Links & Contents I Liked 136

Hi all,

No long introductions this week...a packed link review, featuring Development News on 'grit' and survival in humanitarian aid work; the data 'revolution' goes buzzword mainstream; how to be 'less shiny' in ICT4D; reflections on the Rusty Radiator Award; Norway sends teenage fashion bloggers to Cambodian sweatshops; the pitfalls of 'trickle-down community engagement'; thoughts on the future of development; is 'development' a toxic term? A long-read by a female, pregnant war photographer & a couple of interesting new UN reports.
Our digital lives wasted networking; digital nomads; trolling and community journalism & why teachers are not 'makers'; 

Academia features an open access book on debates around 'openness' in academia.


New from aidnography
A journey to the dark heart of nameless unspeakable evil (book review)

I don’t usually review bad books, but reading 'A journey to the dark heart of nameless unspeakable evil-Charities, Hollywood, Joseph Kony and Other Abominations' was such a strange experience that writing a review is part of my therapeutic cleansing ritual. I hope that the entertainment factor of my review makes up for the fact that you are unlikely going to buy Jane Bussmann's book...
Development news
Is grit now more important for aid workers than resilience?

It implies that grit is not only critical for successful NGO field leaders, but that grit is a better construct than resilience as a trait of exceptional field practitioners. To me this means we should put our decade(s) old discussions about resilience on hold and turn our joint attention instead to grit. Grit is less ‘sexy’ and complex than resilience. Gritty people are able to maintain their perseverance and passion over long periods of time despite obstacles and failures.
Scott Breslin on 'grit' in humanitarian work-do read the next post where Alessandra Pigni responds to his reflections:

Aid work is not a survival contest

Sometimes the perseverance that comes with grit is not useful at all, it can turn into stubbornness, self-sacrifice, a saviour complex. There are situations where the best thing to do is simply leave. Wasn't it Mandela who famously said that quitting is leading too? There are aid programmes that are a waste of time and resources, organisations that will kill the life out of professionals, places that are just not in sync with us or the other way round. Why keeping at it? To prove grit and perseverance? Who's benefitting? Aid workers don't easily give up. From the stories I hear from humanitarians, more than grit it's the capacity to "let go" that is lacking.
Alessandra Pigni challenges the concept of 'grit' in professional humanitarian discourse and practice.

How to fund the data revolution

So what is needed? Two things. First, there must be new money for investments in data. But, just as critical, that money must be spent in ways that enable and incentivise the change. The Ieag report laid out four areas in which change is needed: capacity and resources, technology and innovation, principles and standards, and partnerships and leadership. New money, used well, can support all these and help to drive the changes that are needed. In addition, four new funding streams might help to drive progress in the right direction
'Data' is on the way of becoming the 'gender' or 'participation' of this decade (or of the post-2015, post-MDG era). If you replace 'data' with other buzzwords, Claire Melamed and Grant Cameron's post follows the same logic that every development concept since 'sustainable development' emerged in the 1980shas followed...Occupy (open) data!!

Developing effective technology tools: less shiny, more useful

We also need to realise that the tool development and launch isn't the end of the project, and build that into the wider project plan. I realised this especially sharply this week when running a session on OpenSpending together with Friedrich: we came to the group to ask about new tech features that could be added to the platform, and realised that actually what was needed were better ways for people to engage with it. Technology wasn't the problem, but communications and marketing was; things like being notified when data you're interested in is added, or making it easier for people with topical interest to be able to follow and understand that particular topic. To quote the excellent site Civic Patterns - "Build it, They Won't Come".
Zara Rahman on creating technological solution that matter, engage and are user-centric.

Do the Rusty Radiator Awards make a difference?

This would also bring up de Oliveira Andreotti’s question, how the consumers of advertising would react ‘if they realized that bringing justice to others meant going against [one’s own] national/local interests.’ Would the people that Save the Children addresses as potential donors also contribute if a clip moved beyond a humanitarian relation and problematised the relationship of wars abroad with the UK’s industrial-military complex?
Daniel Bendix explores the Rusty Radiators awards and finds that both 'bad' and 'good' examples are not addressing deep-rooted issues regardless of how racist or innovative the videos may be.

Reality Show Sends Young Fashionistas to Work in Cambodian Sweatshop

A young blonde woman weeps openly on camera, her manicured fingers perched wanly against her cheekbones. “I can’t take it any more,” she sobs in Norwegian. “What sort of life is this?” Her name is Anniken Jørgensen, one of three young fashion enthusiasts who “star” in a five-part online reality series about the horrors of sweatshop labor in Cambodia. Tapped by Aftenposten, Norway’s largest newspaper, for the social experiment, 17-year-old Jørgensen, along with 19-year-old Frida Ottesen and 20-year-old Ludvig Hambro, flew to the Southeast Asian country’s capital of Phnom Penh, where they experienced a modicum of a Cambodian textile worker’s life for a month in 2014.
Unfortunately, the website in covered in ads which make it difficult to read the text. Interesting experiment-and interesting approach to tap into popular and successful fashion blogs to debate development and inequality.

Are you or your org guilty of Trickle-Down Community Engagement?

Look, I’m not saying anyone is intentionally trying to discriminate against certain communities. Everyone is well-intentioned. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and cultural competency have risen to the front of people’s minds. Organizations are scrambling to talk about these issues, to diversify their board, to get community input. That is all great and all, but it has only been leading to marginalized communities being irritated and frustrated. Every single week, we leaders of color get asked to provide input, to join an advisory committee, attend a summit, to fill out a survey. Because of this well-intentioned mandate to engage with communities, we get bombarded with requests to do stuff for free.
Trickle-Down Community Engagement is pretty dangerous, for several reasons. When people who are most affected by issues are not funded and trusted to lead the efforts to address them
Vu's reflections certainly extent the North American philanthropic reality on which he comments from Seattle. Development must-read!!

USAID suspends IRD, its largest nonprofit contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan

Since 2007, USAID has awarded more than $2.4 billion in contracts and cooperative agreements to IRD, much of it to fund stabilization and community-development projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several of those projects have been the subjects of investigations following allegations of waste and fraud.
Maybe IRD is a 'non-profit' in the legal definition of the term, but a Virginia-based entity with billions of dollars worth of USAID contracts is part of the corporatization of the aid industry and indicates so many things that are wrong about government development funding.

Global Future of Development

In the spirit of a truly global conversation about the development challenges facing humanity, this blog will bring together more than 40 different voices from around the world. Georgetown faculty and students will share insights with colleagues from a wide range of national, professional, political and cultural backgrounds.
Great stuff-worth exploring, browsing through, reading and sharing!

Is development becoming a toxic term?

Development, and fighting poverty, have been separated from any conception of politics or power; a fundamental misunderstanding of what poverty is. Poverty isn’t simply the difference between living on $1.20 and $1.40 a day. It’s about lacking power over those resources that you need to live a decent life – food, water, shelter, access to healthcare, education. If one person – or corporation – controls them, that means others don’t.
Great opener for any contemporary discussion on 'development'!

What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything

I went to Senegal in mid-May. It was during my first trimester, and I was suffering from exhaustion and nausea. I knew what I was getting into: possible exposure to radiation on the airplane and to malaria once I arrived, the physical challenges of long days driving on bumpy roads toward remote villages in the burning sun. But I was prepared to put myself into the hands of fate. After all, it was the philosophy that had governed much of my life.
With the exception of military embeds, I took on all my regular assignments, hiding my growing belly beneath loosefitting shirts, cargo pants and sometimes, fortunately, a hijab. I adamantly didn’t want any of my editors or colleagues to know that I was pregnant until I could no longer hide it. I worried about being denied work or treated differently.
At four and a half months, Doctors Without Borders sent me to photograph its medical outreach for victims of the drought in the Horn of Africa, from the Turkana region to the Somali refugee camps at Dadaab in Kenya. Part way through the assignment, working in remote African villages, I could no longer button my pants. I was 20 weeks pregnant. The nausea and exhaustion were gone, my energy had returned and I was eating regularly, though careful to avoid harmful bacteria, which meant a diet of bread, rice, bananas and protein bars that I carried from home.
A long read. Lynsey Addario's essay from her forthcoming book raises many new questions on women in aid-related international work, work-life balance and the challenging approach to have, if not all, at least most of 'it'.

Hot off the (digital) press

Humanitarian Needs Assessment – The Good Enough Guide

This guide does not explain every activity that you will need to carry out for your assessment, but it will take you step by step through the assessment process, offering a number of useful tools and resources. The steps and tools are most directly useful for initial and rapid assessments in the first weeks of an emergency, but the principles and practices described apply at any stage in the response.
The Good Enough Guide was developed through wide-ranging consultations which began in November 2012. Input was through workshops and field tests and by face-to-face, e-mail, and phone discussions. Comments and feedback were received from over 150 individuals and organisations, all of which strengthened the content of the guide significantly.
Interesting new resource.

UNESCO launches a new publication on the role of Internet intermediaries

The research showed that internet intermediaries are heavily influenced by the legal and policy environments of states, but they do have leeway over many areas of policy and practice affecting online expression and privacy. The findings also highlighted the challenge where many state policies, laws, and regulations are – to varying degrees - poorly aligned with the duty to promote and protect intermediaries’ respect for freedom of expression. It is a resource which enables the assessment of Internet intermediaries’ decisions on freedom of expression, by ensuring that any limitations are consistent with international standards. The research also recommends specific ways that intermediaries and states can improve respect for internet users’ right to freedom of expression.
New report-although I'm not very optimistic that policy makers have an interest in 'Fostering Freedom Online' as the title of the publication states.

The State of Environmental Migration 2014 - A Review of 2013

IOM is particularly concerned with human mobility matters in the context of environmental degradation and a changing climate. This new volume of the State of Environmental Migration is also part of IOM’s commitment to provide information and knowledge on different environmental migration issues and to engage with academic partners in the development of research, data and publications.
I just browsed through the introduction and the report looks quite interesting.

Our digital lives
99% of Networking Is a Waste of Time

As Stromback — a self-declared essentialist — put it, “Davos is 99% distractions; you have to know what to avoid.” When asked how he would respond to the idea that most people don’t like networking because it’s time intensive and distracting from their “real work” he said, “The answer is to be extremely efficient and focus on what is truly essential.” This jibes with my own personal point of view on the world: Almost everything in life is worthless noise, and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. This is as true in networking as it is in almost every other area of life.
This is from the Harvard Business Review a business-school-driven publication that sells degrees, seminars and magazines on the notion of 'networking'. If Davos is 99% 'noise', so are 99% of seminars at the HBS, I guess...
There is a point about being strategic about networking-but it's easy to say once you have reached the level of being able to select your WEF dinners in Davos. As with many other digital, '2.0' topics it's elitism that pretends to create value for the other 99%...

How I built a startup while traveling to 20 countries

I propose that a nomadic lifestyle is a productive way to build a real company. I’m working hard on bootstrapping an ambitious startup, I’m traveling because it’s cheaper, more productive, and more inspiring than sitting in one place. Traveling is the most responsible choice for the sake of my company, my finances, and my personal growth.
Jay Meistrich shares reflections (and data) on being a digital nomad. Interesting food for thought. As difficult as it is to predict the future, it is possible that we will see more 'digital nomads' in the future as San Francisco, New York and other 'hip' places become too expensive-or we will see less digital nomads as many jobs that can be done by 'a person with a laptop' will be done by someone else in the global, emerging South as the scramble for stable jobs 'at home' increases...

Global Voice Summit: Do We Feed The Trolls?

Trolls feed me,” she says. Often they give me ideas for stories to cover. And they give me more twitter followers (Check her out at @momblogger.) If you’re being trolled, perhaps this is an added benefit. She suggests that you should also listen to the trolls – you don’t want to be caught in your own filter bubble, your own private internet. Sometimes trolling is intelligent commentary wrapped in bombast.
Ethan Zuckerman summarizes an important debate from the Global Voices Summt that touches upon online journalism in various parts of the world, female blogging/writing and digital culture. Recommended reading!

Why I Am Not a Maker

I am not a maker. In a framing and value system is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is superficially the same, year on year. That’s because all of the actual change, the actual effects, are at the interface between me as an educator, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like "design learning experiences," which is mistaking what I do (teaching) for what I’m actually trying to help elicit (learning). To characterize what I do as "making" is to mistake the methods—courses, workshops, editorials—for the effects. Or, worse, if you say that I "make" other people, you are diminishing their agency and role in sense-making, as if their learning is something I do to them.
Debbie Chachra addresses some key issues that sound all too familiar to those who work in development teaching, research or engage in ICT4D in 'non-making' roles.

The Battle for Open: How Openness Won and Why it Doesn’t Feel Like Victory, by Martin Weller

The tone then becomes progressively darker. We read of Silicon Valley and its toxic “education is broken” mantra, whereby entrepreneurs spin a story of educational dysfunction in order to excite venture capitalists to new heights of apparently futile investment. We read of Moocs, or massive open online courses, and how they exclude many students who are not used to studying independently using the materials of elite institutions. We hear of academics obliged to venture into developing online identities, blogs and Twitter accounts, with no security of tenure should that free speech thing backfire. The difficulties of archiving, rights and reuse of material are made very plain. Finally, Weller spells out in no uncertain terms the utter wastefulness of the current research council model of funding, which involves a lot of individuals giving up months of precious time, handcrafting perfectly good research proposals that are likely to end up in a digital wastepaper basket for no other reason than, well, society can’t be bothered to fund them.
Open access book, great summary of the debates around 'open' something in academia and a critical manifesto as well!


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