Links & Contents I Liked 116

Hi all,

We are celebrating blog post #275 this week!
First, new toolkit on women and peace negotiations, new research on agenda setting in advocacy networks and a new UNICEF report on ict4kids. Then, the 'baffling maze' of Norwegian aid rules, new books by Robert Chambers and on C4D. Finally, three positive stories from California, Cambodia and a poetic essay on the hidden struggles of civic engagement. Last not least, a sobering experiment with the 'gig economy'. A look at social design, the edu-factory and new research on international organization bureaucracies bring this week's review full circle!


New from aidnography
CfP Örecomm Glocal Conference on Communication for Development-ICT, gender & journalism panels
The fourth annual Örecomm Festival is in its early planning stages and this year I am part of the organizing team and responsible for two exciting panels!
Btw: This is blog post #275 so you to click and like it as a matter of celebrating ;)!

Promoting Women’s Participation in Peace Negotiations and Peace Processes (PDF)

The toolkit also takes into account current international debate on women’s participation in peace processes and peace negotiations, with a particular emphasis on the latest discussions on the
Women, Peace and Security policy agenda. The toolkit also benefits from the latest UN Women publication on peace negotiations and agreements (2012) and recent policy research on women’s roles in
peace agreements and peace processes for UN Women (Reimann et al. 2012).
The main analytical focus of this toolkit is how development agencies can promote and increase women’s participation in peace processes and peace negotiations. This toolkit is based on four guiding assumptions on gender equality in peace negotiations and
peace processes as advanced by UNSCR 1325 and its subsequent expansion through Resolutions. (p.13)
I could not find a link on the German ministry for development's ambitiously named 'Gendering Development' site, but fellow Bradford peace researcher Cordula Reimann as lead author compiled an interesting toolkit.

New Research on Issue Selection in Global Policy Networks

Through a series of focus groups with human security practitioners, we examined how powerful organizations at the center of advocacy networks select issues for attention. (...) Scholars of global agenda setting should pay particular attention to how intranetwork relations structure gatekeeper preferences within transnational advocacy spaces because these help constitute perceptions of issues’ and actors’ attributes in networks.
Interesting new research on how a human security advocacy network selects issues. I hope that the authors will share their findings in a more accessible, because even for me the article is quite heavy on political science language which is quite different from...'normal English'...

ict4kids: "Children, ICTs and Development" Report Launch

Today, 28th April, the report "Children, ICTs and Development", was launched at the Digitally Connected conference, co-hosted by the Berkman Centre and UNICEF. Below you will find very interesting tweet post, made during the presentation and Q&A. This is for those, like me, who were absent
So let's use storify to break through the monotony of sharing and presenting new and interesting research...

Impossible to measure the effect of Norwegian aid

Baffling maze of rules and procedures
Evaluating Norad’s evaluation practices, the researchers find that the difficulties in measuring outcome and impact stem from a number of reasons. In their report, the researchers provide list of main findings and a comprehensive set of recommendations to match. Firstly, they find that current policies, systems and procedures are too fragmented, and do not provide effective guidelines. Also, there is little clarity about minimum standards. There are 45 different Grant Scheme rules, and each has its own set of rules for results measurement, causing a lot of confusion among staff evaluating aid projects. In effect, this means that which guidelines and standards that are followed varies from project to project, and that there is very little consistency.
To create more consistency and clarity in guidelines and procedures, the researchers recommend that all partners in projects should be required to use standard templates and to outline in greater detail how they plan to measure results, to develop more comprehensive guidance and checklists, and to develop a more strategic approach to the use of evaluations and grants.
I wonder what 'empirical methods' will emerge from this study led by ITAD. While 'baffling maze' sounds not very surprising, the question is whether current best evaluation practice can actually 'measure effects'...

Into the Unknown: Explorations in Development Practice: lovely (and short) new book from Robert Chambers

On (not) lecturing:
‘To lecture, you have to read and remember what others have written, reinforcing it then through public repetition. I did not know enough of any relevant subject to be able to give a formal lecture during my three years at Glasgow, and am amazed to realize that I have only ever given one in 35 years at the University of Sussex.
Instead I have taken the easier option of participatory workshops, trying, but not always succeeding, to do something new each time. Optimal unpreparedness and trying to facilitate more open-ended participatory learning in place of more closed didactic teaching have helped.
But lack of time and energy, laziness, and finding exercises and sequences which seem to work, have lured me into repetition. In consequence I have deceived myself, constructing through speech and public performance false beliefs, progressively discarding caveats and fitting what I say to the needs of the occasion. I do not think many lecturers realize that giving a lecture again and again is, like a catechism, disabling and conservative, because each time we say something we embed it, remember it better and believe it more, diminishing our doubts, finding it easier to repeat, and to a degree closing our minds.’
The book has a top space on my summer reading list...while it is easy to blame the current state of higher education to enable repetitive lecturing over participatory learning, the question for me is how technology for example can help us to 'un-lecture'. Is the Chambersian method of workshopping fit for the 21st century? Or, to put it the other way around, are such methods of learning future niches for smaller colleges and universities in a global higher ed market place? Hopefully, I will be able to share more reflections in my book review!

Retelling the Story of Media and Development

Instead, I spent the time writing a simpler book - seeking to provide a much broader overview of what existing research tells us about the relationship between media and development in general. It tells us, very clearly, that 'techno-utopian' narratives are wrong. At best, such narratives are misleading - failing to highlight the varieties, complexities and contingencies of the media's role in social change. Positive thinking, it seems, is not a sound basis for project design or policy making. At worst, such narratives support the interests of those who benefit from an expansion in the use of new technologies. It is not by chance that Bill Gates, for example, is a techno-optimist.
I know...more great food for thought...more books to read, but this one is a definite 'must-read' for ComDev and C4D

U.S. Says It Built Digital Programs Abroad With an Eye to Politics

The State Department and the United States Agency for International Development have actively pushed for the use of social media programs after seeing their successful use during the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in 2010. Messaging was also used by protesters during the 2009 Iranian presidential election.
Breaking: US aid uses digital technologies as modern continuation of its political objectives...that's a shocker...but interesting case studies nonetheless.

The New Class: College Students Redefine Leadership Through Microfinance

While attending Los Angeles Mission College full-time, Oscar also operates Wiser Lending, the microfinance initiative he founded on campus that provides financial services to low-income entrepreneurs in the community. This past fall, the organization held a credit-building workshop for over 25 immigrant entrepreneurs—and it plans to hold other workshops like it over the course of the year.
Wiser Lending is the collective product of Oscar’s entrepreneurial endeavors, formal education and fellowship experience. He has already secured office space on campus and has scheduled financial workshops to offer to small businesses in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Topics will span business development, such as marketing and promotion, as well as educational workshops on credit and savings. Oscar’s goal is to collaborate with crowd-funding sites, such as Kiva, to connect entrepreneurs with financing, and to eventually build Wiser Lending’s own loan fund.
Shawn Humphrey continues sharing innovative approaches to microfinance and Charity Yoro's post is an interesting story from California that links education, entrepreneurship and local communities in interesting ways.

An Underdog Story in Global Development

We have before us a project that ticks all the boxes. Enormous under-serviced population. Small local organization with very little finances yet very high motivation. Extremely high impact for minimal outlay. Government and large multilateral staff starting to pay attention to the need. Results. Proven results.
WhyDev's Weh Yeoh on his engagement with a Cambodian NGO to provide (better) services on speech therapy. Great story--with hopefully a happy ending in terms of sustainable funding and scaled-up work!

The Story of Hope and Faith the Government Doesn't Want You to Hear

The government and mass media do their best to suppress this story. The cameras swing to the angry kid dressed in black and the provocations he launches at the police. The images flash scenes of chaos during the crackdown. The news does not report the countless hours of quiet boycotts, uneventful sit-ins, or midnight sign-painting sessions in preparation for tomorrow's picket lines. The sudden grace of students taking wing from tyranny, walking out on classes and injustice is rarely mediatized.
Few television stations air footage of tedious city council meetings, where people witness the birth of change.
The suspicion of agent provocateurs, the cynical snort that so-and-so is a paid troll, the sighs about infuriating individuals, the teeth-gritting over long-winded speakers, complaints about self-serving power grabbers, the frustration when one person's anger holds the whole room hostage; these are also truths in the world of nonviolent struggle.
A beautiful poetic piece by Rivera Sun the non-mediatized spaces of protest, struggle and civic engagement.

Pixel & Dimed-On (Not) Getting By in the Gig Economy

Leena Chitnis, a former Fulbright scholar, finished an MBA program at Syracuse University last year and, while she looks for work, set up eight gigs on Fiverr to keep her going. So far, she's completed a total of 27 orders and made $176. "I have $90,000 in school loans," she says, "so when people say, can you edit my business plan for five bucks, I'm like, people charge $10,000 to write your business plan, and here I am editing it for four bucks [Fiverr takes 20% of every $5 fee]. I've seen panhandlers get more money outside of the 7-11."
I have come to realize that one of the cruel ironies of the gig economy is that even though it's geared almost exclusively to serve urban markets, the kind of densely packed cities where space is at a premium, one needs a car to have a shot at the cream of the work that's available. Even worse, the universe of gig economy startups is mostly relying on young people and others who are underemployed--exactly the people whom are least likely to be able to afford a car in a city. Or have an extra bedroom. Or a parking space. Or designer clothes. Or handyman skills.
Sarah Kessler shares her sobering experiences with the 'gig economy' short: Getting an income in the 'sharing economy' is an illusion-not surprising, but worth pointing out. I wonder if we will be seeing a development-related platform in the future that will target the growing number of underemployed graduates in 'our' field...

Here's Why Companies Are Desperate To Hire Anthropologists

With the help of Red, Adidas was able to understand the world of its customers. Interestingly, it's the human sciences — literature, arts, anthropology — that allow for understanding the unique worlds that people live in. By observing people's daily lives and the ways in which they interact with products, consultancies like Red are able to discern what products mean to customers in a way that big data can't determine.
Ok, you have to read beyond the click-bait headline and forget for a second the shameless self-promotion of an advertising or marketing consultancy firm...beyond that lies an interesting debate on anthropological engagement in the age of big data...

On Social Design in an Age of Collaborative Media

Social design is an important concept, not the least in the sense that it seems to be able to gather actors with different competencies and experiences into the same arenas. It may have a certain advantage over the today more common Design for social innovation in the sense that it does not carry those problematic connotations that the term innovation does for some people. But disregarding the choice of terms, the underlying problematic is similar: what does it actually mean to do work of this kind? Which side are you on, as Florence Reece, and later Pete Seeger, put it. But even more difficult: how can you make sure your good intentions are not turned around against you?
I was surprised to note that during the discussion, one person in the audience felt that during my talk I had been very pessimistic; that there was nothing we could do. But that was not my point at all. My point was that an interventionist stance as an academic may not be a simple one, but it is still a more satisfying one than the alternatives. And I believe that the kind of work we try to do in Malmö, systematically – albeit slowly – building up partnerships, creating trust, does make a difference.
My colleague Bo Reimer on some of the work and thinking that is happening in our faculty! Great stuff!

The Ivory Cage and the Ghosts of Academe: Labor and Struggle in the Edu-Factory

What are the "externalities" of the corporatized university, those costs that the institution need not pay, but on which it relies? We can observe that precarious academic workers often represent the most generous and least acknowledged patrons of the university: were their "lost" wages ever tallied, they would represents tens of millions of dollars in subsidies for their employers. But we can also speak of the mental, emotional and economic costs to precarious academic workers themselves, who typically suffer a great degree of stress, anxiety and depression thanks to their working conditions. We can speak of the way these individuals must increasingly rely on spouses, partners, families, friends and neighbors for support. We can speak about the way many precarious academic workers end up paying a huge amount of interest on debts they can never surmount.
Max Haiven's essay is a painful read. It sums up many of the challenges and pressure current academia and universities are facing-in a very condensed, gloomy I like the term 'edu-factory'.

Micropolitics meets Geopolitics: internal dynamics and dysfunctions of international organizations

The current issue looks at the organizations from a public administration perspective.
We find this approach promising, because international organizations are public  administrations in that their secretariats and other international civil servants work to implement what nations agree on. Whether they are public administrations in the same sense that national and local governments are is one of the questions being explored. This issue, edited by Julian Junk and Frederik Trettin, seeks to find commonalities. Noting that public
administration theory frequently suggests the actions of civil servants can undercut or change outcomes in a way that works against the objectives for which programs were established, they
examine a number of cases in international organizations where this seems to be the case. The title of this issue, “Micropolitics Meets Geopolitics: Internal Dynamics and Dysfunctions of International Organizations,” expresses the thesis well. The introductory article sets the stage, noting that research on international organizations often neglects the internal functioning of secretariats.
We have almost come a full circle since the initial post on agenda setting in advocacy networks-more research, open access, of course, on the internal workings of international organizations and bureaucracies.


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