Links & Contents I Liked 83

Hello all,
Even if it's probably quite warm at the moment for readers from the Northern hemisphere, interesting development links don't melt from Nairobi kick off this week's review; a new initiative in Brussels highlights bad internship recruiting practices and in a stark contrast a war journalist talks about his love for his work whereas Alessandra Pigni reminds us of mindful aid work in the context of Palestine; inquiring into the 'Gates Effect', a long piece engages with the foundation's education work in the USA-and there's more on Spanish underdevelopment, children as tourist attractions and using social media for disaster preparedness.


Photos from today's work

I'm training a youth group from Dagorretti on communication skills. Practical ones. Motivation is high.
My friend Pernille shares some impressions from her work at the outskirts of Nairobi.

WP/2013/068 Evaluating governance indexes: Critical and less critical questions

Recent years have seen a proliferation of ‘composite indicators’ or ‘indexes’ of governance. Such measures can be useful tools for analysing governance, making public policy, building scientific knowledge, and even influencing ruling elites, but some are better tools than others and some are better suited to certain purposes than others. This paper provides a framework of ten questions to help users and producers of governance indexes to evaluate them and consider key components of index design. In reviewing these ten questions—only six of which, it argues, are critical—the paper offers examples from some of the best known measures of governance and related topics. It advances two broad arguments: First, more attention should be paid to the fundamentals of social science methodology, i.e., questions about concept formation, content validity, reliability, replicability, robustness, and the relevance of particular measures to underlying research questions. Second, less attention should be paid to some other issues commonly highlighted in the literature on governance measurement, i.e., questions about descriptive complexity, theoretical fit, the precision of estimates, and correct weighting.
My colleague Rachel Gisselquist's latest paper critically examines the discourses around 'governance indexes'.

Peace and Conflict Impact Assessment Handbook

This Handbook is aimed at improving the understanding and
skills for conflict-sensitive programming. It will assist in
preparing participants to conduct Peace and Conflict Impact Assessments, as well as to identify and design conflict-sensitive options and programs. It is designed for those who wish to ensure that the impact of their engagement will, as a minimum “Do No Harm’, and as an optimum, have a positive effect on the conflict dynamics of the community in which the project is taking place.
The Handbook is intended for development practitioners, but also applies to non-development actors (i.e. diplomatic, political, security, trade, private sector, finance) to identify possible areas for action. It is ideally used in a workshop setting, but may also be used as a guide for a mission assessment, or working alone. The quality of the analysis depends very much on the individuals or groups that have been assembled, and the questions one asks. Analysis, which reflects the inputs and priorities of local actors, is the optimum approach.
The latest version of the PCIA Handbook-good to see that there is still an active community that improves one of the long-standing approaches to 'peaceful' development program planning.

Internship Black List

Informal network of concerned citizens aiming to take social action to end the illegal exploitation of unpaid interns in the Brussels EU Bubble.
This new network has been quickly gaining momentum including mainstream media attention. The network applies Belgium labor law and regulations to internship postings to see whether or not they comply with these laws...maybe there is space for a 'development' black list as well (although laws may be different in different countries the idea of naming and shaming highlighting this dark side of the industry sounds like a great idea!)

Moving beyond the North-South ‘development divide’

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the geography of the world has changed. Of course there are still big differences between countries in the global North and South, and being ‘poor’ in Spain is very different to being ‘poor’ in Malawi. But poverty is relative, and why should we ignore structural poverty and inequality in Spain or Greece for that matter? The issues we at IDS are interested in affect people in every country, and do not respect the artificial boundaries we create between the global North and South. So, as I sit in the stultifying heat of Madrid in July, I pose the following question to my colleagues in IDS and other ‘development’ institutions, when are we going to get over this ‘development divide’?
IDS researcher Katy Oswald asks an important question; however, the largely depoliticised nature of development research institutions these days will prevent many of them to speak out and get involved in their geographical 'backyards', potentially alienating funders or European institutions.

Conflict in Africa: 'The horrible, unspeakable truth of war is that it's fun'

Brabazon puts it: "The horrific, unspeakable truth of war is that it's fun. My grandfather said to me that war was the only environment in which men are allowed to love each other unconditionally, and I think the soldier's hankering after the battlefield is in large measure to do with that. It's a sense of belonging, of friendship, of kinship if you like that you don't find anywhere else in society. People often find that they belong in war because they suddenly find a connection with the common humanity of people around them."
He admitted that, returning from Liberia, it took a long to time to readjust. "It ruined relationships. I really disappointed people. As a young man at the time I had just the most astonishingly beautiful girlfriend: a tall, bubbly, brilliantly intelligent, wonderfully sexy, rich, phenomenally good cook of a lover and a companion, and all I wanted to do was go back to war. That's not normal."
Fascinating interview with journalist James Brabazon. The incidents of war he is discussing may be extreme, but you can observe some very similar dynamics in development and humanitarian work.

Practising mindfulness at the checkpoint

As we become overworked and under-supported, hyper-connected but disengaged, mindful but unaware, it’s no surprise that burnout is spreading. Its impact still has to be fully-appreciated by NGOs who see burnout only in terms of stress, something to be treated by the pap of professional stress-management and work-life balance training. Mindfulness is so much more, if we are prepared to go beyond the fashions of the moment and acknowledge that we are hungry for deeper meaning in our lives, our jobs and our relationships with each-other. So here’s a challenge for NGOs to end with: why not craft a culture of learning and care that is integrated into the day-to-day life of the workplace and the community? I’ve seen it happening and it works. Through learning and care we create meaning, and meaning is the antidote to burnout.
In an unintended 'reply' to the Brabazon interview, Alessandra Pigni explains the concept of mindful aid work with case studies from Palestine and the challenging NGO work there.

What is ‘leverage’ (NGO-speak version) and why does it matter?

In practice, I think the consequence for the way aid agencies think is to introduce a shift towards automatically asking how any given intervention, partnership etc can have the maximum possible impact. Here’s where it bangs up against the increasing questioning of blueprints, best practice, cookie cutter solutions etc that I have written a lot about (and a concern I share). If every context is different, and every solution needs to be ‘best fit’ rather than ‘best practice’ how can you ‘go to scale’? Maybe that means focussing on building the enabling environment (transparency, accountability etc) rather than specific solutions. Or social franchising that can adapt to local circumstances.
Development never runs out of buzzwords and fuzzwords...

Children? They Are Not Tourist Attractions

Children are not commodities, and deserve to have their rights and privacy respected. There are not two standards operating here - in the developed and developing world the rights of children are exactly the same. The ChildSafe Network, which is powered by the NGO Friends-International, launched a campaign in late 2011 to highlight this issue in Cambodia under the banner 'Children Are Not Tourist Attractions.'
What is needed is positive behavior change, a movement that goes right across the board - from the Governments who can create and enforce legislation which prevents harmful childcare practices flourishing, the Universities and other institutions which support sending student volunteers into orphanages in developing countries without questioning the impact of these actions, the donors supporting a flawed system and from the travelers themselves.
As a regular reader of this blog (or even irregular link reader) this is nothing new-another important reminder about the detrimental effects of 'orphanage tourism'.

Social Media and Resilience Workshop

I’m currently in Bangkok where I’m helping to facilitate a workshop on “Social Media and Resilience” for Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Asia. It’s basically about how you can use social media to improve disaster preparedness, mitigate risks as well as respond and cope with disasters.
Timo Luege presents a nice storified-summary of an event on social media and disaster the icebreaker with your latest facebook status update.

Reinvent Philanthropy

Katherine anchored this terrific roundtable that looked hard at the reinvention going on in the field of philanthropy itself, one that has the potential to be a once in a hundred year shift. She brought together top people to represent four of the major areas of change the field is grappling with:
New Rules: Wealthy people have multiple ways now to apply their money to desired outcomes, whether through traditional philanthropy, political donations, or the emerging field of impact investing. Yet political pressures are building to rework the regulations governing all these areas in fundamental ways.
New Resources: Foundations increasingly are being called on to align the core investments of their endowments to their mission through more sophisticated techniques of impact investing. The sums of this capital dwarf the interest that they traditionally use to dole out in their annual giving.
New Technologies: Internet-based technologies have opened up the exclusive club of philanthropy by allowing millions to aggregate small contributions to ultimately compete with the big guys. We’re still in the early days of the innovators like Kickstarter and Kiva – just think out 5 more years.
New Data: All these digital technologies are allowing the aggregation of data like never before. It’s now finally getting possible to understand the new contours of the whole field of philanthropy and be able to more skillfully manipulate this new marketplace of giving.
Although 'reinventing' is often on my list of new buzzwords, this is a really interesting discussion with lots of food for thought for the development, social enterprise, non-profit sector.

The Gates Effect

The effect is an echo chamber of like-minded ideas, arising from research commissioned by Gates and advocated by staff members who move between the government and the foundation world.
Higher-education analysts who aren't on board, forced to compete with the din of Gates-financed advocacy and journalism, find themselves shut out of the conversation. Academic researchers who have spent years studying higher education see their expertise bypassed as Gates moves aggressively to develop strategies for reform.
Some experts have complained that the Gates foundation approaches higher education as an engineering problem to be solved.
Although this article is not about Gates' international development efforts is sheds some fascinating light on the 'leverage' (see above) of the Gates foundations money and its impact on critical voices.


Thunderbird: A Case Study In Organizational Decline

Yet, even though the school lacks a significant endowment, several of its professors have been paid extraordinarily well. Kannan Ramaswamy, a global strategy professor who teaches in Thunderbird’s executive education programs, had a total compensation package with benefits of $700,096 in fiscal 2011.
The school’s full-time MBA enrollment has been steadily declining for years, falling to just 380 from more than 1,500 in 1990. Last fall, its entering class totaled only 140 students.
Nothing like a little diss towards MBA education to wrap up this hot, summery link-review ;)


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