Links & Contents I Liked 118

Hi all,

Back from a great trip to New York, Guelph & Toronto new content and new links are ready to be explored!

Research confirms that de-complexified campaigns have no long-term impact; small special sections on the UN & Nepal (from hydropower and peacebuilding to orphanage tourism and development in the 1950s...); post-Sandy accountability; graduation advice for aspiring humanitarians; 'Our digital lives' is a new sub-section that will probably become a bit of a new feature (panoptic tourism photography and the case against the sharing economy) and in the Academia corner interesting reflections on anonymity in research in a data-dense digital domain & a satire on med school prep essay writers in an African village...  


New from aidnography
Seminar in Malmö & online: ICT4D, Crisis Communication & Social Change
IPID & ComDev invited Emrys Schoemaker and Timo Luege to join students, staff & guests online and in Malmö to discuss The Role of Identity in ICT4D & The Role of Social Media and Crisismapping in Disaster Response - Examples from the Philippines respectively-follow the link for full information!

The Secret World of Oil (book review)
The irresistible mix of shady individuals and the broader enabling environment of corrupt states, tax heavens and many shades of grey in dealing with this powerful commodity is an important reminder that oil, conflict and undemocratic interests often go hand in hand.


The Less You Know

A new study of the Kony 2012 phenomenon by three experimental psychologists suggests—depressingly—that the oversimplification of the message in the original video was exactly the reason it was successful. As the authors, Daniel Sullivan of the University of Arizona, Mark Landau of the University of Kansas, and Aaron Kay of Duke University, write, “identifying a clear enemy induces feelings of moral outrage, inspiring a desire to take efficacious action against the enemy.”
This paper suggests that unfortunately the opposite is true. Viewers get interested when they hear about evil monsters like the LRA or Boko Haram that just need to be stopped. When they learn more about the issue and find out that, lo and behold, the world is a very complicated place, that killing the monster won’t be so easy and that there are larger issues in play beyond the monster itself, they lose interest.
Very important new research comes to the not-so-surprising conclusion that de-complexified campaigns have little long term impact...

Is a Better UN System Possible? Global Experts Respond to an Independent Survey

An unusual survey of 3,400 people worldwide who know the United Nations has found strong support for some basic rethinking over the next decade on the organization’s work in development. Among the recommendations, over two-thirds of respondents suggested adding more nongovernmental representatives to governing bodies and better consolidating both organizational representation and programs in countries where the UN development system, in all its aspects, has a presence.
Don't get me wrong: By and large I am a fan of the UN system-but what looks like a rather self-referential, potentially elite-driven in-group comes up with rather unspectacular ideas-many of which seem to around for the past 10-15 years...

Rising costs in Myanmar put strain on UNICEF’s resources in Yangon

Over the past three years, UNICEF’s rent has nearly doubled, and escalating costs have put a strain on resources, in turn making it more difficult to meet the needs of the population.
As the country opened up to foreign business, competition to take advantage of the new opportunities has created a dramatic increase in demand for accommodation.
After a bit of a sh%tstorm around the USD 87,000 that UNICEF pays for rent every month in Myanmar the organization responds with a balanced statement. However, the bigger question about the price of doing development work remains unanswered and simply pointing to a 'supply and demand' market is not enough if mostly (traditional) elites exploit development efforts - not just in Myanmar.

Innovators to watch

UNICEF Innovation has amazing partners - many are revolutionizing systems for good. Nine of them are introduced below.
Special congratulations to Reboot's Panthea Lee! After my all-too-short visit to NYC which included a meeting with some of Reboot's core team members I'm really excited about their approach and work...and the just relaunched their website...nice!

Social sector: Welcome to NGO hell!

The answer doesn’t lie in the over regulation of the NGOs or their donors but a total dismantling of the NGO-industrial complex. Until then, conferences and consultations on ‘labour rights’ can continue to be held at five star hotels — which for one are known to underpay their employees — without a hint of irony and we’d continue to have lots of project reports to show for it.
A rather radical critique of the NGO industry in Pakistan which probably rings true in many other countries as well.

Nepal’s Micro-Hydropower Projects Have Surprising Effect on Peace Process

My findings show that even though the micro-hydropower projects are supported by the central government, they contribute little to its political legitimacy, a crucial measure for maintaining peace in a post-conflict society. In fact, in the short run, I found micro-hydropower projects, in the absence of a functioning nation state, strengthened other forms of informal local authority, in part because of the way they were implemented, which shifts funding and implementation responsibilities to local communities. The result is one most peacebuilding scholars see as problematic. New, informal local authorities in post-conflict settings tend to weaken the legitimacy of formal state authorities, thus threatening the durability of peace.
This finding is new in the context of environmental peacebuilding. Even though it is too early to generalize beyond the studied cases, my research suggests policies like distributed hydropower can force policymakers into a dilemma: If a climate mitigation effort threatens peace and stability should a government stop it?
My Sweden-based colleague Florian Kampe on the complexities of peacebuilding and legitimacy; Without having read the complete research I am more optimistic about the emergence of new informal local authorities/authority. Many aspects of Nepal centralized, party-politicized and intransparent state power are nothing to aspire to, really, and have failed rural citizens for years and decades-but let's pay close attention to longer-term effects...

Nepal's orphanage scam: growing trend for 'voluntourism' linked to child exploitation - video

Nepalese parents are being tricked into sending their children to orphanages, lured by the promise of an education. Well-meaning foreign visitors often raise funds for the orphanages in the belief that they will be used to help the children, but instead the money goes to the owner of the home rather than its vulnerable young residents.
Nepal-Orphanages-Voluntourists...this business has been around for a long time in Nepal and is growing fast as demand for 'volunteering' opportunities is growing and the country is considered 'peaceful' again.

Lecture Series LXXVI—Thomas Robertson:'Developing International Development DDT and U.S. Environmental and Social Engineering in the Chitwan Valley, 1952-1965'

This lecture will examine the first of these projects in the Chitwan District. Until the 1950s, the Chitwan Valley was, like all of Nepal, closed off to the outside world because of politics and malaria. By 1975, just two decades after the programme’s inception, Chitwan had become Nepal’s breadbasket and the site of its first national park. Based on archival documents and oral histories from the U.S. and Nepal, this lecture will examine the geopolitical, environmental and economic consequences of this vast technology-based program. It will tease out t he American and international ideas of nature, disease, technology and development that informed the programmes. The lecture will also examine the experiences of variously situated Nepal actors—government planners and engineers, migrants from the hills, and the Tharu, the indigenous group who had long called the Chitwan valley home.
Admittedly you have to be a bit of a Nepal research nerd like me, but this is really a great lecture about the development discourse early years in the country!

N.Y. Attorney General Pressed Red Cross on Post-Sandy Spending, Then Retreated

Last month we explored the role of the American Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy and the lack of transparency in how the charity spent more than $300 million raised after the storm. Experts criticized the group for not offering a detailed accounting of its post-Sandy efforts.
Accountability and transparency are not just issues for the humanitarian sector abroad, but very relevant 'at home' again-pressing issues given that North America is likely to see an increase in weather-related disasters in the future.

Sex trafficking activist resigns over personal history inconsistencies

Internationally heralded Cambodian anti-sex trafficking activist Somaly Mam resigned from her Somaly Mam Foundation this week. It is the result of a Newsweek cover story profiling Mam and uncovering inaccuracies about her personal story. Journalist Simon Marks, who also writes for the Cambodia Daily, has spent more than two years investigating and uncovering inconsistencies in Mam’s story and work.
If it's not complexity-reducing emotional campaigns (see above), it's personality/celebrity-driven organizations...the challenges of a mediatized development space

Graduation advice for aspiring humanitarians

The world needs good international citizens who are willing and able to manage its global development and humanitarian institutions. While these individuals must be competent in their particular fields, their temperament, perspective and regional knowledge are often just as important. As newly minted college graduates contemplate how to develop careers in international humanitarianism, I urge you to ignore most of the conventional career advice for these fields. Do it because you enjoy it, develop deep knowledge of certain places, linger at the grassroots and be humble about the limits of your knowledge.
Some thorough graduation advice-although I realize that a male, established American university professor may not be the best/only voice we should listen to when it comes to the humanitarian field (with an emphasis on...field).

Our digital lives

Change: 19 Key Essays on How the Internet Is Changing Our Lives

To put this into perspective – it was only 70 years after the invention of the aeroplane that 100 million people travelled by air; it took 50 years after the invention of the telephone for 100 million people to use this form of communication. The 100-million user mark was achieved by PCs after 14 years. The Internet made 100 million users after just 7 years. The cycles of adoption of Internet-related technologies are even shorter – Facebook acquired 100 million users in 2 years. It is impossible today to imagine the world without the Internet: it enables us to do things which only a few years ago would be unthinkable, and impinges on every sphere of our lives.
Free ebook with 19 interesting chapter on Internet, technology and society!

Staging Portraits: Tourism’s Panoptic Photo-Industry

Shifting from representationally-oriented analysis of images to analysis of practices—the production, circulation and consumption of tourists’ images, and from photos created by tourists to photos staged, produced and displayed by the industry, this article offers a qualitative, ethnographic study of tourism’s visual culture. Through observations conducted on a cruise ship, the author offers up-close depiction of photo-taking routines, and of the public display of multiple images of vacationing tourists. The article critically accounts for tourists’ desire to be photographed and portrayed by the industry in terms of visual surveillance (Foucault) under con-temporary neoliberal visual regime. It is further argued that public displays of tourists’ images create, through collective mediation/mediatization, a commercially assembled touristic collective or public.
Chaim Noy's academic articles is also relevant in the context of development photo representations, i.e. 'children playing football on dusty pitch' etc.

The Case Against Sharing

Across the U.S., high costs of living are driving more of the employed toward “side hustles,” i.e. unprotected freelance work, the kind fostered by the sharing economy. Where workers don’t have the start-up investments necessary to participate — the cars, homes, kitchens to rent — then they can just rent those too. Lyft’s new luxury service is aimed at encouraging non-car owners to drive for the company, giving them a lease option on impractical “custom” “premium” Ford Explorers.
The sharing economy’s success is inextricably tied to the economic recession, making new American poverty palatable. It’s disaster capitalism. “Sharing” companies are not embarrassed by this — it appears to be a point of pride.
Nicely illustrated article on the downsides of the emerging 'sharing economy'-which is often linked to increased poverty and insecurity rather than opportunity...


anonymity in research – how now?

I was recently in a viva where one of the examiners did just this online detective work, as a way of raising with the practitioner–researcher the dilemma of whether it was actually possible to promise anonymity. It had taken less than five minutes for this examiner to track down the exact location of the research site and find out the identities of some of the people involved in the research. Now the examiner wasn’t doing this to be nasty or invasive, but to raise the question of how, in the kind of data-dense world in which we now live, it is actually feasible to guarantee anonymity in the way we once did.
Having hard and fast ethical rules, rooted in historical precedent, is probably not helpful and potentially difficult for all researchers. And difficulties could particularly arise for doctoral researchers who may well have spent the best part of a year planning a research project only to have it rejected because it is on, and/or in, a difficult and shifting digital terrain. Getting an ethical refusal can seriously knock the doctoral researcher off course.
Pat Thomson shares some really important challenges on traditional academic practices (such as ensuring anonymity) in a digital, 'data-dense' world. This raises interesting questions not just about research ethics, but about the whole process of long-term, dissertation bound PhD projects, I think.

Impoverished Village Featured in its 500th Med School Admission Essay

Primary school teacher Thomas Juma adds his thoughts. “If the applicant is male, I can helpfully provide several dozen school-aged boys with whom he can play soccer. He can note the lack of uniforms or carefully manicured field, yet the shining sportsmanship and happiness which transcend the children’s circumstances, making him carefully reflect on his own high school varsity experiences.”
 A bit of development and education satire to wrap things up...


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