Links & Contents I Liked 100 (!)

Dear all,

Welcome to the centennial weekly blog review!

In addition to a special post on curating development content (see below) there is a great link review featuring all the topics you like to engage with critically (e.g. patriarchy, open government, digital humanitarianism, anthropological dress-codes, MOOCs for elites), all the celebrities you actually like to read less about and the odd discovery about Twiplomacy, African Digital Woman, French philosophers & why we really don't need HR departments anymore!


New on aidnography

100 weekly link reviews later: Why I still like curating #globaldev content
11 post-Haiyan articles that are relevant for every disaster (UPDATED)
Gender and Statebuilding in Fragile and Conflict-affected States

This publication provides an overview of the key issues, challenges and opportunities for ensuring more systematic consideration of gender issues in statebuilding in fragile and conflict-affected countries. It makes the case for gender-sensitive statebuilding based on the inherent value of gender equality as well as its contribution to better development outcomes and the achievement of peacebuilding and statebuilding goals. The brief also spells out some of the contextual challenges and operational constraints that stifle progress in this area. Based on a series of empirical examples of donor practices, the brief finally distills key success factors and concrete entry points for tackling these challenges and achieving a more effective, more politically informed approach to integrating gender into statebuilding.
Let's start this week's review with a fairly conservative report by the OECD that probably makes an interesting discourse analytical exercise...

B.C. professor ruffles feathers by spotlighting Africa’s data problems

Prof. Jerven’s basic argument is this: Even the most basic African economic statistics cannot be fully trusted, because they are often riddled with major flaws and wild inconsistencies. And if those numbers are dubious, everyone from foreign aid donors to global lending agencies needs to reconsider their assumptions about Africa. His book, Poor Numbers, concludes that African statistics are much more questionable than anyone realized – a “black box” of uncertainty, resulting in “governance by ignorance.”
Morten Jerven's book is definitely on my reading list...and remember: Trying to 'ban' an academic from publishing or attending a conference will almost certainly increase his fame-not the opposite!

Twiplomacy Study 2013 – International Organisations

In the latest installment of Burson-Marsteller’s award-winning Twiplomacy research series, we have taken a closer look at how international organisations use Twitter to see what the best strategies are and what corporations could learn from the non-profit sector.
In this deep-dive on international organisations and their leaders, we have looked at 223 Twitter accounts from101 international organisations, including 51 personal accounts of their leaders and 75 accounts in other languages. Data for each account was gathered on 1 November 2013 looking at 60 data points, including the number of followers, the number of @replies and the average number of retweets for each account.
The United Nations Children's Fund (@UNICEF) is the most followed international organisation with more than 2 million followers. @UNICEF is also the second most effective international organisation after the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (@CERN); both organisations’ tweets are retweeted on average more than 100 times.
Interesting study published by global PR firm Burson-Marsteller-but I will definitely have a closer look at the methodologies and findings.

All in the Family: Explaining the Persistence of Female Genital Cutting in the Gambia

Results suggest that a woman who has undergone FGC is 40 percentage points more likely to be in favour of the practice. Secondly, the findings indicate that 85% of the relationship between whether a woman has undergone FGC and her support for the practice can be attributed to individual- or household-level factors, but that only 15% of that relationship can be explained by factors at the village level or beyond. This suggests that village-wide pledges against FGC, though they have worked well in neighbouring Senegal, are unlikely to be effective in the Gambia. Rather, policies aimed at eliminating FGC in this context should instead target individuals and households if they are to be effective.
A good summary with more details on Marc Bellemare's recent presentation of his research in London.
Undressing patriarchy and redressing gender inequalities on International Men’s Day
‘By the end of the Symposium I realised that patriarchy is not just synonymous with female oppression. It goes deeper than that and it takes many different forms. Patriarchy affects everyone. By that I mean it’s not only about gender - “race”, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, age, class, religion, and more all come into it. Even those in power who have to conform to a specific set of rules are affected by patriarchy’, said symposium participant, Zarah Nesbitt.
A good post with plenty of resources to catch up on gender, men, masculinity and patriarchy and their relationships to development.

Basic education: beyond school choice

The debate is pitched as policymakers needing to support public or private education. It is not clear that the policy debate should be a choice between public and private (financing, provision and regulation of) education. Is there scope for genuine partnerships between the public and private sector? Do partnerships only mean vouchers—public money to private providers?
If we accept that the government is weak at delivering education outcomes, do we expect it to do well in delivering funding and regulation to a sensitive sector such as basic primary education?
Suvojit Chattopadhyay on complex questions around the seemingly simple questions whether 'public' or 'private' education delivers better results. The final question is very important: Aren't oversight, regulatory frameworks and their enforcement key roles of the state and if we distrust the state in one area, why should it deliver better results in another-especially in a corruption-prone sector like education?

How America's Richest People Are Bringing Hope To The Eighth-Poorest Nation In The World

When the FORBES magazine puts Bono and Bill Gates and a few other celebrities on the frontpage and features articles like the one above you know that despite determined efforts to pretend the opposite old-fashioned aid reporting is alive and kicking. And yes, after (Western) governments and corporations it's the billionaires who will 'save' Africa ones and for all!

Bill Gates Can’t Build a Toilet

Even simple solutions like the Peepoo bag, which inexpensively (less than 2 cents per bag) sanitizes waste before turning it into fertilizer, are huge improvements. They can also be critical in saving lives after natural disasters.
If we embrace these low-tech toilets, we’ll be on the right track to getting 2.5 billion people one step closer to a safe, clean, comfortable and affordable toilet of their own. That’s something worth celebrating this World Toilet Day.
Jason Kass on why Bill Gates' high tech solutions will unlikely lead to widespread improvements in sanitation. But Bill Gates reads books and shares them on facebook so he must know what he is doing...

African Digital Woman of the Year Award goes to Dr Dorothy Okello

Dr. Dorothy Okello is a Ugandan technologist and engineer, known for her work in the Women of Uganda Network or WOUGNET. According to its website, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) is a non-governmental organisation initiated in May 2000 by several women’s organisations in Uganda to develop the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) among women as tools to share information and address issues collectively.
Some good ICT-related news from the African Digital Woman award!

The key role of mainstream media in disaster management

Local community media, in particular radio, played a vital in the humanitarian response to the 2011 Japan earthquake, a report by Internews published earlier this year showed.
Combining the monitoring of mainstream media as well as user-generated content helped to provide a more complete crisis map of Kenya during the 2007/08 election violence, Meier showed in a study.
But while this used to mean ploughing manually through masses of news sources, a new tool – the Global Database of Events, Language and Tone (GDELT) – makes linking information from social and mainstream media easier, Meier writes.
Just a quick reminder that the hype and real achievements around social media and disasters need to take mainstream traditional media into consideration.

The conundrum of digital humanitarianism: when the crowd does harm

But the truth is that the beauty of the internet, in humanitarian crisis, is also its curse: everyone can do everything and does not need to be “trained” or to be a “professional”, or to be part of a formal organization. So here there are some suggestions to EVERYONE that is today looking at the internet to help and to support people in the Philippines
Anahi Iacucci offers some hands-on advice on how engage responsibly in digital humanitarianism: 'If it sounds crazy it probably is'...

The Biases in Open Government that Blind Us

In that same year, however, at least 28 journalists were threatened or attacked by government bodies for their coverage of state corruption. And today, the country is considering legislation that would further tighten media regulation — already described by local journalists as “emasculating.”
A technocentric view means that as long as a government embraces new technologies, releases some datasets, and makes high-profile commitments to the international community, it is a card-carrying member of the open government community. Whether the government actually allows its citizens to freely and openly use open data is apparently irrelevant.
The final guest blog by Panthea Lee is as well-written and important reading as the previous ones around open government and the limits of the technocratic view.

Social Media Toolkit Released by Greenlining

Today, we want to share out their newest publication, The Art of Listening: Social Media Toolkit for Nonprofits. The strategy guide is filled with social media strategies and tactics to really build a foundation for your social media presence as a nonprofit.
Is there anything better than to hear from an actual nonprofit (who has gone through the hoops) about how nonprofit technology works and doesn’t work for them?
Great new resource and real-world social media use in the non-profit sector.

Why We No Longer Need HR Departments

The role of the people support team is, as the title suggests, supporting all employees in the organization – from the front line to the senior leadership team. The tasks of this team include: helping employees with their development; ensuring staff engagement; identifying issues with morale and culture and generally looking after the well-being of the people in the business.
The role of the people analytics team is to look at people more scientifically and support the company with insights and analytics. The kind of questions this team would help to answer includes: What are our talent gaps? What makes a good employee in our company and how do we best recruit them? Which employees have got the highest potential? How can we predict staff turnover? Etc.
Outsource or automate the non-value adding part of HR.
Yes, I was hesitating to share this as it is from a LinkedIn 'influencer' blog that usually share click-generating non-articles along the lines of 'The 5 ties you shouldn't wear to an office reception unless it's Thursday after 7p.m (EST)'. So this one is relevant for the aid industry. What are the challenges for HR in development and how can they become a 'people support team'. A while ago Brendan Rigby and I discussed a similar topic.

Glorious Backfires in Digital Ethnography: Becoming an Urban Explorer

When Brad first started working on the urban explorer project, he realized (like so many ethnographers before him) that joining the community would not be easy. He couldn’t simply join other explorers without first establishing himself as trustworthy and serious. Brad needed currency. Photographs of him pictured in hard-to-reach spaces were that currency. Brad recounts that it took him about eight months of exploring mostly on his own, taking photographs of his explorations and then publishing them on his blog, Place Hacking and other forums to get an invite.
The very method used to meet the elite explorers who he ended up studying also led to exposure of a more problematic kind. Because he was sharing his photographs and field notes using his real name, Brad was increasingly seen as a spokesperson and leader of the urban explorer community among the press who, he said, “couldn’t deal with a leaderless community”. By the time him and his crew posted photographs of them climbing the Shard in London, his website crashed and he had “every national newspaper in the country trying to get photos”.
Those whose buildings were being trespassed saw photographs of explorers claiming the spaces as their own through these visual explorations and the accompanying media attention as brazen. Some members of the community resented his status as a spokeperson, and he endured criticism and legal threats.
A fascinating insight into digital anthropology, place, space and new/old challenges for ethnographic researchers and activists! Great book, great post!

Crops, Towns, Government

Contemporary hunter-gatherer life can tell us a great deal about the world of states and empires but it can tell us nothing at all about our prehistory. We have virtually no credible evidence about the world until yesterday and, until we do, the only defensible intellectual position is to shut up.
James Scott reviews Jared Diamond- and yes, choosing the punch line for my review is a bit of a spoiler but the complete long essay is well worth the read.

Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist

The AAA Annual Meeting is a professional academic conference. Business casual attire is strongly recommended, particularly for those presenting research during the meeting.”
But, should you wear business casual? Some say yes, depending on what your goals are at the conference and who you’re going to be meeting with. Others say, “Business Casual? I’m not sure what that is, but I don’t think its anthropological.”
A few anthropological colleagues who are currently attending the AAA conference in Chicago post a self- and discipline-reflective essay on conference chic.

Tweeting and blogging aren’t wastes of academics’ time – they can be valuable outreach

So, by the time of the next REF, when all your papers are likely to be (to comply with open access policies) safely residing in a repository somewhere, if you have been tweeting about them as they appear, and maybe following up later with a nugget about the content of the paper to spark further interest, who knows what that might have done to your citation count?
Athene Donald explains why social media activities can actually pay off in the cold, hard, 'evidence-based' world of today's academy.

MOOCs Are Largely Reaching Privileged Learners, Survey Finds

The pattern was true not only of MOOC students in the United States but also learners in other countries. In some foreign countries where MOOCs are popular, such as Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa, “80 percent of MOOC students come from the wealthiest and most well educated 6 percent of the population,” according to the paper.
In other developing countries, about 80 percent of the MOOC students surveyed already held college degrees—a number staggeringly out of proportion with the share of degree holders in the general population.
That's a shocker! As I argued in an earlier post, unless MOOC provider engage in meaningful local partnerships, their efforts will contribute little to educating underprivileged groups.

In Sweden, the push is on to recruit foreign graduate students

Ms. Grinberg Rabinowicz liked the program’s small classes, the strong emphasis on group work, and the international mix of students. Swedish students have far more say over the curriculum and how they are taught than their Canadian counterparts, she discovered. There’s also much less emphasis on grades, she said. Students are encouraged to set their own goals and are marked according to how well they achieve them, rather than compared to other students in the class. “It’s all about improvement,” said Ms. Grinberg Rabinowicz. On the other hand, she said, orientation programs for new students fell short of those she was accustomed to in Canada and made it difficult to meet new people at the start.
Some very interesting insights into the internationalisation efforts of Swedish universities.

The Social Ideology of the Motorcar

Meanwhile, what is to be done to get there? Above all, never make transportation an issue by itself. Always connect it to the problem of the city, of the social division of labour, and to the way this compartmentalises the many dimensions of life. One place for work, another for "living," a third for shopping, a fourth for learning, a fifth for entertainment. The way our space is arranged carries on the disintegration of people that begins with the division of labour in the factory. It cuts a person into slices, it cuts our time, our life, into separate slices so that in each one you are a passive consumer at the mercy of the merchants, so that it never occurs to you that work, culture, communication, pleasure, satisfaction of needs, and personal life can and should be one and the same thing: a unified life, sustained by the social fabric of the community.
This essay by French philosopher André Gorz does not just apply to 'motorcar versus bike' discussions, but you can almost replace 'motorcar' with 'MOOC' or even 'aid' for similar reflections on its value and devaluation. Great food for thought!


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