Links & Contents I Liked 121

Dear all,

Aidnography and many parts of the digital development and communication world are not on holidays (yet) and great (summer) readings continue to show up on my screens and get the proper Aidnography vetting, summarizing and commenting before shared here!

This week's review features Development News from World Bank's (non-)struggles to become a different organization, the 'Agony of UNMISS', the half-forgotten crises of Western Sahara, BRAC's gender challenges, the dark sides of volunteering & tourism in Nepal, reflections from the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum and new reports-including reflections from Jennifer Lentfer's Georgetown students on the future of development communication.
Our digital lives looks at being smart in meetings, World Reader, business travel & #JerkTech; Finally, Academia focuses on Southern scholars, journal representation and academic self-governance/governmentality.


New from aidnography
Former German minister for development becomes arms lobbyist-why it matters for #globaldev

This is not simply about a former politician moving into the famed ‘private sector’, but it raises (at least) three critical issues that I want to point out in the following:
First, it shows that traditional, government-run development policy is really in a state of crisis-not just in Germany.
Second, Niebel’s case highlights some of the structural problems that ‘open aid’ and open data initiatives still have when faced with unaccountable, yet powerful people and institutions.
Third, very much linked to the second point, when arms (deals) are involved development is certainly not in the driver’s seat which raises tough questions for civilian peace efforts and the militarization of development (rather than the ‘civilization’ of defense policy and practice).
Development News

Here is a snap of the Global Summit of Women 2014. Take a look. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

— Kathy Lette (@KathyLette) June 17, 2014


It so pays off to have smart readers/friends/colleagues and Raul Pacheco-Vega is certainly one of them ;)! He shared the following link on my facebook:

This Panel of Six White Male CEOs Is Great News for Women

On a panel called “Redefining the Marketplace: The Business Case for Gender Equality,” male CEOs in the fields of banking, energy, and law took to the stage to discuss how recruiting and fostering female talent can drive a company’s financial success. One panelist, Gianmarco Monsellato, the CEO of French corporate law firm TAJ, has made it his mission to recruit powerful men into the fight for gender equality. Over the past decade, he’s helped achieve gender parity at TAJ at all levels of leadership and vaulted the company into the top tier of French firms. Monsellato believes that endorsing Lean In–style correctives, which focus on female employees’ own behavior at the expense of male leaders’ actions, and diversity initiatives, which ask women talk among themselves and present their findings to male leadership, will never succeed until powerful men are pressured to take up the cause themselves. In other words, this all-male panel is great.
However, I am still not convinced. For me, any panel that consists of 6 white, men in suits who happen to be CEOs at the forefront of contemporary capitalism (banking, energy, law) creates some kind of shiver. Second, if you assemble such a group under a banner that reads 'Global Summit of Women' be prepared for some negative PR. So as much as I agree that the picture alone reduces complexity (I admit that I did not do enough research on the context of the image), I am still not convinced of how great of news the panel really is.

World Bank email leaks reveal internal row over 'light touch' $50bn loans

The emails show the bank's managers are keen to increase its overall lending and feel that the present standards are too onerous and deter prospective borrowers. According to the comments from the bank's vice-presidents, this could mean a reduction in bank oversight and accountability, with client countries being made to monitor their own projects and a gutting of the bank's inspection panel – an independent complaints mechanism for communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by projects.
Comments sent to bank management by the senior staff, who include heads of the bank's legal and finance offices as well as regional chiefs in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, make clear that the bank also plans to pass responsibility for monitoring projects to private equity fund managers or commercial banks.
Well, since the Bank has become such a beacon of open aid and transparency I have not doubts that that they will openly and critically discuss these issues...

World Bank: Falling Short on Rights

For the Honduras project, the internal accountability report that highlighted the bank’s failings to assess the human rights situation stemmed from allegations that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the arm of the bank that lends to private companies, was investing in a company that allegedly conducted, facilitated, or supported forced evictions of farmers in Bajo Aguán, Honduras. The report found that private and public security forces under the company’s control or influence were part of the violent confrontations with peasant groups and were implicated in multiple killings.
The report concluded that IFC staff did not adequately assess and respond to risks of violence and forced evictions in the investment, in violation of the IFC’s own rules. It also found that staff did not undertake adequate due diligence even though there were fatalities and the situation had been brought to their attention. Under much pressure from Kim and the Bank’s board, the IFC is now working to remedy the various problems with this investment and reform its procedures, but it has a long way to go, Human Rights Watch said.
Human Rights Watch assesses the Bank's rights record.

The Agony of UNMISS

The mission that was tasked to advance the state now finds itself providing protection to people unable to rely on their state for security. Not only are civilians facing attack, but UNMISS bases have also been directly targeted, and harassment and obstruction of the international aid effort has become somewhat routine.
This is UNMISS in 2014: outnumbered, out-gunned, and seemingly unable to influence the government that it helped to build.
Lauren Hutton provides a very sobering account on peacekeeping in South Sudan.

Volunteering to be a tourist

In Nepal it has become an important component of the tourism industry, and although some organisations work genuinely to empower the needy, many are fronts to fleece trusting foreigners.
Basil Edward Teo on the voluntourism industry in Nepal. I think we are at a point right now where certain countries are so overrun with volunteer-tourists that genuine volunteering will be more and more difficult and valuable money will absorb by this emerging industry, missing in the regular tourist and aid sectors.

Nowhere Land

The clearest truth that we found, however, is that Western Sahara is a vastly misunderstood place.
Lingering on the peripheries, between states with more influence and problems that more insistently demand attention, Western Sahara is suffering through a globally acknowledged humanitarian crisis, the severity of which still falls short of compelling urgency. But the growing threat of this swath of sandy land that no one really wants becoming a haven for extremist fighters — real or imagined — might tip Western Sahara’s simmering crisis back onto the world stage.
Fascinating reporting by David Conrad Western Sahara and the 'margins' of statehood, international attention and complexities.

Being Brac: 'we believe women are the engines of development' - video

How did a Bangladeshi NGO go from humble beginnings, providing relief to refugees in 1972, to becoming the world's largest development NGO? Vice-chair Mushtaque Chowdhury talks about efficiency, going global and the struggle to improve the gender balance at the top of the organisation
Interesting short interview with BRAC executive, which raised some interesting discussion around gender in the Twitterverse afterwards:

@ElizaTalks Did I get that right? 80% of @BRACworld's paid staff are male (whilst 80% of their unpaid volunteers are women)? Really?!

— Tony Roberts (@phat_controller) July 4, 2014

Reflections on two days in a ‘media silo’

I can’t help but wonder if the tendency to run events by sector, which has historically been the case, means we fail to make the most of the opportunity. I know many people working in health, agriculture, human rights and social innovation – and many others – who would have benefitted greatly had they been here. But it’s unlike any would have thought it worthwhile given the headline of the event. After thinking I’d find little to spark my interest, it turns out there were more relevant panels and sessions than I could have ever hoped to take part in.
Ken Banks' reflection from the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum and how the development sector could have benefited from a more inclusive approach that did not just focus on 'media'.

Five Big and Controversial Ideas that Can Transform Africa

Among all the big and smaller ideas that were presented at the Africa Big Ideas 2014 conference, here are my five favorites
Steven Kapoloma presents five interesting ideas-despite the fact that one of my unwritten editorial rules is not to share posts that claim to 'transform Africa'...I don't see the link between mining revenues and investments in energy infrastructure-all the big energy companies in the OECD world resist in sustainable restructuring of their energy infrastructure despite handy profits for many decades-so why should African companies adopt a different model all of the sudden?!

How do I know? Strategic planning, learning and evaluation for peacebuilding
The summary on the website is in German-probably to scar English-speaking visitors, but the actual report is in English and quite interesting:

It identifies steps towards results-based learning and strategic planning in peacebuilding. It contains reports and reflections on all three areas mentioned above and combines issue-specific experience with lessons learnt in particular country contexts. These include the use of more open methods as “most significant change” within the organisational framework of the Swiss organisation HEKS; the consideration of previous experience (or lack of it) in
the design of new programmes in bilateral and multilateral
cooperation; and experience with designing multi stakeholder strategies from the German Civil Peace Service Group.
We also provide insight into scenario analysis in a FriEnt organised round table on Kenya and present selected findings from a multi-year impact evaluation project in North East Afghanistan. And for the relational aspects, diverse experiences with peer review processes are presented for debate and require further application.
Social Media Guide for CSOs
Social Networking: A Guide to Strengthening Civil Society through Social Media (#SMGuide4CSO) offers a high level overview of best practices used in social media for advocacy. Realizing the ever-changing landscape of social media, we have tried to avoid focusing on details associated with individual social platforms, as there are many and keeping track of them is almost impossible. Instead, we offer NGOs a solution on how to approach social media as a whole, no matter the platform, and how to reach their intended programmatic goals using the medium.
I'm not sure whether there is an element of irony involved if USAID of all organizations publishes a social media guide, but it's atcually quite a good starting point for further discussions.

The Development Element: Guidelines for the future of communicating about the end of global poverty

Over the course of the semester, students brought communications “products” to class (e.g. articles, annual reports) to apply and hone a set of criteria that merged the elements of sound communications and the fundamental concepts of international development - to separate the wheat from the chaff.
They found that the days of international development communications, where the key responsibilities were writing press releases and annual reports for donors that portray “voiceless” and “powerless” people, is over.
What’s next? “The Development Element” shares the insights of the next generation of international development communicators and 11 approaches for doing #IntlDevComms differently!
Jennifer Lentfer shares her great project she and her Georgetown students produced throughout her course! Well done, well worth reading and sharing!

Our Digital Lives

10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Meetings

Ask “Will this scale?” no matter what it is
10 Tricks to Appear Smart During Development Meetings
Say, “I don’t see a gender component.”
Humorously reference the ineffectiveness of bureaucracy.
A new meme is gaining momentum...I *love* the photo of the development meeting post which appears to be taken from a USAID meeting and actually says more about development meeting culture than the 10 points that follow ;)

Ebooks for all

But most importantly, I said, I loved watching Miss Jackie hold forth like a loving taskmaster, accepting no bullshit from the students. That was the key. She ran her classroom decisively, without nonsense or skepticism. You could see that strength inspire the children. That the students read as much and as well as they did was because of her, not because of the Kindles. In fact, I continued (now sitting up in my seat), the most heartening part of the entire operation was how the school and staff were so supportive of the devices, and so obviously eager to foster a culture of literacy and appreciation of literature. You could feel that support bleed beyond the school. Since the children were there voluntarily, so too, by extension, was the community. And that felt very right. In the end, the Kindles were exactly what they were supposed to be and nothing more: containers to get books to children otherwise without.
Long, interesting and detailed article on how the World Reader is finding its way into schools, children, hearts and minds in Ghana.

Touring Test

Because there is a critical component of in-person business meetings which remote technologies cannot replicate: establishing or building trust. Trust is one of those subjective, intangible elements of human interaction that cannot be observed or measured directly but which is absolutely critical to the conduct of certain kinds of business. Trust is a relationship that cannot reliably be established at a distance through a medium like telephony or videoconferencing because those media filter and frame interactions by definition. They edit and eliminate enormous amounts of data observable in in-person interactions and replace them with a severely limited and constrained digest. They eliminate all sorts of direct and indirect communication and nonverbal social cues, and hence they can trigger or sustain a suspicion that the other party is hiding something, or not being straightforward and aboveboard.
In fact, the content of all such critical in-person meetings is usually significantly less important than the presence of the key counterparties. This is what technologists and bean counters—Aspergers Spectrum sufferers all, to a greater or lesser extent—have been missing forever. We don’t fly all the way across the country or half way around the world to deliver a PowerPoint presentation we could have emailed to the client and presented over the phone. We go to meet them in person, show them we care, and persuade them to trust us with their sweaty simoleons.2 The next level of videoconferencing resolution or the recreation of the Star Trek holodeck is not going to change this. People doing important, critical, and valuable business want to meet their potential partners and advisors, and they often want to meet them in large numbers, at the last minute, urgently. This means lots of expensive last-minute plane tickets, rack rate hotel rooms, and hefty T&E expenses for big teams of people.
The Epicurean Dealmaker reflects on the values of business travel for, well, business people-but definitely some interesting points for the development or academic industries where people flock to global conferences or 'coordination meetings'.

Stop The JerkTech

I don’t want to go all Uncle Ben on you but wielding disruptive tech does come with great responsibility. Build scalable businesses, but not by pillaging the local community. Get it straight, it’s not about “changing the world”, it’s about “making the world a better place”. Or at the very least “earning money without making the world a worse place”. That doesn’t start by prioritizing your JerkTech startup, wealth, and fame over common decency.
Josh Constine on Silicone Valley culture, 'Jerk Tech' and start-ups that disrupt destroy the social contract.

Top development journals dominated by Northern scholars

Elite journals in development studies are dominated by Northern scholars, with little developing world representation as either paper authors or on the publications' management boards, a study has found.
Fewer than 15 per cent of papers in the ten surveyed journals were at least partly written by authors based in developing nations, while some editorial boards consisted entirely of Northern representatives
As the post mentions as well, we have to be very critical about the purpose and 'impact' of 'elite journals' and journal articles. Right now, their main purpose is career- and evaluation-related for Northern academics and institutions that are required to prove 'impact' primarily through academic publications. There is also a simple question about increased competition and the (lack of) incentives for Northern academics and institutions to 'empower' Southern colleagues. As much as it would be great to change the Northern dominance in journal publishing, we need to discuss more seriously the purpose of development research hidden behind paywalls for the purpose of REFs and tenure applications.

By the numbers

Based on the Governing Academic Life conference tweets, it seems that there was also discussion about whether there’s a way to appropriate or change the tools and norms that feel as if they work “against” us (or against the kind of knowledge we want to create). How can scholars continue to work in academe but also challenge its norms on an ongoing basis? This is a question about cultural absorption but also one about the limits of professional validation and advancement. In other words, if challenging the system doesn’t allow you to enter into and progress in an academic career, then how will those who want change find a way to stay and make it happen?
Melonie Fullick summarizes an interesting and relevant debate on how to measure, impact and count ourselves within the institutional framework of academia.


Vol 4, No 1 (2014)
HAU-Journal of Ethnographic Theory is back with an overwhelming amount of open access quality and quantity...


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