a social networking site during the 2012 campaign.
This means that more Americans are now politically active on social networking sites (SNS) than used them at all as recently as the 2008 election campaign.
Though the latest report from Pew Internet is not talking about 'development', digital engagement and activism are obviously topics that are relevant for the sector. The report notices significant class and educational differences in responders' engagement-which reminded me that a lot of the development debates online take place without a broad representation of 'normal', ordinary citizens...


University of Queensland lecturer Dr Kristen Lyons says bin diving has a purpose for her students

Achieving a socially just and environmentally responsible food system represents one of the most fundamental problems of our times. As an academic, educator and activist committed to making a contribution towards addressing this issue, I do what I can sometimes in creative and unconventional ways to support students in developing rich understandings of the causes of the food crisis, so as to assist in generating diverse solutions. Dumpster diving does not occur without being grounded in a strong education in the politics of food and consumption.
As an engaged educator and scholar, I do not intend to teach students at UQ to eat out of bins. Rather, I am passionately committed to ensuring that our graduates are equipped with rigorous academic training, and a strong ethical radar; skills that are vital in making a contribution towards addressing future challenges, including food insecurity and other social justice issues.
If going on an adventure to look at food waste is able to help on students' journey of being inspired to apply their educational experience to make the world a better place, then I think it is risk worth taking.
Interesting debate a friend in Australia is involved in: How far should/need academics go to educate students about social problems, poverty and 'real world' problems and injustices in general? If it gets media attention and criticism from big corporations you are probably doing something right ;)...

The Mind of a Con Man

Diederik Stapel, a Dutch social psychologist, perpetrated an audacious academic fraud by making up studies that told the world what it wanted to hear about human nature.
Interesting coincidence...the rise and fall of an academic 'hero' (or at least a well-known scientist...). His motivation and explanation really reminded me of Lance Armstrong's confession earlier this year.

On doing hard things that matter

My point (and I realize it's been long in coming, so thank you for sticking with me) is this: don't tell us, unconditionally, to run in the other direction for a better life and more numerically forgiving prospects. Tell us that—even though it is a hard and precarious career that awaits—journalism, the university, public education, civil service, and the like have never more desperately needed people committed to being quiet, thankless saviors. Tell us that these institutions and industries need good people to fight for them—to fight for their very existence, to reform them from the inside and make them better—and, moreover, that if you enter them, you should enter them with precisely that mindset. If you truly believe that something matters, then it is worth fighting for.
A great contribution to the on-going 'don't do a humanities/social science PhD!'.

What We Talked About At ISA: Critical Pedagogies?

We of course know this, and sometimes say so. But if ‘pedagogy’ comes to mean mainly the what and how of teaching, and not everything that lies behind, beneath and across from it, the conversation will be an impoverished one. So when we reorganise lectures on strike days, or view the satisfaction of student wishes as unquestionably primary, we privilege the classroom at the expense of a wider understanding of the contemporary university. We get close to an expanded sense when we start talking about class sizes. There were, for example, audible gasps on the day of the panel at the contrast between David Blaney’s first year student numbers (a dozen) and Laura Shepherd’s (getting on for 600). This alone suggests that we need to keep in view the processes that bring students to the classroom in the first place, and to ask questions about our responsibilities in such arrangements.
It also raises some uncomfortable dilemmas. Many (but not all) of us teach in situations of comparative privilege: liberal arts colleges, Russell Group universities, training schools for socio-political elites, repositories for the middle-class youth of hegemonic states. What, after all, does it mean to pour emotional resources and labour time into additional provision for those students (assuming that engaging the critical often means working harder at teaching than you would otherwise have to)?
A great summary of a a recent ISA panel on 'critical pedagogies' - inside and beyond teaching and the classroom.


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