Links & Contents I Liked 97

Hello all,

As we are approaching the 100th link review we have another great week with great pieces written by some great friends!

This week features IDS' new digital repository; a new report violence and suffering of Nepali migrants; Oxfam, USAID & the difficulties of really listening to stakeholders; the futile 15 seconds of fame that come with post-2015 MDG exercises; NGOs, M&As and the business of aid; German TV & refugee p€rn; would you tell an energized crowd the truth about development? Behavioral economics-what are they good for? Why the revolution will not be open datazised; and a look at an ideal college.


New on aidnography
Popular Representations of Development (book recommendation)
This collection highlights how if we look beyond conventional academic studies and policy reports - for example to films, posters, or fiction - then we may learn something new. For example, we may find forms of knowledge and representation that humanise development processes, or historicise our perspective in illuminating ways
The book connects the effort to build a more holistic understanding of development issues with an exploration of the diverse public sphere in which popular engagement with development takes place.

IDS publishes 47 years of key titles into its digital repository

During Open Access Week 2013, IDS is pleased to announce that we are in the process of digitising and publishing onto OpenDocs, our open access repository, our entire back catalogue of almost 2000 research reports, working papers, practice papers, and other Series Titles. A key aspect of our approach to supporting open access to research is building on the existing open access availability of our research knowledge through the continued expansion and improvement of OpenDocs. Our research and policy outputs including reports, papers and briefings as well as many journal articles and book chapters are now routinely published onto the repository
One of the very useful features of 'Open Access Week'-unlike the quasi-spam message from commercial publishers that wanted to tell me about their desire to publish open access...

Structural Violence and Social Suffering among Marginal Nepali Migrants

Building on our earlier research, we find that mobility of labor has not necessarily meant more freedom for poorer migrants, although the idea of freedom appears to be driving much of the out-migration from rural Nepal. While migration has certainly opened up opportunities for cash income, the nature of work and working conditions have often resulted in social dislocation, humiliation, debt entrapment, social suffering, and structural violence. This highlights an apparent contradiction: migrants leave their villages because of their redundancy in the rural-agrarian labor processes and because of the attraction that modernity has to offer in the cities and towns, but they are constantly driven back to their village because of the transient and time-bound nature of their mobility. Thus, the identity of the migrant remains attached to the village even if the working sites and sectors are “modern” and urban.
Great new report that helps to put more empirical grounding and nuances to the 'migration-remittance-development' discourse.

Is aid a roadblock to development? Some thoughts on Angus Deaton’s new book

It comes down to: What’s your counterfactual world without aid? Mine is not a Uganda with less corrupt politicians and a stronger fiscal base. My best guess is a continued cycle of war and a more dictatorial strongman at the helm.
Without a doubt, big chunks of the aid machine are broken. I’d prefer to fix them and not throw them away. In large part, this is what Deaton recommends. He also reminds us there are things that are harder to do than give money, like opening our borders, that could help more.
The polemic will sell more books and get people talking about the world’s problems. That’s exactly what polemic is supposed to do. But I would recommend paying the most attention to the concrete suggestions and solutions in the book. I think the promoters and detractors are all closer to sharing the same opinions than we think.
Interesting and detailed review of Angus Deaton's book by Chris Blattman. There is something about great book reviews to help structuring your own thinking, discussing and writing...

Oxfam article on Feed the Future in Haiti causes a stir in Washington DC

“The farmers were asking very good questions, raising justifiable doubts and critiques because they have directly experienced WINNER,” said Gilda Charles, Oxfam’s Aid Effectiveness Officer in Haiti who worked with our partner, the Haitian Advocacy Platform for Alternative Development (PAPDA)
And these farmers associations were not the first to raise concerns about USAID’s and Chemonics’ practices in Haiti. There are various critical Inspector General reports regarding significant problems with USAID’s business loans, cash-for-work programs, shelter provision, and food aid programs in Haiti. Critical reports have also been made about USAID’s largest recipient of US aid contracts in the island nation and around the world—Chemonics.
“Oxfam and PAPDA’s initiative showed that farmers can provide critical feedback donors can address,” explained Omar Ortez, Senior Policy Advisor for Citizen Engagement at Oxfam. “At the end of the day, this was about relationships built and the need for institutional responses to legitimate concerns when they are raised.”
Jennifer Lentfer's article has been shared widely in my networks this week-for all the right reasons! It's a new iteration of the old story that every organization pretends to listen, but is less eager to actually follow up if the aid relationship is essentially between a development consultancy firm and USAID with the real 'stakeholders' pretty much sidelined...old habits do die hard

15 Seconds of Fame: Why Post-2015 Doesn’t Need More 'Participation'

But as well as being overly simplistic and somewhat condescending, many of these measures – like civil society organisations given 15 seconds to speak – are also highly superficial, and Green dismisses such attempts at participation as “pretty perfunctory ‘clicktivism’”.
Ultimately then, inclusivity is about more than just coming up with technically-effective and efficient ways of gathering information in remote areas. It is about more than taking polls of the poor that can be cited in faraway international meetings. It is about more than adding a few extra voices to the growing hubbub clamouring to shape the post-2015 agenda. Genuine participation of the poorest is about politics and power. And the imbalances that have so far stymied meaningful participation are arguably the same ones underpinning the main problems with the UN’s post-2015 High-Level Panel – a failure to address the root causes of poverty; a preoccupation with the market rather than unemployment and deprivation; and a failure to tackle the inequality in wealth, resources and, crucially, power.
As well-written and argued as the Think Africa Press piece on the post-MDG debate is, it raises the question for me whether anybody really believed that these pseudo-participatory exercises have any impact on 'policy-making'?!

UN Women ad series reveals widespread sexism

A series of ads, developed as a creative idea for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai, uses genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. Based on searches dated 9 March, 2013 the ads expose negative sentiments ranging from stereotyping as well as outright denial of women’s rights
Probably the most shared development-related item in my networks this week and a great example that the UN has a powerful reach with their advocacy-and more problems when it actually comes to members implementing changes...

Aid Workers and Risk – Part 3: South Sudan Dangers

From the studies discussed in the previous blog, one can guesstimate around 10% of aid workers in South Sudan will contract malaria. While I don’t have data on other diseases, it would be reasonable to assume they would add up to a considerable risk. Over a third of aid workers in South Sudan will suffer deteriorating health. I don’t have a figure for the risk of aid workers to traffic accidents in South Sudan, but this will be high, somewhere between the risk of a major attack and the risk of contracting malaria. 40% of aid workers will find their deployment more stressful than they expect. 10% will suffer from anxiety and 20% from depression. Once deployments are finished, there will be a risk of longer term effects, both physical and mental, but there is little data to quantify this risk.
Final installment of a very readable three-part series on aidworkers and risks over at Aidleap.

Are NGOs turning to M&A in globalized marketplace?

Heifer International, Riennzie Kern, was one of the voices in the discussion that M&A in the third sector is not necessarily the way forward if an NGO is in trouble or in need of support from a larger body. He said, “If an NGO goes under it probably does not need to exist, don’t try to merge and put a second NGO under.”
Kern pointed out that following a private sector practices in the charity sector works to a degree for NGO in terms of the declared benefits from M&A activity, but that the sector – and individual organizations – must look at the fundamentally different avenues they must follow in order to maintain their efficiency and relevancy.
From the two charities involved in the Save the Children-Merlin merger, however, the robust message and intention has been that the deal will provide “an opportunity for Merlin to see its work continue and create a sustainable future for the organization in a tough external environment for smaller charities.” A Save the Children spokesman added, “For those teams transferring as part of this plan, our expectation is that there will be a phased transition of Merlin’s overseas program operations and head office teams to Save the Children, which we are aiming to complete within 18 months.”
One global health professional said that the combining of the two companies is not new – particularly where smaller NGOs are concerned – and that he expects to see a lot more of it in the coming years.
Wow...NGOs talking M&A and the 'aid industry' discourse just got enriched with a new nuance...

Refugee Voyeurism, German Style

In fact, the people who should be the center of attention are granted only a few heavily edited establishing shots in which they are allowed to voice their opinions and feelings in no more than half a minute. By this, the people who actually live in camps under unbearable conditions and embark on perilous journeys during their sometimes years-long odysseys are degraded to extras who make a nicely exoticized setting for the brave German adventurers.
By contrast those ‘main characters’ are extensively filmed as they are disgusted at a bucket latrine in a refugee camp. In another sequence one candidate is filmed vomiting for more than a minute and a half. All this satisfies the voyeuristic wants of today’s TV audience.
More drastically, though, reality for refugees does not offer such kind of safety net in which they could easily slump once they have a bad day. Reality for them is more likely to include floating for days on the Mediterranean Sea in a cockleshell without drinking water; torture and mutilation in Libya’s clinks located in the middle of the desert; abduction in the Sinai which might hold gang rape for women and organ harvesting on the part of male refugees; physical abuse by FRONTEX paramilitary forces who welcome refugees to the European border regime that is designed to keep them off at any cost; being driven underground by fear of racist thugs and thus not even being able to apply for asylum procedures.
Public television, seemingly public perceptions around refugees and yet another TV show that no researcher, activist & person in their right mind would have approved just so you can brag about an 'innovative format' with practically taxpayer funded support...

Pumping People Up About Poverty

I would have to tell them that the narrative that dominates our culture of young people parachuting into poor communities to save the day is not only wrong it is also damaging. I would have to tell them how this narrative unjustifiably steals away dignity and self-respect from already marginalized communities. In fact, I would have to tell them how I hope that by the time their children grow up that powerful and privileged people will no longer be telling the poor how to develop, how I hope that their children will interpret this type of behavior as an historical anachronism, and how I hope that their children will be a bit embarrassed that their parents attended a pumping-people-up-about-poverty spectacle.
Shawn Humphrey reflects on the TED-esque temptations to speak in front of an audience and get them excited about 'development'-and the sobering reality check he should deliver instead.

What behavioral economics isn’t? I’ll tell you what it isn’t…

There are a couple of disciplines out there (for example, anthropology, geography, some aspects of sociology and social history) that have long operated with complex framings of human behavior, and have already derived many of the lessons that BE is just now (re)discovering. In this light, then, this short paper does show us what BE isn’t: it isn’t anthropology, geography, or any other social science that has already engaged the same questions as BE, but with more complex framings of human behavior and more rigorous interpretations of observed outcomes. And if it isn’t that, what exactly is the point of this field of inquiry?
Ed Carr on how behavioral economics sometimes pretends to be social science with the objectivity of economics when in fact, we need to ask 'Will the real anthropologists et al. please stand up, please stand up'!

The revolution will not be in open data

There are a lot of unanswered questions. Do citizens have the agency to take action? Who holds power? What kind of action is appropriate or desirable? Who is listening? And if they are listening, do they care?

Linda finished up the panel by raising some questions around the assumptions that people make decisions based on information rather than on emotion, and that there is a homogeneous “public” or “community” that is waiting for data/information upon which to base their opinions and actions.

So as a final thought, here’s my (perhaps clumsy) 2013 update on Gil Scott Heron’s 1970 song “The Revolution will not be televised”:
“The revolution will NOT be in Open data,
It will NOT be in hackathons, data dives, and mobile apps,
It will NOT be broadcast on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube,
It will NOT be live-streamed, podcast, and available on catch-up
The revolution will not be televised”
Heron’s point, which holds true today, was that “the revolution” or change, starts in the head. We need to think carefully about how we get far beyond access to data.
As I argued before, if organizations from the World Bank to Gates Foundation, from bilateral donors to large NGOs find a topic like 'open data' agreeable you can bet that it will not revolutionize development research, thinking and implementing.

Online Seminar: Learn about Media Development in Non-profit Contexts

”Media, Globalization and Development” will be the overarching theme for a seminar arranged by the Communication for Development programme at Malmö University. It takes place 8-9 November and is hosted by ECLA of Bard, a Liberal Arts University in Berlin.
The title is a bit misleading, but we will be in Berlin in two week's time for a seminar with students, alumni and friends and if you want to join online or physically just get in touch and we should be able to make that happen!

What Would an Ideal College Look Like? A Lot Like This

Champlain wants to be an economic engine for Vermont and tries to stay in front of the curve, especially on tech-driven career training. Finney explained one of the ways the college does that: “Most of our programs have affiliated advisory boards with people from Vermont businesses. We ask these people ‘what are you going to need?’ Not ‘what do you need now,’ but ‘what are you going to need in the future?’ And we try to meet those needs. So people in companies here have the sense that Champlain is their partner. And we’re very future-oriented.” Little wonder, then, that Champlain has become, as one reporter put it, “a training ground for Vermont software development firms and other high-tech employers”
Interesting essay on the successful re-invention (or maintenance) of traditional college values in the digital age at Champlain College


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