Links & Contents I Liked 92

Dear all,

I have recovered from a long & interesting conference and even managed to compile some interesting links on new publications, popular representations and misrepresentations of development, development's good wives, poverty barons and visiting impact consultants...last not least an essay on fashion blogging raises interesting questions for 'our' blogosphere and a great post on teaching design and ethnography round off this week's review!


New on aidnography
7 things I learned at the Örecomm festival 2013
After four days in three cities and two countries at the Örecomm festival I needed a few days to rest and reflect on the experience; as with the theme of the conference, Memory on Trial, the memories that I am sharing are eclectic, possibly even a bit random, but a few interesting clusters emerged nonetheless.

The media of Pakistan: Fostering inclusion in a fragile democracy?

This briefing shows how a changing media landscape in Pakistan is increasingly giving voice to populations historically excluded from the public sphere, even amid ongoing political, security and economic constraints.
• The proliferation of independent, privately-owned broadcast media outlets has been a crucial part of Pakistan’s democratic transition
• Regional media and social media, in particular, have allowed for far greater representation and inclusion
• But the media remains vulnerable to political influence, security threats and a limited financial base
New report from BBC's Media Action, plus, Emrys is a dear friend of mine and I am more than happy to promote his excellent work!

In Control - A Practical Guide for Civilian Experts Working in Crisis Management Mission

Embarking on a crisis management mission?
This handbook will accompany you the whole way into the mission and back home. It will serve you as an introduction to crisis management missions with hands-on information and practical advice for your everyday life and work in the field. This handbook offers a concise and handy overview and illustrates relevant concepts in clear and simple language – to help you stay ‘in control’ at all times.
180 pages of practical information around crisis management missions - not just handy for staff, but also for students, interns and other experts embarking into 'the field'.

Glocal Times - In This Issue (September 2013)

Attentive to a threefold understanding of communication for development –as a field of study, as professional practice and as an institutional project, in this issue we bring it into focus from a variety of perspectives: learning, teaching, networking, conferencing and researching.
To begin with, three recent graduates from Malmö University’s Master’s program in Communication for Development introduce their respective theses. Erliza Lopez Pedersen looks into the mediated and non-mediated communication practices of Filipino au pairs living and working in Denmark in the wider context of bilateral relationships between Denmark and the Philippines. Her work is a good example of how to study communication for development ‘at home’ –or, in Teke Ngomba’s words, of how to empirically westernize research. Rebecca Bengtsson discusses the use of livestreaming by citizen journalists in Egypt and Syria, raising questions about the limits and possibilities of civic engagement in the coverage of ongoing sociopolitical events in those countries. Carolina Törnqvist considers the impact of online distribution in the activity of community radios in Chile in the wider context of communication rights and relevant national legislation and international provisions.
In turn, the three articles illustrate issues raised by Anders Høg Hansen in his “Reflections on MA thesis work on Communication for Development”, where he looks back at the evolution of the ‘Project Work’ assignment –that is, the Master’s thesis- which constitutes the last step before graduation for students of Malmö University’s Master’s program in Communication for Development. Høg Hansen discusses lessons learnt, pending challenges and a variety of viewpoints regarding how to strengthen the experience and educational value of thesis work for future students of the program.
The latest issue of the Glocal Times open access journal was published last week and opens a window yet again into reflections at the interface of academia, student research and real-world communication for development case studies.

Why dry academic journals are not the only source on development

Mainstream social science surely has only a minor role in shaping public perceptions of, support for or resistance to migration and foreign aid. Relatively few citizens of rich countries have first-hand experience of poverty and exclusion on the scale experienced by those living in marginalised communities (whether in the global north or south), and even fewer read the findings reported in academic journals. Their views are most likely to have been acquired through popular culture – through watching television shows (...), or films.
How do such popular renderings of development issues compare with those encountered in detailed academic books or aid agency reports? These are questions that we and our collaborators explore in a book entitled Popular Representations of Development: Insights from Novels, Films, Television and Social Media.
Full disclosure: A co-authored chapter of mine is part the edited collection that David Lewis mentions and I will introduce the book properly on the blog next week.

The #Bullshit Files: Mindy Budgor, ‘the first female Maasai warrior’

Loads of our readers have been badgering us to blog about Mindy Budgor, a young white, middle class American from Southern California (...) who traveled to Kenya for a PR campaign for Under Armour sports clothing prior to starting an MBA degree and disguised the trip as a white feminist cause to end sexism among the Maasai.
I am sure you have come across the Maasai warrior debate; her book is on the top of my review pile and as impossible as it sounds I will try to share my 'objective' thoughts on the book here very soon-possibly included in next week's link review...

Concerts (and the like) can’t (and won’t) end poverty

skim it to drill into your head for the nth time why these bogus development schemes (e.g. concerts for poverty, tshirts for poverty, Facebook likes for saving lives, $1 stickers for children in poor countries, UN tote bags for hunger, etc. etc. etc. ) can’t & won’t help develop countries.
Scott Gilmore and Jeff Sachs discuss benefit concerts in a world of development celebrities, eventification and clicktivism.

The Good Wife of Development

Fellow Travellers in Development follows a group of Western women now reaching retirement age through their careers in ‘development’. Most didn’t think ‘development’ was what they were doing, and didn’t ‘career’ so much as tumble through an unwelcoming profession (then a job for white men only – Rosalind gets her career break ghost-writing a report for a dyslexic aid agency head). It gives an account of the macho early aid industry, filtered through the official end of white rule and the rise of ‘women’s lib’. It traces genealogies of contemporary aid thinking and practice into the present day, showing how social development ideas – progressive thinking on poverty, gender and participation – owed partly to the recognition by women (otherwise privileged by their race or class) that there was more than one way to look at a problem.
Beneath the charmingly personal account, Fellow Travellers in Development cuts a steely slice into the continuities in the sociology of aid.
Naomi Hossain introduces Rosalind Eyben's latest article that is unfortunately hidden behind a paywall...IDS really needs to start putting pre-print version of articles in the public domain...

Working For The Poverty Barons

The idea of development consultancies is easy to criticize – just read the Telegraph's scathing criticism of the ‘poverty barons’ i.e. consultants and private firms which ‘make a fortune from tax-payer funded aid budgets’. However the profits made by development consultancies really depend on the firm. There are the development consulting giants whose profits may have reached unhealthy levels, but there are also small technically-focused projects who make a small profit once they cover their overheads (office costs, project management costs, staff wages). In many ways the profits made by development consulting firms create incentives that ensure project results – if you cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of your projects it’s unlikely the donor will want to award you any further work. Nowadays all projects are rigorously evaluated and with so many firms operating in the aid business development consultancies have to demonstrate both the impact of their projects and competitiveness of their fees or risk being left behind.
For anyone interested in working in international development, consulting offers a very attractive entry point. Working for development consultancies has enabled me to really understand the development industry, including the politics and the complexities involved in managing development projects on the ground. The development consulting business is a fast-paced, results-driven environment to work in, and the skills you develop, including commercial-awareness, will be useful no matter what career you choose to pursue.
Julia Lipowiecka's reflections on her internship within the development consultancy industry are an important insights that complements well the usual narrative of unpaid interns in the charity sector spending days on unsuccessful project proposal writing or other insights from within the large belly of the bureaucratic beast of aid.
However, I am less enthusiastic about the industry than Julia. I do not want to go into all the details right here and now, but my biggest concern is the 'governmentality' effect, in short, the logic of development as projects that can be implemented by technical professionals, driven by market-logic and the quest to prove 'impact' will ultimately produce the mindsets, institutions and approaches to make that happen. Maybe the stereotype of a white, male consultant traveling business class to tell local counterparts what to do is less and less reality--so it is replaced with the myth that by providing services that aid agencies, NGOs and other organizations despite years of professionalization still do not have the sector is better off. Or the complex realities that local civil society is sidelined because inside the world of large framework agreements there is little or no space for a small NGO or local business. And does it really matter if aid money may not end up in the consultancy's pocket at home, but in the developing country capital-based subsidiary that helps to build a small professional elite with little 'trickle down' effects? So many questions remain, but an important contribution to the overall debate!

The Parable of the Visiting Impact Evaluation Expert

The answer is unambiguous: across multiple methodologies we find a consistent pattern, whereby errors from extrapolating across context are far greater than errors from using 'less rigorous' methodologies within the correct context. (...)
In short, there is just no substitute for local knowledge.
What does this mean for people doing and using impact evaluations?
Much of the impact evaluation practice within aid agencies like the World Bank, DFID, etc., exhibits Mr. Perito's tendency to draw broad generalizations from the best studies, prioritizing clean causal inference over relevance. This tendency is increasingly built into the structure of evaluation summaries and even funding opportunities.
CGD's Justin Sandefur uses a rigorous working paper and a storytelling to come to the important conclusion that context really matters in development ;)!

A future of African-led development is underway

The musician and activist Bono and development academics such as Bill Easterly and Paul Collier are no longer the go-to experts on the continent's development. Instead, development professor Calestous Juma, writer Teju Cole, political science professor Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, policy expert Semhar Araia and a chorus of other rising African voices are commanding the airwaves.
And for a taste of Africa's new frontline, look no further than last year's collective rebuke of KONY 2012, a video produced by the non-profit organisation Invisible Children, which was criticised for misrepresenting facts about the war criminal Joseph Kony and oversimplifying Ugandan politics.
The discourse is not about demanding that someone fixes the continent's development woes. It is very much an agency-affirming exercise where Africans are showing that we are bold enough to take charge of the continent's development.
TMS Ruge is arguing that 'Powered by new tech, Africa is leading its own revival and challenging conventional discourse.

The Other Foot

Rather than normalizing young girls and women wearing luxury items, high-end personal style blogs bring into sharp relief the difference between the fashion industry and those who love it. This frank acknowledgement of budget constraints, especially when combined with condemnation of high fashion’s unrealities, reveals a push-pull relationship between the exclusivity industry that is fashion and the sui generis self-expression fetishized by personal personal style blogs. While luxury bloggers are embraced wholeheartedly by top brands, it’s only those who are outside fashion’s normative constraints who give fashion blogging any potentially democratizing or radical potential. Authenticity, which seems increasingly like a meaningless buzzword, is a remnant of that potential, drawing a fine line between the aesthetic pleasure fashion can provide and the temptation to sacrifice oneself to it.
A fascinating essay on fashion bloggers that also says something about development, social media, sharing global experience and the limits of authenticity-not just in the latest and extreme case of the 'warrior princess'...

Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design

Design ethnography, in the context of our classroom, is about trying to understand how people use words, images and objects to build worlds—and creating new combinations of words, images and objects that help us, and others, understand these worlds in different ways. All of our projects involve empirical fieldwork and analysis, along with the production of creative works that critically engage the subject of fieldwork. Because so many students attempt to do the creative work first, and use their ethnographic work to justify their ‘solution’ to a perceived (but rarely demonstrated!) ‘problem,’ I tend to be a bit more dogmatic about doing the ethnographic work first than I would otherwise advocate. The important thing I’ve learned, though, is that the best work always treats design and ethnography as complementary activities that are done in an iterative fashion that actually makes them difficult to separate in the end.
Anne Galloway on teaching design and ethnography is the latest post on Ethnography Matters and as always a highly recommended reading!


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