Links & Contents I Liked 93

Hello all,

Welcome to another tour de force through digital writings on, in and about development! From research on how global reports have contributed to a 'pathologisation' of DRC to links between public finance reform and marathon in Nepal and Colombia's pressure to survive in the global trade system there is a good range of country case studies. At 'home' Bono talks like a politician, American evangelical churches fuel the orphan industry and the unionisation in the aid industry enters the agenda. The final questions are whether you live your CV or your eulogy and why paternalism has such a bad image; plus, two great pieces on the 'college admissions industry' in the U.S. and scholarship in the digital age-from Tweet to peer-reviewed article.


Not quite new, but relevant (again) from aidnography
Social Media and Global Development Rituals: a content analysis of blogs and tweets on the 2010 MDG Summit
Investigating the United Nations High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS), a three-day event held at UN Headquarters in New York in 2010, as a case study, we examine a sample of 108 blog entries discussing the meeting, as well as 3007 related tweets. We find that topics receiving the densest coverage mirrored existing priorities as defined by the MDGS. Although most blog entries created content which, in contrast to tweets, went beyond spreading mere factual or referential information on the event and even included some critical commentary, sustained debates did not emerge. Our findings suggest that social media content accompanying the Summit reproduced global development rituals and thus failed to catalyse alternative priorities for and approaches to international development.
As the 'Special event towards achieving the MDGs' unfolds in New York, I just wanted to remind you of my co-authored article on social media, global summit rituals and the non-emergence of a digital civil society. Has it changed since 2010?!

Q&A: Congolese Wrongly Branded as “Pathological”
Thanks to the good work done by Séverine Autesserre, for example, analysts now focus a lot more on local conflict than 10 years ago. However, I would argue they might focus too much on local conflict, as the recent controversy about the latest ICG [International Crisis Group] report showed. International and regional factors do play a very important role still.
What remains the same throughout all these shifts in focus from “elections will build the Congo” to “local peacebuilding” or the “international brigade” now is that the government in Kinshasa and the provincial government remains a curious blind spot.
This is part of what I see as “functional pathologisation”, which I tried to show in the paper. That Congolese – even the government’s acts – might actually make sense is never considered. This renders the analysis very one-sided and helps to sustain the belief, again, that it is up to Western NGOs, or the U.N. to improve situation in the Congo.
Kai Koddenbrock presents his research on why the language and discourse in international writing about the conflict in DRC is often not simply value-free policy advice. Very important topic and presented in a very accessible short piece.

UN Broadband Commission releases first global report on ‘broadband and gender’: 200 million fewer women online
The report reveals that around the world, women are coming online later and more slowly than men. Of the world’s 2.8 billion Internet users, 1.3 billion are women, compared with 1.5 billion men. While the gap between male and female users is relatively small in OECD nations, it widens rapidly in the developing world, where expensive, ‘high status’ ICTs like computers are often reserved for use by men. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the report’s authors estimate that there are only half the number of women connected as men.
Worldwide, women are also on average 21% less likely to own a mobile phone – representing a mobile gender gap of 300 million, equating to US$13 billion in potential missed revenues for the mobile sector.
Interesting new UNDP report on gender, women and access to ICT.

Making All Voices Count announces first call for proposals
Making All Voices Count aims to fund collaborative efforts, rather than one-sided approaches, and will award grants for the following three components:
Innovation: Backing innovative ideas and technology solutions
Scaling: Scaling successful initiatives and responses
Research and Evidence: Building an evidence base on what works and why
In addition to providing grants in these areas, the programme aims to catalyze global attention and action around these issues and to play an important role in shaping the debates, as well as contributing to advocacy efforts, in the areas of transparency, accountability, open government and use of technology.
There's a great video embedded in the post that describes the new IDS initiative in more detail.

Reforming Public Finances in Nepal
One of the more striking findings of our work was that many issues are ultimately self-contained: public financial management challenges amenable to technical solutions. For instance, the budget process suffers from procedural delays in preparation and execution that make it more difficult to implement the investment plans of the country. There is nothing particular to Nepal’s political legacy, its history of conflict, or indeed its income level needed to understand this problem, and it could just as easily be found in many other places as well. The challenge is often much more institutional than ‘capital-P’ political. It comes down to different ministries working together, or not, procedural bottlenecks and having right people in the right places.
ODI's Phillip Krause on the launch of a new report on public finance challenges in Nepal. As often the case, not everything can be blamed on the complex political situation, but it often seems to make a difficult situation worse...

The Kathmandu marathon: 'It's like running with a cigarette in your mouth'
I ended up talking to a German tourist, who, on the spur of the moment, had decided to do the full marathon distance, something he thought could be the icing on the cake of his four-week-long trip to Asia. Little did he know, what he was letting himself in for. Due to construction works that have been going on for 18 months and have made normal life pretty difficult in Kathmandu, the race could no longer follow the route of previous years.
It's an interesting coincidence that the article on the Kathmandu marathon probably says as much about 'development' than the ODI/World Bank report...on muddling through, expats who underestimate the challenge and running in a chaotic city exposed to urban (un)planning and environmental degradation...

Colombian Protests Show Cracks in Disastrous Economic Model
The situation of Colombian farmers is emblematic of the growing unrest in the country. Having suffered two decades of growing economic hardship under governments which have gradually increased dependence upon imported produce and eaten away at any support which they previously had, the campesinos (peasant farmers) must now contend with the impact of the FTA and the raft of legislation which the government has enacted over recent years in anticipation of the agreement coming into force. One leader told me "it's like putting a straitjacket onto somebody who you've already beaten senseless". Under the pact, Colombian producers must compete with agricultural imports from the US. However, whilst the US government continues to heavily subsidise its farmers, the FTA explicitly forbids the Colombian government from subsidising Colombian agriculture.
The story of the (side-?)effects of trade liberalisation. Unfortunately, nothing really new, but nonetheless worth pointing out. It's a bit like Bono and his taxes (see next link): On the one hand corporations want to get involved in 'development', but on they are only doing this on their terms: Make maximum profit and then 'give back' a few charitable pennies...

Bono: 'There's a difference between cosying up to power and being close to power'
In the very same week I was chased down the street in Germany by a bunch of anarchists at the G8 summit, wielding placards and shouting "Make Bono history!" – which even as I was running for my life I thought was a pretty good line. So: we are doing something right – we are annoying both the capitalists in Africa, and the anti-capitalists in Europe. The thing is, I am not an idealist, never have been, I am just quite pragmatic about finding solutions.
It is not an intellectually rigorous position unless you understand that at the heart of the Irish economy has always been the philosophy of tax competitiveness. Tax competitiveness has taken our country out of poverty. People in the revenue accept that if you engage in that policy then some people are going to go out, and some people are coming in. It has been a successful policy. On the cranky left that is very annoying, I can see that. But tax competitiveness is why Ireland has stayed afloat. When the Germans tried to impose a different tax regime on the country in exchange for a bailout, the taoiseach said they would rather not have the bailout. So U2 is in total harmony with our government's philosophy.
Bono does brand management-for his own 'Bono activism' brand, of course. He has adopted the demeanor of a politician-without having to bother with any form of accountability. The only problem is that fewer people are buying into his discourse of 'make poverty history' while avoiding taxes, cosying up with the powerful and being overtaken by bright people left, right and centre...

The Evangelical Orphan Boom
For too long, well-meaning Americans have brought their advocacy and money to bear on an adoption industry that revolves around Western demand. Adoption can be wonderful when it’s about finding the right family for a child who is truly in need, but it can also be tragic and unjust if it involves deception, removes children from their home countries when other options are available, or is used as a substitute for addressing the underlying problems of poverty and inequality. We can no longer be blind to the collateral damage that good intentions bring.
American evangelists continue to create damage through adoption. 'Finding Fernanda' by Erin Siegal is a great book on the situation in Guatemala and I reviewed it last year.

Are books relevant to humanitarians? Part II
Frustrated with head office requesting the millionth round of corrections on a proposal? Screw them! Write a poem! Being forced to quietly toe the line as you watch a government abuse its citizens with impunity – just so you can keep that health clinic running? Pull out a paintbrush, create something epic! Felt that catch in your throat when you spoke with a mother and she told you quietly, proudly, that her child lives because of your emergency feeding programme – and you remembered why it is you do this job and that it is never enough but it is something. You, why are you so silent?
And if we aren’t honest about our failures, our struggles, then how on earth can we celebrate our successes?
Aidleap not only presents some wonderful development literature, but also calls for more creative occupation of representations of development.

What could unionizing mean for the aid industry?
90% do not have a formal strategy for retaining staff despite many indicating that staff retention is an organizational challenge. Inability to pay competitively, promote staff, and excessive workloads were cited as the greatest retention challenges. A lack of sufficient professional development at mid- and entry-level staff levels will also likely contribute to retention challenges.
While the majority of nonprofits surveyed indicated that diversity and inclusion are important to their organization, many still face challenges, such as retaining staff under the age of 30, having their staff reflect the composition of the communities they serve, and balancing ethnic and cultural diversity
Jennifer Lentfer is driving the issue of unionisation forward in the beltway aid industry. Another quite revolution?!

Poor Paternalism
In the market for good, however, you have no Angie’s List, e-bay rating system, or Consumer Reports. And, the poor have no Better Business Bureau Seal of Approval with which to signal their credibility to prospective do-gooders. The poor only have their promises, which as we have discussed lack credibility. So, in turn, we create conditions, attach strings, and transfer goods in kind instead of cash, if we decide to give at all. In other words, we delimit choices and curtail their freedom to choose. Paternalistic? Yes. Understandable? Yes.
Who knows, she may welcome some conditions and strings. Indeed, they may empower her to say “No” to herself and to others whether they are in need of her assistance her not. I know I welcome them sometimes.
So, does paternalism deserve its bad image?
Blue Collar Professor Shawn Humphrey on why 'paternalism' may have a role to play in development after all...

Are You Living Your Eulogy or Your Résumé?
Have you noticed that when people die, their eulogies celebrate life very differently from the way we define success in our everyday existence? Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric. At HuffPost we've made the Third Metric -- redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give -- a key editorial focus. But while it's not hard to live a Third Metric life, it's very easy not to. It's easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It's easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It's easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It's easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we're living them. Until we're no longer living them.
Although true for man occasions, I think that aidworkers and the aid industry in more general terms are living by their CVs rather than their eulogy.

From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now
This process I’ve described here – from Tweet at an academic conference, to a blog post, to a series of blog posts to a paper that became an article – is just one of many possible iterations of how to be a scholar now using digital media. Other permutations of how to be a scholar now might include live Tweeting an article you’re reading. Sometimes, when I get pre-set “alerts” in my email about newly published scholarship I’m interested in, I will share a title and a link via Twitter. If, upon reading further, I find the piece especially perspicacious, I may share select sentences via Twitter. If it happens that there’s a current event in the news that the article can help illuminate, then I’ll draft a blog post that incorporates it.
Jessie Daniels reflects on various ways of academic engagement in the digital age that doesn't simply create a dichotomy between the 'necessary evil' of peer-reviewed publications and the great freedom of social media interactions, but a meaningful way of combining the two. Very similar to our work on research development blogging and global policy summits (see above).

17 Things Overheard at an Admissions Conference
The vast exhibit hall, packed with vendors, the sight of which inspired a visitor to utter this phrase: “The admissions-industrial complex.”
This pretty much seems to sum it up how the college admissions in the U.S. have become 'industrialised' by tools, metrics & corporatisation.


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